Mixed Feelings About OGI Conference

Allan Eustis and I attended the Open Government and Innovations Conference (OGI) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Like so many, we were lured in by the chance to hear directly from the White House via CTO Aneesh Copra and CIO Vivek Kundra. Both were excellent speakers. They made good points and as a citizen I have hope about where this will go in the future. Data.gov and the other new aggregate sites have so much potential it is mind-boggling. Tim O’Reilly and David Weinberger were amazing. I learned new things about the philosophy behind the technology that I had never considered, and they were very entertaining to boot. O’Reilly’s point, don’t just ask for their voices, ask for their hands, when engaging the public was simple, but profound. The keynotes were worth the effort to attend the conference – and I want to thank DoD for spear-heading the event. However, as a government employee looking to leverage web 2.0 to further our work, I came away somewhat disappointed.

All web 2.0 conferences are all starting to look exactly the same. Many speakers come from agencies that are boldly using social media in a new and exciting ways, and many more “believers,” who are not allowed to use those same technologies, come to hear about it. But the status quo remains the same. NASA and DoD get to successfully use social media, and the rest of us, for the most part, don’t. This is the divide that needs to be overcome. I understand that agencies like the IRS and SSA have intensely sensitive data and need to be extremely cautious. But there are a great many agencies that do not fall into this category that are prevented from using these technologies, despite any prior approval GSA may have gotten. My agency isn’t even officially allowed to use Twitter yet. A colleague at DOJ said his monthly newsletter takes 2 weeks to get all the necessary approvals so how can they even consider a blog! Yet, his office is directly involved in the community and they need a way to engage their customers better. One panelist at a breakout session described how DoD is using “other transactions” to quickly fund new ideas to address current problems. While very interesting, this was less than helpful since DoD is the only agency that I know of with this kind of authority – everyone else has to use the traditional and time-consuming procurement system. For an expo, these are excellent speakers. DoD, NASA, The White House are getting things done, but as a method to further collaboration and expand the use of social media, it failed. We need specifics: case studies, business case stratregies that succeeded to support any/all of these tools, etc.

I did come away with some useful information beyond hearing from the keynotes. The breakout sesson Measuring the Impact of Social Media was very good. It was the first session I attended that got into the nitty gritty. For those few who have gotten their feet wet with social media (my office does have an official blog, the only one at our agency) we got some tangible tools. What are your goals when using web 2.0, and then how do you measure it? How do you measure transparency? One panelist, KD Paine, didn’t just raise the questions, she went on to answer them (from her own experience). This was very valuable, and subsequently the session was packed. We need to evaluate more than just hits, we need to evaluate engagement and compare it appropriately. If we only have 20 followers on Twitter, but they are all the key stakeholders we need to reach, we may be succeeding. Speaking of Twitter, the conference made a good choice in broadcasting the Twitter-feed #ogi. It was eye-opening to see instant reactions to speaker remarks and “connect” with folks across a room that I couldn’t see or speak too. Also cool to see instant consensus as ideas were tweeted and retweeted many times. USMS subsequently attracted new followers as I am sure others did, helping us all to reach more of our customers and stakeholders. However, the conference loses major cool points for not having any of the speakers use the internet for their presentations and for not making clear to attendees that WiFi was free to registrants.

Overall, I learned a lot, but came away with very few concrete tools to make open government happen. Hopefully, the President will soon follow-up his Transparency Memo with concrete guidance for all federal government. Many are obviously ready and willing to engage the public, we’re just waiting for the green light.

ps I have to add, I have never been to conference center before that has no vending machines! By the afternoon, I was fading and desperately needed some caffeine. Should they do this again, I highly recommend leaving the coffee out and providing soda in the pm.

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Jennifer D. Elzea

I have to agree with you, Jaime, about the lack of practical tools presented at the OGI Conference. I attended the same session that you mentioned on measurement metrics and also found it helpful, but thought they tried to squeeze in a bit too much for the time allotted. I couldn’t take notes as quickly as they were moving.

I think in many ways, much of the content at OGI was “preaching to the choir”. The audience was aware that the Government is generally conservative and slow to act when it comes to new technologies and ways of thinking like Social Media. I feel that issue was “harped on” a lot, but there were not a lot of practical “baby steps” offered for those of us in the agencies fighting that battle to move the speedometer even a little bit on the social media front.
I happen to work at DOD, where social media is allowed, and at this point I’d say it’s even encouraged, but I am part of an office that hasn’t fully accepted the realities of social media yet and is still doing a balancing act between social and traditional media. There was not any discussion that I heard at OGI on that issue.
I found it a very helpful conference for the people that I met and the connections that I made, but the content, as you’ve said, was mostly the same old song.

