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Gov 2.0 Hero: Lewis Shepherd

Gov 2.0 Hero: Lewis Shepherd

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’m an odd duck in this realm, a bit older than most of the Gov 2.0 forefront folks. I participated in Gov 1.0, and in Gov 0.9 before that, and in Pre-Wired Gov before that. As a kid in the ‘60s I was a political junkie, and I made candy money at the age of 6 by swarming parking lots for my local congressman in North Carolina and putting his bumperstickers on cars. A nickel a car for me, and no permission sought; people would at some point discover they had been driving around advertising their Member of Congress. Imagine if politicians today were remotely adding a banner ad to constituents’ personal websites and blogs! During grad school at Stanford two of my professors (Condi Rice of the last Administration, Dennis Ross of the new one) arranged a Pentagon gig for me as a Soviet foreign policy analyst in the Pentagon’s “internal think tank,” the Office of Net Assessment; it was 1985 and I already had my own PC, so I expected a shiny supercomputer on my desk at the Pentagon. Instead, I got an IBM Selectric II typewriter. I evangelized use of new technologies then, and again with my early jobs in city government. I worked for the Mayors of San Jose and San Francisco, during the Gov 1.0 era – in 1995 we launched a heavily hyperlinked website for San Francisco’s Mayor, winning awards for innovation, and were praised for being “ the only candidate to post answers to questions from community groups.” But there was certainly no realtime interactivity with citizens and between citizens, which we’d consider a sine qua non of Web 2.0 use. After doing well in the Silicon Valley startup/venture capital world in the ‘90s, the attacks of 9/11 drew me back to Washington where I took advantage of what I had learned for another stint in government, at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2003-2007, where I had the opportunity (and budget & awesome team) to introduce new technologies and social software practices. I made a point of seeking out like-minded folks in other intelligence agencies, DoD organizations, and civilian government departments, so that by the time I left government to join the Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments, I was enmeshed in a global web of brilliant innovators at federal, state, and local levels who are defining the frontiers of open, interactive government. I feel like I’ve had an incredibly fortunate career already.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

It depends how you slice ”government.” Here in Washington DC, there’s still a slow awakening of IT professionals within federal agencies to just how cheap and powerful the new enterprise capabilities are, and how easily implemented if you’re tactically smart. Microsoft Research has even been working on the social aspects of nudging traditional bureaucratic thinking towards a more agile Enterprise 2.0 approach to Government, and we’re seeing a lot of success there by partnering with the Obama Administration. Outside the Beltway I’d say that state and local levels have seen the least penetration so far, so there’s enormous opportunity there. I’d also argue that internationally, underdeveloped nations have enormous needs: U.S. policy for instance can now refine the traditional promotion of democracy abroad with support for the actual means of democratic expression, by sponsoring adoption of new software tools and basic web infrastructure expansion.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Can’t tell you because we’re building it in the lab right now, ha! Seriously, the killer app may be something big and powerful, from an enterprise perspective, though I’d put the odds on something less obvious, but more pervasive. Here’s what I mean. I think often about the roots of the original Progressive movement at the dawn of the 20th Century, and their advocacy of direct-vote referendums, championed by Hiram Johnson and the like. Those give the people a direct say over particular issues, but the downside is that “the people” don’t always exercise informed judgment, and popular opinion can be manipulated and swayed by malevolent interests. So I’m looking to Gov 2.0 capabilities that maintain the representative aspect (the elected official, exercising his or her judgment) while incorporating real-time, structured, unfiltered but managed visualizations of popular opinion and advice. I’m intrigued by new services along these lines like www.you2gov.com, www.govfresh.com, www.govtwit.com, and the like, but I’m also a big proponent of semantic computing – called Web 3.0 by some – and that should lead the worlds of crowdsourcing, prediction markets, and open government data movements to unfold in dramatic, previously unexpected ways. We’re working on cool stuff like that.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

