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FCW Insider: Talking collaboration with D.C.'s Social Media Club


So I had the opportunity last night to talk to D.C.'s Social Media Club -- yes, there is such a thing. Here was the Facebook event posting on the meeting.

I actually like these opportunities because it is a chance to introduce people to government -- it is amazing to hear about people's misconceptions, even people here in the D.C. area. It is also an opportunity for me to learn more about collaboration, which I think is such an opportunity for government right now.

The great thing about speaking to social-media wizards is that they are inherently big believers in collaboration. I generally don't like to give a "speech." In fact, I don't like it when rooms are set up like a classroom because it sends the wrong message, as if I'm supposed to impart some wisdom. I'd much rather have chairs set up around a circle, which is much more conducive to having a conversation about issues. And the fun thing about last night is that we did have a conversation. We got to chat about collaboration in government, why change comes so slowly -- the argument was in government, but I think change comes slowly in most organizations, particularly large organizations. We also got to chat about what will come in a new administration, and what will come with a new generation of government workers. So it was a fascinating discussion for me, and for the Social Media Club, I hope.

One of the most interesting comments came from a person who is now a government contractor but had worked in the intelligence community. (I believe that is what he said, but...I wasn't taking notes. I'm sure he'll correct me if I didn't get it right.) He noted that the government bureaucratic ways can be contagious. Young people who come into government with new ideas can get wrapped into the 'this is the way we've always done it' syndrome. And I think that is true -- it is very easy to get caught into all the government rules. I told them that I think this collaboration stuff simply is going to happen if, for no other reason, it is happening everywhere else. As people use Facebook at home and if/when there are wiki platforms in the cloud that let you create wikis on the fly, this stuff is addictive -- and liberating -- and empowering -- and refreshingly new. These tools let us work across a large number of people -- to work together -- efficiently and effectively in ways that we haven't been able to do before. So it is going to happen.

I also think that most people -- even people here in D.C. -- look at government as one organization. But when it comes down it, most of us know that it is made up of hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of smaller (although still big by any standard) organizations. And among those scores of government organizations, there are pockets of real collaboration going on. And there is real leadership. We've written about many of them in Federal Computer Week -- EPA's Molly O'Neill, the Intellipedia team, DOD's Dave Winnergren, Navy's Robert Carey, GSA's Casey Coleman, HUD's Lisa Schlosser, DOT's Kip Hawley, DOT's Dan Mintz... and I could go on. These people are trying to find ways to do it. It is why I'm such a fan of the National Academy of Public Administration's Collaboration Project, . (Their site is live, by the way. Check it out at http://collaborationproject.org.)

A brief aside: I've been working n a blog post about how to ease into collaboration -- for you collaborative virgins. In fact, I've been working on that post for toooooo long, so I'll try and get it posted over the weekend. But The Collaboration Project's blog has a link to Common Craft's wonderful Plain English Guides to collaboration. (I first recommended them back in August.) The one I have posted below is on wikis -- and I think that just watching a 3.5-minute video is a good way to start the change in mind-set -- moving away from the surreal notion that e-mail is collaborative -- it isn't -- to actually using collaboration tools.




I really do believe that this stuff is going to happen... so... get ready because it does represent change.

Back to the Social Media Club... A few odd things about speaking to social-media wizards -- they "twit" the session. They use Twitter, which is a "micro-blogging" site, to tell people what is going on right at that moment. (See Common Craft's Twitter explainer here.) Now, I am going to acknowledge that I don't fully get Twitter -- and I told them that last night. And I can tell you that Twitter and Second Life will not make the list of how an inexperienced person can ease into the new collaborative world. But Twitter is kind of interesting. For example, last night, we actually got questions from... well, twits, for lack of a better term. And it is interesting to go back and check out what people say that I said. (Ah, reporting!)

The session was also streamed -- real time. So yes, I'm on DC's NewsChannel 8 regularly, which airs live... and I'm on Federal News Radio regularly, which airs live... yet this somehow seems like it will be around for a long time.





I thank the Social Media Club for the invite. I hope it was good for them because I sure got something out of it.

Update: Here is another blog post from the session -- including a full video of the entire discussion, if you are that interested.


Last night I battled the traffic to head down to see Chris Dorobek, editor of Federal Computer Week, speak about government and technology. It was a really good time and as usual the conversation was terrific between all involved.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on May 16, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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