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Gov 2.0: Taking a Look Back at 2009

I didn’t write a “year in review” post last year at this time, primarily because by the time I got around to it, everyone else had written theirs and I didn’t have much else to add. This year, however, I thought I’d get a head start by writing my post a little earlier. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the Gov 2.0 milestones of this past year (click the pic) that I found to be most significant and put some context around them too.

Click for the 2009 Timeline of Gov 2.0

Click for the 2009 Timeline of Gov 2.0

If Obama’s election in November 2008 signaled the birth of Government 2.0, 2009 was the year that it learned to walk. From the Transparency and Open Government Memo to the planning of next year’s Mapping Success: Can Government 2.0 Work for You? conference, I, along with many members of the Gov 2.0 Community, have had an alternately successful and frustrating (but never boring) year. 2009 went from unbridled optimism to eager anticipation to a little dose of realism, but through it all, the community of people and the relationships that have been forged across agency lines continued to grow  stronger.

That sense of community, that sense of, “we’re all in this together,” is one of the the five Gov 2.0 trends that have really emerged in 2009.

Gov 2.0 is driven by the community – I count among my friends many of the people I’ve met at various Gov 2.0 conferences, seminars, workshops, Twitter, and the blogosphere.  These friends include people from across all agencies, across the globe, other consulting firms, and members of the media. By and large, this community really came together in 2009, working together to share their stories and  help one another out.

Gov 2.0 isn’t just for the geeks and the Gen Y’ers – Traditional stereotypes were proven wrong time and time again in 2009. Whether it’s the “old” Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff tweeting, the “conservative” Department of Justice blogging, or the “bureaucratic” General Services Administration developing a website that asks the public to solve their problems, Gov 2.0 doesn’t fall into a neat little demographic of those who do and those who don’t.

Gov 2.0 is about more than just social media – As Tim O’Reilly told me in this tweet, Gov 2.0 is about so much more than just Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.  It’s about transparency, about employee engagement, about creating new technology, about collaboration, about, well, any of the hundreds of federal, state, and local government initiatives that have been using technology this year to transform and improve the way government works.

Gov 2.0 isn’t all sunshine and butterflies – Near the end of 2009, a group of Gov 2.0 enthusiasts got together and started talking about challenges, obstacles, and risk-taking that go on every day in the government. These issues are just now starting to be talked about and shared.

Gov 2.0 is still all about the mission – Under all the tweets, blogs, mashups, and wikis, the common thread through 2009 was a focus on accomplishing the mission. The most common questions my government clients asked me this year were, “What’s the business case?  What will [insert new techie suggestion here] actually do for me?” Despite all the pitches and publicity, all of these initiatives have all been put in place to help the organization accomplish their mission, whether that’s increasing awareness, educating the public, improving intel analysis, improving efficiency, etc.

For me, 2009 brought about a LOT of opportunities, but maybe even more questions for 2010.  What will be the new DoD social media policy?  What does the future of GovLoop look like?  How will the government procure contracts in the new year?  Can state/local governments leverage the experiences of the federal government to bring change to their organizations?  I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, but I’m looking forward to being a part of the community that discovers them in 2010.

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The Evolution of the Social Media Evangelist

Do the EvolutionI’m currently going through my annual assessment, and in completing my self-assessment, I had some time to reflect on the last year and subsequently, over my six years at Booz Allen. As I combed through old emails and files, I thought back to 2006 when I first realized that social media was a game-changer in the government space. I remembered all the briefings I did, all the emails I sent, all the debates I had with people, and that’s when I realized the evolution that had taken place over the last three years. While I can say that being a social media evangelist has hasn’t always been easy or fun, it’s always moved forward – sometimes more slowly than other times, but always forward.

