What makes for a good day? When you get home at night do you feel like you have had a good day when it is filled with non-stop listening to others and you have had little to say? Or do you have a good day when you can say – “You know what, I had something to say that someone listened to, and I think it made a difference”?
The desire to be recognized is one of the most powerful human motivations that all of us share. And it is at the core of many government 2.0 applications – often, cooperative platforms that enable complete visibility and back and forth between citizens and at times agency employees and officials.
Wikis, crowd sourcing, forums, and blogs are all examples of specific cooperative applications. These tool technologies are often touted as enabling inclusion of citizens, agency partners, and employees in a way not before possible. Many of these social tools are in fact designed to build social friendships or relationships in closed groups, or have a strong social element.
Social fear, too, affects citizen inclusion.
Of course the flip side of openness is the social fear that it creates. It too is a powerful emotion.
Do you remember the first time that you walked to a podium in a public meeting to share your point of view? Did you have a lump in your throat and a pit in your stomach? For many in America and throughout the World, this is the case. We don’t naturally gravitate to public recognition. We fear looking stupid and being ridiculed. And so it is online.
Why would citizens with constructive ideas share them in an online food fight, where in today’s hyper-partisan world cooperative tools are used as mega-phones for deeply held beliefs, often at the expense and ridicule of those trying to be constructive? In that sense a good case could be made that they inhibit inclusion rather than expand it – standing alone.
The problem is that early use of cooperative technologies and methods have at times been misaligned with intended results. It is one thing to use technologies to enable cooperation in small groups, or online “Villages” (using a Dunbar number of approximately 150). It is a very different thing to singularly use the same tools to support exchange in highly dense networks. (Networks having audiences into the thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions). In the former there are social relationships of trust based on commonality. In the latter, those relationships often do not exist.
In our country’s history, that is why we developed the convention of public comment – a methodology which enables citizens to voice their views independently, and constructively, without being subject to the same level of criticism and consequently, social fear.
Of course, it could also be said that we have to some extent proven that “public comment” standing alone doesn’t work either. Whether it is agency or public apathy, or simply the high cost of participation, public comment standing alone probably doesn’t maximize citizen, partner and employee inclusion.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that
The answer may be fairly simple. When designing public participation plans we do both. We strive to provide recognition for constructive participation that enables the broadest range of solution possibilities, but minimize the social fear that keeps many citizens from participating.
To do this we have to be willing to use a full range of off-line and on-line conventions that provide a means of citizen communication that meet the many needs and comfort levels of citizens. The same could be said for efforts that involve agency employees and partners.
Most often this will mean that online solutions will integrate multiple technologies – both cutting edge tools that support cooperation, as well as those that enable independent contributions of ideas and thoughts. 
This is the path to a lower cost of participation that both minimizes social fear and provides individual recognition. A fully integrated approach will meet the needs of the broadest possible audience and best achieve the diversity. Diverse participation will in turn lead to the broadest range of solution possibilities for the critical decisions of government.
This is the direction where the Gov 2.0 discussion needs to go and where it will be most effective. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that!
 Attribution for this idea should be given to Don Gunther, a close friend and colleague.
 See Cass R. Sunstein, Infotopia, How Great Minds Produce Knowledge, page 1052-53.
 See Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social
Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, pg. 3925 Kindle.
 See Christakis on homophily at pg 302. IPad Kindle.