Does the White House Believe Social Media is too Noisy?

By Kristin Bockius, State & Local Government Social Media Marketing Manager
Bright Side of Government blog

My attention was caught this afternoon when I saw the headline, “White House Strives to Reduce Noise in Social Media Initiatives.” It was a blog post written by Mitch Wagner at InformationWeek. Could it be true that the Administration who has been asking for ongoing engagement with citizens for transparency and openness for government is now considering cutting down on the noise?

Mitch notes, “The White House is learning that asking for public comment on a social media site isn’t enough. The people running the site also have to separate the useful comments from noise. The White House is demanding results, not just openness, from its transparency efforts, said Beth Noveck, deputy director for open government in the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy.”

I agree that social media can generate a lot of responses. Take the National Dialogue for example. With all the responses from the industry, it will take a significant time to sift through the comments to get to the answers that could impact change. But if you don’t take the time to filter through the responses, couldn’t you be missing the right answer?

Mitch goes on to say,” Steering online conversation is a delicate art. Noveck is right that too much open-ended discussion can lead to a huge volume of useless conversation. Online forums can quickly descend into flamewars, where extremists bash each other and sensible people with more nuanced opinions go off and do something more useful; that’s especially a risk where the topic is something that people feel passionately about, and nothing drives passion more than politics.”

I can see his point. But I know from my perspective, working for one of the largest software companies in the world, you have to practice the art of sifting through the noise and the sometimes harsh critics to get to the valuable customer information that can help drive change.

I’m interested in hearing from you. Do you think the White House needs to reduce the noise in their social media efforts?

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Todd X. Davis

Excellent point – I try to find a balance between noise and need: not wanting to miss good information nor wanting to being inundated with too frivolous data. It comes with practice

Sara Estes Cohen

This is very interesting – its true that the openness and transparency policy set by the White House has created a sort of free for all (good until it gets out of hand.) How do government agencies allow discussion while “controlling the noise” without becoming “big brother?” Where is the line?

David Seesholtz

Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel. New developments in decision support software appear to be making progress in being able to do qualitative analysis along these lines. The “noise” can be associated with creativity and innovation – we don’t want to reduce these efforts. Noise could also be associated with socialization and building of trust which in turn can lead to future solutions – so we don’t want to curb this effort altogether. Over time we as a society will figure better ways to filter through this sea of information but it will take several efforts and not all efforts will continue to float. The goal we need to keep focused on is that the return in knowledge will eventually (soon) out weigh the investment in time as we find new solutions and gather greater social trust.