Tag Archive | "ecosystem"

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The Emerging Twitter List Arms Race


I use Twitter a lot, but I was not among the very first to see the new Lists feature. I can now, though. And what I find much more interesting than actually using the feature myself is the fact that I woke up this morning to find that I was on dozens of other people’s lists.

Even though the irony is that Twitter introduced lists about a year after I stopped wanting such a feature, I do think there is some value in having other people put me on their lists. Braggadocio. Oh yes, braggadocio. I’m talking about the incredible hubris that comes from knowing I’m on Ezra Butler’s list of people he’d take a rubber bullet for, the chutzpah of telling everyone that luminary Tim O’Reilly’s list of Government 2.0 people includes me among its few members, and the extra swagger in my step that comes from the radiant energy of being on professor Jay Rosen’s list of the best mindcasters he knows. I always knew I was awesome, but now I can prove it.

I’m joking a bit, of course. But when getting retweeted has been boiled down to a science (”Adding ‘please’ increases retweets by 12.3%!”), every maven is in search of a social media metric that shows who has “authority.”  Being on someone’s Twitter list is a difficult thing to game because it’s about organic usefulness to a community. I recently read Gary Vaynerchuk’s inspiring book  Crush It, and to me, Twitter lists have the potential to be a metric that measures how generous you are to the communities you’re a member of.

So forget about counting your number of followers, or how many retweets you get, or the many “Follow Friday” mentions you land – Those metrics have been blown out for a long time now. The new high fidelity for my vanity is the Twitter list.

Posted via email from Mark’s Cheeky Posterous

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You Don’t Have To Follow Everyone You Like In Real Life On Twitter


I want to let you all in on a little secret: You don’t have to follow everyone you like in real life on Twitter, just because they have an account there!

Simple, right? Well, not really. A lot of people seem to have a disease whose symptom manifests itself in the form of a question, “Why don’t you follow me on Twitter?”

Guess what. I can choose follow people I don’t like in real life on Twitter. And I can choose to not follow people I enjoy speaking to in real life. Maybe you tweet so infrequently I forget you’re there. Maybe you’re boring. Maybe you don’t engage. Maybe I don’t even have to explain myself.

It doesn’t mean I don’t like you. You might just suck at Twitter. Let me give you one example. I unfollowed @MorningMika (http://twitter.com/morningmika) today. She co-hosts a terrific morning show on MSNBC, “Morning Joe” – I watch it all the time. But her tweets are boring. And she doesn’t engage her 13,000+ followers, almost ever.

So, follow people who add value to you. And link up with other people on Facebook, LinkedIn, the comments section of their blogs, whatever and whenever adds the most value for the least cost.

If using Twitter were the same as real life, it wouldn’t be very unique, interesting or useful, would it?

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Georgetown Professor Mike Nelson on Government Collective Intelligence at the ELC09 Conference


At the ACT/IAC Executive Leadership Conference (ELC) in Williamsburg, VA today, I got to hear from Mike Nelson, who’s a Visiting Professor of Internet Studies at Georgetown University. He spoke on a panel within the ELC “Innovation” track, and made what I thought was a great case for government innovating with social networking tools. [You may recall that I've previously written about how social networking is the underlying key to collaboration.]  The following is paraphrasing of Prof. Nelson’s thoughts.

We are drowning in a sea of information. In the future we will be encountering 50X as much information as we have now, and we’re already maxed out. How do we find the right piece of information, quickly, in any given future situation? The solution is, in essence, taking advantage of collective intelligence and using social tools to help share the best information with the people that need it. Working together helps to form a “group brain” that is a different paradigm than how we normally think about individualism and workflow. [My side note: How do we individually incentivize group thought?]

What’s the killer app for collective intelligence? This will change in the future, but right now it’s basically Facebook and Twitter, which can act as a powerful aggregation and filtering mechanism for finding the right information at the right time. Self-organizing systems of collective intelligence, as evidenced by organizations like IBM, are one part of solving the “collective intelligence problem.”

This quick post oversimplifies but hits the main points. It should also put Mike Nelson on your radar if he’s not already. Find out more about him here.

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The Five-Minute Citizen Engagement Plan


Ben Huh is an expert on audience engagement who’s best known for creating a platform where people can post photos of cute cats and funny captions. If you’re wondering what this has to do with the government and information technology, don’t worry — until recently, I didn’t understand either. But as I’ve spent time thinking about what citizen engagement means, I’ve become convinced that Huh might be on to something.

