The League of California Cities didn’t participate in the global discussions that led to SB 1002, the California Open Data Standard, but it’s doing its best to gut or kill the bill, twisting the meaning and intent of the law to make a specious argument that government as platform advocates are somehow trying to rip off taxpayers. It’s a sad move from a lobbying organization that has done little to advance government efficiency and transparency in our high technology state.
Of late, I’ve been been using the photo sharing site Flickr more and more, shifting my focus from researching its 4 billion images to uploading fresh content and networking through the site. Flickr has tremendous functionality for creating blog content and populating other social media platforms as well. I’ve got a recent post about using Flickr in a broader content strategy, and Dan Slee of UK local gov’t has a great guide called “Social Photo: 11 groovy ways Flickr can be used by local government.”
One of the great local government examples we’ve looked at is the Flickr activity of the Washington State Department of Transportation, managed by Jeremy Bertrand. Today, we opened an official Flickr account for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, where we hope to not only highlight our great city, but also feature photos that illustrate the work of our office, from the hard-fought battle for marriage equality, to City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s anti-gang initiatives.
If you are a San Francisco photographer, or just interested in connecting with our content and San Francisco favorites, please add us on Flickr. We also welcome suggestions on how you think we can best use this channel.
For at least that past two years, a tiny yet fast-growing group of folks who call themselves “Gov 2.0 advocates” has worked tirelessly to spread a message that emerging technologies, low-cost communications and digital culture can reshape government to be more collaborative, transparent, efficient and connected to its citizens.
We have advocated for humanizing government, and for using new tools to bring more citizens into the deliberative process and to help shape the future of both our democracy and the bureaucracy. One of the main tools for the Gov 2.0 movement has been social media, as activists and line workers join technologists and political reformers in calling for more open communication between officials and agencies and the public they represent and serve.
Last week, Government 2.0 – a term first used by Bill Eggers in his 2005 e-gov-focused book of the same name, and that has become almost synonymous with Web 2.0 as developers have turned on to the promise of government-brokered data troves and universal open standards – won a significant victory. Twitter, the popular social media messaging service that has serves as a platform for thousands of startups using its architecture and user base, announced that it is hiring for its first field office, focused on the government sector.
Twitter Goes to DC
Twitter’s job posting and further remarks by corporate spokesman Sean Garrett explain the DC-based position as the first step towards a public affairs unit, with support for innovative and engaging uses of Twitter in politics and policymaking. A new blog by Garrett and his team has since March been highlighting interesting government uses of the platform, from San Francisco’s integration of Twitter and 311 non-emergency service requests, to construction updates and border crossing wait times by tweet, to the British Prime Minister’s communications usage.
Twitter, thanks to millions of active and aggressive content-sharers and innovators around the world, has transformative powers. Conan O’Brien took to the service to recreate himself after losing his show, creating numerous accounts, rallying his fan base and using the free and frenetic publicity it to launch a comedy tour. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert, after panning Twitter as trite, has become one of its staunchest advocates, using it to deliver and amplify commentary on everything from film to politics to sport and humanism. Newark Mayor Corey Booker has used it to spread a hands-on philosophy of hope far beyond his New Jersey township.
Twitter Grows Due to User Innovations
Twitter’s growth and popular features have often evolved from the minds and whims of its user base, from the intensely popular “retweet” convention for repeating and affirming others’ messages, to the hashtag form of semantic tagging in its short messages, to Follow Friday, the day that tweeps around the world recognize friends and favorites.
Government 2.0 – which first hit Twitter’s mainstream of “trending topics” during a March 16, 2009, pilot broadcast of the Gov 2.0 Radio podcast including govies, contractors and consultants calling in from South by Southwest and their DC-area homes – is now set to join the legacy of user-driven Twitter conventions. The first Twitter office outside of San Francisco will help connect politicians with their constituents and agencies with the public. It will help serve an engaged and innovative Government 2.0 movement, while that movement continues to shape and grow Twitter’s utility.
Government 2.0 and the use of social media for politics and public service are still in their infancy, but it’s safe to say that Twitter’s new focus on this arena is a milestone of which we can be proud.
There’s been a lot of reading between the lines of Twitter’s job posting for a DC-based government liaison (and even one instance of actual follow-up reporting). One post really caught my attention – because I disagree with it so vehemently.
My friend Alan W. Silberberg, a Gov 2.0 innovator and founding organizer of Gov 2.0 LA, argued that, “Twitter needs a government relations expect who is also a social media expert. Not the other way around.” His five-point post went on to urge a traditional (if exceptionally well-qualified in the type) Beltway insider for the new post, which Twitter envisions heading up an emerging public affairs shop.
Wrote Silberbeg (who said he is not applying):
Because of the Giants amongst us like Microsoft, Google, Facebook – Twitter’s entry into the Government space has to be taken carefully. The Giants have armies of lobbyists, lawyers, pr firms, etc. The Twitter person needs to be able to navigate these waters with firm decision making. Time spent getting up to speed will only hurt the company, and its investors like Union Square’s Fred Wilson. This goes back to my first point. Twitter needs to hire someone known in the Gov 2.0 space – but also known in DC. IN Government. No offense to my peers and friends applying for this job – but it clearly says that they are looking for a DC area person who already has Government experience. That really means connections, access and understanding of the policies and ethics surrounding these changing times.
I’m not going to do a point-by-point, because Alan’s arguments are sound from the perspective of traditional government relations.
But our times urgently call for the non-traditional. I often say that my social media-fueled campaign for Congress last year was a few years too early.
Hiring anyone but a visionary for Twitter’s first government-facing employee would be be a few years too late.
As a friend in government recently said to me, “We have the next 10 years to shape the next 30.” Our government is a massive public engagement fail, and aping its nature of privilege and insider connections would be a disaster.
Another friend, Shaun Dakin, anti-robocall activist and dot-com era veteran, is applying for the post and today gave his reaction to Silberberg’s post and the job description’s inclusion of “entrepreneurial” qualities.
People used to working in Gov’t and big companies (I was there, big time, with Fannie Mae and FedEx) are used to WAITING for permission to do things. They do research. They go to meetings. They brainstorm. They rarely DO anything.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, don’t really ask anyone for permission. They just do.
… Critically, I think, they know how to get things done with few resources.
Perhaps Twitter thinks that whomever is in this role (he or she) will be really “starting up” not just a new office but also a new line of business for Twitter.
So, my recommendation to Twitter would be to look hard at if the person has had to DO.
In the past couple years, hundreds of driven and innovative political and government media and engagement strategists have qualified themselves for this position. I hope Twitter picks from that number.
Silberbeg: Gov 2.0 and Twitter Finally Tweet-up!
What are some of the ways that agencies use a suggestion box? What are the benefits and risks of taking the review process from an insular committee to all stakeholders?
Computers have already helped us move beyond the simple wooden box and slip of paper to ideas like online sourcing of budget suggestions and process reforms from citizens and employees.
Taking that process to a whole new level, Web 2.0 tools like UserVoice and IdeaScale open up the suggestion box to internal and/or external stakeholders, enabling robust vetting and ranking of ideas in an open forum.
Any agency with a broad front-line community or stakeholder group – any agency, really – could use these tools to empower employees and revitalize its mission. I encourage anyone evangelizing Web 2.0 and social media to bring these tools to top-level decision makers.
Departments and governments already using this kind of collaboration include the TSA and City of Santa Cruz. What would you like to see?