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!

Onward

M.

TED came to Ottawa this weekend and in honour of thought-provoking talks, I’m sharing one of my all-time TED favourites by Barry Schwartz.

Mr. Schwartz demonstrates, via a story of unfortunate events, how society is run wild by bureaucracy.

As a public servant guided by common-sense, witnessing bureaucracy running wild in bureaucracy can often be confounding. Processes, rules and hierarchy have existed long enough that most neither question them, nor try to change them if they do.

For those of us working in online communications and social media in the Government – this is where our “practical wisdom” needs to shine. Many of us are the first or second generation Web leaders in Government. We are creating a new working order within the bureaucracy – where processes and rules don’t yet exist. It is in our experience and knowledge that we must have confidence and and rely on as we make decisions and set new directions every day.

Most of us don’t have senior managements to whom we look for guidance on Web 1.0 and 2.0 communications.  In the absence of direction, or in the presence of misguided or misinformed direction, it is our judgement that should stand firm.

My rallying cry to you – use your judgement, regularly!  And don’t forget, judgement is a section in your job description (for Canadian public servants.)  Exercise it.

Onward.

Martha

Ironically my division at work used to have the acronym RSS.   Confusing for a web management division.  A change of acronyms later, and I am still holding onto my own RSS principle.  Real.  Simple.  Social.

More and more often I am being called upon to provide small groups in the policy and advocacy streams with the how, why and who of Twitter.  (Full disclosure, I am by no means near being a social media expert.  I am, however, passionate and a believer in ‘utility sells.’  It’s working.)  Steam is gathering and my ongoing push for our one-way, boxed in websites to bust open to and with the public is beginning to bleed into other worlds in my department.

Org charts are the bureaucracy.  What box do I work in?  Report to?  Engage with to engage others?  Fortunately, social media is bringing the public back to the public service.  Nick Charney has a great presentation and piece on social media for public servants.

In my world, one of managing and setting the course for a public online presence,  it continues to be challenging to take advantage of the richness of opportunity social media provides.   Simple.  Audience rich.  Measurable.  Should be music to many ears.  The push for internal collaboration and connection behind the firewall needs to be equaled in the public online domain.

And so, I take up this charge and spread the good word – showing officers how they can easily, from the comfort of their own desk chair, home, mobile device, extend beyond their traditional networks and annual conferences and leverage social networks to find those with the voices, the ears of others, the new thinking or proven approaches.

Among my current arsenal?

  • RSS feeds and readers.  (It’s shocking how many political news junkies manage – likely barely – to visit 30+ news sites each day.)  This alone has earned me cape-wearing status.
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

It’s a basic and short list but addresses the most common identified issues and concerns (too much news, too much ‘noise.’)

Should there be internal evangelists doing this daily?  In the government, yes, until such time as mainstream meets government stream.  Should there be a balance between the push for all wiki all the time and officers stretching beyond their comfort zones.  Definitely.  Until then, I will continue this quest in an effort to gain champions in program areas who will begin to expect and demand more of our online presence and interactions.

By spreading the word of the connected outside world to my inside world, the sides of those org boxes and website boxes will continue to crumble.

From my lips…..

M.

New approaches for Web management in the Government

I’m off to the Web 2.o Expo in San Francisco today. I’ve been trying to get to this for a few years and it seems like timing is right with thoughts of government web agencies dancing in my head.

The landscape today enables interactions that were not possible even two years ago….The web as a platform has shown us a new direction. Now is the time to answer the call and make its principles real in your organization, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a brand new startup. These are the times when the most interesting things will happen.
– Web 2.0 Expo

Indeed these are the times. While it shouldn’t be perceived as a revolution, it will take something of a counter culture building within and across departments for the government to embrace the vast possibilities available to better engage with citizens. Improving services, clarifying or developing policy, and communicating initiatives and successes, it’s never been easier.   (more…)

Much being processed today on several fronts – all interconnected. Within 15 min this morning I read about the Liberals once again missing the mark on the Web front only to be interrupted by a television interview about the new and interactive features of the Afghanistan Website designed to better explain and connect the mission to Canadians.

After topping off my coffee I topped off the morning reading Peter Smith’s great post on Government Web Presences. And so, I went from a shoulder shrug, a sigh, to a pat on the back! I wholeheartedly agree with Peter’s comments in the various approaches typically taken when developing Gov Web sites. Slowly but surely, they have evolve,  for the better in one way or another. For years I dealt with managing a presence structured based on internal org charts, senior management’s likes or dislikes, or their colleagues perceived successes.

Peter nailed it – value measurement! Why? I feel I can now justify almost all work my team does, activities we undertake, resources I request based on that beloved measurement.  By leveraging numerous tools and approaches; usability, statistics, client surveys, SEO etc., a more systematic and client driven Web presence is resulting.  You did well Nomad!

Fortunately, measurement, unlike social media and other terms is something that speaks to senior management.

Next challenge, having a senior manager dedicated to online communications so the song and dance can end!  More to come on that….

M.

My first posting has become that much easier after reading Eric Pratum’s article Taking advantage of Social Media? Taking part in Social Media. Do I use? Yes. Am I an addict? Not compared to some. (It’s nice to say these things without getting puzzled glances, or at least I’m not seeing them!)

I have likely avoided this realm as I found myself spread too ‘socially’ thin and unable to maintain and contribute to those meaningful connections. Eric’s article helped to get me back to the solid ground I used to enjoy. I’m happy to jump back into the social aspect and to take advantage the networks that keep me engaged.

And so, if at some point I turn into one of those rogue-ranters or voices to turn on/off, Eric’s the man to thank ;)

Cheers
M.


Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco 2009