Huh’s company is named Cheezburger Networks, and its goal is to “make people happy for five minutes a day.” Not only does its Web sites have more than 11 million monthly visitors and more than 10,000 daily submissions, the commentary level in some cases rivals the number of votes cast in congressional elections. People undeniably enjoy participating because it’s fun and engaging.

So why doesn’t a federal agency have the informal goal of, say, “helping students learn for five minutes a day” or “teaching Americans about foreign policy for five minutes a day” by creating something equally fun and engaging?

Cheezburger Networks makes participation simple. There is a low barrier to entry for participation on its sites, and indeed, when prompted at a question-and-answer session held recently at Google’s Washington offices, Huh suggested that combining participation with humor could make the government more engaging. However, there’s definitely resistance to that idea.

When chatting with another attendee immediately after the event, I received feedback to the effect of “that’s not the government’s job.” What, being interesting? I’d like someone to show me the rule that says the government can’t use some engaging, tasteful humor to engage citizens and, in the process, convey information. The Forest Service still has SmokeyBear.com, after all.

True, a Web site like ICanHasCheezburger.com might be too far outside the box for the government. But what about another popular Cheezburger Networks site, GraphJam.com? GraphJam is a fascinating Web site that consists entirely of user-generated graphs like you’d make using data in Microsoft Excel — except they’re hilarious. The site lets you upload your own files and even has a proprietary chart builder for pie charts, Venn diagrams and so forth. Some graphs certainly take liberties with the facts, but they’re primarily fun and informative.

The government has so much data that it often can’t see novel applications for it. Engaging Web sites where people could create simple visual interpretations of government data and submit them for others to learn from, discuss and, yes, even be amused would be valuable. Why does all government data have to be treated so seriously? Does portraying it in a boring fashion somehow make it seem more important?

The key to building big, fun communities that can accomplish something useful is making it simple to belong and get involved. Narrowing the number of variables involved in the decision process to initially getting involved is critical to drawing people in. I wonder what people could collectively accomplish if they voluntarily engaged with government data for five minutes a day.

This post originally appeared at Federal Computer Week.

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Why Posterous Is a Smart Tool For Informal Government Blogging


For a few weeks, I’ve been testing a tool called Posterous, and I’ve come to like it a lot. You can see my account here. If you’re not familiar with Posterous, it is essentially a very simple blogging platform. It may in fact be the most simple one; yet it is very feature-laden. And it has one relatively unique feature that could make it the most powerful tool for informal blogging by government employees.

That simple, amazing, singular feature is email as a primary interface. In other words, you can post blogs simply by emailing post@posterous.com or a similar address – you don’t even need an “account” or a “login” or a “password.” Even in the private sector, this is considered a cool feature. But for government employees, it could be a breath of life in an otherwise locked-down state of cybersecurity affairs.

You see, many government computer systems block domains like YouTube.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and so forth. There’s a current debate about the degree to which government employees can access such sites because of cybersecurity and other reasonable concerns – after all, there have been some very recent instances of bad things being passed through these social media tools and onto your computer. But when you can interact with a blogging platform through email – and in principle even through your official government email account accessed through a traditional program like Microsoft Outlook – you can get the functionality without the risk, and without needing permission from the IT shop.

As information is more decentralized and as more computing is done on mobile devices, quickly communicating information will be more commonplace – and more in demand by consumers of it. So to citizens, government content will still be king, but the speed at which it travels to them may be queen. And being able to blog on-the-go can increase that speed. Recently I’ve experimented with blogging while walking eight blocks to a date, blogging incredibly fast in reaction to breaking news, and blogging during a conference and posting my “journalism-style” article precisely at the end of a talk. There are innumerable other tactical applications of this tool.

Posterous has a lot of great features that I like. Perhaps most important among them is that links to the content you post can be instantly pushed to other social services like Twitter and Facebook – even if they’re blocked in your office. Another great feature is that if you attach photos, videos, or documents to your email, Posterous automatically embeds them in your blog – and will also push them to services like Flickr, YouTube, and Scribd (which may also be blocked in your government office). Still another great feature is that multiple people from multiple email addresses can contribute to one Posterous page (say, for an office), and conversely one email can be associated with multiple Posterous pages (say, a formal public affairs page, and an informal tech thoughts page). In brief, you can be very powerful from your BlackBerry.