Jaime L. Maynard

Exactly Jennifer – I even said those very words to my colleague Allan “preaching to the choir.” The people who come to those conferences already want to use the tools, we’re invested. What they need is to attract the higher-ups who aren’t convinced to this kind of conference, then offer one to the rest of us that showcase the baby steps. I would have benefited from a business case scenario for any of these tools.

It isn’t just the tools though, it’s the software to implement them. All our developers tell us WordPress is the best blog. But, most agencies won’t support it b/c of security concerns so my office uses BlogCFC. We don’t have a wiki yet b/c what they support (Twiki) is hard to use. So we’re waiting for a better option. Concerns which have been addressed by TSA as they plan to move their Evolution of Security blog to WordPress. How did they manage it? Can I see their risk assessment, C&A or requirements documentation? THAT would be real collaboration. Perhaps Vivek will follow through with a best practice shopping list of supported tools. I think the status quo will continue until President Obama issues another memo.

Jack Holt

Thanx for the posting Jamie, great thoughts and very good points and thanx for sharing. This is what we need and please believe me, we have an understanding of what it’s like for other agencies. I was fortunate to be on the team that was the first effort in govt. to study and engage in the environment and please understand we know about inertia and the inability for others to move forward in the social media world. That was the point of the conference; to help to asses the state of other agencies, to help them see things differently, and to inform the way ahead for the whole of U.S. Government. It is an evolutionary and transformative process and thank you for your help.

We’re also working to make the data from the conference available so that we all can use it to inform our organizations and forge a way ahead. Stay tuned.

Melissa Naroski

This was one of the best conferences I’ve attended, then again I’ve never been to a web 2.0 – type conference. I’m in DoD, and agree with Jennifer that while social media is allowed and / or encouraged, it doesn’t mean its easy for us to implement or even getting that same kind of buy in within our own DoD organizations. DoD is huge and decentralized, and I think the success is in pockets, but not not widespread. Really, I wanted to hear more lessons learned – “I encountered this problem, and here’s how I worked through it successfully” kind of stuff. I still took away a heck of a lot that will help me though, and thats why I’ll still give it a thumbs up.

And SO agree on the beverages. I had to bolt over to Subway across the street and pick up a diet coke to keep myself going!

Jaime L. Maynard

Thanks for comments, Jack! I’ve heard you speak directly about the efforts at DoD – you and DoD are doing great things to inform the public and support our troops. I don’t want you to think I believe the conference wasn’t worthwhile. It definitely was worth having, and not only for the keynotes. There were some there who don’t know what is happening across gov in the social media realm. And each new entrant hopefully inspires those still tarpped behind a firewall (IRS) that “change is coming!”

And, should there be another conference, these points about specifics can be used to improve the process. I look forward to seeing the data from the conference dispersed. Many of the slide presentation could be used to help build collaboration.

Jaime L. Maynard

Melissa, I agree this is the best social media conference I have attended. But, my problems stem from it NOT being the first. I have been to several and I was looking for something specific. Your point, “I encountered this problem, and here’s how I worked through it successfully” is exactly what we needed more of. Not just the example, but the specifics of “how” it was achieved. Perhaps, a follow-up conference could get into the nitty gritty as Jack suggests.


Thanks for the great feedback; you verbalized exactly what I was feeling. Last fall the IC had the WIRe-ICES conference and experienced the same thing with great speakers but participants left feeling they were “preaching to the choir”. I would have hoped that lessons like that would have been transferred – they are certainly available in comments on Intellipedia-U. One recommendation made was that participants must bring one “naysayer” to any future social media conferences in order for the choir and the naysayers to start talking together.

One thing that I noticed about this conference that saddened me was the failure to engage the choir before the conference. Everything seemed to be very hush hush and confined to a select committee. With wikis, blogs, twitter and so on, why wasn’t social media more engaged in discussing topics, identifying expectations, loading presentations (or at least outlines) and letting the crowd pose questions and participate in setting the agenda.

The same thing is likely to happen for Gov2.0 Expo and Summit. Another showcase of great speakers to an elite choir (with $$ for the admittance fee) but without much hands-on unless someone decides to use social media to engage everyone. I would hope that the organizers will see this feedback and use the next 6 weeks to make Gov2.0 Expo and Summit a truly learning event that extends beyond the physical boundaries of the meeting place.

