A couple of weeks ago, at the annual Government Leadership Summit that this company sponsors in Williamsburg, Va., for federal and state CIOs, I introduced veteran editor and panel moderator John Stein Monroe as Federal Computer Week’s in-house guru on social media and collaborative Web 2.0 tools — the central theme of this year’s conference.
That John would be considered an expert practitioner of social-networking applications suprised some of the people who have gotten to know him during the 15 years that he has been reporting and editing for this magazine — and participating for almost as long at our CIO Summit. For a journalist of his tenure and deep experience, being a social-media evangelist is a new role for him to play.
But as John demonstrates in this week’s cover story, you don’t have to be a Gen Xer or a Millennial to get the value and benefits of social networking in a mission-driven organization. What you do have to understand is the organizational mission. In FCW’s case, that mission has everything to do with getting the best and most reliable information we can find to our readers and Web site visitors — in ways that are most useful to them.
What John has helped us all to discover is that information doesn’t always have to emanate from us, the publisher. Information that is most valuable to our readers often comes from you, the reader.
It was only in January, about the time I arrived here, that FCW.com and our sister sites, GCN.com and WashingtonTechnology.com, began accepting and publishing comments from readers. During that time, we have received more than 2,500 submissions on all kinds of stories about government technology, procurement reform and, of course, Government 2.0.
Now, to be sure, comments are a pretty rudimentary form of social networking. But this function does provide an immediate, concrete way for readers to exchange information with the writer of the story — and with one another. And John, who began sifting through these comments every day for nuggets of knowledge and insight, quickly saw their value for our readers and the opportunity they presented to us.
Indeed, in a few cases, a comment provided by a reader was so provocative and well-argued that John invited the author to expand it into a opinion column with a byline for these pages. We now plan to make such guest columns a regular feature of the magazine.
And John, who also writes the "FCW Insider" blog, continues to mine the extraordinary expertise of our reader community for stories and advice. It turned out that his two posts from the CIO Summit, where he encapsulated the best tips from social-networking practitioners, were the most popular stories of the week on FCW.com. Which got John to thinking — maybe there’s a cover story in there. (See Page 22)
David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.