Cheezburger Network as a Model for Citizen Engagement?

I was fortunate enough to attend a talk series at Google DC earlier today featuring Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger Networks. These are the folks responsible for fun, engaging, user-generated content sites like FAILblog, LOLcatz, GraphJam, ThereIFixedIt, and – good stuff. They get over 11 million viewers a month, and have more people vote on an average LOLcat than people that vote in a typical Congressional election.

The government and other large organizations, who typically are not great at engaging their citizens and customers, might want to take this stuff more seriously. Their motto, to “make people happy for five minutes a day” isn’t a bad one. Wouldn’t you like to work for an agency that had that motto?

Someone actually asked Ben a question about the topic of Government 2.0, being in DC as we were. What is the role of concepts like these websites contain in a participatory government? Paraphrasing greatly, to build big, fun communities that can accomplish something, the government must make it very simple to get involved. They have to “narrow the number of variables involved in the decision process,” Ben said. Then, people who want to get more involved can take a second and a third step in a process if they want. I think the key takeaway for getting busy people involved in something within five minutes is: “low barrier to entry.”  Does your government website meet that standard?

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This post was written by:

Mark Drapeau - who has written 225 posts on Dr. Mark D. Drapeau.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Emma Says:

    I think the low barrier to entry being the key to participation holds true anywhere. I’ve seen it especially with collaboration tools – having to create another account, fill out another form, people will just take the easy way and send an email. If it’s easy, they’ll do it, and engagement increases as a result.

  2. Mark Drapeau Says:

    Thanks Emma. You’re definitely right – I think it’s a wider phenomenon. I’m not sure it’s often taken into account when designing government websites, thinking up government events/contests, etc. though.

  3. Wayne Moses Burke Says:

    Great post, Mark. I would broaden your target here even farther by saying that it’s not just the government, but the entire citizen participation community that needs to take heed of the necessity of simplicity and low barrier to entry.

    Government is trying – but in large part, they have their hands full. There are also a lot of citizens working on developing tools to engage the broader community of interested individuals – and those of us in that space have the same responsibilities that government does in this regard.

  4. ChrisQ Says:

    I think it’s a matter of time. Once LOLcat lovers rise their way up through the ranks of government, government will start fully getting it and online democracy will flourish . . .

  5. Bengt Feil Says:

    Its always good to also look for the success factors of the weird sites and asks: What does that mean for my stuff? I guess it is not easy to convince a public offical that Bens work has relevance for him or her – but actually it does.


  6. Mark Drapeau Says:

    Thanks Bengt – I think that’s a very smart commment, and something I think about myself.

  7. Polprav Says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

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