Posts Tagged ‘Government 2.0’
When the new WhiteHouse.gov launched on inauguration day, Jan. 20, there were very divergent reactions — in a way, the site is almost a litmus test to how well people view change in government — is Government 2.0 an evolution or a revolution. In many ways, a persons view of the WhiteHouse.gov Web site will tell you how they view that issue. For example, on Jan. 20, the Obama White House Web site added a “blog.” That spurred a lot of conversation. And there was an interestingdicotomy between the government people interested in Web 2.0 who were thrilled, and the Web 2.0 people interested in government, who derided the blog as a blog-in-name-only because it doesn’t even accept comments.
My suspicious is that we will continue to see the evolution of how this White House uses these technologies — and pushes agencies to use these technologies. And we’re seeing a team that understands how they work — and is interested in empowering agencies. Specifically, I’d point to the fact that there is a White House director of new media, I’d point to Vivek Kundra, and the still yet to be formally announced White House director of citizen participation Katie Jacobs Stanton.
There was yet another development on Tuesday when the White House, traveling in Florida in support of its economic package, live-blogged the speech that the president gave. Live blogging is where somebody actually blogs as an event is going on. You can see the text of the White House live-blog from Ft. Myers, Florida here.
This from Steve Rubel of the MicroPersuasion blog:
This isn’t your father’s White House. The Obama administration’s communication team – as I write this post – is live-blogging a speech the President is giving in Florida today on the economy.
This is a big deal. The new administration, unsurprisingly given its history, is slowly opening up the White House to the new world of media. It’s not that they don’t get it. They do. It’s just hard to turn around a giant institution like the government. But slowly, it’s happening. Posting the weekly addresses and more on YouTube, inviting The Huffington Post to ask a press conference question (a first, which Obama did last night) and now live-blogging are all baby steps in the right direction.
I wonder if the White House will revive Obama’s old Twitter account next.
My sense is that live blogging has been surpassed by Twitter, but… I agree with Rubel — this is a big step. Can you imagine an agency live blogging?
That being said, I also hear my friends at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project saying, ‘What is the business problem you are trying to solve?’ In the end, what does live-blogging do for you? Don’t get me wrong — I understand the power of information and I’m fascinated by the power of making information widely available. And for those that scoff about blogs, I’ll just point to the conversation spurred by that NASA “government innovation oxymoron” post and video. Information is power — and information is much more powerful when it is shared. It lets you tap into the wisdom of us.
I am also torn that some of these things just need to be done because, in the end, they lead to other things. They are all baby steps. Pretty soon, we’re walking. We’re sharing information. We’re collaborating. It’s one of the remarkable things about these tools — they don’t cost much. So you can see what works. After all, what is the real expense of live blogging? The time of a communications person who was probably already going to be there anyway?
So… in the end, I think it is a big baby step.
Finally, I’d point to one of this comment on Rubel’s blog post from Robert Worstell:
We may be opening up a sizable can of worms here. While we can be assured that security issues will be covered, fact-checking bloggers will start immediately dissecting the speech even as it is delivered. Given the bias of some bloggers out there, this could go both good and bad. Both sides are entrenched in safeguarding what they consider to be “truth”. And, if not speedily moderated, we either risk wading through voluminous trolling or complaints of free-speech suppression…
So do we then risk being elitist or “discriminatory” by opening up comments to a vocal minority? Or do we shut out all comments and let other blogs take up this slack?…
Further, outside of last national election, the average is less than 50% voting – will this be the case in online activity as well: will the connected few have more sway over government policy and the off-grid/disconnected?
Much of this is the scare of the future. After all, is our big fear that people will blog facts? If that is the worst thing that happens — and it spurs a discussion on issues — I would actually chalk that up in the “benefit” category.
The later point — the digital have-nots — that, however, is fascinating and deserves more discussion at some point.
For now, I’m excited to the the WhiteHouse.gov taking those baby steps.
As regular readers know, I’m fascinated by government 2.0 because I think there are very real opportunities here. There is a confluence of factors — the push for change, the swath of young people who will join the federal government, and then the scores of easy-to-use tools that are available out there now — that are part of the tide that is pushing this to happen. Beyond that, these tools enable government to operate better — more efficiently. For as long as I have been covering government, people have been saying that they want to share information. And now they can — in very powerful ways. In fact, the government is uniquely suited to tap into the power of these tools because government, in particular, needs to share information across a variety of groups — internally and externally. So there are real opportunities here. That being said, it does involve change. And government is not particularly good at change.