Justin Grimes

Good post. I strongly agree with the 1) choir preaching 2) lack of caffeine [i walked over to the First Cup Cafe several times] and 3) measurements panel

Christopher Dorobek

It is VERY interesting — and part of the issue here right now. Agencies, frankly, are all over the map right now. Some — the intel community, EPA, parts of HHS, and others — are wading deeper into the pool then anybody else. Others are just barely touching their toes into the water. How do you prepare a conference for everybody? My sense is that we are still at the very early part of the bell curve — and there are still many people who are just touching their toes into the water. And I think it is important to bring those people along. By the same token, there needs to be a place where there can be the deeper conversations. I should note that I only could attend the keynote speeches on Day 1 — and I hope there were good discussions in the sessions. It seems to me, that is the most valuable part of these conference. I would love to see the creation of some document where people can share their notes, lessons learned, potential solutions.

As somebody who has pulled together conferences before, it is a real challenge — you don’t want to talk down, but you also don’t want to fly over people’s heads.

The question I guess I would ask: Was it worth your time? Did you learn something… from the sessions? from the people who were there? (After all, the sessions are really only a part of the benefit of a conference.)

Great post. I think it is very helpful. And perhaps 1105 or O’Reilly will ask for your help planning future programs???


As a math educator, I find it equally difficult to develop ideas and activities for using these Web 2.0 apps but find the apps blocked by firewalls that weed out the word “video” or “play”. I hope that fire walls that are developed for the educational system that reflect the needs of teachers and students.

Tom Suder

Great post Jaime,

I am a “seasoned veteran” of the Web 2.0 circuit and I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of the bright people attending and presenting at the ODI conference. Great dialog.

Many of the same small pool of speakers and examples are consistently featured however at almost every Web 2.0 conference.

We need action now in the government. We need the doers. We need the implementers. There just are not enough projects like A-Space, Intellipedia, Govloop and Spacebook. There should be scores of these types of projects. They should be routine. We should be moving to new innovations by now.

I keep hearing the word “courage” thrown around when it comes to implementing these types of projects.

We are not in Afghanistan or Iraq! The “bullets” that fly at us are only figurative.

This isn’t even the private sector, where I reside. A bad decision there can result in you being losing your job.

The last time I checked, it was almost impossible to get fired by the federal government, even if you are a lousy employee.

It is time for government Web 2.0 gurus, no matter how junior, to do what the think is right to support the mission and get these projects started and moving.

The administration is moving that way. Look at Kundra and Chopra. These guys get it. They got where they are today by taking risks on Web 2.0.

Look to the Resslers, Rasmussens and Antunes of the world for inspiration.

I have to believe that there are more of you out there ready to do the next cool project.

Jaime L. Maynard

Christopher, I would say overall the conference was worth my time, but not for two full days. As to the sessions, there were too many. It would have been better to have fewer sessions (I think) and devote more time to them. Most of those I attended had the panelists rushing through a 5 minute presentation so a Q&A could get started, but then the discussion quickly became unfocused with no chance for the audience to interact with one another, instead of just posing questions to the panelists. The best one I attended (Measuring Impacts of SocMed) did not rush the presenters as much and we got a lot of good information, but subsequently there was less time for discussion.

As to how to address a conference than has experienced web 2.0ers, newbies and those who haven’t done anything: why not have those two days split between them?
Day 1 for those that are using social media but want to expand. See how NASA, DoD, State are leveraging these tools.
Day 2, for those who only have their toes wet, or not at all, VERY specific case studies, business case scenarios etc. For instance, a keynote or session with TSA and EPA about their perspective, very successful blogs. NOT huge general topics like “privacy” or “security assurance.” Who did they gather together first to discuss this? When did they approach their legal counsel, CIO etc? How did they present it to their leadership? What was their list of goals and milestones? What was their security plan – for this ONE social media tool. Most of those that can’t use social media and want to are looking at just one tool to start with. Inundating them with NASA’s use of youtube, blogs, wikis, and everything else probably leaves many potential user floundering in the water.

People from my agency who attended OGI have started a wiki for us to pool our thoughts together, but ti would be nice if OGI did the same.

Jaime L. Maynard

Thanks Katie! I was going to email and ask about them. Even though some of what you presented may not apply, it was very helpful to see at least one specific strategy laid out.

Kit Plummer

Although I’m a contractor in the DoD-space, and a software engineer to boot I find that these conferences are misdirected – too political. I can’t help but agree with all points above.

But, the problem here is that the expectation is that you could take away something tangible; take away something that on Monday of the following week you could start doing. That is very painful, and pardon my negative attitude is why these conferences are attended by strategist/politicos and not tacticians. I read a twit (#ogi) that this conference wasn’t attended by those doing Gov2.0 – because THEY all at work doing Gov2.0. Unfortunately this is ALWAYS true of these kinds of conferences that imply “citizenship”. Really, this is why revolutions start at the bottom, and not the top. 😉

The best thing that one can take from these events as they become more and more “popular” is that there is a brewing awareness of social media and the 2.0-way of doing things in every industry, including government. Just take it as an “opportunity” to make a change, and begin demanding change from others.

