Bringing Web 2.0 down to the local level

Our local County goverment has recently started an informal Web 2.0 working group to start experimenting with a few different approaches toward building citizen input to our govermental process. Would anyone care to share recent successes or pitfalls you’ve encountered when trying to implement your own Web 2.0 projects?

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My experience developing GovLoop is that it is best to grow grassroots and organically. Start out slow, work out your kinks, and spread the word. The technology is easy but the hard part is providing content people want and creating a sense of community. Personally, it’s been exciting to see GovLoop really grow the last few weeks with great new blogs/forums/comments and a really smart, interesting community develop.

Jeremy Ames

With government, it will take awhile for regulations and guidelines to catch up with the reality of these new tools. We recently launched an online video contest, which had no precedent in the federal government. To do this we started consulting with our lawyers 12 months before we launched. Rather than give them an opportunity to veto the final proposal, we asked them early on “here’s our idea, can you help us find a way to do this?” They answered the challenge by finding a 1927 precedent we could use — pretty cutting edge huh? You may have less bureaucracy at the local level, but probably similar top-down, risk averse, oversight hurdles to leap over. Be patient but persistent. Good luck, let us know how it goes.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Gray – I think there are a few keys to implementing Web 2.0 tools: (1) Tie the use of the tool to a clear goal or objective that links back to your mission (such as sharing or gaining information with/from your consituents), (2) Plan ahead, keeping in mind that content is key (as Steve said) – how will it be used, how often and who will use it?, and (3) Keep it simple at first and build on early success.

Teri Centner

I’ve noticed that government agencies are starting to twitter, which (I think) in some cases is useful, and some cases seems stupid. My favorite one is the Mars Phoenix. I don’t know for sure that it counts as government, but JPL is part of NASA, so maybe. My least favorite is from United States Joint Forces Command. I can’t say they’ve posted anything I found useful or interesting… and I’m in the military.

I haven’t really seen a local government twitter stream, but I think it could be a really effective way to get information out to your local constituancy. For example, if there’s going to be road work, or a power outage, or if there’s a hurricane warning, I think Twitter would be a great way to let the folks in your community know about it. You would *have* to have somebody monitoring @replies, though, since you don’t want this to result in bad publicity about poor customer service.

That’s my two cents.

Scott Horvath

@Jeremy Ames: I’d be very interested in knowing what the 1927 precedent was that your lawyers dug up. Do you have a link for it? We’ve thought about something similar ourselves at USGS, but it’s just a thought right now. If you’ve got something already showing that it could be allowed, please share.