Jul 8, 2009

If Social Media is the New Punk, Who Are You?

This is a fun video. And whether you do or don't like punk, you must admit that it influenced the music following. So, for fun, if gov-social media is to punk rock, where do you fit?

Ramones. Raw, stripped down and honest. Listen to Blitzkrieg Bop. Let's face it, not many in gov have the guts or the ability to be leaders in this space. But NGOs can.

Take a look at the innovative, crowd-sourced and brave efforts of the JumpStart Mapping Initiative. This program aims "to produce complete, free, and open public-domain street maps in developing countries." Volunteers are being trained in GIS surveying and cartography and walk the streets to produce a data set for a street map of the West Bank using web-based open source software to get to
  • better transparency in government planning for civil services
  • better relief and reporting for humanitarian efforts
  • better fluidity in private markets
  • the potential to generate job opportunities that enable businesses to enhance their services
See also the slides from Mikel Miron's program from Crisis Camp Ignite. This is one of the most amazing projects I have seen.

Another Ramone's era example is the useful, cool and edgy mashup created with official D.C. government data. Stumble Safely is a mobile application that helps people "find the best bars and a safe path to stumble home on." It uses uses data about D.C. crime, streets, liquor licenses, parks, and subway stations to build a safe route home as well as awareness information to let you know club hotspots. This is what happens when government takes the chance of opening up it's data stores-an application that gets people's attention and fills a niche need (or maybe desire). Watch the local government space for more Ramones-like applications.

The Clash: Punk from across the pond, The Clash took raw energy and politics and recognized that production values count with some added polish. Try Train in Vain. Still crazy innovative, they brought the in-your-face punk to a wider audience with the best LP of the 80's.

We are starting to see examples of Clash-level work, like the TSA Blog which brings a bite not normally seen in government discourse with an openness, and, yes, sometimes even in-your-face-ness that others have yet to emulate.

Another example, less edgy and more harmonic, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their e-marketing social media efforts. Their steps into interaction in virtual worlds reaches new audiences (kids and their grandparents) to change people's behavior, like getting a flu vaccine. CDC is also using widgets to encourage people who care--not everyone--pass on public health information to their friends.

Much to come in this category.

U2: Still with a distinct sound, this Irish band has defined rock and roll for 25 years. From Two Hearts to Beautiful Day to a turn at the inauguration, they are definitely mainstream, but with an edge. They ask us to participate and to collaborate with them and with each other.

We are too soon for any U2-style examples as we're at the beginning of the trek (at this stage I see more examples like this).

We must continue to evolve, experiment and take risks. There would be no U2 without the Clash and no Clash without the Ramones. Punk evolves to mainstream, but a bit of the anarchy remains (did you hear what Bono said about int'l relations at the Inaugural concert?).

It's up to the folks who want more than a controlled, conservative approach to government "interaction" to step up to be dot-gov rockstars, the next Bono.

Hey, ho, let's GO!


  1. Really enjoyed the article. Social media is very garage band....which is why I created http://www.theclashblog.com/


  2. Hey Tim. Must admit, I love The Clash. While my analogy might be a bit strained, there is a big level of punk in gov-social media. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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