The best answer is that organizations start sending tacticians, the people who can implement change and not just “socialize” it (yes, pun intended there). It is starting to happen in the DoD world with various working groups like http://www.mil-oss.org – grass-roots efforts to bring the geeks to the table…instead of just suits and ties.

Very good post – thanks for keepin’ it real.


Jaime L. Maynard

Hi Kit, you do make a valid points. However, I think there are some tangibles that can be garnered if these conferences addressed them. What many of us are lacking is a concrete plan of action. In order to get our USMS office blog up, we started with Public and Business Affairs. We invited them to our meetings. When that stalled b/c of “security” we invited OCIO to our meetings. We nagged them. We want to do this, we need you to do this. They had no policy in place. So, we wrote one for them using other agencies online policies as a template. They tweaked it, we accepted it with the caveat that if it was changed we would comply. NIST is now actively engaged in building a policy for social media. Baby steps, but still steps. These are the specific steps we took. Did TSA take these same steps, or did they try something else? EPA? Anyone looking to start a blog that has none can use this. Which blog engine do we use and WHY. We asked PBA for other tools. They went to our Counsel to see about contracts to overcome the “terms of use” problems.

I also think we do need the “socializing” these events offer. Many don’t have these tools and haven’t considered using them (as Melissa commented here). I agree with need more tacticians at these. And that may well happen. I have to admit to being shocked the new CIO and CTO came to this. And, I can see not too far in the future secretaries of departments coming as well just b/c The White House is going to be there. Other management will want to be there and be “noticed” taking these steps. It could be a domino effect. We cna’t just work this bottom to top. It needs to be worked in both directions. 🙂

Thanks for adding to the discussion!

Kit Plummer

Yes, that’s a good point – there definitely needs to be a top-down push – I just call that “acceptance”. The bottom-up I like to refer to that as “instance” – referencing the software development term “instantiation”. I think the key is that we already have acceptance by virtue of these conferences. We do have a few instances…but, to continue the growth of instances it takes the collection of tacticians – not more politicians and strategists. I like to believe (not saying I’m right) that innovation is a byproduct of individual “work”, not talk and socializing. So if we really want to change/transform the way government does business (meaning innovate) we need to get the individuals who are actually going to effect these things together.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve already seen great things happening because of the high-level acceptance. AppsForDemocracy.org and a potential AppsForDefense.mil are great indicators of the power of social media has had on how we believe we can promote innovation.

Jeffrey Levy

Well! Great post, even better dialogue in the comments. And thank you to many of you who mentioned EPA. 🙂

As EPA’s Director of Web Communications and co-chair of the Social Media Subcouncil, I want to offer some things and suggest some things. Please bear with the length.

First, things to offer:
1) Please do check out the Social Media Subcouncil’s wiki. For those of you unfamiliar with us, we’re govies doing our best to help gather best practices and the kind of practical info you want, Jaime. Most directly useful might be the growing list of social media policies, both general and specific For example, you’ll find links to EPA’s blogging guidance, which is very specific, and the Air Force’s overarching social media policy.

There are many agencies writing policies right now, including EPA, so I think you’ll see lots more examples in the coming months.

BTW, we mean it that it’s a wiki. Want to start a document? Get a free account and go for it! And please, please, PLEASE edit the docs you find there. We really need your help!

2) I’ve given many webinars on these subjects, and all of my presentations are free for the taking on Slideshare.net. Your complaint about people not using the Internet to deliver presentations notwithstanding, I’ve had these out there for months. In particular, you might find three useful:
a) Social media and the gov’t: a brief overview for managers. I’m currently making my way around EPA giving this to senior managers. Believe me, they’re not the choir, but they’re getting there through lots of time spent presenting, answering questions, and being a resource for them.
b) From 30,000 feet to 3 feet: running a federal blog: my presentation on how we run our blog, Greenversations, from high-level thinking to nitty gritty.
c) Earth Month 2009: mixing Web 1.0 and 2.0:specifics of how we combined multiple channels to achieve our outreach goals.

I also offer these as webinars from time to time, which you’ll find out about if you’re a member of the Web Managers Forum listserv (open only to gov’t employees at any level; also be sure to check the monthly call archive) or follow me on Twitter.

3) The social media section of webcontgent.gov has lots of info and some best practices. The Social Media Subcouncil is currently revamping it.

4) Talk about specific, here’s a wonderful template for a gov’t agency Twitter policy, with lots of useful info beyond the policy itself. Many thanks to Neil Williams from the UK!

