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Can Twitter help fix San Francisco's potholes?

Residents can now "tweet" the city about public problems, part of growing efforts to use online and social networking tools to get better customer service.

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Hit a pothole while zigzagging down Lombard Street? Dodge a stray mattress on Market Street? Twitter can help. Or so says San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

This week San Francisco became the first city to officially link its 311 nonemergency line with Twitter.com, the popular social networking site that lets users post messages of 140 characters or less, called tweets.

It's a novel approach to public works, and joins a growing number of efforts to use social networking and other online tools to give customers better, faster, and more satisfactory results from governments and corporations.

Mayor Newsom, who has been smitten with Twitter ever since his first tweet in December 2007 and even announced his gubernatorial bid on the site, has made San Francisco the first "Twitter city," as one Twitterer recently noted.

But this isn't the first effort to use tools such as Twitter to repair roads. That honor probably goes to SeeClickFix.com, a website that launched about a year ago utilizing Google maps to allow users to pinpoint problems and alert city officials around the country of public nuisances.

In May, SeeClickFix began allowing users to report municipal maladies through Twitter applications available for the iPhone, Blackberry, and other smart phones.

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