I recently gave a talk to the CNY Maxwell Alumni with the title “From Zero to 2.0: How social media can change collaboration in government”. First, I gave a quick overview what Web 2.0 and Government 2.0 is and why public managers need to pay attention to social media and the new forms of interaction that are made possible. I started out with a schematic overview to show the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and then moved to President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and his memo to all the federal agencies and departments. I believe that the surge on the federal level to use social media is in part driven by his memo and it is also encouraging state and local governments to jump on board and experiment with social media. Especially on the local level this kind of change involves costs in form of manpower and the current web managers might not be able to add responsibilities for several different social media accounts to their already heavy workload. Therefore, I suggested to the audience to familiarize themselves with MuniGov2.0 – a group of local and state public managers interested in collaborating and learning about social media. Here is their website and Twitter account.
We then switched to Second Life – an online virtual world – and met some of my fellow MuniGov2.0 colleagues who talked about the potential of virtual worlds for collaboration in government across organizational and geographic boundaries. It was interesting to learn that there is a small world between Maxwell and the MuniGov2.0 participants – it seems as if some Maxwell alumni recognized MuniGovers or had connections with them. The session went well – without any (!) technical problems. I had connected a headset to my laptop, so that the participants on Second Life could hear me when I asked questions and the audio portion of the laptop was connected to the room microphone. Lesson learned for next time, turn down the headset otherwise there will be an echo on Second Life (we didn’t hear it in the room, but it was uncomfortable for the MuniGov2.0 participants – my apologies!). I would like to give a special shout out to Bill Greeves (co-founder of MuniGov) and Leslie Fuentes (City of Hampton), who both made this a really fun event for the (real life) audience.
I had the impression that the audience did not go home to set up their own avatars right away, but I heard that people enjoyed hearing about innovative forms of collaboration online and felt the need to know what might be next in terms of technology and innovation in government. Second Life (SL) is certainly far out there when it comes to learning curve and for some even overwhelming interactivity. From the regular meetings on SL I can report, that it is a little overwhelming at the beginning- people use the local chat, that everyone can see, plus direct IMs and in addition sometime even a Skype chat on the side, plus of course the voice conversations that are going on around the table.