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So you’ll know where to find me:
Citizen 2.0 Workshop – Sunday, Sept. 19, 2-4 p.m., Fairfield, CA – I’ll be leading a session on social media for progressive activists and campaign workers at the Solano County Democratic Party Headquarters;
CityCampSF – Oct. 16-17, San Francisco, CA – I’m an organizer of this unconference, and will be proposing sessions on social media, neighborhood beautification and mobile apps, and a public art location-based app check-in race;
Beyond 2010 – October 20-23, Edmonton, AB, Canada – I’ll be speaking in Edmonton on the 21st, on “Sci-fi, Digital Society and the Future of Governance,” holding a social media workshop for City of Edmonton’s IT branch, and meeting up with friends from Twitter and Empire Avenue;
Gravity Summit – November 8-9, Irvine, CA – I’ll be keynoting the Social Media and Government event, talking about going to the next level with conversation and collaboration for governments and campaigns;
Allie Wojtaszek of Edmonton, Alberta, is one of the top members on the social media influence market Empire Avenue, and a prolific photographer. I interview Allie about Empire Avenue and Flickr, where she is ranked as the most influential member on EA.
Adriel Hampton: Allie, with recent updates to Empire Avenue, you’re the No. 3 in price on the site, and the top Flickr member. EA didn’t even have Flickr at first. How did you find out about it (EA), and what first drove you to be an active member?
Allie: I found out about Empire Avenue when I met (co-founder) Dups at a Tech Start Up in Edmonton. I knew I wanted to be a part of it right away.
Adriel: You’re a self-avowed early adopter, but what it is that got you to stick with EA? I know I’ve tried and dumped a fair number of social networks.
Allie: I find EA rewarding (in the sense of game play, it’s fun) but what really made me stick with it was the community it created and the people I have had a chance to connect with there. The strength of EA as a social networking tool is attractive.
Adriel: You’re a social person! Before we start talking Flickr, what is it about the Empire Avenue community you found so attractive?
Allie: I like that EA connects with all the other social networking sites that I find important and useful. I love that EA has given me the opportunity to connect with people all over the world. Their ideas now influence and expand me.
Adriel: A small yet-international community, yeah, that’s super cool. So, Flickr. I hardly knew Flickr was a social network, but obviously you’ve been thriving a long time there. How did that start?
Allie: I needed a place to put my pictures online when I switched to digital. I was using Yahoo, tried Picasa. But when I found Flickr, I was sold. I’ve been using it now since 2005 as a pro member (which I totally recommend).
Adriel: I went Pro because of Empire Avenue! It is great for storage. Do you also back up your pictures, or is everything on Yahoo’s cloud?
Allie: I also use Mozy.com for backing up my pictures. Yes, I love them that much. Plus, I tend to only put pictures I like or that have significance to me on Flickr. I have thousands of other pictures to back up.
Adriel: Not surprised! When you do a shoot, do you post most or all of your pictures to Flickr, or are you really selective? I see both styles on the site.
Allie: I do try to be selective. I want people to like my pictures and want to visit, so I aim for the best quality I can provide.
Adriel: I’m guessing it won’t be long before you have a thousand Flickr contacts. Have you met a lot of folks there?
Adriel: That’s cool. Lot of that in SF, but I haven’t been to one yet. Are you a trained photographer, or self-taught?
Allie: No training, so I guess that makes me self taught. I see pictures everywhere. At some point someone gave me a camera, and I’ve never looked back. I think I was 8 years old.
Adriel: What are you shooting with these days? Do you do any post-processing?
Allie: I use a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. I usually will auto correct for colors if need be and have been known to crop.
Adriel: Obviously you’ve put serious time into Flickr, but what’s your best advice for Empire Avenue folks looking to build a network there?
Allie: I would first say select good and interesting photo’s to post. Don’t dump or flood your page or people won’t want to look. Give every picture a title, description and tags. Add them to a set if applicable. Then find groups for them. Then you can post links to your pictures on other sites to entice people to come and see your Flickr profile. I would also suggest interacting with your audience – answering comments and checking out their pictures and leaving comments. Groups are great for exposure but also advice and tips. Flickr people are amazing at sharing advice!
Adriel: Again with the mind reading. I was just typing a question about groups. Tell me, how many photos do you think is right to upload in a session/day?
