What if a Congressman or Government Agency had a Community Manager?

I’m sitting here at Transparency Camp. Some of the conversations today got me thinking.

If all the data that we want opens up, standardizes, and were able to make great tools, how are we going to get folks to use them? How are we going to get folks wanting to participate in a relationship of trust with the government? You’re not going to get a rush of people just by creating the tools.

When it comes to communicating with the American people, it seems like most congressman and government agencies don’t actively pursue public response and participation into the process. They wait for people to come to them.

I live in Washington, DC so my representative to Congress is Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. My only interaction with her has been the multi-page and multi-color newsletter that I got in the mail a few weeks ago. It makes me think that she doesn’t really care about keeping me up to date about what’s going on or actively soliciting my opinion.

What if a congressman or government agencies had a community manager? This would be a person that everyone in the community knew. On the Web site, there’d be a photo of them and every possible way to get ahold of them. They’d hang out at coffee shops, bars, churches, town squares, barbershops, or any public place where their constituency spent their time. I could easily walk up to them and talk to them about what my problem is or what’s on my mind.

Or…How cool would it be if government agencies and congressmen had Get Satisfaction pages? It’d be manned and monitored by the community managers.

Maybe if there was this culture of community within Congress and the governement maybe I’d feel like it’d be more worth while for me to get involved… to check/use the great tools that are made by folks like the Sunlight Foundation or even Thomas from the Library of Congress.

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The Explorer of the Past

I just started reading the the book “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace” by David G. Post. He starts out the prologue with a quote from Lytton Strachey, which is pretty rad. I’d thought i’d share…

If the explorer of the past is wise, he will… attack his subject in unexpected places;  he will fall upon the flank and the rear;  he will shoot a sudden revealing searchlight into obscure recesses, hitherto undivined.  He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from those far depths, to be examined with careful curiosity.

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The Future of Funding & Marketing Documentary Films

So… tonight I went to go see Slumdog Millionaire with a friend of mine who’s a documentary film student and a bunch of her friends, some of whom are also film students. (I’ll write more about the movie in another post.) Afterwards, we all went to a restaurant and chatted.

We got into a discussion of their thesis film projects and how they weren’t sure how they were going to raise the money they needed to fund the projects.

This got me thinking. The notion that a documentary filmmaker would go to some rich dude and beg him to write a big check seems so antiquated.

We need a Kiva-like organization for indy/documentary filmmakers.

Where are the filmmakers who are coalescing a community of people around their ideas? Seems like those are the people that could have their community members each pitch in $5… $20… even $100. I wonder how many individual donations you’d need to match that of one big donor.

If at the fundraising part of the process, you’re already starting to build up a grassroots organization around the film, when it comes time to screen the film are you more likely to sell dvds or tickets to the screening and thus move yourself closer to profitability.

Lots of documentary films seem to be advocating a certain message or stance on an issue. They’d lend themselves naturally to a community coming together.

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TransparencyCamp – My Thoughts The Day Before…

So… tomorrow, I’m attending TransparencyCamp here in Washington, DC. It’s going to be a convening of the tribe of people who’re interested in sharing “knowledge on how to use new technologies to make our government transparent and meaningfully accessible to the public.”

Now more then ever our federal government needs Transparency. Yesterday, President Barack Obama presented us with his $3.55 trillion dollar spending plan for 2010. *gulps* That’s a lot of money. Thats an incomprehensible amount of money.

If we’re going to be forced to accept this radical increase in the size of government then bureaucrats need to go out of their way to forge a new relationship of trust with the American people. If they’re going to ask for all this money, they need be reporting back to me on a regular basis about what they’re doing with it and what kind of return we’re getting.

These are the discussions that I’m hoping will be had this weekend at TransparencyCamp. I hope that the organizers are able to attract more then just the advocates and the thought leaders. They need to bring the decision makers to the table. That’s the only way we’re going to get change. Let’s get some people to lay it on the line and start making and announcements and commitments to making this happen, otherwise it’s just an intellectual exercise.

Will you be at TransparencyCamp this weekend? If so, drop me an e-mail. I’d love to meet up. – justin@clearspring.com

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Love Your Customers or It’ll Bite You

You really need to love your customers… all your customers, otherwise it can turn around and bite you in the butt.

Gary Vaynerchuk demonstrates this perfectly in his latest video about his experiences at a hotel in South Beach Miami and how he and his friends were treated poorly. The experience got tweeted by multiple people and it influenced someone enough that they decided not to stay at that hotel for an upcoming trip.  The hotel lost some $$.

(It’s funny because I was there hanging out with them at this hotel bar and must have left about 10 minutes before this happened.)

If you’re in the service industry, which is pretty much everyone because we all serve someone, you need to watch this video.

You are not in control of how people perceive you. Your community… your users are in control and there for as the guy in the video said, “you have to make every touch matter.”