Posterous has been described by a Mashable writer as “unremarkable,” but frankly, that’s what a lot of government employees are interested in. The government has a lot of outstanding content, and their primary mission in many cases is to get it out; customizing the blog theme is definitely secondary. A standardized, simple blog platform controlled through email sounds like just what the doctor ordered, and it offers numerous advantages over something more complicated like WordPress; for example, it’s easier to teach people how to use! Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

Posterous would probably love it if people in the government wanted to jump on this bandwagon in a more official manner, too. If I understand the numbers correctly, Posterous currently only has about one million unique visitors a month – total. The U.S. Government has more employees than that. I’m not picking on Posterous – it’s only been available since June 2008 and has some tough competition in the blog platform world – but my guess is that they’d be very willing to work with the General Services Administration and other appropriate people (as have companies like YouTube) to make Posterous work with official government interests and missions. And the same goes for local and state government employees too, who often deal with IT situations similar to those of their Fed counterparts.

Many agencies are working on social media policies and guidelines for employees, and education and training are no doubt part of successful use of tools like blogs by government employees. But assuming that people are trained and empowered to create online content, can you imagine if even 5% of Postal Service or FEMA or Army employees had a Posterous blog, and citizens and journalists could mine that information about what was happening in the country, or the world? It would be amazing.

So, for the 99% of government employees that can blog in their private lives and informally talk about their careers and more generally about their lives, I recommend getting a personal Posterous account. And because many of the things I said about the government also apply to large corporations, I think there’s a huge opportunity there, too. Everyone’s workplace has different rules about what you can and cannot use your computer and mobile devices for, and you shouldn’t break them. But if you can interface with Posterous via email and help to achieve workplace goals by mobile live-blogging of conferences you attend, or posting photos of critical emergency situations, or provoking discussion over the issue-of-the-day, I say: Go for it.

(If you work in government or closely with it and use Posterous, I’d especially like to listen to your feedback as I help prepare content for the upcoming Gov 2.0 Expo in May 2010.)

This post originally appeared on O’Reilly Radar.

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GovLoop Hires Government 2.0 Evangelist for Community Management as it Hits 20,000 Members


Following the recent major news of its acquisition by Minnesota-based GovDelivery, Inc., the premier social network for the government community, GovLoop.com will annouce tomorrow that it has filled a key leadership position – that of community manager.  And it has hired a visionary, tireless advocate for the application of social networking tools in the government – Andrew Krzmarzick.

Andy (He’s casual! Tweet him at @krazykriz or email him at andrew@govloop.com) will be responsible for encouraging outreach, partnership, and engagement to help the GovLoop community grow and deliver greater value to its members.  The expansion of GovLoop’s team reinforces its momentum of this so-called “Facebook for Government” and puts it heads and tails above any competition – including most of the government’s own internal tools, which often don’t cross between levels of government or different agencies within the same government.

In the last four months, GovLoop has added 10,000 new members, bringing the total over 20,000 – that’s more people than the Department of Energy employs, or more people than can fit into Boston’s TD Garden (you know, where the Celtics play).  It’s possible they might have over 100,000 members by next year at that rate!

Andy related, “I’ve watched with admiration…as the [GovLoop] community has grown and the members have connected with one another to share information and ideas generously.  I see its potential as a place where people in and around government can turn in real time to get linked with the people and information they need to perform their jobs more effectively.”

The president of GovLoop, Steve Ressler, has known Andy for quite some time, and when you can work with people you mutually admire, that can be a very strong move.  Since I know and admire both of them, I think this is a great move by the world leader in government-to-citizen communications solutions GovDelivery, Inc. (and GovLoop) and I expect great things from this social network for govies moving into 2010.  I have been a member of GovLoop.com for a long time, and you should be one too!

See also coverage of this story at Dorobek Insider.

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Government Ambassadors For Citizen Engagement


To the average person, government is represented by an anonymous person on the other end of the phone, a pile of mandatory paperwork, and perhaps at best a friendly neighborhood postal carrier. If you ask the average American not living inside the Beltway to name a single individual who works in the federal government, how would they reply? My guess is that the broad majority of them couldn’t give you the first and last name of a federal government employee; In reality they would find it much easier to name their local pharmacist, garage owner, or supermarket manager. And from the perspective of the government, this is a shame. How might emerging social technologies help to bridge that gap, in combination with a modification in thinking about government public relations?