Oddly, not the part I worked on most in the intelligence world, which was mostly helping government folks better share information and collaboratively develop knowledge among themselves. As important as that is, I’m much more interested in the bottom-up revolution, or “outside-in” dimension. Lin Wells and Mark Drapeau call this Inbound Sharing, or “allowing government to obtain input from citizens and other persons outside the government more easily” in their seminal paper on Social Software in government; however I’d put the emphasis not on “government obtaining input” but on the new ability of the governed to drive information flow, governmental processes, and outcomes. You can’t watch what’s gone on with social software use in Egypt’s Facebook Revolution, our own 2008 campaign, or Iran’s election protests, without feeling that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson would have been prolific twitterers with awesome blogs. I think about that a lot when I blog myself, and I think we’re heading into an incredibly exciting period. There’ll be ugly hurdles and frustrations but I take the long view (you have to at my age). I’m incredibly optimistic about the future, because I intend to help invent it.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Andrea Baker

Gov 2.0 Hero: Andrea Baker

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I think I was always destined to be a part of Government 2.0. I joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school and wanted to become a linguist, which I did. In addition to learning Arabic, I became a Signals Intelligence Analyst. I would stay at work long after my shift was over to find a way to better pass along the information to the next person on shift and back stateside. I created one of the first robust Military Analytical websites on Intelink. It was probably transparency before such a thing was called that. I am happy to say the site still exists, but has expanded and improved with the times. After leaving the Army to become a contractor supporting the U.S. Federal Government I have spent my career taking transforming my contracts into transparent and open environments.

I spent some time working over at NOAA Fisheries earlier in this decade moving their processes from paper forms to online, as well as working with Constituent Services preparing a weekly newsletter sent to the general public and press. I felt I learned a lot about community outreach during this time. In my spare time, I also ran a music marketing and promotions company. I started blogging in 1999 (I would call it music journaling back then). I would capture events about the music scene on my personal website along with fan photos. This was a natural transition into social networking sites, which were nascent at the time. I saw the potential for bands connecting with their fans to drive what the bands could deliver.

When Wikipedia came out, I loved the capture of knowledge by anyone anywhere in the world. So when the opportunity came to be a community manager of the Intelink tools such as Intellipedia, I jumped at the chance. In 2006, I became the first paid full time Wiki Gardener for the Intelligence Community, as just one of my many roles. Since then I’ve planned collaboration conferences and trained many in the uses of social software as an Enterprise solution. So for me, Government 2.0 is more about Internal Communication [Enterprise 2.0], before you get external. I recently left the Intellipedia team and now I am a Project Manager an Innovation team on a another customer site. I think I have been lucky to be able to work with such outstanding teams that are open to changing the behavior of Government. I do all this and still run the practice area of Enterprise 2.0 projects at Navstar. So while I love being on-site as a contractor, I am equally lucky to be leading Navstar as an Enterprise 2.0 for Government solutions provider overseeing other Gov 2.0 projects.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

All areas that are open to change. Change is a resonating message from the Obama administration and with that kind of top cover I am seeing more Agencies and Organizations open to the idea of adopting Web 2.0 technologies into their business practices. Most organizations and agencies have heard about Web 2.0 and some are leading in their best practices like the Intelligence Community, NASA, DoD, USGS and TSA. This is great on a national level, but I would like to start seeing more examples of State and Local Government participating in the discussions. At the Government 2.0 Club kickoff event, Government 2.0 Camp, I did notice there was some local Government participation. I would like to be assured that these efforts are happening state and city levels. I personally believe Maryland and Virginia are good examples of states democratizing data via their websites. I don’t know about the rest of the states in the Nation, but I would like to see what something like Apps for Democracy could do if each state got as involved as the district. We can always do better.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

