Twenty Theses for Government 2.0, Cluetrain Style

February 15, 2009

Best Of, Government 2.0

I’ve fulfilled one of my social media resolutions for 2009, and have recently re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto.  As I mentioned in that post, I always feel so much better about the work that I do when I look at it through the lens of the 95 theses laid out in Cluetrain.  This is even more true now.  Ever since President Obama’s “Transparency and Open Government” memo was issued a few weeks ago, it seems that every one of our clients is asking about social media.  They all want to know how/if social media can help them become more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  They all want to know what they need to do to comply with the new Administration’s goals of transparency.  Inevitably, this increased interest has brought its fair share of social media carpetbaggers and alleged Government 2.0 gurus, but it has also done an incredible job of bringing together real-life Government employees with contractors and consultants for a common goal.

Just as the Cluetrain laid out 95 theses that described the new global conversation taking place via the Internet, here are 20 theses (I’m not nearly as ambitious as the Cluetrain authors) for carpetbaggers, gurus, civil servants, contractors, and anyone else interested in Government 2.0.  There are undoubtedly many many more that could be added to this list and I encourage you to add any that you think of in the comments.

  1. The risks of social media are greatly outweighed by the risks of NOT doing social media.
  2. Your Government agency/organization/group/branch/division is not unique.  You do not work in a place that just can’t just use social media because your data is too sensitive.  You do not work in an environment where social media will never work.  Your challenges, while unique to you, are not unique to the government.
  3. You will work with skeptics and other people who want to see social media fail because the transparency and authenticity will expose their weaknesses.
  4. You will work with people who want to get involved with social media for all the wrong reasons.  They will see it as an opportunity to advance their own their careers, to make more money, or to show off.  These people will be more dangerous to your efforts than the biggest skeptic.
  5. Younger employees are not necessarily any more knowledgeable about social media than older employees.  Stop assuming that they are.
  6. Before going out and hiring any social media “consultants,” assume that there is already someone within your organization who is actively using social media and who is very passionate about it.  Find them, use them, engage them.  These are the people who will make or break your foray into social media.
  7. Mistakes can and will be made (a lot).  Stop trying to create safeguards to eliminate the possibility of mistakes and instead concentrate on how to deal with them when they are made.
  8. Information security is a very real and valid concern.  Do NOT take this lightly.
  9. Policies are not written in stone.  With justification, passion, and knowledge, policies and rules can and should be changed.  Sometimes it’s as easy as asking, but other times will require a knockdown, drag-out fight.  Both are important.
  10. Be humble.  You don’t know everything so stop trying to pretend that you do.  It’s ok to be wrong.
  11. But, be confident.  Know what you know and don’t back down.  You will be challenged by skeptics and others who do not care and/or understand social media.  Do not let them discourage you.
  12. There are true social media champions throughout the government.  Find them.  Talk to them.  Learn from them.
  13. Government 2.0 is not a new concept.  It’s getting so much attention now because social media has given a voice to the ambitious, the innovative, and the creative people within the government.
  14. Social media is not about the technology but what the technology enables.
  15. Social media is not driven by the position, the title, or the department, it’s driven by the person.  Stop trying to pidgeon-hole into one team or department, and instead think of a way to bring together people from across your organization.
  16. Instead of marketing your social media capabilities, skills, experience, platforms, software, etc. to the government, why don’t you try talking with them?  An honest conversation will be remembered for far longer than a PowerPoint presentation.
  17. Today’s employees will probably spend five minutes during the workday talking to their friends on Facebook or watching the latest YouTube video.  Today’s employees will also probably spend an hour at 10:00 at night answering emails or responding to a work-related blog post.  Assume that your employees are good people who want to do the right thing and who take pride in their work.
  18. Agency Secretaries and Department Heads are big boys and girls.  They should be able to have direct conversations with their workforce without having to jump through hoops to do so.
  19. Transparency, participatory, collaborative – these terms do not refer only to the end state; they refer to the process used to get there as well.  It’s ok to have debates, arguments, and disagreements about the best way to go about achieving “Government 2.0.”  Diverse perspectives, opinions, and beliefs should be embraced and talked about openly.
  20. It’s not enough to just allow negative feedback on your blog or website, you also have to do something about it.  This might mean engaging in a conversation about why person X feels this way or (gasp!) making a change to an outdated policy.  Don’t just listen to what the public has to say, you have to also care about it too.

The technology that is currently driving social media will change, but the principles of participation, transparency, and collaboration will not.  You can either jump on the Government 2.0 cluetrain or get hit by it.  Which one will you be?

*thanks to Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger for inspiring this post with their book, the Cluetrain Manifesto.

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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  • I’m a fan of Cluetrain so really enjoyed this post. I strongly agree with #6 – there are almost certainly people in your government agency already experimenting with Twitter, Facebook and other tools. They’re probably not high up in the organization and are doing this on the side, because they have other jobs, and don’t want to draw too much attention (and interference) from higher up.

