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.

Why Gov 2.0 means the U.S. Government must centralize its Web operations

In an earlier post, I offered recommendations on centralizing U.S. Government Web operations, which seemed naive or misinformed to some.

Here’s what I recommended:

  • Centralize all government Web operations under one agency
  • Hire a Chief User Experience Officer
  • Unify look/feel of all government/military Web sites
  • Hire talented writers and editors to produce quality content

As I’ve added new GovFresh feeds for various departments, agencies, military branches, and more, I’ve visited many of the government-operated sites over the past month.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Lack of unified design
  • Disjointed use of Web platforms
  • Inconsistent editorial and content
  • Outdated Web design practices
  • Development redundancy

While all of the above don’t hold true for every site (there are several fantastic government sites), at least one of the above does.

Here’s why the U.S. Government must centralize its Web operations:

Development

One open-source platform would allow for a more agile development process and more scalable, cross-site features to be built quickly. Code could be re-purposed, rather than re-created. Eventually, interactivity, preferences and personalized updates could easily be built, which would allow citizens to actively engage in the political process or manage their government services, 21st century style.

Usability

Centralized usability tests and site metrics reviews across a more unified design would allow managers to re-vamp the UI/UX accordingly. Best practices could be realized and executed immediately across all sites. This includes design and editorial. Actively soliciting user feedback and executing cross-sites would be invaluable to the user experience as a whole.

Brand/design unity

In the corporate sense, “U.S. Government” is a brand. When a user arrives on an official U.S. Government Web site, it should be apparent. The brand and aesthetic should convey “this is an official U.S. Government Web site.” Fonts, colors, consistent top-level navigation or a uniform toolbar could achieve this. You can still retain micro-brands within the major. Agencies wouldn’t dilute their individual branding. They would just be more aligned with the U.S. Government style guide.

Content

A content management strategy, standardized writing style guide, solid editorial staffing and content managers that liaison with respective agencies would go a long way in presenting content in a more clear, concise, accessible format.

Financial

An open-source platform would allow for cheaper development costs. Not having to wait for budget allocation or go through the government contract proposal process for an entire Web project means more agencies will get a stronger Web presence. You could better staff and meet demands, especially with a strategy.

Strategic

A strategic management team would see the entire U.S. Government Web operations from a high-level perspective and direct the user experience accordingly, free from silo operations. It would work with key contacts within various agencies to assess objective, mission and help focus and execute the appropriate Web strategy. This includes social media activity.

Transparency

The more user-friendly the Web site, the easier it is to understand what’s happening throughout the public system. Agencies can receive feedback and interact with their core constituencies to know what services should be offered, and what shouldn’t. The side affect of a unified Web platform breeds transparency that allows us to hold the government accountable and more actively participate in the democratic process.

While I understand each agency may have a need for different tools or design, non-standard needs can be addressed and properly integrated. It doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter, just more unified, efficient and strategic. Actively collaborating with internal agency contacts allows them to focus on what they do best and leverage the expertise of a solid Web operations team.

America has the best and brightest Web minds in the world. There’s no reason why we can’t build a flexible but “united” U.S. Government Web platform that gives citizens a better customer experience than the 1.0 version we’re getting today.

Thoughts or solutions from others?

New feeds and recommendations to President Obama

We’ve added many more feeds, including national labs, contractors, departments, agencies and official government Web sites. Pretty fascinating to see so much coming from the government via all social media channels.

It’s frustrating to see the government Web operations so disjointed, poorly executed or embarrassingly outdated.

Recommendations to President Obama:

  1. Centralize all government Web operations under one agency
  2. Hire a Chief User Experience Officer
  3. Unify look/feel of all government/military Web sites
  4. Hire talented writers and editors to produce quality content
  5. Contact us if you have more questions