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Amazon Kindle 2 vs. Killing Trees

So… I just got back home after a few amazing days in Miami. When I get back to my apartment, after a trip, I’m always greeted by a stack of newspapers that have collected in front of my door. I never remember to tell the Washington Post that I’m not going to be in town.

It’s a sight that makes me feel guilty. I don’t end up reading the back issues, from while I was out, so I feel like I’m killing trees.

For this return home, I was also greeted by a number of magazines that I subscribe to (Time and Wired mags). I had seen these on new stands in the airport so I knew they were coming but couldn’t get them till I returned to DC because they came in the snail mail.

Maybe this is just me trying to justify the purchase of another gadget (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility) but… this all has all lent itself to my internal dialogue around the pros and cons around the Amazon Kindle. I have been seeing the reviews and the blog posts about it.

As someone who commutes an hour to work everyday, I always feel like I’m carrying more with me than what I should. I typically will have a book and a newspaper with me. It’d be nice to only have to carry one things… the Kindle.

At the same time, the notion of carrying a $349 reading device with me in addition to my iPhone freaks me out. I’ve already been mugged once and lost an iPhone. I wouldn’t want in a future incident to lose a Kindle and an iPhone. It just feels like you’d be always carrying so much money around with you. I could care less if someone stole my 75 cent Washington Post or $20 book.

The Kindle would be nice because I wouldn’t have to depend on the US Postal Service or the newspaper delivery guy to get my periodicals or news. It’d just be there.

Regardless, it definitely seems like the Kindle is a pretty revolutionary device. It feels like what the iPod was back when I was a freshmen in college. I have a feeling that 4 years from now everyone will be carrying one or something like it.

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WaPo Columnist Dana Milbank Compares Twittering Congressmen to High School Kids

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank published a column this morning slamming congressman for using Twitter and Qik to give color commentary and play by play  last night during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

In the column he says…

President Obama spoke of economic calamity and war last night in that solemn rite of democracy, the address to the joint session of Congress. And lawmakers watched him with the dignity Americans have come to expect of their leaders: They whipped out their BlackBerrys and began sending text messages like high school kids bored in math class.

This column seems very telling to the extent which many members of the old guard just don’t get where the world is going.

I don’t want to be communicated to by politics in page long press releases or newspaper op-eds that are full of buzz words and empty rhetoric.  I want to to get the unfettered access.  I want to hear their unfiltered thoughts and I want to be able to hold conversation with them about these thoughts.

Twitter and Qik are great tools for this transparency… for this level of access and conversation.

It is our government.  These politicians represent us and thus should do anything and everything they can to connect and form relationships with us their constituents.

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Let Me Take Your Web App With Me… A Post-FOWA Thought

After each Carsonified conference, I like to ask myself the question, what does the future hold?  In this case, what is the future of web apps? (Just like the name of the conference… FOWA)

Mozilla Labs’ Aza Raskin has a really good talk yesterday.  He demoed Mozilla’s project to create a command line for the Web,  Ubiquity.  The interesting part was how it made it easy to take the functionality of certain Web apps and use them right where they were needed instead of having to go back to the destination site.

Aza had some good examples.  With a few strokes of the keyboard, he could drop a Google Map or a Yelp listing into a Gmail message.   In the same amount of time he was able to translate a chunk of text on a Japanese Web site into English then Spanish and then French.

It really illustrated one tenant which I think is the future of Web apps that it’s no longer about building a great Web app.  It’s about building a great Web service or piece of functionality that I can take with me and use wherever I want to use it.

I meet sooooo many folks who have great ideas for Web apps and I’m sure they’ll all be very helpful.  I have to ask myself though… is it good/helpful enough that I’m going to integrate it into my life?  Am I going to create a tab open open in Firefox or Safari so that I can have easy access to it whenever I want?

I tell you… I don’t leave Google Translate open, even though it is useful but it seems to be more at home for me to be able to select text I want to translate on a Web site and have it just be translated in-line.  It’s make taking this service and using where I want it to be.

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Sharing is at the Center of Discovery

I was sitting oustide at a coffee shop this morning talking with some friends.  We were talking about restaurants in the city that we really liked.   The conversation reinforced the principle that I had seen over and over again on the Web that sharing is at the center of discovery.

We find out whats new… we identify what we need to pay attention to… we process the world through the eyes of those that we interact with and what they tell us about.

If you’re a business, event, content publisher, or just someone with a message and want to get people to discover you, get people to share you.  Get people excited enough where they want to tell their friends about you.  Also… make it easy for your users to share.

What’s the last thing that got you excited enough that you wanted to talk about it?

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Don’t Express Every Thought On Twitter…

The Economist has a funny and kind of sad blog post, “How Twitter stopped a coup.” Essentially, the Virginia State Republican Chairman tweeted that a Democrat in the state Senate was about to switch parties potentially giving Republicans control. The tweet got back to the Democrats and gave them the time to browbeat the state senator into staying where he was.

*smacks head*

Moral of the story: Twitter is great for expressing your inner thoughts but there are some thoughts that should just stay in your head.

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