One of the Web 2.0 areas that has been somewhat controversial are blogs. Yes, there are a growing number of government blogs, and there have been some, such as TSA’s blog, that have been very successful in spurring change in ways that I — and I think TSA — didn’t really anticipate.
There are a handful of CIOs who blog. Robert Carey, the CIO for the Department of the Navy, was the government’s first CIO blogger. Read his blog here. Another is Linda Cureton, CIO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Read her blog here.
Let me start off by saying that I believe that, if a blog is going to be successful, it needs to be representative of the blogger — or the organization. (I’ll re-post my tips for bloggers tomorrow.) And Cureton captures that is a really marvelous way.
I have spoken to many of the CIOs about blogging. Most of them say, ‘Why would anybody care what I think?’ Then they get caught in the loop of legal questions. ‘Is what I write official agency position… blah blah blah…’
I give Cureton a lot of credit because she just does it — and addresses questions like this one right in her blog. (You can read the full post after the break.)
Why blog? Here are some of my responses to that:
- Get your ideas out there: One government blogger told me that this person’s blog is getting about 30,000 hits a month. That means you are reaching 30,000 people that you might not have reached before.
- Start a conversation: This takes awhile, but… blogs can be a place where you have a conversation. My definition of Web 2.0 — and just about everybody has their own definition — but my definition is that Web 2.0 is the theory that all of us are smarter then each of us individually. Therefore a blog should be one of the places where you can send out trialbaloons — and let people comment on them, for example. Again, a blog should be unique to the writer, but…
- Leadership: The author is immediately a leader. People are reading this blog for insight and analysis… to find out what they should know. There is a responsibility there — you have to add value. But it can be a place where you can get behind the scenes.
- Dip your toe into the Web 2.0 waters: There has been some criticism of government that they are moving too slowly on the government 2.0 stuff. I think most agencies are dipping their toes into the Web 2.0 water and seeing what works — it is exactly what they should be doing. This is a way to try it out and see what happens. The good folks over at NAPA’s Collaboration Project are quick to point out that you don’t want to do the ‘field of Web 2.0 dreams’ — if you build it, the problems will be solved — and I agree with them to a large extent. But I also think that you will never fully understand the power of collaboration if you don’t collaborate. For some people, that is a blog. For some people that isFacebook. (Why haven’t you ‘friended’ me on Facebook, by the way?) Try it out.
Here is the top of Cureton’s blog post, “But I blog.” (NOTE: I don’t ususally repost people’s blog posts — one links, and I have linked to her post — but I think it is interesting enough that I hope you will read it, so… I have letCureton know that I re-purposed her post and I have told her that I will pull it down if she wants. I hope you will spend the moment reading it because I think it is honest… and she captures some insights. And it is a great start to a larger discussion, right?)
But I Blog
I am often asked why on earth do I blog; why would a federal CIO want to blog; and where do you get the courage to do this. All fascinating questions that I thought about when I started and revisited as I got an email from a CIO colleague last week. Here’s the email:
I saw this article in Forbes and thought of you. I have been very impressed and amazed at your level of comfort sharing details of your job and yourself with the world. I am learning a lot by reading your Blog and Twitters, and I hope to get as comfortable writing (not to mention as skilled) as you are.
I read the article which challenges us on the fear of blogging. Jim shouldn’t have been so impressed. I’m scared to death. The truth of the matter to Jim and to others is that I am not comfortable and I am afraid. So, why do I blog? Here are my reasons:
To learn and demonstrate the value of Web 2.0 technologies supporting the spirit of innovation that should be required of a NASA CIO
To communicate to stakeholders and customers the activities and issues related to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center IT Transformation
To focus my thoughts and learning to the things that matter in my role as the CIO
To increase my leadership abilities to those I serve by providing a means for them to get to know what the “real” me is like
Conginue reading here… or after the break…
I mentioned that we spoke to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen on Federal News Radio’s Friday edition of The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. Our Internet editor Dorothy Ramienski turned the interview into a story. You can read that here. You can hear the interview here. [.mp3]
We actually spoke to Adm. Allen on Thursday, but that show was so packed, we couldn’t give the interview the attention that it deserved, so… we saved it for Friday.
The Coast Guard is a fascinating organization — one of the better managed government agencies. And I give a lot of credit to Allen for deciding to play a leadership role in government 2.0.