Now for my suggestion: work up a set of questions you want answered. Be as specific as you want to be. And we on the Subcouncil will do a series of webinars where we put people on who can answer them.

And, finally, a request: LEAD and TEACH. You’d be amazed at how much you know. Again, I’ll offer a webinar mechanism you can use to do so. Just tell me what you want to do and when.

In sum: do more than give feedback on someone else’s conference. Grab the reins and show us the way! 🙂

Sean Dennehy

Several people in the #OGI twitter stream already suggested that all of these conferences should have an “unconference” portion where “how to” questions like yours can be addressed. The last two Enterprise 2.0 Conferences in Boston added unconference sessions and they were very effective. That said, I think it’s a challenge to pull off effective unconference sessions. The key is have effective facilitators to make sure that there is maximum participation from those that show up at the sessions. Also, I find that it helps if the unconference sessions are small enough that everyone feels they can speak. During the sessions at the last Enterprise 2.0 Conference, 20-30 people were able to put chairs in a circle or half circle. I think that once you get over 30 people, the sessions can become a bit unwieldy and lose the intimate feel of an unconference. As Chris mentions above, there are some organizations that are trying to take their social media implementations to the next level, while others are just trying to get started. I think unconference sessions could help answer the range of questions that people have.


Great comments. I really like Gwynne’s analogy. I always tell people as well to not kick the baby when it is just learning how to walk. I especially like the analogies to the introduction of email in the workplace and getting agencies their first websites. It takes a core group of people promoting ideas and it takes time and effort for those ideas to become mainstream.

Mark D. Drapeau

Thanks for the post and all the discussion/feedback. But I’m of the mind along the lines of something Jeffrey said – do more than “give feedback” – grab the reins.

Everyone who is saying that there should be more different speakers, or more catering to newbies, or an unconference portion, etc. – Where were you when they were planning the event? How often did you speak with the organizers? Where was your blog post of suggestions ahead of time?

There’s not much point in critiquing OGI or anything else afterwards. It’s not clear there will ever be another OGI conference. If there will, it will not be soon. So who cares?

I say, concentrate on influencing big future events like the Gov 2.0 Expo (which will be three days) in May 2010. Or have your own event. Jeffrey and I were involved with hosting the Government 2.0 Camp and we made it what we wanted it to be. Others have had their own targeted events. Lead the tribe, don’t just comment on GovLoop.

I love you all.

Noel Dickover

Hi Jaime, I definitely love the conversation your post has started here. There is almost too much good stuff to comment on, but I wanted to comment on a few things:

My Govt customer (Tamie Lyles-Santiago) and I came up with the idea of this conference well earlier in the year primarily to help spur progress among all participants to address the issues you state in your initial post – that its still just too hard to get these things going. While DoD (where we work) certainly has many successes, we still have LOTS of challenges – we wanted to launch the external portion of DoDTechipedia last year for instance, but are still stymied with overcoming the various policy issues. The thought was that if we put a greater spotlight on this effort, with participation from the Administration and a number of the forward leaning agencies like EPA, State, the IC community and all the others, that this would aid everyone (including us) on overcoming the hurdles. That we were able to pull together such a great team starting with 1105, AFCEA, AFEI, NAPA, Maxine, and a great governance group was sort of amazing (Tamie really deserves massive credit for that).

The challenge is still one of scope – as was said many of us ended up preaching to the choir, but then again, you had people like that last questioner during the young govt leaders lunch session who came to this totally from a Gov 1.0 perspective. For him and people like him, I think a number of these sessions and Tim O’Reilly’s keynote were especially valuable. That challenge still though is how to make the right balance.

Which brings me to Sean’s Unconference point – I was one of those tweeting about that. In fact the initial plan was to do more of a blended conference with a full track of unconference activities. Unfortunately this didn’t hold, and was eventually removed for a variety of reasons. The cool thing about an unconference approach is it really relates to adult learning – you can focus on exactly what it is you think “you” need. Hopefully we can make this work for future events in this space – I’ll certainly be talking to 1105 about that this week. We are going to be experimenting was a blended approach for the next CrisisCamp event next year as well.

Other thoughts:
1. Absolutely agree about the coffee

2. One of the real values I got out of OGI was in making connections. Hopefully finding folks steeped in great ideas and resources like Jeffrey Levy’s post above, or perhaps by being exposed to NAPA’s collaboration project will help you move your agency forward in this process.

3. Absolutely agree with Gwynne that we are still at the beginnings stages. The Gov2.0 future has come to some of us, but certainly not most of us. Events like this, the TransparencyCamp and Gov20Camp earlier, and the O’Reilly event later in the year should help move things, as should forums like GovLoop.

