May 23, 2009

5 Social Media Memes Changing Government

Red Boy Scout patch with number 5Federal Computer Week, reporting on a government leadership summit [sorry, too lazy to find out more about another one of these meetings prolly sponsored by some publisher or something] talks about five social media elements that will change the way the government works.  

My [very] loose roundup of the new memes are

1.  Where, once, government was leading on technology requirements, it is now one among many (competing) consumer interests. 
What I think this means: I've been at plenty of meetings where folks say "we're the government, we are huge, they want our business, they will change to meet our needs." But if a company's entire business model is advertisement, and government doesn't drive enough traffic, where is their incentive to destroy their income stream? If government wants to use the tools, we need to figure out how we can adapt.

2. Public engagement reveals the law of unintended consequences. 
What this means: Forays into social tools need to be flexible, and program managers need to keep an eye on results. None of us knows what will happen when we try something out--servers may crash, agencies may be overwhelmed with comments, the only response will be the chirps of crickets, or you might be stuck naming your international space station after a satirical opinionator. Good news for NASA on this last one--they saw an opportunity rather than a disaster.

3. Stop the analysis paralysis and make data available. 
What this means: Here is a big cultural change, from the government churning data into tables and reports that is delivered tied up in a bow to a dynamic process of developers unleashing the data to tell all kinds of stories. See #2. Also, expect a clamoring to open up more data sources.

4. It's the content, stupid!
What this means: Government can embarrass itself jumping into social streams without having anything to say. It's a conversation. It's a message. It's not just having a Facebook page or Twtitter account. It's not the technology, but the way that it's used.  So, if you say, "What's a hashtag?" you have no business putting your government agency on Twitter. Leading to #5.

5. This is the new way of the world. 
What this means: Despite old-fashioned concerns about employees goofing around (what's the difference between that sudoku book and YouTube, as far as productivity goes?) and real, to-be-addressed concerns about privacy and security, people are working, learning, collaborating and living differently. It's happening. And, even as some of the tools fall to the wayside and new ones developed, expectations of citizens and employees are out of the bottle. They can't be put back in.

Welcome to the changing government.

Read the FCW article I jumped off from, here


  1. Nicely goaded! We need to keep pushing, prodding, nudging and cajoling to move the #gov20 program forward.

    If I have a minor reservation, it's about analysis/paralysis dichotomy. Due diligence exerts a higher standard on public bodies and if nothing else, a foray into social media by gov ought to be at least a reflective move, if not impulsive. Good analysis should enable, not disable. Going contrary to the cliche, I believe paralysis is not the fault of analysis but the fault of cowardice, the widespread fear of making even a well-informed, tight analysed decision.

    Good work! Got me thinking.


  2. I would like to do some memes on alternate health specifically Homeopathy and Bach Flower remedies as they work and have no side effects. Used to be used a lot in USA can you help me or have someone interested My web my u tube rap john board

  3. @Bob, thanks for your comment and important distinction--forgive my quickness to cliche! Yes, any analysis that gov can provide continues to be valuable, especially for people without the resources to take a raw dataset and find the story.

    You also correctly identify the root of much paralysis--fear. especially as related to #2 above. Fear of scorn delays, obscures, spins, and stops analysis and information. The fear that every sentence and phrase will be parsed to the Nth to provide "point of view" fodder short-circuits meaningful back and forth, problem-solving, and discussion.

    Do you think people will get tired of the parsing, and that--maybe--a more participatory, transparent process can be the driver?

  4. Gwynne, anyone who's interested in gov't 2.0 should be reading your blog. :) Another great post!


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