I think it goes clear back to the digitalization of our environments staring back in the 1980’s with personal computing and I believe there is a new pattern of behavior emerging in our society where people congregate and aggregate to do things differently using information technology. These are the people we want to bring into the Coast Guard and nurture.
As regular readers know, I’m fascinated by government 2.0 because I think there are very real opportunities here. There is a confluence of factors — the push for change, the swath of young people who will join the federal government, and then the scores of tools that are available out there now — easy to use tools. And then government is uniquely suited to tap into the power of these tools because government, in particular, needs to share information across a variety of groups — internally and externally. So there are real opportunities here. That being said, it does involve change.
I have heard at recent meeting people saying, ‘It’s about time government gets around to this.’ See this comment on an unofficial USCG blog, CGBlog.org:
Lets stop talking about this and get on with it. Off the self technology that is running on OPS (other peoples servers) can get you there today. Could we be saving more lives today if were would stop worrying about what a blog might or might not say or post. Move out, you have my support.
Most agencies aren’t behind the curve on this. In the private sector, there aren’t many organizations — outside of Google and Cisco, for example — that make collaboration a part of the way they do business. It isn’t as easy as it seems. And it can involve some real organizational changes. Given that government agencies are inherently slow to change, I give the ones testing it out real credit.
Agencies have to be careful and I think it is very wise to touch their toes into the water rather then just jumping into the deep end of the pool. All of that being said, leadership in these situations is essential, and I give Adm. Allen a lot of credit for his leadership role.
The Coast Guard didn’t ask, but… if I were to offer recommendations: Focus on a problem that it is looking to solve. Right now, many of these “government 2.0″ applications work best when they have a somewhat focused goal. That lets one learn lessons in a specific application — and use those on other projects.
One think I did forget to ask: Adm. Allen is now on Facebook. What has he learned from using Facebook… what is his experience… We’ll talk to him again and I’ll ask again next time.
The latest agency to join the blogosphere: The Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Fire Administration. You can find the blog at blog.usfa.dhs.gov. (And, to their credit, they have a link right from the top of the home page.)
According to the USFA’s release, “This blog will serve as a tool for the Fire Service to share comments, ideas, and success stories about fire prevention, preparedness, and response in America. In turn, USFA will post videos, outreach materials, and other helpful tools while charting feedback.”
The blog’s first post is headlined Fire Department Preparedness and it was written by Ken Kuntz.
And you can read the Fire Service’s full release after the break.
Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been telling you about EPA’s innovative program for eliciting radon public service announcements — a government 2.0 way of reaching out to folks. (Don’t know what radon is? EPA has info here.) I’ve mentioned the radon video program here… and here… and here… Add one more to this list…
Today on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had Tom Kelly is Director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, and Jeremy Ames is with EPA’s Indoor Environments Division, who came up with the program. You can hear the interview here. [.mp3]
They both did a really great job.
Last week, I mentioned that I attended a forum on government 2.0 sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council titled “Evolution of the Web: How Social Networking is Changing the Way Government Does Business.” And I reported that one of the superstars of that panel was TSA and Lynn Dean, who is the manager of strategic and Web communications in the Transportation Security Agency’s Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs.
I have to be very honest: I said privately — if not publicly — that I thought that concept of a TSA blog was… well, if I didn’t say foolish, it wasn’t far from it. My thinking then was that blogs build are a way to build community and why, after all, would somebody return regularly to the TSA blog?
But I have been proven abundantly wrong. The TSA blog is one of the most read government blogs and, perhaps more importantly, gets scores of comments.
Strangely, I underestimated the power of a blog. (Shame on me.) What the TSA blog has given the organization is something that is so important for government organizations — for most organizations: transparency. It gives the TSA an opportunity to talk about the issues that TSA officers deal with — and why they deal with the issues the way they do.
So yes, there are the obvious public outreach benefits, but there are also benefits for TSA, Dean said. “It is a great reality check to hear what people think,” she said. Many of those are misconceptions, but… that is important to know as well.
That transparency also has garnered some respect even among us cynical media type. A case in point: Remember the story earlier this year that said that authorities at the airport could confiscate your laptop without any reason. Needless to say, it freaked people out. AndTSA started getting pings. But it was TSA — it was Customs. And TSA got some praise in places such as Wired magazine’s blog for clearing up the misunderstanding. Wired.com’s Threat Level blog even gave TSA some positive press.