The ideal end state when a citizen is asked to name a government employee would be that a person working in a micro-niche of interest to them – finance, farming, foot-and-mouth disease – immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately though, interesting and talented people working at Treasury, USDA, NIH and other places are not well-known to the public, despite the great effects their work has on everyday life in America. Why is this? Partly, it is a vestige from the days when communications were controlled by professionally trained public relations staff and mainstream journalism teams. This was understandable – equipment was expensive, channels were few, and citizens trusted authenticated, official sources for their information. But this media structure that worked well for 40 years is now outdated.

In the Web 2.0 world, every individual is empowered to be not only a consumer of information, but a producer of it. Writing is searchable, discoverable, sharable, usable, and yes, even alterable. The proverbial “pajama mafia” of bloggers has morphed into a powerful society class of listeners, questioners, writers, editors, publishers, and distributors. And in some outlying examples from the federal government, such as the TSA’s blog, we see this same power being harnessed by individual employees (with their agency’s approval, naturally) – Individuals from the TSA not only blog, but interact with citizens who comment on the articles. But this form of government-citizen interaction is, honestly, a primitive version of how social technologies can empower citizen engagement with government.

The modern citizen is not a vessel waiting to receive press releases and government website updates. Even a sophisticated government website like the White House’s new blog can only expect to attract a subset of citizens a subset of the time. Why? Simply, there are simply too many avenues of information flowing towards these people formerly known as a captive audience. No matter how compelling your government information, they are not waiting to hear from you about it. Nor are they necessarily waiting to hear from the New York Times, MSNBC, or any other mainstream organization.

Read more about how governments can harness the power of social media to reach the modern citizen at O’Reilly Radar.

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What good customer service looks like


I don’t let many strange men into my home, but this morning I received my first Peapod food delivery in a while. As usual, they were precisely on time, had everything I ordered, and the delivery guy was fun and friendly. I always contrast this with Comcast, the other place that frequently sends strange men into my home – they tend to be gruff, impersonal, independent contractors who don’t seem to care much about showing up at any particular time or really about my life at all.

Whether it’s Comcast versus Peapod or something like In ‘N’ Out (awesome service) versus McDonald’s (barely service), I blame the companies for creating that culture. I blame the strategists, the management, and the front-line people all. They do a terrible service for their brands. And conversely, the people with awesome front-line service that have a corporate culture of being awesome do a great service for their brands – here I am praising Peapod on a Sunday morning.

This is also why I think online customer service efforts like @comcastcares are fairly lame. Sure, it’s nice that they do it. But when a guy tracks muddy boots in my place and doesn’t give a crap about me, who cares what Comcast is doing on Twitter? Same for an airline that tweets me updated flight information but then greets me with a nasty, unhelpful person at check-in and charges me $25 for a simple bag. And anyone else too. Social media is about “social” and “media” – and most socializing still happens in person.

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Proactive Social Media: Filling the Information Space With Great Content


I recently gave a talk titled Free the People! at the Potomac Forum’s Government 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration, and Public Engagement Symposium in Washington, DC that generated enough interest for me to post my slide deck and write a summary for a wider audience. These thoughts constitute some of my early ideas about “offensive social media” for organizations (this talk was particularly geared towards a government audience, but the fundamentals apply to the private and public sectors more broadly).

Read the rest of this article at the PR 2.0 blog!

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Jeremiah Owyang, We Hardly Knew Thee Brand


jermiah-owyang

Numerous people have now written, and written well, about high-profile Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 analyst Jeremiah Owyang leaving Forrester Research.  Many people look forward to seeing what his next endeavor is.

Marketing expert Dave Meerman Scott blogged about the interesting, modern conflict and cooperation between personal brands working at corporations, and corporate brands that benefit from their people.  There are no current answers.

But I heard Howard Kurtz say something to the effect of “we reported it, so the public should know” on his CNN show this weekend.  No, sorry.  The way most people learn now is not by watching a television channel like CNN (just look at the ratings of your average news show), but by talking to someone who talked with someone who had an opinion derived from watching one.  News, and all information, is now commonly filtered through our social networks before it gets to us.  That’s right – we don’t find the news, the news finds us.

Owyang is influential because he provides value and generates tremendous word of mouth, and empowers his information to find us.  He doesn’t broadcast and expect you to find it so much as consider himself part of a community that he wants to help.  To some degree, this is how entrepreneurs can beat the big dogs.  He is someone to emulate.

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