Allie: To be honest I think the less the better. I think quality is way more important than quantity. So I try to do no more than 25. And that would really be a lot – like vacation pictures (which I take a lot of). But I don’t know if there is a right/wrong amount to upload in a day. If you want people to look, less is better.
Adriel: How has EA changed your Flickr experience?
Adriel: Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your time! Any last words for your fans on EA and Flickr?
Allie: I’d like to say thanks to everyone who supports me on Empire Avenue and Flickr. If it wasn’t for them, none of it would be fun at all.
Adriel: Awesome. And thanks for all your great community building on EA.
Allie: Thanks Adriel, this was fun! I could talk about Flickr all day.
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.
So, today I was doing some pruning of the folks I follow on Twitter. This can be tedious work, but it’s important to my networking efforts. I try to follow back most accounts that follow me, as long as they look like they have live people or organizations behind them. Plenty slip through the cracks, though, and I begin find my feed a bit overrun with people using FriendFeed, Facebook and a slew of other services to pipe content to Twitter with zero interaction there. Unless it’s content highly useful to me – like feeds from a few blogs and news agencies – I generally unfollow those sorts of accounts.
Cutting loose spammy and dead accounts
During this exercise, I also notice two kinds of accounts from people who are obviously trying to use Twitter as a networking tool, but are going astray. There are the accounts obviously auto-following people (look for 1-to-1 follower-following ratios) and having little luck at engagement, and then there are those who’ve simply stopped tweeting.
Reviewing these accounts, it’s often clear that they had purpose in getting started, whether to tweet at a conference, to promote their business, or simple to build that network before it’s needed. Many of the folks who stop tweeting don’t say why, but enough do that I’m guessing it’s because they simple aren’t getting the kind of engagement they were promised or expecting. Sometimes they’re discouraged because they’ve got hundreds of Twitter followers but only a few of those click on the links they share.
My advice for networking on Twitter – and I believe the informational networking there is tremendously valuable – is to be strategic in how you build out your community. For example, if you’re trying to market SEO services, and sign up for a service that auto-follows anyone who tweets the words “social media,” you’ve totally missed any sort of practical audience. Sure, you can all retweet each others’ links and tidbits of wisdom, and yes, that may increase your personal SEO (which is one of the few good reasons to crank out content on Twitter without and personal engagement). But it’s not likely to get you customers. What if instead you identified local businesses and Chamber of Commerce members engaging on Twitter who might be interested in your services? Start interacting with them; build a relationship that will lead to real business.
If you’re the conferencegoer, figure out what Twitter hashtag people are using to tweet about the event, and make connections before, during and after by merging your Twitter and offline networking. Chances are, Twitter connections established there will continue due to shared interest or profession.
Twitter has been an extremely valuable tool for the Government 2.0 movement. Last week, Gov 2.0 consultant Maxine Teller commented on why she thinks it’s important that Twitter is hiring a government liaison, explaining how Mark Drapeau convinced her to start using Twitter actively in 2008 after she’d stopped:
The whole reason that you and I were jazzed about Twitter back then was because it was – and still is – a great way for us to find and connect with like-minded folks who believe – and are using – emerging tools and technologies enable us to more efficiently and effectively achieve our government missions.
To repeat the mantra that we’ve all chanted in our Gov 2.0 conference and event presentations umpteen times, Gov 2.0 (despite its software release naming convention) is not about the tools and technologies; it’s about the collaborative interactions, innovative thinking, and revolutionary approaches that these tools and technologies catalyze and enable.
In late 2009, Gartner consultant Andrea DiMaio published a research noted defining Government 2.0 as “the use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services, processes and data.” His definition is one of the most solid and comprehensive I’ve seen, and it encapsulates many of the reasons social technologies are important to other businesses sectors as well:
The socialization of information has multiple facets (government to citizens, citizens to government and government to government) and the boundaries between these facets are increasingly blurred. The next step will be the socialization of services and processes by engaging individuals and communities to perform part of existing government processes or transform them by leveraging external data and applications.
Commoditization – which has already started with consolidation and shared services to reduce the diversity of infrastructure and horizontal application – will gradually move toward services and business processes.
Government 2.0 has seven main characteristics:
* It is citizen-driven.
* It is employee-centric.
* It keeps evolving.
* It is transformational.
* It requires a blend of planning and nurturing.
* It needs Pattern-Based Strategy capabilities.
* It calls for a new management style.
Food for thought.