    One of things I liked about Cluetrain Manifesto was its impatience with business as usual. Frankly, that’s what government needs. It’s 2009, the rest of America has embraced social media, it’s time for government to do so as well.

  • I’m a fan of Cluetrain so really enjoyed this post. I strongly agree with #6 – there are almost certainly people in your government agency already experimenting with Twitter, Facebook and other tools. They’re probably not high up in the organization and are doing this on the side, because they have other jobs, and don’t want to draw too much attention (and interference) from higher up.

    One of things I liked about Cluetrain Manifesto was its impatience with business as usual. Frankly, that’s what government needs. It’s 2009, the rest of America has embraced social media, it’s time for government to do so as well.

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  • You’ve done a good service with this manifesto. Bookmarked! A couple small editorial suggestions. You’ll get a little more grammatical balance by adding another “doing” to your opening phrase to balance the “not doing” in your closing one. I’d remove the specificity in #17, that “5 minutes”, because a manifesto reaching for visionary heights shouldn’t be drilling down into countable minutiae.

    I like #19. You are one of the few who understands the difference between plain visibility and pure transparency. Transparency exposes blind alleys, warts, disagreement, struggle and pain. It begs for tolerance as a result, and my own phrase for this is “Transparency’s oxygen is tolerance.”

    Very nice job, all in all!

    bob

  • You’ve done a good service with this manifesto. Bookmarked! A couple small editorial suggestions. You’ll get a little more grammatical balance by adding another “doing” to your opening phrase to balance the “not doing” in your closing one. I’d remove the specificity in #17, that “5 minutes”, because a manifesto reaching for visionary heights shouldn’t be drilling down into countable minutiae.

    I like #19. You are one of the few who understands the difference between plain visibility and pure transparency. Transparency exposes blind alleys, warts, disagreement, struggle and pain. It begs for tolerance as a result, and my own phrase for this is “Transparency’s oxygen is tolerance.”

    Very nice job, all in all!

    bob

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  • Thanks for the comment Bob – I agree that transparency and tolerance do go hand-in-hand, and that we’d do well to remember that as we move forward with this idea of “Government 2.0.”

  • Thanks for the comment Bob – I agree that transparency and tolerance do go hand-in-hand, and that we’d do well to remember that as we move forward with this idea of “Government 2.0.”

  • Thanks for a stimulating article. In relation to your #1 – what kinds of risk are you talking about in relation to not doing social media ?

  • Thanks for a stimulating article. In relation to your #1 – what kinds of risk are you talking about in relation to not doing social media ?

  • Alex, the risks to NOT doing social media are many. Here are a few that I typically tell my clients:
    1. The conversations about you and your organization are going to happen with or without you. If you refuse to get involved with social media, these conversations don’t stop. If there was a roomful of people talking about your organization, wouldn’t you at least be interested in hearing what they have to say, even if you don’t necessarily speak up?

    2. If you’re “out there” in the social media community, you make it a lot harder for people to mis-appropriate you or your organization. For example, it’d be difficult for someone to get on Twitter and pretend to me because I’ve already been out there. It’s not like someone could just start a Twitter account and say that they’re Steve Radick. If your organization isn’t out there, all it takes is for one opponent of yours to start tweeting, blogging, uploading videos, etc. claiming to be you – how would anyone know if it’s truly you or not?

    3. Employee retention – today’s employees are expecting to be able to get on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The organizations that are embracing the use of social media either internally or externally are giving their employees a voice and supporting an environment where open collaboration is valued. There’s a sense of trust involved that’s difficult to replace. When an employee is blocked from using any of these tools, there’s an implicit understanding that management thinks I’m idiot so they prevent me from doing ANYTHING that would allow me to be an idiot in public – not really the best working environment for someone to be innovative and valuable.

    Those are just a few of the reasons – I might do a future post all about this topic!

  • Alex, the risks to NOT doing social media are many. Here are a few that I typically tell my clients:
    1. The conversations about you and your organization are going to happen with or without you. If you refuse to get involved with social media, these conversations don’t stop. If there was a roomful of people talking about your organization, wouldn’t you at least be interested in hearing what they have to say, even if you don’t necessarily speak up?

    2. If you’re “out there” in the social media community, you make it a lot harder for people to mis-appropriate you or your organization. For example, it’d be difficult for someone to get on Twitter and pretend to me because I’ve already been out there. It’s not like someone could just start a Twitter account and say that they’re Steve Radick. If your organization isn’t out there, all it takes is for one opponent of yours to start tweeting, blogging, uploading videos, etc. claiming to be you – how would anyone know if it’s truly you or not?