Dean acknowledged that it was no small fete to get the TSA blog up and going. And the IT organization was no help — shame on them. (After I heard Dean, I poked around with some TSA folks I know and they told me that the IT organization originally told them it would cost $600,000 to get a blog up and running. One wise IT person finally just suggested, ‘Um, can’t we just use Blogger [Google's blogging software], which is free?’
So one lesson for IT organization’s is you better figure out how to implement these different Web 2.0 tools are people are going to find ways to bypass you. And, on the flip side of that, for program people, if you’re told something akin to a $600,000 figure to start a blog, go to somebody else in the IT organization until you find the creative innovator.
Back to Dean’s presentation: One of the challenges that TSA faced soon after launching the blog was… catching up with the success.
Once TSA launched the blog in January 2008, within three days, they had received some 2,000 comments. “Early it was ‘This is great,'” Dean said, until they realized that they had to review all of those comments. (Most agencies have a policy that comments need to be reviewed before they are posted to the agency’s Web site. That being said — and it is an important point — TSA has been careful not to censor. They will not post comments that are dangerous or insightful, but they do not censor comments critical of the organization.)
It is important to speak candidly about risk, consequences and strategy, Dean said.
Dean also had to find people who could feed the blog beast. To do that, she did a Google blog search for ‘work at TSA.’ The blogs she found were specifically not about TSA, but they were people who know about blogs — and blogging. They had a predilection to understand what TSA was trying to accomplish.
So, Dean’s tips:
* You have to convince the skeptics — and cover your basis (legal, IT, security)
* Recruit the appropriate staff who get it
* Develop a strategy of what you are trying to accomplish
* Be responsive to readers, to internal concerns.
* Run your blog by being honest and transparent. That’s the point, after all
One demonstration of success came with this comment:
feb. 11, 2008, 9:43p
Later, I’ll re-offer my tips to bloggers.
So this year, I have gone on (and on and on … and on…) about the Alabama Department of Homeland Security’s remarkable program Virtual Alabama. Last week, I even had the director of the Alabama Homeland Security Department Jim Walker on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris last week talking about it. [You can hear that interview here .mp3]
In a moment, why I’m so fascinated by it, but… if you have heard me go on and on and on about it and you haven’t seen Virtual Alabama yet and you are in DC, Tuesday is your chance. Google is sponsoring an event on Tuesday at the DC Googleplex on Tuesday morning — I’ll be moderating. You can get information and register here. (They are going to be in New York later in the week, I believe. I’ll try to get more information and post it for you.)
I’m always somewhat afraid that I’ll over-sell the coolness of Virtual Alabama — that people will see it and so, ‘Well, that’s OK.’ But most of the people who see it come away saying, ‘You know what we could do with that? We could do…’
And that is why am I so fascinated by Virtual Alabama. Because I think it is such a marvelous example of government 2.0 because it empowers people to use tools in ways that people may have never expected. And THEN they find out how inexpensive Virtual Alabama was to build.
If you don’t know much about Virtual Alabama, the program is essentially a mash-up on a Google Earth platform. (An important note: Alabama purchased a enterprise version of Google Earth, so all of the information resides on Alabama servers. Google Earth simply provides the platform, but the company does not have access to any of the data.) A mash-up is the Web 2.0 term for taking data from various sources and overlaying it on a map.
It is easy to forget how powerful it is to see information on a map. It can transform data. Imagine, for example, you see a list of addresses. It may mean something, but it is complex to understand. Put those addresses on a map and –walla! — that data is magically transformed. It becomes much more powerful.
This is essentially what Virtual Alabama does — it puts information at the fingertips of government officials who need to make decisions. In military speak, it is called “situational awareness” — and that describes it, getting awareness of a situation before you get there. So Virtual Alabama allows first responders to get access to information about fire hydrants, properties, neighboring fire departments… and it pulls it all together in one place. Very powerful stuff.
One of the great things about my old job — and my new one — is that I get to see all of these things… and if I’m fascinated by them, I assume you will be too. So FCW put Virtual Alabama on the cover of the magazine earlier this year and, as I mentioned, I have had them on Federal News Radio. (The National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a nice write-up on Virtual Alabama.)
And I didn’t even get into the cost of this program — or relative lack there of. Somebody will have to ask about that on Tuesday.
There are some great lessons to learn from Virtual Alabama, I think. We’ll try to tap into some of them on Tuesday as well.
So if you’re interested, come check it out and explore the realm of the possible.