4. Regarding DoD’s progress, I ran into more than a handfull of DoD folk who were blown away by DoD’s interest in this area and its progress. Many made the comment that they would have expected DoD to be more like 2% of the total effort – this too was a more self-serving effort of this event, but was VERY needed. Believe it or not, transparency and openness are not concepts that roll of the tongue of most DoD-folk – I cannot even begin to share the threat that many internally feel over these ideas. That we’ve not only broadened the conversation, but made these concepts appear cool in the DoD is an incredible testament to Roxie Merrit’s team in OSD-PA (which includes Jack Holt and Maxine Teller), and all the rest in DoD working these issues. That you came away with the perception that DoD is currently a leader in this space really means that the significant amount of time we spent planning this event really paid off.

And just to be clear, the whole use of the Other Transactions thing is there (for DHS and NSF as well), but the idea for DefenseSolutions.gov came from Dr. Helen Almey’s most awesome Defence Research Suppliers Portal in the UK MOD. She really is the trailblazer in this space and deserves the bulk of the credit. http://www.science.mod.uk/engagement/enterprise.aspx

Noel Dickover

Just a follow-up, I’m going to feel bad for not mentioning all the others who participated, but I did want to mention a few of them. We in DoD didn’t put a dime into this event – 1105 took all the risk for that, and early on, it almost seemed like a bad bet – they really deserve credit for coming into a new content space for them in such a powerful way. They bought into lots of new ideas like having the sessions selection process partially transparent, and so forth. Also, Debbie Filippi brought AFCEA to and AFEI to the table – both were critical partners in getting speakers like Dave Weinberger and various panels together. And again, the governance board which included people like Peter Corbett, Chris Dorobek, Jack Holt and many others really came through. Also in terms of case studies, I don’t know if you got to attend the culture session, but TSA did a wonderful case study-type presentation on their IdeaFactory.

Jaime L. Maynard

Hi Jeff,

thank you for some specifics. I have actually already visited the wiki, and shared the link with others here at NIST. But, I can’t help but think – there were hundreds of people at the conference that would have been interested in these points, and links, rather than just those interested enough to comment here. Had you been given more time at your session, you could have pulled up this wiki and shown these things. (Handouts would also have been beneficial at the sessions.)

“do more than give feedback on someone else’s conference” I am. This discussion is something more, as well as working with others in my agency to learn what they need and are doing in web 2.0. However, feedback is necessary if these conferences are to become more than just showcases of cool online tools. “Lead and teach.” We are trying to do so, but some agencies have more leeway than others. NIST is doing social media, a good bit of which is “under the radar” b/c there is nothing official in place to address it. NIST, like so many agencies, is often more afraid of looking bad that reaching out. “We can’t be wrong” because the public expects us to know. Some of our security folks simply don’t know the risks of many of these tools (or the various engines) and it is easier to say no. However, a security plan from TSA on how they are going to use WordPress would be very helpful. We did push until we got a blog in our office (using other agencies’ policies as guidance), and I was invited to COPS in DOJ to share how we got to that point. There were a few agency reps there that are using web 2.0. I think I was the only one who truly addressed “how” we got our blog and why instead of just showing it off. I also stressed why we chose a blog as the tool to begin with. With so many choices, many don’t even know what would benefit their mission. One of the biggest hurdles for COPS is their extensive approval process. They have no central PBA to coordinate through. I recommended they try to get a meeting together of all the folks responsible for that and present a business case for the blog they want. A first step. The second step is to ask that group for help. We got as far as we did from begging for help. We are working within NIST to get another office a blog as well. They’re going to use the same blog engine b/c we already did it and got it through approvals.

As to specific questions – I did address some in my comment above (Who did they gather together first to discuss this? When did they approach their legal counsel, CIO etc? How did they present it to their leadership? What was their list of goals and milestones? What was their security plan – for this ONE social media tool.). I mentioned PBA and OCIO as the folks we approached, but we wanted a blog. What about other tools – is it the same people? I’d love to see at one of these conferences hold a session devoted to specific agency hurdles. That is, people have to register for that session and the participant number is capped, so they can ask for advice/specifics on their particular issue.

Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Jaime L. Maynard

Hey Mark, just wanted to answer your question:

“Everyone who is saying that there should be more different speakers, or more catering to newbies, or an unconference portion, etc. – Where were you when they were planning the event? How often did you speak with the organizers? Where was your blog post of suggestions ahead of time?”