Since that first day back in 2006, when I realized the opportunities that social media presented me, my company, and my government, I have evolved from an opportunist to a leader (I hope!), and I can only hope that I’ll continue to evolve in the years ahead. Here are the seven evolutionary stages that I went through as a social media evangelist – I’m interested in hearing if you find yourself going through a similar evolution, or if you skipped a few steps and went straight from an amoeba to advanced human 🙂

Phase One – The Opportunist

In the first phase, you are an Opportunist. In this initial phase, you’ve identified an opportunity – this can be for you, for your team, your division, or your organization. You start by doing exhaustive research to see if this opportunity is feasible and realistic. Your ambitions run wild as you focus on all of the raises, promotions, and accolades that are potentially available if you are able to take advantage of this opportunity. In my case, this is the stage where I first read books like the Cluetrain Manifesto and Wikinomics and when I first started using Intellipedia. I started talking with my mentors about social media and why it represented a huge opportunity for improving communication and collaboration internally and with our clients.  At this point, ideas of all kinds are running through your head, but they’re primarily driven by personal gain – I will be able to save time, work more efficiently, make more money, win an award, etc.

Phase Two – The Idealist

The next stage is the idealistic stage.  This is where you start adding outcomes to the ideas you’ve come up with. You start thinking things like, “If the intelligence community can collaborate on a wiki, then why isn’t every organization?  If only I could show them what we could do with a wiki, there’s no way they could turn that down!”  While in the Idealist stage, you don’t consider real-world issues like firewalls, policies, changes in administration, funding, or internal politics. You are going to change the world with this wonderful idea or product of yours and the masses will ask, “why didn’t I think of that?” You work almost solely in the land of potential and while this passion for social media starts flowing into all aspects of your work, you start to realize that passion and potential alone isn’t going to cut it.

Phase Three – The Pessimist

Quickly following the highs of the Idealist stage come the lows of the Pessimist stage. This is where you will most likely be brought back to earth by the policies, management, and politics of the real world.  You will be called naive. You will be told by people being paid much more than you that your idea can’t be done. Seemingly, everyone you talk with have a reason why your idea or dream can’t be accomplished. They will tell you things like, “we’ve never worked like that before” and “there’s no way that will work because of the policy.”  You will start to question if you made the right decision to pursue these ideas, if you’ve wasted your time going down some rabbit-hole that you’ll never be able to get out of.  You will get incredibly frustrated as you give what seems like the 100th briefing on what social media is, what it isn’t, and how it can help, and then see no tangible movement follow. You’re left wondering, “what’s wrong with everyone – this seems so obvious to me, and I just don’t get why they don’t recognize it too!!”

Phase Four – The Workaholic

In the Workaholic phase, you’re working 9-5 on your “real” job, and then 5-9 on your idea, your passion.  You’ve gained a critical mass of supporters and people have started to recognize you as the primary resource on social media. You’re fielding dozens of questions every day about what social media is and why it can be beneficial. If available, you’re one of the most active bloggers or wiki editors. If not officially yet, you’re functioning as the de facto community manager for the social media tool that you’ve inevitably already started. You’re trying to get others as excited as you are by being extra active – commenting on every blog, giving briefings to anyone who will listen, sending out emails to articles extolling the virtues of social media.  You’re suffering from both the Hatred of Losing Information (HOLI) and the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  This is the stage that I found myself in for the longest period of time, and I think it’s because I was focused on bringing social media to a 22,000+ person organization.  For smaller orgs, I’m guessing this phase is much shorter.

Phase Five – The Egotist

The Egotist phase sometimes overlaps with the Workaholic stage. This is where you get an overinflated sense of ego and might start calling referring to yourself as a social media expert or guru. You’ve now got more supporters than detractors. You’ve probably won a few awards and might have even gotten a raise or a promotion, due largely to your social media evangelizing efforts. In the Egotist stage, you start feeling a strong sense of ownership over all things social media, and think you have more control and authority than you do. You may even start arguing with people, saying, “you’re not doing it right!” The Egotist can be a very nasty stage, one that ends up actually inhibiting your overall goals. When I reached this stage, I was lucky because I had surrounded myself with lots of very smart, honest people who called me on it, and explained that I couldn’t control everything related to social media in an organization as big as Booz Allen. I learned that I could no longer be involved with every single social media-related effort – I had to become a teacher.

