‘Twas a few nights before holidays when I awoke, unable to sleep in the wee hours.  After much tossing and coaxing I managed to doze off again and t was during those briefest of deep sleep moments that this dream came to me….
There I was, speaking at two events.  Much of the audience was the same for both which led to me being confused about having to be in two different locations.  Doing my best Alice impression I crawled through a small door above the floor in order to get to one of the venues.  The other?  Well, I seem to recall a hot-air balloon.  I had two pair of shoes with me and managed to keep only half of each.   My speaking notes, which I never did get to, covered topics such as web governance, storytelling, multilingual content strategy, opengov, gov20, engagement and others I can’t recall.  I briefly interviewed SXSW sponsors before getting onto a boat for the shortest of trips when I then;  jumped off seven feet short of the dock, waded to shore, climbed a mud embankment to reach the road, paid a girl $4 to find my watch, got into the front seat of a stretch limo and drove myself home…I think….
My blogging absence alone has led to sleepless moments….but this? 
I’ll happily leave the dream analysis to the pros but my own is this…my online odyssey has taken me down so many unexpected and fascinating paths over the last couple of years that I’m now grappling with my own place in it and how my job can, or should adjust.  The accumulation of partial blog drafts attests to that, something I will rectify!  I will continue encourage “scope creep” in my job description as my mind expands.
And now,  I look forward to returning here and sharing my views from more of those paths and hearing from those who have journeyed along with me or are on an odyssey of their own.
With that, I will assume, or at least hope, that mine isn’t the only such fractured, frenzied dream….right? ;)

Debates continue to swirl around the ‘ownership’ of social media. In government, we tend to equate ownership with resources (human and financial) but not necessarily with the appropriate insight, expertise or authority.

The ‘ownership’ of the execution of social media activities is quite simple – it involves horizontal collaboration based on the issue at hand, not which group you are a part of or to whom you report.

This became more clear to me during a social media pilot about online issues management and corrective blogging. Stakeholders working on the pilot (policy, communications, advocacy, media relations and web communications) emerged from their respective offices to participate. Who ‘owned’ it? We all did. From planning, training and online responding, we all played a part.

I recently spoke about the methodology and outcomes of this pilot at a Social Media for Government event in Ottawa. The speakers represented all levels of government and spoke on a variety of issues which provided diversity and balance in both experience and insight.

What wasn’t balanced was the audience. “How many of you are communicators or work in that field?” All but one hand shot into the air.

“How many of you are policy or program officers?” Tucked against the side wall was a lone hand reaching above the crowd.

Meet Gordon. Gordon was a policy officer working on a key file for his department. As someone from the “business side,” Gordon felt it was important for him to learn about possible uses and applications of social media.

I called on, or made reference to Gordon numerous times throughout my presentation and have continued to do so since. I was thrilled to have a policy officer in the room for it is the policy (file, service etc.) that our social media efforts support. We need to have regular contact with the people who are closest to the heart of an issue and its messages, challenges and audience in order to best know how social media might help.

Social media for, or in government needs to be about more than ownership and include discussions amongst more than communicators.

What’s your next step? Find your Gordon!



Disclosure: Gordon confided in me after my presentation that he actually wore two hats – policy and communications! If only we could all be so lucky Gordon ;)

I love new co-op students. They come in with fresh ideas, inquisitive minds and interesting perspectives on the public service.                               Roadblock signs

After only two weeks on the job, our most recent student remarked that he is starting to understand the “pace you folks need to work at” in order to get things done.

Clearly diplomacy is already something he has learned. After some prodding it became clear he has already met one of the government’s more familiar entities, the roadblock!

That’s life in the government, get used to it.  Sadly that is ‘advice’ given to freely and without thought of the possible effects that will have, especially on those just starting out or considering a career in the public service. 

Don’t sell them folks.  I have a little more faith in what we can do for it is not the ‘government’ that puts these roadblocks in place, it is us, the public servants.

And so, over coffee, my simple comments to him – if there’s a road being blocked, find a way:

  • Can you move it on your own? Take a bit of time and energy and do it.
  • Will it take more than you have? Find someone to help you – maybe work is already underway that will make it easier.
  • A little more substantial? Get a group willing and make it happen.
  • And the kicker – no matter how many people have try, is it going to require more?   Find the person(s) responsible for putting, or keeping it there and work it out. Perhaps it is no longer needed or does not need to be as obstructive? Can the size be downgraded from a roadblock to a speedbump?

A simple breakdown but does it really need to be more complex?   I was happy our discussion then led to the importance and value of collaboration, community and tools that can always help.   

But, at the heart of it is the recognition that each of us can and should do what we can to make the road ahead smooth and better for those yet to come.

Of course a smart question followed, wouldn’t it be easier to build a new road?  Perhaps, but it that always better?



Over the last decade or so of my toiling away in the government online world, I’ve often joked about the need for web champions to don capes and prowl the halls bringing attention to the potential of the web and the ‘super’ people bringing our sites to life.

My thinking has evolved. Gone are my longing for capes – it’s now time for the pace bunnies! The gun’s been fired and departmental wikis, internal blogs and online communities are all off and running. Settle in folks, this is a long marathon, not a sprint.

There are some who were already out on the course when these tools appeared at work. Others are happy to try and keep pace and improve along the way while some will forever be trailing behind.

Now, I’m neither an expert nor an early adopter – I have labelled myself as a “utility adopter.” I’m in it for the long haul but still look to those setting the pace up ahead to keep me in the pack.

