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Mark Drapeau Misses the Mark

It is unseemly to spend even a short blog post arguing with one person over one point, but this is, in my estimation, a critical point for Gov 2.0 coming from a critical player in our community.

Let me say that I’ve known Mark for more than four years–we met at a Social Media Club DC event when they were still small(ish) affairs. If my memory serves, we were at the Ogilvy HQ downtown, Mark was wearing a ski vest and a scarf, and we were both drinking too much coffee. I think of Mark as a friend and certainly anyone would recognize that his is an important voice in the Gov 2.0 community in DC.

An article that he published recently on his blog, Publicyte, summed up neatly Mark’s approach to the “participation” aspect of Gov 2.0: going to where the media movers-and-shakers are and introducing himself and his issues into their conversations, and hopefully, sparking their interest in the concerns of our community. This is an absolutely valid approach. But in his article, and again in the Facebook thread that developed, Mark did what philosophers call “proving too much.” He kept on arguing until he was saying that not to do as he has done is not a valid approach.

What I pointed out, and I believe this is sound, is that while Mark’s strategy is a good one, it is not the only one. Here’s what I said:

My point was this: I understand Mark Drapeau‘s view and applaud him for living it. He thinks, not without reason, that the path to success is to go where the influencers are. You want the media to pay attention to open government? It’s your job to make them understand it. You want the spotlight that Lindsay Lohan enjoys? Ask her to share it with you.

But I also understand that for two kinds of people, this is not the path. The first kind of person, perhaps like Peter Corbett or Clay Johnson says “I’m kind of too busy doing the things I do to run around trying to get attention for doing the things I do.” For them, there is an equation, a functional relationship between doing the work and publicizing the work, and WHCD falls short on its merits.

The other kind of person is like Marty Madrid (if I’m reading him correctly), who has an aesthetic aversion to Mark’s methods. It’s the classic “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” To Marty, Mark’s dinners and fashion shows are the forbidden hammers and spurned nails that have only marginalized the work of open government groups.

Please understand: I have no ‘animosity’ toward either approach. I lack the basic social skills that Mark uses (if I had a fashion show, it would be “Geek 2 Even More Geek, You Grok?”), and I’m nowhere nearly as industrious as Alex or Clay or Peter and not as scrupulous as Marty. What I find. . . regrettable, is that Mark seems to have set in motion an unnecessary argument by invalidating two very deeply-held and eminently tenable worldviews.

That’s what I was trying to communicate, much more succinctly, if less completely. I would like to think that I count both Mark and Alex as friends, and I think there space for each of their modi operandi to achieve many of the same goals.

What is distressing is that after I had posted this comment–after Mark had agreed with my sentiment–he took to Huffington Post and said this:

when I publicized an earlier version of this article written on Publicyte.com, the well-trafficked D.C. Tech Facebook group went wild with the same strain of comments.


A lot of the comments were about celebrities. Paraphrasing, people commented that WHCD was just a bunch of celebrities, was just about partying, was simply about getting your photo taken.

And there he missed the mark. Certainly I did not say that WHCD was just a bunch of celebrities, or just about partying, or getting a photo taken. In short, Mark seems to be inciting the very animosity that he is now decrying. That is unproductive, and simply not necessary. There is room in DC generally and in Gov 2.0 all over the country, for different approaches.

What say you, GovLoop community?

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