Phase Six – The Teacher

The Teacher phase is one born out of necessity. At some point, the desire for social media knowledge and expertise within your organization is going to grow so large and so widespread that it will be impossible for you to manage it all. You will no longer be able to keep up with the entire community’s activities. You won’t be able to fulfill every request for a briefing. You’ll need to teach others the same philosophies and methods that you’ve learned. You’ll have to help them determine how to navigate the political and administrative barriers that you’ve had to negotiate to get where you are now. This is the most critical phase, the phase that will determine if your social media efforts blossom into a scalable, organizational-wide effort, or just looked at as a proof of concept with potential.

Phase Seven – The Leader

The final phase (at least thus far) is the Leader phase. At this stage, you’ve formed your team and you’ve learned what you need to get involved with and what you can entrust to others. You’re not only managing the work of others, but you’re leading them as well. All your work to this point has set you up to be a leader of social media, not just an evangelist.  People respect and seek out your opinion, not because they have to, but because they think you have something to add. You’ve taken the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach now and have totally reversed position on other social media leaders in the organization. You no longer feel threatened as you did in the Egotist phase. Rather, you now feel proud to see other people throughout the organization start to realize the value that social media can have. You officially transitioned from a grass-roots initiative to an accepted, respected, and valued service offering, capability, or culture.

So what’s the next phase?  I’m not real sure at this point. I think that I’m currently transitioning from the Teacher phase to the Leader phase, but I’m not entirely sure what’s next. My hope is that social media will just become so ingrained in people’s lives that it will be time for a new evolution to take place, an evolution that uses social media to help further an even greater cause.  Maybe that’s when you enter the “Mentor” phase…

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An Interview with Blogger Bob From TSA’s Evolution of Security Blog

When I first started “Social Media Strategery” six months ago, one of my inspirations was the TSA’s “Evolution of Security” blog.  Along with Intellipedia, which showed me that IT security fears could be overcome, the Evolution of Security blog showed me that something even more important – that our government could be open and transparent with the public, even in the face of heavy criticism.  Let’s be honest here – the TSA isn’t on anyone’s list of most beloved government agencies – who enjoys going through security at the airport?   Yet, they have a very open blog that’s advertised on the official TSA website and in airports around the country.  I was beyond intrigued – I was also excited and curious.  How did they do what I had been told would never be done?   Why did they do it?  How are they managing  it?  I immediately began thinking of ways to bring this open, authentic conversation to my other government clients, knowing that maybe this Government 2.0 thing was possible after all.

Because sometimes all it takes is one blog, one wiki, or one presentation to inspire someone else, I wanted to interview one of TSA’s bloggers, Blogger Bob, to find out what made TSA take a risk like this in the first place, how it’s been working out for them, and what we can look forward to in the future.  Maybe someone else will get inspired by what they read here and realize that Government 2.0 is happening right now, and that they can make a real difference.

My questions are underlined and bolded below – Blogger Bob’s responses are found just below each question.

When and why did you decide that the TSA should do an external blog?
“That’s an easy one. Our former administrator, Kip Hawley, requested a blog. From that point, it was about 6 months later that we launched our blog. From what I’ve heard and read, one of the largest hurdles to clear is getting leadership to buy off on Web 2.0, but in our case, the Grand Poobah wanted it. That made things much easier. Kip wanted an outlet where he could make TSA a little more transparent. Lynn (Blog Team Member) was a major part of getting the blog off the ground as well. She and others wanted a way to interact with passengers and talk about airport security, knowing there’s not really much time for conversation at the checkpoint. This was also an excellent opportunity to debunk myths and let passengers know about new ideas and procedures.”

What was the biggest challenge you faced in taking it from a good idea to actually creating the blog?  Was there any type of key event that became the turning point in making it happen?  If so, what was it?
“We had to work with IT Security and Legal to make sure we wouldn’t start any fires. Legal also played a major part in crafting our comment policy.  Finding folks who are committed to moderating is a bit of a challenge, but they’re out there.”