Through my use and championing of our internal blog, which serves as a litmus test for our readiness to share, other teams have asked that I share my experience and help show them how these tools might help their work, which I’m happy to do.

It all boils down to the same thing – know your audience. I won’t grow frustrated with those lacing up their shoes for the first time, it’s a refreshing jog for me and I always learn something. I’m energized by those ready to speed up a little bit and really test the road. And for those who are ready to leave the pack, I’ll likely point them to the pace bunny ahead and wish them well.

Are you a pace bunny or do you need one?


With  Gov2.0 LA days away where open gov, cloud computing, gov2gov collaboration and more will be discussed, I find myself increasingly, and ironically speaking and championing more and more Web 1.0. 

Yes, it would seem that despite my Gov 2.0 attachments and engagements I am a Web 1.0 champion.   Now, to profess, it is the 2.0 world that has my heart but my mind continues to play tricks and reminds me that the 1.0 foundation, albeit less ‘sexy’ now, is one that has often been left unfinished.

In 1999, the Government of Canada launched its “Government On-line” (GOL) initiative supported by over $800 million over a six-year period.  The intention was to create a:

…service improvement initiative that will provide citizens and businesses with on-line access to the most commonly used Government of Canada information and transactional services via the Internet and in the official language of their choice.”

This is Web 1.0 in its simplest of  iterations.   I was a working in government web communications at this time.  There were no experts, and if there were, finding them was no easy task.  It was every person (for web teams were a rarity) for him or herself.  Funding was in place; portals were developed; Common Look and Feel for government websites was born.

Canada was regarded as a leader in government online communications, accessibility, and web services.  Those of us in government departments working in web communications were also grappling with how to use these new tools to communicate with our citizens.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  

Where were we?  Over 6 years ago we were provided with clear, simple guidelines and checklists to guide Web evaluation, performance and client satisfaction among other things.  Business planning, UX, public opinion research, analytics and evaluation, translation frameworks, CMS workflow, editorial planning and strategies – have we properly laid and nurtured these foundations?   I believe many of us toiling away in the 2.0 world in government are experiencing frustrations not solely because of the new tools and associated fears, but because many of us are trying to build on a shaky, unfinished foundational layer.

Regardless of what is new, old, hot, traditional or proven, we cannot forge ahead without ensuring our starting point and the path behind us remain clear and maintained.  I’m an avid user, fan and champion of the web 2.0 tools and, more importantly, the vast potential they possess to be game-changers in how we govern, communicate, influence and effect change.  

Resource, maintain, and improve upon 1.0….this foundation is vital to the 2.0, 3.0 and citizen engagement movements. 

And, if you’re not feeling my pain, then pass along the elixir!



Update:  With thanks to @bxmx it looks like “I’ll” be sticking around a little longer! 

Change – for the most part I love it.  Yet there are some things that just become comfortable and familiar.

And so it is that this was bound to happen.

“You totally need a new pic :P”

Yes, that’s the direct message I received via Twitter tonight.  I laughed, as it’s likely true.  I see those I follow changing their pics based on the season, their travels, a cause or campaign.  Me, I stick with my hand drawn classic.  It’s not flashy, it doesn’t render well and you can’t recognize me when you see me in person.

With a new year approaching perhaps it is time.  Before doing that though, I thought I’d like to at least share my attachment before the chorus of “yes, please change it” grows louder.

Web 2.0 in San Francisco last March drove me onto Twitter and I haven’t looked back since.  One of the challenges when I set up my profile was my pic.  Fortunately, Nancy Duarte’s “Tools for Visual Storytelling” session provided the answer.

During the workshop, we were asked to turn to, and draw a sketch of the person next to us.  My Twitter pic is the excellent 8 second result of the work of the person beside me.  I snapped a pic,   posted it and have comfortably settled into my hand drawn @mjmclean ever since.  It resembles my, speaks to my online personality (I like a little mystery!) and reminds me every day about the value of personal connections.

Now knowing this, do I change?  I know looking at the same pic, even washed out, could be frustrating so I’m nothing if not accommodating! ;)



Well, the end of the year is here which always brings about a time for reflection.  I expect many focus on their home and personal life.  But how many of you take the time to look at your career and work environment in the government and look at the changes you hope to bring about in the new year?
A colleague of mine has written a very timely and truthful piece about the collective wear and tear those of us working in the government web world are experiencing.  In particular:

“In an environment defined by tapered resource growth and increased demand for expertise we risk stretching our champions too far.”

I share those thoughts and agree with the challenges that risk poses.  I am battle tested and at times, battle weary.  Being a champion means being an ardent defender of your activities; to continually fight for what you know is right, or needed; and to lift those around us up, even if we ourselves feel down.

If we are in this for rewards, many are sure to exit early, become disenchanted or end up as casualties.  With tongue in cheek I often say I’m a glutton for punishment for sticking with the government web scene as long as I have.  The truth is, I love the challenge and the possibilities.   It takes people willing to be those champions and to share those burdens who will help us all emerge relatively unscathed.

As one who appreciates my chats with Nick (above mentioned author,)  his insights and commitment, and as one who has also felt at times that I’m being pulled and stretched, I offer up a year-end suggestion to all who have been toiling away in our government web world – it’s  holiday  time!

Power chord

Fatigue should not give way to frustration.  We are online longer, chatting more often, and constantlythinking and exploring.  It’s time to preflect on the many successes and advances of the past year;  re-evaluate;  re-examine and recharge!

To my Canadian government colleagues – doesn’t it seem fitting for us to look forward to 2010 as our year as the champions?