I didn’t even know this conference was being organized. Obviously, I’m not shy 🙂 about sharing and would have happily offered input. And THIS is my blog of suggestions for next time *wink* But, why would they listen to me? Who is their audience – that is who they should be targeting. I think the “unconference” stuff Sean mentioned is critical. About the Gov Expo – you know about it so I’m guessing you’re involved or invited to participate. Do you think any of this feedback is going to reach the organizers? TSA took your words to heart before this. They proactively gathered together government people to discuss web 2.0 and share what they learned from their blog. It was a lot of show and tell, but in the short time we had, we did get into some detail. That is how I was invited to COPS – they were there and emailed me. Government is trying to collaborate. The problem arises – it is easier to get “the money keepers” to authorize travel expense for a “big” conference like this with supposedly more potential for networking and those big name keynotes than for a small gathering. So, while I think having our own event is a valid point (and we have), these conferences also need to be improved, or at least targeted. I expected the keynotes to be more exposition, and that doesn’t mean they weren’t worthwhile, bur the breakout sessions don’t need to be that way. Hopefully, these kinds of vocal dicussions will do just that.

Jeffrey Levy


Good points all. I’m doing my best to share everything I can. I teach webinars open to all, I write a blog and tweet on these subjects, I post my presentations to slideshare. But I can’t go around to each individual and ask what they need. So I’m asking you to please send me a specific set of questions you want answered, in a bulleted list, and I’ll do my best to set up a webinar. That is, leave them as a comment on the blog post I created out of my comment above. Either here in GovLoop or on my blog.

BTW, I’m trying to get a generic security argument for WordPress for you and everyone who’d benefit from it. The specifics can’t be shared because they’re sensitive info about our networks. But if an info security person from your agency talked to my info security folks, maybe they could share more.

Please help me help you. 🙂


Mark D. Drapeau – I have to respectfully disagree with your view that providing feedback after an event is pointless. It is far from. People are willing to listen. People want to improve and provide a good product, and attendees sharing thoughts about how something worked and how it didn’t is the fastest way to for to do that in the future. Sure, it’s not as instantaneous as providing feedback before the conference, but it’s an essential part of the process. I agree that there should be as much collaboration as possible in the planning stages, but sometimes people don’t know what they want until after–and event planners don’t always know how well something does or doesn’t work until after the event as well. The feedback will likely be considered for all future events, and not just for the people who put on the conference probably.

Jaime L. Maynard

Jeff, I will talk with some of my colleagues who also attended and see what we can come up with. I’ll try to post something to you in the next few days..

And that security agreement would be very helpful, I am sure. Even if it doesn’t include specifics, our OCIO folks can reach out for more.

Bulat Ashimov

Really useful post to me. Even though my attempts to promote the Web 2.0 including Social Networking for my e-Govt failed recently I keep trying it to persuade our management engaged in building the e-Government


I agree with the above- case studies, how to tools/ideas, metrics are what we need now. Let’s get off square one, see how we can overcome barriers- as “one government” rather than many independent efforts across government- at least to the extent possible. But its not too late and I don’t want to wait a year- so let’s use an official site or govloop to do this now. Also would like to know when the presentations will be made available- if they are not already. We’re all ready to go forward.

Stephen Buckley

Until the “Open Government Directive” comes out (later this year?), federal employees do not now have official instructions that will, in essence, give them permission to move forward and try new things. All they have right now is some general language contained in the President’s Memo on Transparency and Open Government.

And even though that memorandum contains some very exciting language, it does NOT provide the necessary “cover” if a new project is attempted, but then fails in a very public way, and the proverbial stuff “hits the fan”. So it’s perfectly rational to play it safe and, I agree with Jaime, that most people will maintain the status quo until the President issues further direction and guidance (i.e., the Open Government Directive).

In the meantime, though, these “open-gov” conferences are filling the void. Unfortunately, they are limited in value because, even though some of speakers are from the White House, the conferences are privately-sponsored, so they can NOT issue any official instructions and guidance that you can take back and show your boss.

However, theses conferences ARE being marketed in such a way (“Real Important People telling you Real Important Stuff!”) that it should NOT really be a surprise when federal attendees (like Jaime and others) begin to feel underwhelmed after their third or fourth “open-gov” conference.

Yes, there is some value in continuing to have these conferences. But conference organizers should be wary not to “over-promise and under-deliver” to their customers. However, given the D.C. frenzy on “open-gov”, it could be that the customers will keep coming, anyway, rather than take the risk of being caught “out of the loop”.