How did you determine whether to host the blog on a .gov or a .com server?  How did you resolve the various reporting/privacy requirements of hosting comments on a .gov server?
“All “official” government systems must be hosted on .gov domains per FISMA (law). This gives the public confidence that they are interacting with the government and not a “phishing” (fake) government Web site. When we stood-up our TSA blog in January 2008, there was no guidance on what the reporting/privacy requirements were for government blogs. Therefore we coordinated a policy and Terms of Use between the Office of Chief Counsel and other TSA offices. After a brief period of internal deliberation, we felt that we put sufficient safeguards in place to launch and maintain a government blog that was consistent with the spirit of established guidance. Thanks to Neil Bonner for that answer.”

Have you encountered any situations where something you’ve said on the blog turned out to be inaccurate after the fact?  How did you deal with that?
“I once said I was eating Froot Loops when I was actually eating “Frosted O’s.” You’re the first person I’ve admitted this to. Seriously though, there have been a couple of times where clarification was needed. The simplest way for us to deal with that was to just provide an update in the original post and then announce it in our comment section that we made the update.”

According to the Delete-o-Meter, you’ve only had to delete about 1,000 comments.  That seems like a very low % when compared to the number of total comments.  Do you/have you receive(d) any pushback from your superiors for negative comments that are posted?
Not at all. When Kip started the TSA blog, honesty is what he was after. He wanted it, warts and all. We sometimes get pushback from our officers in the field though. At times it can seem as if we’ve tied ourselves to the whipping post and created a demoralization machine. But that’s not true at all. When you look at the bigger picture, we’ve got about 3,000 readers a week and a small percentage of those readers are commenting. We fully expected to get hammered when we launched the blog. We didn’t expect a bunch of super fans waving foam fingers reading “TSA is #1″ to follow our blog.”

What would you say is the biggest success story that has resulted from the blog (indirectly or directly)?
“I think the biggest success story is the blog itself. It has succeeded when many thought it would never last. We’ve been blogging for over a year now and we’re still kicking. I think the blog has allowed us to show that we’re human and not a bunch of soulless govbots. The blog has allowed us to become much more transparent and even those who would rather see TSA fail have commended us for allowing a forum for them to vent. It hasn’t come easy though. Transparency is a tricky thing when you’re working for the government. There are just certain things you can’t talk about. And when we tell our readers we can’t talk about something, it’s kind of like telling an angry person to relax. They just get angrier. But that’s the reality when you’re blogging for the Govt. But all in all, we’ve been able to make policy changes (Black Diamond & Electronics in Bags) and better train our work force. (MacBook Air)   There are also the many changes you don’t see. We’ve got officers and leadership from airports around the world paying attention to the blog. It has to have some impact on the way we do business. There is even one case in Seattle where the Federal Security Director has his leadership discuss the blog at daily meetings.”

How did you identify the bloggers for the “Evolution of Security” blog?  Do they go through any sort of training before they can start blogging?
“Lynn went to Google and just started searching for TSA employees that were blogging. Of course, my name came up in the search and Lynn knew me from my work on the TSA Advisory Council. I didn’t receive any training since I was already familiar with blogging and had been with TSA for 6 years. On the other hand, Paul was hired directly out of college. Blogging was no problem for him, but he had to wrap his brain around TSA. We suggested some reading and sent Paul out to the field to observe. We’ve also involved Paul in other Public Affairs tasks such as writing press releases and public affairs guidance. This type of work is an excellent way for Paul to dig in and learn about all things TSA. We’re getting ready to bring a few officers onto the blog and we’ll have to provide some basic training and guidance. Nothing too complicated…just expectations, blog etiquette and vetting procedures.”

