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A tale of the social media one-way street: City of Manor reverts back to the dark ages…

Reposting this from my blog “Social Media in the Public Sector“: https://inesmergel.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/a-tale-of-the-social-media-one-way-street-city-of-manor-reverts-back-to-the-dark-ages/

Remember the unbelievable Government 2.0 and social media success story of the City of Manor – a small town in Texas? Dustin Haisler, former city manager & CIO of Manor, was the driving force behind the use of WordPress to redesign the city’s homepage. He developed beta cities – a promise to revert other cities’ websites to the brand-new world of social media within 24 hours using the same template. He also started to use QR codes around the city to keep citizens up-to-date on the progress of construction sites or inform them about the history of a building or park.

With his enthusiasm, he caught the attention of the White House and many innovators travelled to Manor to participate in a conference celebrating Manor’s research and open innovation initiative “Manor Labs”. It is one of the first open innovation platforms in the country, using a virtual currency called “InnoBucks” that incentivized citizens to participate in ideation exercises to improve the effectiveness of the city. Another part of the initiative took the city’s “alpha” version (launched in 1913) to what Dustin Haisler called “open beta“: A version of the city’s website on which all citizens can openly engage with the government and each other.

Dustin’s success story was prominently featured in an article on Fastcompany.com titled “How an army of techies is taking on city hall“. He is a frequent guest speaker in my social media classes here at the Maxwell School and I consider him a true innovator and leader in his field. I recently checked back to take a screenshot of the City of Manor’s website for a presentation and was surprised to see that they apparently went back in time and put up a horrific website in a design that reminds me of the early days of the Internet.

Here it goes: The “new” design of the once so innovative City of Manor, a leader in open government, open innovation, and social media goodness in the U.S. What happened, Manor?

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Samuel Lovett

I hope you will keep us posted on what caused the about-face. Seems like the techies have left the building in Manor– headed west to Silicon Valley?

Andrew Krzmarzick

Love Dustin – one of my favorite people in the Gov 2.0 movement.

The truth of the matter: it’s hard to build something sustainable – Dustin was a bright spot in Manor…but without a core group of people who buy into that vision and are committed to its ongoing success, it’s difficult for real change to stick.

Ines Mergel

@Chris: Yes, Dustin left over a year ago and became the Director of Government Innovation at Spigit. He handed everything over to a successor who kept the system going for about a year, but as soon as he was gone it all disappeared.

@ Corey: Yes! That was it 🙂

@ Samue: Dustin responded with some ideas of what went wrong and what is necessary: http://inesmergel.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/answers-via-govfresh-what-happened-to-manor/ -> We are preparing a longer post together and will keep you updated.

Peter Sperry

I don’t know know. I look at that wordpress site and see a crowded confusing homepage and wonder what is behind it. I look at the current homepage and see simplicity, critical info and easy to follow links which took me to all the information most citizens would ever need and wonder how this is viewed as a step backwords. It seems the web design social media world is becoming like advertising where rockstar videographers produce slick tv ads that win Cleos before jumping to the next big opportunity while more traditional ad people produce campaigns that actually sell product and stick with the client for the long term. Is the goal of government web design to provide citizens useful information quickly and easily with a site that it is inexpensive to maintain or is it to win peer awards with a site that requires multiple full time staff to ensure functionality of all the bells and whistles? Which option should a city council with limited funds and shrinking tax base vote to fund?

Dick Davies

Seems to me the problem is the issue of sustainable. Direct mail is thousands out, few back. The trick of social media is to get others to join and create a continuing presence. They come and go, but getting new people allows the site to grow and stay current. This looks like an unsupported one man show (meaning his bosses – all the way up – weren’t each posting twice a week.