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What’s Your Government 2.0 Personality Type?

Over the last few years between starting the social media practice at Booz Allen and getting involved with the broader Government 2.0 community, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a ton of different people, all with different motivations, frustrations, and aspirations.  While sitting through seemingly endless hours on my flight back from Hawaii, I got to thinking about these different Government 2.0 personalities, and attempted to categorize them here below.

Edgerider – You are always looking for the latest and the greatest Internet meme, idea, and initiative.  You’re an early-adopter of all things technology and were at the forefront of the email, Internet, and personal computer waves.  You own an iPhone and either already have, or are eagerly anticipating buying a new Netbook.  You’re a big Government 2.0 champion now, but will move on to some other shiny new thing when the Government 2.0 meme inevitably bores you.

Innovator – You’re a tinkerer who can’t stand seeing an opportunity go to waste.  You’re a workaholic not because you love your job, but because you see a small chance to make a difference and you always take that chance – the problem is that you have trouble letting opportunities pass by.  You tend to suffer from both FOMO and HOLI.  You may not have been the first one in your office who recognized the potential of Government 2.0, but you were the first one to actually do something about it.

Rockstar – You are the loudest voice in the room.  You’re the one who happily volunteers to give the Government 2.0 briefing.  You’re the first one to raise your hand and challenge the person who’s speaking at a conference.  You’re loud and you’re confident, but more importantly, you’re incredibly knowledgeable.  However, you are also a little ADD – you tend to get involved with a LOT of different initiatives without diving too deep into any particular one.

Risk-taker – You thrive on pushing the envelope and rocking the boat.  The status quo is boring to you, and as such, you’re always looking for opportunities to make things better.  You’ve most likely been in your current position for more than a year and have built up a certain amount of trust among your colleagues.  You think getting reprimanded for something at work is just part of the job and not necessarily a bad thing.  Your Government 2.0 involvement is predicated on you “being the change” whether you should be or not.  You’re still learning that change isn’t always the right answer.

Salesman – Rather than jumping right into the Government 2.0 movement, you bided your time and did a lot of reading and thinking.  You are deliberate and entrepreneurial and have developed a piece of software, a platform, or a website that is meant to help the government, but is ultimately meant to make you or your organization money.  You would do well to shift more of your energy away from selling your product and instead focus more on providing value to the community.

Realist – You’ve been there, done that.  You’re more than likely older than most of the other Government 2.0 people out there.  You understand the challenges that the government is facing, and you recognize that Government 2.0 isn’t going to happen overnight.  While this realism is needed, it also gets you labeled as too conservative and pessimistic.  You don’t get too excited, nor do you get too down – you’re the steady hand that is more than likely managing a Risk-taker or an Innovator.

Laborer – You are the “do-er.”  You’re the foot soldier who’s drafting the social media policies, who’s gardening the internal wiki, and who’s developing the briefings, talking points, and speeches for the Rockstars.  You aren’t interested in being a member of the Goverati and would rather blend into the background.  You are probably well-respected for the Government 2.0 work that you do, but not many people know about it.  While arguably the most important group of people behind Government 2.0, you receive little to no fanfare.

Skeptic – “Why the hell are you spending so much time on Twitter and Facebook when you could be doing real work?”  You don’t see the real business value to social media, and would prefer that your staff stick to the mission-related activities.  You’re conservative and would rather just do your job and go home.  You don’t like change, and you’re probably the one who’s pushing to see metrics and ROI of social media.  You’re not necessarily opposed to social media, but you just don’t see the value yet.  Because of this, you’ve become an adversary to the Risk-takers, Innovators, and Rockstars, but you could offer real value in a Devil’s Advocate-type of role.

Thinker – You’re not on Twitter, nor do you maintain a blog.  However, you ask a ton of questions and do a lot of reading about social media and Government 2.0.  You look up to the Rockstars and the Innovators, but your conservative and private nature keep you from putting yourself “out there.”  You see the value of Government 2.0, but prefer to deal in the theoretical, rather than actually doing it.  You have a job totally unrelated to social media, but want to be involved, as long as it’s on the periphery.

Techie – You’re an IT developer, web programmer, enterprise architect – some sort of IT guy/girl.  You’re an avid World of Warcraft player, and have been using forums and online bulletin boards for more than a decade.  You know the difference between UNIX and Linux, and easily get frustrated when people ask for your help with their computer.  You’re responsible for actually creating the software, platforms, and websites that the Rockstars use, that the Innovators dream up, that the Salesman plugs, and that the Skeptic told you was a waste of time.  You wish you had more say in the strategic development of Government 2.0, but aren’t sure how to get involved at that level.

