Gov 2.0 – We Need to Get Past the Honeymoon Stage of Our Relationship

October 17, 2009

Government 2.0

I was in Las Vegas this week to participate in BlogWorld 2009 with some of the industry’s biggest big-wigs in social media. I really like going to conferences like this and next week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco because they help me escape the Gov 2.0 echo chamber that I sometimes get trapped in back in DC.  The people I meet, the presentations I hear, and the conversations that I have while at these conferences help me get a more realistic view of what’s going on with the Gov 2.0 movement.  This week’s conference was no different.  Between this week and Brian Drake’s excellent blog post, I realized that we (the “Goverati”) are still very much in the honeymoon stage of Gov 2.0.

Allow me to explain. I liken it to when you first start dating a woman and everything is going well – you talk for hours, you spend every waking moment with each other, and you talk to your friends about how great everything is going.  This goes on for a few weeks or months – it’s still new, it’s still fun, and perhaps most importantly, it’s not anything like that last awful relationship you had.  However, this is also the time when you’re ignoring the fact that she made you meatloaf the other night for dinner and you hate meatloaf but all you could say was, “I loved it honey.”  This is also the time when your buddies might start telling you that this girl is crazy-annoying, but you laugh it off and tell them that she’s the best thing that’s happened to you.  This is the time when you have a distorted view on reality because everything is so new and fun and different.  This is the stage that we find ourselves with Gov 2.0.

Gov 2.0 is still so new that we talk about it ad nauseam with anyone who will listen, it’s the greatest thing to happen to the government ever, and it’s most definitely not at all like that last command and control relationship where we didn’t have a voice and were bullied around all the time.  Not anymore, we say!  We have Government 2.0 now and everything is perfect!!  However, we’re making the same mistakes that everyone in the honeymoon stage makes – we’re writing off mistakes (and outright failures) as minor quirks, we’re ignoring logic in favor in the new girl/technology, and possibly most damaging, we’re ignoring the people who are giving us constructive criticism because they just don’t know her (Gov 2.0) like I do.

Coming out here and participating in BlogWorld showed me the next stage of our Gov 2.0 relationship.  It showed me people asking the tough questions, demanding more out of the community, and tackling some very polarizing legal issues.  People were almost unanimously friendly, but there were definitely some disagreements and debates to be had, not to mention some good-natured ribbing.  It showed me a relationship where the participants have finally started to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can be honest about them.  It showed me what Gov 2.0 can and will be if we just start admitting it to ourselves.  Yeah, Gov 2.0 is absolutely great and it’s most definitely changing government for the better.  That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect though.  There are things we can do better.  There are things we can do more of.  And there are things that we need to address before we can take that next step in our relationship.

  1. Realize that not all is perfect in the land of Gov 2.0 While we’ve had a lot of success, let’s not sweep our weaknesses under the rug.  Let’s identify what’s going wrong and talk about it.  We have showcases to talk about all of the successes – why don’t we have an event to talk about the challenges we’re facing and how to overcome them?  Oh wait – we will…
  2. Identify the skeptics and open up a dialogue with them – let’s stop talking about how great we all are amongst ourselves.  I want a conference where that CIO who continues to block access to social media talks about why they’re blocking it.  I want to hear from that Admiral explaining why he’s banned his sailors from using social media.  I want to go to an event where I can talk with the guy who decided to shut down the UGov email system and learn more about the pressures he’s facing.  I want an event, well, an event like this
  3. Hear the war stories of the people who have gone before us – Listen, I KNOW that there have been people who have been fired, reprimanded, demoted, moved to another project, and just flat-out yelled at for some of their Gov 2.0 efforts.  What happened and why?  What are the battles that people are facing?  What are the battles that have been won and lost?  I know that I’ve dealt with people yelling at me, laughing at me, and/or dismissing me for my Gov 2.0 efforts over the last three years – I’m sure there are others out there who would be able to learn from these experiences, just as I have.  Let’s talk about them

Don’t get me wrong – I love Gov 2.0 and I think we’re going to have a long and successful relationship.  I just think we’re to the point where I can tell her that I hate meatloaf without thinking she’s going to get angry with me.  If you agree, and want to help, leave a comment here, tweet this out, and tell your friends – we need the help of the community to identify those people who will tell us the hard truths that our friends won’t because they don’t want to hurt our feelings.