I don’t believe there is a killer app that is going to make Government 2.0 something as in representation. There is already a Government 2.0 movement out there in every aspect of Government. If you don’t see it in your organization, look back in the mirror, because its probably you. Vivek Kundra recently mentioned he wants Dashboards for Government. I am actually strongly behind this idea. While GovLoop has now allowed for conversations and awareness amongst the Government workers and Contractors it still fails to hammer out the big picture. Kundra’s vision of culling all this information available to the public could be very awesome. Its a step in the direction I would want if I was CIO of the United States. I believe however this website is delivered, will be the closest thing to a killer app, as it brings us the transparency amongst ourselves, not just our citizens.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

I think its obvious that I am excited about breaking down the walls of Internal Collaboration. While the public doesn’t need to know how the sausage is made, we now have a venue in order to make appropriate information public to our taxpaying citizens. I feel better as a citizen and taxpayer knowing that when Government adopts these tools, they are doing so on a plethora of beneficial levels. By considering Open Source technologies we are spending less on building custom made applications and by making the applications open to the Enterprise, we are able to know what our counterparts are doing in other organizations. The infamous “Red Tape” of yesteryear is no longer impeding us as it has in the past. With Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra now as our National CIO and CTO, I am more confident we will see more conversations and subsequent actions of Government actively engaged with one another.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Christopher Dorobek

Gov 2.0 Hero: Christopher Dorobek

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I have been covering government technology for a long time — more than 17 years now. I started out as a reporter at Government Computer News, then worked for an early dot-com covering government called PlanetGov.com, and then at Federal Computer Week, where I eventually was the editor in chief. At FCW, we hosted the first conference on government’s use of Web 2.0 — it was 2007 and there were only a handful of agencies that were even thinking about these tools. And I have been fascinated by these Web 2.0 tools for several reasons. One is because they seem uniquely applicable to the government. (More on that below.) Another is that these tools are really evolving organically. They are largely evolving from the consumer market, so they don’t come across as an enormous enterprise application. They are also, by and large, easy — and sometimes even fun — to use.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

I think government is uniquely situated to take advantage of these tools. Again — my definition of Web 2.0 are tools that enable information sharing and that information is, in fact, power, but that the real power of information comes when it is shared. Agencies have a lot of information — and it is information that can be empowered by being shared. The Environmental Protection Agency is a wonderful example because EPA officials have to try to build consensus among desperate groups — other federal agencies, state and local organizations, public interest groups, business interest groups. These tools enable organizations to be more inclusive and tap a much broader cross section of people to build “the wisdom of crowds.” And you’ve seen these concepts evolve — from blogs, the intelligence communities remarkable Intellipedia, mash-ups like Virtual Alabama, blogs such as those at EPA, TSA, Navy CIO Rob Carey and NASA Goddard CIO Linda Cureton. I am enjoying watching the Obama administration’s transparency and openness initiative and will be fascinated to see what results from that. All of this being said, these tools will not solve every problem. And they are tools — not magic. But what a remarkable time to be in government — or, in my case, to be an observer.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

There is no killer app. These are tools — evolving tools — and some will work in some circumstances. Many people criticize government as being behind the private sector. With these government 2.0 tools, agencies are doing exactly what they need to do — wade into the pool. Test the waters. Find out what works — and what does. And there is all sorts of experimentation going on — innovation. The private sector is doing exactly the same thing. (There are notable exceptions — but by and large, most of the private sector isn’t doing this any better. In many cases, the government is ahead.) There are several teams who have been at the forefront and have been blazing the trails for everybody. One is the remarkable Intellipedia — a suite of tools for the intelligence communities. They are years ahead of most everybody else and they are showing everybody how they can make these tools work. Another is Virtual Alabama, developed by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security. Again, it is an innovative way of mashing up data on a map that is still remarkable years later. And then there are more simple examples: TSA’s Idea Factory, where front line employees can submit ideas that can be voted on. EPA’s Puget Sound initiative, EPA’s blogs, Carey and Cureton blogs, the TSA blog. all of them move the ball forward.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

There are all sorts of opportunities out there. What excites me? I have been covering government for a long time, and for most of that time, one of the predominant issues has been effective sharing of information. These tools seem to help make that a possibility. But I’m also very excited by the challenges – particularly if people come together to collaborate on solving them. And there are a lot of challenges out there. Privacy, security, the role of the CIO, centralized vs decentralized … but there are so many people excited by the possibilities … there are so many government workers who are feeling empowered.

