Tag Archives: government 2.0

“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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Government 2.0 Camp – What I Loved and What I’d Like to See Next Year

Inspirational. Fun. Chaotic. Stimulating. Profound. Surreal. Exhausted. Excited.

These are the words that I’ve used to describe the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp held this past weekend at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown. While an event of this magnitude and scope was sorely needed within the government, the planning of the event was decidedly anything but typical government.

If you were to tell your boss that you’d like to hold a two-day long meeting

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

Picture courtesy of Flickr User Vindictiveimmunity

for about 500 people (a mix of contractors and government employees) on a Friday AND a Saturday in downtown DC, in a school that does not have parking nor is metro-accessible, and oh, by the way, not craft any sort of agenda until the day of the meeting – what do you think his reaction would be?

That’s what I thought.

Yet that’s just what the members of the Government 2.0 Club did this past weekend in organizing the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp. I’m not going to recap the entire event – you can find that here.

But, what I am going to do is offer my take on the event – what I loved and what I’d like to see next year.

What I Loved

  • The Mindset of the attendees. Very few sales-y marketing types (that I came across). Most of the attendees were very much about cooperation, collaboration, and communication. I saw very senior government employees chatting it up with very junior consultants, employees from two different companies sharing time on a panel session, and groups of consultant/government folks hashing out a solution to a problem one of them was having. Best part of all was that it was being done without the typical political and cultural roadblocks of pay grades, political affiliation, company affiliation, etc. People were just happy to be discussing how social media is changing the way our government operates.
  • My Session 🙂 – “Get on the Government 2.0 Cluetrain or Get Hit by It.” Big thanks go to Mike Russell for having the initiative to coordinate this panel discussion for me. Based on my Government 2.0 Cluetrain post, the discussion centered on the fundamental principles of social media and the government. I really enjoyed talking with the other panelists and the 20-30 people in the room about how the theses from the original Cluetrain Manifesto that were so relevant to the private sector 10 years ago are still true today in the Government.
  • The organizers. Peter, Mark, Maxine, and Jeffrey were simply phenomenal to work with before, during, and now, after the event. From setting up the wiki to coordinating the budget to answering attendee questions, they created the platform for everyone to put on a successful event. I think it’s important to note that they didn’t just do it all themselves – they managed to get others involved and turn it into a real “crowdsourced” Camp where everyone played a role.
  • The sessions. The sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 were varied, timely, interesting, and effective. In each time slot, there were numerous sessions led by qualified individuals and I always had a tough time picking which one to go to. The organizers did a good job of consolidating similar sessions and spreading out similar topics. I particularly enjoyed the “Ask the White House” session with Macon
    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media Team

    Phillips and Bev Godwin from the White House New Media team. Macon and Bev answered questions and took suggestions both from the audience in the room and from Twitter. My favorite question was when someone told them that they needed to continue to push the envelope because the other agencies/departments took their lead from the White House. His answer – “Go! Do it! Don’t wait for the White House to solve your problems. Learn, evangelize, and implement yourselves.”

  • The location. I know that we all whined and complained upon finding out that the Duke Ellington School for the Arts wasn’t metro-accessible and it had very limited parking. In spite of the logistical challenges, we all made it just fine and I don’t know of too many people who chose not to attend because of it. Additionally, the academic environment – the desks, the blackboards, the theater stage – set up a real atmosphere of learning and sharing.

What I’d Like to See Next Year

  • The wiki. I loved the fact that the organizers used a wiki to transparently track everything leading up to the conference, including attendees, sponsors, and even finances. However, for next year, I’d like to see an actual minimalistic website with all of the significant static details with a link to the wiki. While I had no issue with navigating the wiki, some of my colleagues struggled to understand the whole concept of the Government 2.0 Camp when I sent them the link to the wiki. I can imagine that others may have had some trouble getting approval to attend because of this as well.
  • Better live-blogging. We had hoped to capture all of the sessions’ notes via live-blogs on the Government 2.0 Club website, but participation was sporadic. Most of the session leaders did a good job of identifying a Twitter hashtag to track that sessions’ notes, but identifying a willing live-blogger for each session was hit and miss (mine included). Rather than relying on someone in each session to volunteer to live-blog, maybe we would do better to identify 10-12 roving bloggers prior to the session who volunteer to live-blog every session they attend. Not sure if that would work out any better or not, but it might be worth a try.
  • More skeptics. Most of the attendees at this year’s conference were either already social media evangelists or practitioners, or were interested in learning more. While I never felt that we were in an echo chamber, I think that all attendees would benefit if we had some panel discussions and presentations led by privacy experts or IT security experts – people who, by their very nature, have to take a very conservative approach to social media. I think it’s critical that we make a concerted effort to include those who sometimes make implementing social media difficult so that we can learn their concerns and how to address them.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this inaugural Government 2.0 Camp – it was the first of what I hope to be many more gatherings of like-minded individuals focused on doing what’s best for our government. Collectively, we’re all at the start of something big here, and I can only hope that we realize the opportunities that lie before us now. What we’re doing now MATTERS. What we’re doing here at Government 2.0 Camp and every day in our offices, is making a DIFFERENCE. Let’s always remember that.

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