    3. Employee retention – today’s employees are expecting to be able to get on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The organizations that are embracing the use of social media either internally or externally are giving their employees a voice and supporting an environment where open collaboration is valued. There’s a sense of trust involved that’s difficult to replace. When an employee is blocked from using any of these tools, there’s an implicit understanding that management thinks I’m idiot so they prevent me from doing ANYTHING that would allow me to be an idiot in public – not really the best working environment for someone to be innovative and valuable.

    Those are just a few of the reasons – I might do a future post all about this topic!

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  • Thomas Langkabel

    Steve,

    good job, I’ll refer to it.
    But let me add two more theses, which I think are relevant:

    1. The gov20 instruments and possibilies doesn’t relieve administrations from it’s resposibilities and duties. They are still in charge, they have to take leadership and stay responsible for the success and abuse of social media in government and administration.

    2. The use of social media in the political arena isn’t a substitue for political leadership. Politicians and political parties still need an eloborated program, for which they should search the majorities, even if they have to do some work to explain and convince at first. Just to derive political programs and agendas from mainstream analysis via social media leads to pure populism with all it’s dangers.

    So, again, thanks for the good job.

    Regards
    Thomas

  • Thomas Langkabel

    Steve,

    good job, I’ll refer to it.
    But let me add two more theses, which I think are relevant:

    1. The gov20 instruments and possibilies doesn’t relieve administrations from it’s resposibilities and duties. They are still in charge, they have to take leadership and stay responsible for the success and abuse of social media in government and administration.

    2. The use of social media in the political arena isn’t a substitue for political leadership. Politicians and political parties still need an eloborated program, for which they should search the majorities, even if they have to do some work to explain and convince at first. Just to derive political programs and agendas from mainstream analysis via social media leads to pure populism with all it’s dangers.

    So, again, thanks for the good job.

    Regards
    Thomas

  • Really, really nice. I’m definitely bookmarking this one. These are things I say all the time, but have never bothered to write down, so thanks for doing so!

    You might like my keynote from the GOVIS conference in NZ last week – http://www.acidlabs.org/2009/05/21/public-engagement-public-empowerment/

  • Really, really nice. I’m definitely bookmarking this one. These are things I say all the time, but have never bothered to write down, so thanks for doing so!

    You might like my keynote from the GOVIS conference in NZ last week – http://www.acidlabs.org/2009/05/21/public-engagement-public-empowerment/

  • Two good additions Thomas – I’d rephrase your first one as “Government 2.0, for all its publicity and buzz right now, is still just a piece, a small piece at that, of good government. Government still has to remember all of the other pieces of government.”

    Your second point points to the fact that the very vocal minority can often “game the system” by being louder and more active than the silent majority. Government has to be careful not to forget that a majority of America is NOT on Twitter, and that social media is but another vehicle.

  • Two good additions Thomas – I’d rephrase your first one as “Government 2.0, for all its publicity and buzz right now, is still just a piece, a small piece at that, of good government. Government still has to remember all of the other pieces of government.”

    Your second point points to the fact that the very vocal minority can often “game the system” by being louder and more active than the silent majority. Government has to be careful not to forget that a majority of America is NOT on Twitter, and that social media is but another vehicle.

  • I felt the same way! I was saying this stuff in presentations, speeches, conversations, etc., but had never written it down anywhere. I’m glad I finally did though, as I’ve found that these simple theses have really helped people see and understand what Government 2.0 is all about. Thanks for passing along the link to your preso Stephen – looks like it made for a great discussion!

  • I felt the same way! I was saying this stuff in presentations, speeches, conversations, etc., but had never written it down anywhere. I’m glad I finally did though, as I’ve found that these simple theses have really helped people see and understand what Government 2.0 is all about. Thanks for passing along the link to your preso Stephen – looks like it made for a great discussion!

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  • Brian Gryth

    I’d also added if the law does stand in the way, work on changing the law and don’t assume they cannot change. Laws change every day! It just take percerverance and patiences.

  • Brian Gryth

    I’d also added if the law does stand in the way, work on changing the law and don’t assume they cannot change. Laws change every day! It just take percerverance and patiences.

  • Brian Gryth

    Steve and other,

    I found this piece interesting and was inspired to start a Google Group to expand on the list of theses. Please check it out, http://groups.google.com/group/gov20theses.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  • Brian Gryth

    Steve and other,

    I found this piece interesting and was inspired to start a Google Group to expand on the list of theses. Please check it out, http://groups.google.com/group/gov20theses.

    Thanks,
    Brian

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  • Steve, very interesting theses. I translated them into German and linked to your blog entry. http://www.pisola.net/blg/2009/07/22/20-thesen-fur-government-2-0/

    Thanks
    Jens

  • Steve, very interesting theses. I translated them into German and linked to your blog entry. http://www.pisola.net/blg/2009/07/22/20-thesen-fur-government-2-0/

    Thanks
    Jens

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