What an amazing time.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Steve Radick

Steve Radick

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I started working at Booz Allen in 2003 as an entry level strategic communications consultant. For three years, I worked on a variety of projects across the public sector, providing support in the areas of media relations, change management, stakeholder engagement – pretty much anything involving internal or external communications. Then, in 2006, I discovered Intelink and Intellipedia. That’s when I realized the potential of Government 2.0. Of course, we didn’t call it that – back then it was just an innovative use of some cool technology. But, I didn’t just see wikis and blogs, I saw all of the IT security myths and information sharing excuses get thrown out the window. If the Intelligence Community was able to use blogs and wikis to share classified information across 16 different federal agencies, then these tools could certainly be used in other areas of the government. At that point, I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to bring the principles of openness, transparency, and sharing to my company and the rest of the government.

I started voraciously reading about how Intellipedia worked – who was behind it, what technical features it had, what else was planned, who was using it, etc. I bought all kinds of social media books (Wikinomics, The World is Flat, Wikipatterns, The Long Tail are just some of them), I attended multiple conferences and other professional development events, and most importantly, I didn’t shut up! I talked about social media to anyone who would listen, and even to those who didn’t want to listen. I constantly looked for ways in which social media could enhance or replace existing processes (couldn’t we just post this white paper to a wiki and edit it there instead of sending it around over email?), I volunteered to help write proposals, white papers, and any other document that I could get my hands on where I could talk about social media, and I sent dozens of social media media articles and success stories to my leadership and anyone else who I thought would be interested. In short, I really annoyed a bunch of people for a long time!

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Right now, it seems like everyone is focusing on how to make government more transparent and authentic – agencies are tripping over each other to get on Twitter and start their own blogs in an effort to become more accessible to the public. I think this is great and we definitely need to continue to push these efforts. However, I see even greater potential in shifting the focus of these efforts inward and using social media to communicate and collaborate within their own agency and with other agencies and departments. Many organizations are taking real steps to communicate with the public, but internally, their own employees have unable to easily share information with each other. And they have an even more difficult time communicating with people in other parts of the government. That’s one reason that GovLoop has been so successful – it’s provided a platform for people from across the government to talk with each other and share information. The average government employee doesn’t care about turf battles and playing “stay out of my sandbox” – they just want to do their job and do it as easily and effectively as possible. Using social media to break down these “cylinders of excellence” across the government is where I see the greatest benefit right now.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Like I said above, I think that something like GovLoop or Intelink has the greatest potential for transforming Government and making Government 2.0 a reality. Whether either one of those platforms evolves to become the “killer app” or another tool emerges over time, at some point, we will see a shift in the way government employees communicate and collaborate with each other. Once these cultural and administrative barriers are lowered and/or eliminated, the promise of Government 2.0 can begin to be realized.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

I think the most exciting aspect of Government 2.0 is that everyone, from the SES level to webmasters to interns, now has the ability to affect real change. Social media has not only given every government employee and contractor a voice, it’s brought innovation and entrepreneurship back to the government. I love being a part of a movement that represents a fundamental change in how our government works. I love that I can work on a project at DHS and if I run into a problem, I can send a tweet to another person over in the DoD who I know just dealt with a similar challenge and ask him/her for some help in how to solve my challenge and that’s not only ok, it’s encouraged! The other really exciting part of Government 2.0 is that we’re just at the beginning. The policies and processes still have to catch up to the technologies that are being developed and used. We’re just now starting to see many of the grassroots efforts gaining widespread adoption – once the technology, the processes, and the policies are all working together, just imagine the possibilities of what we can accomplish.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Scott Horvath

Scott Horvath

  • Public Affairs Specialist/Web Developer, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Twitter · LinkedIn

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

Fast and furious! Well maybe not quite that fast, or furious for that matter, but definitely a nice pace.