Opportunist – You got involved with Government 2.0 because you saw an opportunity to make money, enhance your career, or build your business.  That’s your first and primary goal – if you do something good for the government too, that’s great, but if you do something good for you, that’s even better.  Your motivation is on using Government 2.0, not in being a part of Government 2.0.  You are probably one of the most active and vocal people in your organization and in the Government 2.0 community, but because of your motivations, you also present some of the biggest risks.  You and the Skeptic do NOT get along.

Bystander – You have no interest in Government 2.0 or social media.  You’re happy coming to work, doing your job, and going home.  You value your work/life balance, and aren’t interested in anything that infringes on that.  You’re not opposed to Government 2.0 – you might even see the value in it at a holistic level – you’re just not interested in getting involved.

The following personality types were suggested by some of the Rockstars, Innovators, Edgeriders, etc. found in the Comments section.

Networker – You believe in information sharing and connecting people to one another.  You are the government version of Gladwell’s Connector.   Networkers have extended contact lists and actively share information — often through listservs, email, and presentations, oftentimes not even realizing that you’re living Government 2.0.  While probably less tech-savvy than the others on this list, you see the potential of Gov 2.0 and dream of the time when everyone will be a Networker without even trying.

Ambassador – You’re a Rockstar at the core, but you realize that one of the tenets of Government 2.0 requires flexibility.  Ambassadors do whatever it takes to advance the cause, whether that means talking code with a Techie debating the merits of social media with a skeptic or trying to get your Edgerider friend to slow down long enough to give the Laborer time to put something in place.  Depending on who you’re talking to, you can fill all, or none, of these roles.

What’s your Government 2.0 personality?  Would you categorize yourself as one of the above or would you create another category?

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“I want a Twitter for All the Various Parts of the Government”

At least that’s what Chris Brogan said this week at the Society for New Communications Research NewComm Forum. I have to admit that I was a little scared about what he was to going to suggest next.

I had flown out to San Francisco to give a presentation on Government 2.0 at the same conference that Chris was presenting at, and he was one of the reasons that I was really excited about attending.  I’ve been to conferences where he’s spoken before and really like his informal, tell-it-how-it-is style.

So, when Chris began his presentation, I knew that I wanted to get his take on this whole Government 2.0 meme.  Here in the DC area, we’ve got a lot of “goverati,” carpetbaggers, yellow journalists as well as plenty of behind-the-scenes people who are actually making Government 2.0 happen.  It’s sometimes hard to get out of the echo chamber.  The reason I like conferences like the NewComm Forum is precisely because I’m usually one of the few Government 2.0 folks there.  I get an opportunity to meet and interact with some of the top minds in the broader social media world and get their perspectives on what’s working and what’s not in Government 2.0.

Video Set-up: I asked Chris for his thoughts on this whole concept of Government 2.0 and what he’d like to see it become.  His first response (that I wasn’t able to get on tape) was “why isn’t the IRS on Twitter helping me do my taxes?  I want to be able to go to @IRS and ask them questions about how to fill out their forms.”  He then finished his answer with the following:

What I find refreshing about Chris’ thoughts on Government 2.0 is that he concentrates not on the tools themselves, but on being helpful, on customer service.  He advocates for asynchronous communications and for engaging with the community when and where they are, rather than trying to get more comments or web traffic.

He realizes that Government 2.0 isn’t about the tools.  It isn’t about the Whitehouse getting on Twitter, it isn’t about the GSA making friends with YouTube, and it isn’t about barcamps.  These things are fantastic, all they are a means to the end.  What really matters is that people can now ask a question of the EPA at 11:00 at night and get a response back within an hour.  Or that people can now talk directly to their Congressman.  Or that local bloggers in other nations can now provide their readership with accurate information because they’re embedded directly with the Department of State’s traveling press corps.

So yeah, I agree with Chris that the government should always keep the end goal of being helpful to the public in mind.  If that means getting every Government agency department and agency tweeting, that’s ok by me, as long as they’re doing it to be helpful and not to check a box, or to market themselves, or to help someone leave behind some sort of legacy.

Use social media but remember why you’re using it.