Anyway, here is something from Katie Paine to help future conference organizers figure out (assuming they care about citizen-customer feedback) if they actually provided value to their attendees:
“How to Evaluate Events and Sponsorships”

Having said all that, I DO wish I could have attended the OGI conference, if only for the Katie Paine’s session on “Measuring the Impact of Social Media”. Jaime said she got value from that, but Ms. Kaine’s reply with a link to download her OGI presentation seems faulty (error message:”Not a PowerPoint file.) Anyone else getting the same result? http://www.kdpaine.com/speeches_conferences/latest_speech.htm

Ms. Paine also posted a fine follow-up article about her OGI session (see link below), in which she found that attendees were MORE interested in measuring “transparency”, etc. That’s not really surprising because federal employees already know (from the President’s Memo) that they will be graded on how well they do “Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration” (and not “social media-izing”, per se).
“How to Measure Transparency and Open Government”

I’ve been trying to raise this aspect — defining and measuring of “T,P and C” — as more fundamental than finding the next “killer app” (the latter being more fun). And I plan to pull together hers and other links in a blog-posting on “measuring transparency” soon. (With a blog-name like mine, I really should post something more on that subject.)

Stephen Buckley

Helen Mitchell Curtis

Joanne – The OGI presentations are available at http://1105govinfoevents.com/OGI/Sessions_Linked.pdf. However, do note that when clicking on an active link, you need to place your pointer BELOW the title to get to the actual presentation’s link. I’ve called 1105 about the bug and they’ll notify the powers that be to look into it.

Jamie – I’ve found your post and all contributors comments very helpful and much needed! Thanks to Jeffrey for the great resources too! Having 32 yrs. in Govt, mostly at FDA working with Search technologies and more recently in private industry, I can relate to the challenges from the “inside-out” and the “outside-in”. So I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents worth. As to pre and post conference feedback- I think both are important – but I don’t recall EVER being asked for my input on conference content beforehand. I’ve attended & spoken at many over the years and the hosting organization has usually decided on or used feedback from prior events to decide on theme, topics, speakers, etc. So if the new model is to get input BEFORE a conference – esp. for Gov 2.0 type events – Feds may be slow to accept the culture change or feel empowered to pro-actively make suggestions/recommendations. Also, if not working in Gov 2.0 space, they may be buried under with their regular projects facing resource, budget and/or time constraints therefore not pro-actively looking for Gov 2.0 events.

As for post-conference feedback – I hope you’ve shared your thoughts and the comments in this blogpost with 1105 (FYI- your blog entry is on the OGI homepage). Your points resonate loudly with me – often hearing ‘theory’ preached on what works and doesn’t work, rather than real-world, practical case studies including how to change the culture, get funding, ROI, how to measure value added, suggest projects for quick wins, benefits, standards, & governance in addition to what you’ve already mentioned. From what I’m hearing from others that have commented, there may not be a wealth of projects that can yet be referred to for lessons learned.

I appreciate the resources Jeffrey shared and am encouraged to find links to info on Gov 2.0 projects, standards and policies being developed. When doing research back in Feb. for a presentation I had to do on Search & Gov 2.0, I couldn’t find any central repository with current info on all the Gov 2.0 projects. Collaborationproject.org was helpful, but not complete or up-to-date. It would help to see that info consolidated or at least provide links from one centralized site. Agency, project Descriptions,costs, contacts, lessons learned, time to complete, etc. would be nice and if a public facing site, a link to it would be great too.

A few generalized tips you may already know that helped lead to success at FDA with Enterprise Search System, especially when organization is not supportive, no funding already designated and initially worked ‘under the radar’.

1) Start small, trying to get biggest bang for buck- ex. bottlenecks, pain points or ‘low hanging fruit’
2) Identify stakeholders and value of project to gain their support
2) Find a champion & cheerleader that believes in your project
3) Get Management buy-in and then to fund it
4) Collaborate with stakeholders frequently
5) Gather User Requirements
6) Create strategy plan, develop standards & governance (or use existing), project plan
7) Build proof-of-concept with regular user feedback (RAD)
6) Do usability testing

Helen L. Mitchell
Principal, Enterprising Solutions

Jaime L. Maynard

Thanks so muc Helen, for your input. Also for the link to the OGI presentations! Bryan Klein built us a wiki to collate open gov materials/prsentations/feedback etc. We have a found it a useful tool.

Helen Mitchell Curtis

If you get a chance, you may find some helpful info in the Gov 2.0 presentation I did in Feb, which included info & links to Gov 2.0 implementations, resources, barriers, trends, best practices, future vision & problems, etc. See http://slidesha.re/GM5NV

Dave Schroeder

Jaime, for what it’s worth, the Web 2.0 and Social Software Working Group of the Federal Knowledge Management Initiative created a brief whitepaper with some guidance and recommendations for federal agencies:


I would encourage folks to pass this along to managers in information-related capacities and to look over the recommendations, and consider the implications for your own organization.