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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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  • At Steve Ballmer’s keynote speech at SharePoint 2009 conference in Las Vegas, he implies that the takeup of social media will never happen in government and big business, due to corporate fears of their data being all over Facebook, etc. As you can see in the attached video, he suggests SharePoint is the answer.

    http://blog.webworldtechnologies.com/?p=16

    The points to discuss here are pretty obvious. I.e., will Facebook & Twitter actually be broad-scale adopted by Govt?

  • Thanks for that link Tad! Too bad Ballmer compares apples to oranges and mistakenly uses Twitter/Facebook as the comparison point, thereby completely negating the rest of his argument.

    Of course Sharepoint is more secure for Enterprise 2.0, behind the firewall, uses than Facebook or Twitter. They’re used for two completely different things. The government is using Facebook, Twitter, and other external-facing social media applications to become more transparent to the public, to collaborate with the public, to increase awareness of their initiatives, to get real-time feedback, and a whole host of other reasons. Behind the firewall, the government is using things like MediaWiki and WordPress to power the Intelligence Community’s wiki and blogging platform. Other government agencies are using SocialText, LifeRay, Traction, and other tools that are actually built for this kind of secure collaboration.

  • Thanks for that link Tad! Too bad Ballmer compares apples to oranges and mistakenly uses Twitter/Facebook as the comparison point, thereby completely negating the rest of his argument.

    Of course Sharepoint is more secure for Enterprise 2.0, behind the firewall, uses than Facebook or Twitter. They’re used for two completely different things. The government is using Facebook, Twitter, and other external-facing social media applications to become more transparent to the public, to collaborate with the public, to increase awareness of their initiatives, to get real-time feedback, and a whole host of other reasons. Behind the firewall, the government is using things like MediaWiki and WordPress to power the Intelligence Community’s wiki and blogging platform. Other government agencies are using SocialText, LifeRay, Traction, and other tools that are actually built for this kind of secure collaboration.

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  • I would have completely agreed with you before today, but after seeing what Microsoft is trying to do with their social media tools on SharePoint 2010, I’d say that there are definitely an increased number of use cases for SharePoint to be used on public-facing sites to enable collaboration & public participation & transparency as well.

    On this track:
    http://blog.webworldtechnologies.com/?p=42

    @venkyv from Microsoft discussed their social tools for SharePoint, and with the number of ways that, on the back end, you can then integrate your SharePoint site with collaboration, rating, tagging, etc on the front end to CRM and other heavy-lifting data on the back end, it makes for a pretty powerful combo – and can do things organizationally that you can’t do with a Facebook fanpage.

  • I would have completely agreed with you before today, but after seeing what Microsoft is trying to do with their social media tools on SharePoint 2010, I’d say that there are definitely an increased number of use cases for SharePoint to be used on public-facing sites to enable collaboration & public participation & transparency as well.

    On this track:
    http://blog.webworldtechnologies.com/?p=42

    @venkyv from Microsoft discussed their social tools for SharePoint, and with the number of ways that, on the back end, you can then integrate your SharePoint site with collaboration, rating, tagging, etc on the front end to CRM and other heavy-lifting data on the back end, it makes for a pretty powerful combo – and can do things organizationally that you can’t do with a Facebook fanpage.

  • I think it’s just a matter of ensuring that we use the right tool for the right job. Sharepoint is absolutely a great tool, but we need to make sure that we use it for what’s best used for. It’s not something that will do everything well all the time. We should always ask ourselves if Sharepoint (or any other tool for that matter) is the tool best equipped to help us accomplish our mission. If so, then great. If not, we need to ensure that we’re flexible enough to use something else.

  • I think it’s just a matter of ensuring that we use the right tool for the right job. Sharepoint is absolutely a great tool, but we need to make sure that we use it for what’s best used for. It’s not something that will do everything well all the time. We should always ask ourselves if Sharepoint (or any other tool for that matter) is the tool best equipped to help us accomplish our mission. If so, then great. If not, we need to ensure that we’re flexible enough to use something else.

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