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

From entire conferences to unconferences to new government appointees to full-scale social networks, there’s no doubt that “Government 2.0” has become the latest and greatest buzzword.  Agencies and departments from across the government are jumping on board, starting their own blogs, creating YouTube channels, and tweeting their days away.  It’s also been grabbing all the headlines – in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired,  and myriad others. But is all this talk about the next generation of government really all that new?  I found these headlines from the ’90s in doing a brief Google search this evening:

“Talking to Clinton, Via Computer”

The Bergen County Record, July 29, 1993

“White House Correspondence is Shifting to Electronic Mail”

The Dallas Morning News, April 18, 1993

“Government Expands its Claim on the Web”

Washington Post, March 18, 1997

“Servicing Citizens with the Internet”

Washington Post, April 21, 1997

“Understanding the IT Revolution”

Washington Technology, May 7, 1997

In reading through these and other articles from the deep archives of the media, I was immediately reminded that the challenges the government is facing in implementing social media are the same challenges they’ve faced before in implementing email, in using the Internet, and I would guess even in integrating the use of the telephone.  While the tools and the technology can and always will change, the fundamental challenges of changing the culture of the government remain eerily similar.

Government 2.0 (circa 1995)

Government 2.0 (present day)

People will spend all day on email not doing any work People will spend all day on Facebook not doing any work
We have to block Internet access because viruses will infect our system We have to block access to social media because they’re filled with viruses and spyware
People can’t program a VCR, but we expect them to know how to log into Compuserve? This social media stuff is kid stuff – we can’t expect Baby Boomers to log into Twitter
The public can now send us electronic mail to let us know what they think The public can now comment directly on our blog and Facebook page
Government agencies are creating websites but blocking employee access to the Internet Government agencies are creating YouTube channels but blocking employee access to them
Government sites are organized by agencies’ names rather than the services they perform We want your content, not your agency seal
The National Science Foundation promotes Internet development and hosts “webmaster workshops.” Members of GovLoop organize tweetups and attend Social Media Club events
Government agencies hires web programmers by the truckload to create websites Government agencies are creating entire teams dedicated to social media

It’s easy to get so caught up in the world of President Obama’s Government 2.0 that we forget the mistakes (and successes) of the past.  It would do all of us #gov20 practitioners some good to look back every once in a while at the experiences of our innovation predecessors and try to avoid the same pitfalls, take advantage of opportunities they may have missed, and set some realistic expectations for ourselves.

I say this not to discourage the people doing Government 2.0 nor scare away those who haven’t yet started down that road, but to make sure that everyone realizes that Government 2.0 isn’t a sprint, but a marathon.  It will take time, just as government adoption of email and the Internet took time.

Keep this mind the next time your boss shoots down a social media proposal of yours and the next time you make a major breakthrough with your organization.  We’ve all still got a long way to go.

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A Challenge to Government 2.0 Camp Attendees

Last week’s post following the Government 2.0 Camp contained my thoughts about the event – what I loved and what I want to see next year. While that post was about looking back on the event, this post is about looking ahead and building on this year’s success. The success of next year’s event will depend primarily on what this year’s attendees do between now and then. If you attended this year’s Government 2.0 Camp, I challenge you to actually do something to realize the vision of Government 2.0 over the next year.

For those of you who attended Government 2.0 Camp, I want you to stop complaining about the policies or the skeptics or the lack of time that are stopping you from doing social media. Read the ClueTrain Manifesto, Wikinomics, Groundswell, and/or Now is Gone. Search Twitter for the tag #gov20 and start clicking through to people’s Twitter accounts and blog posts. Spend some time reading what people are saying about Government 2.0, and start participating in the conversations. Identify the biggest opponent to social media in your office and schedule regular meetings with them to discuss his/her rationale against social media. Become intimately familiar with your organization’s strategic plan and develop a briefing or write a white paper advocating why social media would help your organization.

Before next year’s Government 2.0 Camp, will you be able to say that you have:

  • Sought out social media skeptics and opponents in your organization and engaged them?
  • Increased your participation in Government 2.0-related online social networks, including GovLoop?
  • Attended more events sponsored by organizations like the Social Media Club DC, AFCEA and Government 2.0 Club to meet other like-minded individuals?
  • Developed a briefing, white paper, blog post, etc. that ties the need for social media to your organizational strategy?
  • Identified and met with someone from a another agency who has been successful using social media in their organization?

For next year’s Government 2.0 Camp to be successful, we have to commit to taking action NOW. One of the things that I’m actively focusing on right now is reaching out to the IT, security, and policy folks within my organization to open up the lines of communication. In the past, I had done everything I could to avoid these conversations, but now that social media has gained some momentum internally, I’ve found that I must address and include these stakeholders and their concerns if I want to take these initiatives to the next level.  A converted detractor often becomes your biggest champion.

Let’s continue the momentum that we gained and carry it with us throughout the year so that we can build on what we learned and accomplish even more next year.

Will you accept the challenge?

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