I’m a code monkey by trade, for almost 12 years now, but I have a B.A. in Communications. So everything I create is done from a communications perspective (not an IT one). Being able to combine the communications knowledge with web development experience has been very beneficial to where I’m at today … immersed in Gov 2.0.

I’m definitely an early adopter and always love being the guinea pig for new tools and technology. But I’m always looking for ways to use those tools to increase the productivity of myself, my job and my agency — U.S. Geological Survey. I’m fortunate to work for people who are willing to push the envelope and move in new directions to enhance the mission of the organization. Because of my willingness to help push that same envelope, and my organization’s support in open creativity, Web 2.0 just seemed like the right road to travel.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

There’s a lot of opportunities in Government via Web 2.0. But I think the biggest is citizen engagement. Between the White House’s Open for Questions event and the growing number of Government accounts on Twitter, Govies have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. For a long time citizens have felt disconnected with their government representatives. Technology has gotten to the point where not only are the tools available to make that reconnection easier, but government is more open to listening. The needs of our citizens and the needs of our Government have finally reached a crossroad and we now have a unique opportunity to journey together down the same path.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

I don’t believe there is, or ever will be, a killer app to make Gov 2.0 the norm. Gov 2.0 is really an evolution of our society’s needs and government’s willingness to listen. Even if you took away all the technology Gov 2.0 would still exist. Gov 2.0 is really that crossroad, I mentioned, where people are talking and government is listening..and responding. The technology just happens to be the current vehicle to deliver those messages.

However, the technology does exist and it’s here to stay. The services and tools will change but the concepts will continue on. What will make Gov 2.0 the norm is a combination of all those apps and services. But it will take more than just the technology to make it a reality. We need changes to our 20th century policies to match a 21st century world. With people like Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra (our Nation’s first CIO and CTO, respectively) that reality is closer now than it ever has been.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

Everything. The road to the Government 2.0 that many of us envision will certainly be an adventurous and exciting one. Without failure, we can’t find success. I think the idea of being part of something that can reshape the way people trust in their government just by doing something that I love to do is what excites me the most. Being a part of that group of people that have the ability to chart the future of citizen participation in government is certainly an honor. I work and interact with people across all levels of government and I can tell you that the passion these people have in their work, and the belief they have in their government, is fuel for the fire when it comes to Gov 2.0. We are certainly in for some exciting changes.

Gov 2.0 Hero: Steve Ressler

Steve Ressler

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I co-founded a group called Young Government Leaders, a professional organization that now consists of over 2,000 federal employees. I was responsible for launching our first website as well as our presence on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace. Based on my experience with YGL and these other social networks, I saw a true need for an online community devoted to the government sector where we could focus on sharing best practices and ideas to improve government. Thus GovLoop.com was born and it is often used as one of the case studies of Gov 2.0.

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

Leveraging the wisdom of crowds. I think there are two major groups we can leverage. First, we can truly leverage the ton of knowledge inside the government already through new tools, collaboration platforms and social networks. Second, we can begin to bring citizens into the discussions and together we can solve the key issues we face.

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Ideagoras. For years, government has been looking for a way to get input from employees and citizens. Suggestion boxes have always been around for employees to get ideas to senior leaders. Townhalls and meetings have been used to get citizen input on important issues. Now there are ways to get these ideas quickly and also get collaboration and peer-voting. True, we are still working through how to handle haters, flamers and special interest groups. But I think this is a huge opportunity for the government to start truly listening internally and externally.

What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

The opportunity to be part of a revolution in the way government does business. I think this is more than just another stage of e-government but a change in culture and mindset as well. I think there will be huge changes in the next five years in how government operates and it excites me to be part of the change.