Grading Along the Curve: Public Servants Comfort Level With Social Media in Government

[Note this is a cross post from my blog which can be found at – feel free to comment here, or on my blog directly; all feedback appreciated.]

Before I start I just want to warn you that this is a little blogging experiment, the entire column is built in Prezi; as such I am considering writing it as an article later, but I wanted to use a lot of illustrations and this seemed like the natural way to do so. I’m interested in your comments both on the content of the column and the use of Prezi to tell the story (i.e. was the idea clear?).

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dude…thats awesome. just on pure presentation and telling a story.

part of the trick i think is to build the groundswell of people that are highly adaptive. that is done through recruitment but also through retainment. the highly adaptive innovative folks often need some sort of top cover as they are stirring up the pot. combined with working on shorter-term projects that need more creative thinking.

Nicholas Charney

Thanks Steve – and yes providing some top cover, what a friend of mine calls the intentional blind eye, is important.


I thought that the story was compelling and I think that the angle about the impact on our potential workforce has merit. I’m living through this right now and plan to show this to my boss. He definitely gets that the org needs the infusion of new tech savvy enthusiasts but as for the tech itself, he is still very very skeptical. None the less, we are venturing out using new tools, despite the doubts. The biggest difference seems to be attitude – does the foray inspire, terrify, or annoy? Hope that we make some headway to will help move most to the inspired crowd! Then perhaps – as you’ve conveyed, we’ll have the horsepower to do even more!

Sam Allgood

Excellent presentation, both content and medium. Some audio would be a plus, but don’t know if Prezi provides that capability.

David Tallan

Frank Herbert is best known for his Dune novels. However, in two other science fiction novels he explored a different universe. I’m referring to Whipping Star (which has the most alien alien I’ve encountered in SF) and The Dosadi Experiment.

The protagonist of these novels works for a government department BuSab which has the role of slowing government down. The idea is that sometimes government needs to work slower, so thought can be applied, outcomes of policies and actions anticipated, etc. For some reason, this Prezi made me think of that.

Folks who know me know that I’m all for innovation and getting things done. But the Prezi seemed too black and white to me, denigrating our more cautious colleagues rather than looking at how we can use their contributions, too.

It’s all about diversity. We all have something to offer. We’ll get farthest, fastest if we use it all.

The Prezi is great, and makes good points. It just seems to make me defensive on behalf of the left side of the bell curve (much as I think of myself on the right).

Andrew Krzmarzick

The more I review this, the more I think it’s brilliant.

“Which one has more horsepower?” is an interesting question. Both vehicles (the minivan and the semi) will get us there…but the semi is designed to pull something…a large quantity. The minivan has limited capacity; the semi is 1-2 people driving, but the real value is in larger capacity to offer more once it arrives at the destination. Not to carry the analogy too far, but it’s a nice image to think through the needed culture change in a fresh way.

Ultimately, it’s about the tension between inertia/lethargy and momentum/velocity. Is the energy of people interested in Agency 2.0 powerful and compelling enough to pull along the people who are deeply committed to Agency 1.0? Forward movement will happen regardless…but it’s the speed of progress – that’s what’s at stake here.

And the ones who are waiting for the vehicle to arrive are citizens.

Nicholas Charney

@Andrew – you are echoing all the thoughts I had when I put it together, I just didn’t want to overload ppl with all the verbiage. I think I might try to integrate this bit into my #smgov presentations as the metaphor seems to resonate w/ppl. Thanks for commenting!

Mary Groebner

Okay, admittedly, I’d never yet seen a Prezi but in terms of the analogy you use with the braking system and the front wheel drive – FABULOUS. Semi vs mini-van analogy, as well as comments about low/high comfort folks dealing with capacity could be fleshed out a little more because there’s a lot of ground to cover there.

I’ve got high comfort myself, but even prior to new tools I’m a transparent/open/communicative/straight up with my customers & public kinda person. Still, I try very hard not to over-promise because if one does that consistently – or even just once in a big situation – you’ve actually diminished your credibility and your customer’s likelihood to trust you (and reasonably so). We want these tools to (in part) rebuild trust in government and its’ ability to do good things and do them efficiently, responsibly, accountably, transparently, and with involvement of its’ citizens.

So I think the the idea of ‘capacity’ is a little under-emphasized in the Prezi. Yeah, the semi has more capacity and can pull more uphill than a mini-van can. BUT – put those two vehicles on a hill heading down and you’ll find that the brakes become super important. I think THAT might be the analogy to try to prevent yourself from overpromising and heading into that downward slope with your customers/public. Yes, we want to show potential of Gov 2.0 and to do that requires some dragging the reluctant folks along…creating some pilot projects etc. But it’s critical that we size them right in terms of the organizational capacity and/or willingness to REALLY implement them. If you’re gonna open up via Twitter – you have to be ready to respond to direct messages back at you. If you’re gonna open up by blogging – you have to be ready to respond to comments and keep your content updated, fresh, meaningful, relevant. If you’re gonna open up by crowdsourcing ideas or data quality, you have to have the capacity to respond to those ideas or suggestions for how to clean up/expand your data. If you don’t have that capacity, despite the good intentions you had and the swank tools, you could quickly become one of those runaway semi’s desperately in search of those runaway truck ramps. That’s where the value of those on the right end of the graphs comes in to play; if they’re cautious about capacity for the right reason (because they don’t want to overpromise and by so doing, diminish trust) – then that’s incredibly useful and relevant to your analogy.

Nicholas Charney

@Mary – Great comments Mary; I may do an update to this down the line, and your heading down the hill addition would be a welcomed addition.