How much, if any, outreach do you do on other blogs/social networks?  Are you actively commenting on other TSA-related blogs?
“I do random outreach. Using my Google Reader, I check for all things TSA related daily. If I see something that needs a response, I’ll go in and make a comment. Some people are weirded out that I (The Government) found them and others are pleasantly surprised. I am also spending a lot of time on Twitter lately seeking out TSA questions and providing answers. Some folks have figured out that they can ask me a question @tsablogteam. It will be interesting to see how our use of Twitter evolves.”

What other blogs do you enjoy reading and why?
“When I’m off the clock, I enjoy reading mostly music related blogs. The days of reading store-bought magazines and listening to the radio to seek out new music are over. Now you can listen to mp3’s of the artist while reading a review or interview. I enjoy The Futurist, Stereogum, Aquarium Drunkard, Soul Sides and Gorilla vs. Bear, to name a few.”

Where do you see the “Evolution of Security” blog going in 2009? Any new features/changes coming?
“Yes! We are going to be switching from Blogger to WordPress. We are also going to be posting more vlogs and podcasts. Also, I am currently talking with four of our officers in the field about joining the blog team. It will be exciting to get some more folks on board that have their boots on the ground out in the field.”

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Social Media is Scary – How to Address Middle Managers

Part 3 in a series of posts responding to my original post, “Social Media is Scary

So, what can you do to address the myriad reasons for social media being scary?  This is the third (the first one addressed the junior employee, and the second addressed senior leadership) of four blog posts tackling each of the demographics that I brought up in the original posts, one by one and illustrate how I handle the “social media is scary” line.  The third group is the middle manager and project manager –

For managers – “So, how much time is my staff going to be spending blogging/reading blogs rather than doing actual work?  If my staff have questions about their project, their career, or their work environment, I want them coming to me, not blogging about it for the whole world to see.  I’ve got an MBA and have been with the organization for five years – why would I put my work out there for people to change and mess up?”

Ah, yes, time for the middle managers and project managers.  In my experience, this is the stakeholder group that is most skeptical, opposed, and confused about social media.  They seemingly have the most to lose – social media allows senior leadership to interact directly with their workforce (why go to my manager if I can talk directly to the big guy?) and they’re directly responsible for ensuring that the “work gets done” so while time spent reading blogs might be beneficial over the long term, it doesn’t directly benefit the project at hand.   The typical project manager is interested first in achieving the goals of the project, and the typical middle manager is interested in balancing the needs of his or her staff, plus doing what senior leadership asks, plus building their own career.  For this group, social media is at best, another activity competing for their time, and at worst, a severe inhibitor to achieving the mission.

To get the middle manager or project manager on board with social media, you have to show them two things:

  1. Social media will save them time
  2. Social media help them build their business and/or grow their team

While one might be tempted to launch into presentations about how social media can help them communicate with their staff or to collaborate more efficiently, they aren’t going to care unless you can demonstrate to them how these tools will help them do one of the above.

When talking with a middle manager or project manager, I’ll typically start by focusing on the tools themselves, rather than on the overarching strategies, like I would do with senior leadership.  Show them how the tools can help them save time.  Show them how they can use so that they can use their bookmarks no matter where they’re at, and despite the number of “blue screens of death” they see.  Social bookmarking to save time is of much more importance to them than being able to share their bookmarks with others.  Show them an example where a wiki has been used to eliminate 43 MS Word versions of a white paper or some other document.  Show them how an internal blog can be used to keep team members up to date on their project instead of having weekly in-person team meetings.

Once they have that foundation in how the tools work, and how they can be used to save time and to build their business/team, THEN they’ll start getting interested in the broader view of social media.  “Hey Steve – first, thanks so much for getting me set up on  It really saved me when my laptop died the other day!  But what I really wanted to talk to talk to you about is the sharing aspect of it.  Since my bookmarks are just available online, couldn’t I just tag things and then my team would be able to see what I’ve tagged?”

Middle managers and project managers deal much more in the practical than in the theoretical.  An understanding of this very fundamental perspective is critical to showing middle managers and project managers that social media isn’t scary – it’s a critical time-saver that can be used in myriad different ways.

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