Necessary inefficiencies

Notes from NAGW: Necessary inefficiencies

Over the past few years, like most government agencies with shrinking budgets, I have tried to fill my networking and training needs with alternatives that did not include the expense and hassle of travel such as Twitter, Hangouts, and webinars. I’ve had many good moments and professional discussions via these cheaper tools for sure and they do an adequate job at fostering community. But you know what? I like that face to face interaction even more. For me it’s what makes good professional moments into great professional moments.

I’m not just talking about a Q&A after a great keynote session, I’m talking about the interactions that go on in the periphery, like in the hallway on the way to lunch, or an honest exchange on the shuttle bus to the airport. Jonah Lehrer of the Wall Street Journal (August 6, 2011) wrote regarding Google+: “For years now, we’ve been searching for a technological cure for the inefficiencies of offline interaction. It would be so convenient, after all, if we didn’t have to travel to conferences or commute to the office or meet up with friends. But those inefficiencies are necessary. We can’t fix them because they aren’t broken.” For a portion of our professional lives, we need to be around others. For those of us in one-person shops who wear multiple hats such as coder, designer, database admin, and others; perhaps a bit more.

At a time when we as government web professionals are increasing isolated in our jobs due to things like department downsizing or increased workload and stress, the importance of connecting to others, not just digitally but in-person, is even more crucial to ourselves and in turn the public we serve.

I hope I’ll see you later.

Matt Harrington is the president of the National Association of Government Webmasters, a 300+ member organization representing web professionals in city, county, and state governments. More information is available at

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