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The Project of the Week – Wednesday, March 4, 2009 – Highlighting GovLoop

What better way to kickoff the new “Project of the Week” series than to highlight the coolest website in government, GovLoop!

Last year on Memorial Day when you were most likely ‘chilaxin’ poolside waiting for the burgers and dogs to be ready, Steve Ressler launched GovLoop. Apparently, that same day, there were five other govies thinking about how to improve government and joined GovLoop on day one. As I write this today, a mere 10 months later, 6,900 members are on GovLoop working towards a more effective government on all levels… very impressive.

By now, you probably know why Steve created GovLoop… if you need a refresher, check out:
The History of GovLoop and the Top 10 Reasons Steve Created GovLoop

This week’s project aims to dig a little deeper into what it took to start GovLoop, what it takes to maintain it and what lies ahead.

GovLoop, in its tenth month, has grown from 5 to 6,900 members. I asked Steve if he had a goal in mind for the number of members by the first anniversary of GovLoop. He said “I never had a 1 year goal but I did have two goals: 100 and 1,000. I thought if I got 100 people to join that would be a sign that the idea was worthwhile. 1,000 was my next goal – as I thought by 1,000 members – we would have moved beyond all my acquaintances and lots of interesting, serendipitous interactions would begin and the community would be self-sustaining.“

To build up GovLoop membership, Steve relied on a grassroots approach. He utilized his network of contacts from his previous work at Young Government Leaders. He also reached out, early on, to groups like the NAPA Collaboration Project, YGL, and NASPAA for help with spreading the word. At the same time, he joined Twitter which he used to spread the word about GovLoop (more on Twitter later). Today, GovLoop has 25,000 unique visitors per month and 200,000 page views per month.

Members rule at GovLoop! You created 275 groups, over 900 blog posts, 70 scheduled events, 2,100 photos and 140+ videos. How is all this maintained? The short answer is a ton of hours. Did I mention yet that Steve has a full time gig with the Department of Homeland Security? After his 9 to 5 at DHS, his 5 to 9 (and then some) is GovLoop. “I do not work on it during my job so I spend many weekday nights and weekends working on the site. It’s a good thing my lady is a professor and works just as much as me, otherwise I’d be in deep trouble” Steve said.

As GovLoop began to grow, he ran into what he calls “a personal bandwidth issue.” When Steve realized he needed more mbps’s (that’s megabits per second for non IT people) he asked for volunteers, and now there is a robust GovLoop Community Leaders group. This group of almost 20 people, welcome new members, write member of the week columns and are launching this project of the week column. Steve comments “Honestly, these people are 100% essential to the site and GovLoop wouldn’t be what it is without them.”

Have you noticed some of the cool videos on GovLoop? Steve posts video blogs he calls “GovLoop TV” which are short videos covering varying topics from fashion tips (Steve warns you to watch at your own risk) to a quick tour of his book collection to the field guide for the upcoming Gov 2.0 camp. I asked Steve if he sees the use of video becoming a bigger part of the conversation on GovLoop. He replied “Yep. I love blogging and discussing with members using text but there is something really rich about video. I got a Flip Mino camera yesterday so I hope to do more live reporting when I’m out and about.”

Another major trend Steve has noticed is mobile. Like many of us, he has a lot happening on his mobile device. He is looking to optimize GovLoop for mobile to provide content while people commute. Did you know there is a mobile edition of GovLoop? Check out www.govloop.com/m. Steve says it works well on the iPhone and I can say it works well on my Windows Mobile device (I really need to get an iPhone though!).

Speaking of trends… are you a tweep who tweets on Twitter? Like GovLoop, Twitter continues to explode. I asked Steve how Twitter and other social media sites/services are used to enhance GovLoop. He responded “I definitely use Twitter a lot and we have groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to connect with our members there.” On Twitter, follow Steve @govloop. Also, he created the #govloop hashtag, so if you’re writing something that may interest the GovLoop community, use the hashtag. If you are new to Twitter, I would recommend you read the blog post “A Simple Guide to Twenglish” by one of GovLoop’s most active members and Twitter extraordinaire, Adriel Hampton.

The key to success for GovLoop is its content. The content is driven by us, the members! I think you would agree that GovLoop members do a great job of self-policing and sticking to GovLoop Etiquette. “Generally people are pretty good” Steve said, and then added “However, I’ve had a few cases where people have crossed the line on the tri-fecta (politics, religion, and sex) and had to take down some content. Also, I’ve had a couple cases of members promoting their company and doing business development on the site, which is not allowed – so I’ve warned them and blocked them when necessary.”

By now you know there is a ton activity on GovLoop, which is awesome. As a result, students have gotten great information for their theses, GovLoopers (I guess it’s better than GovLoopies) have started new jobs, people have utilized best practices on wikis and blogs and then brought them to their organizations. Steve said “personally, I’ve met a lot of brilliant people such as Andy Krzmarzick, Mark Danielson, Peter Corbett, Mark Drapeau, among others directly because of GovLoop.”

So what’s next for our favorite govie website? Steve says “My vision for GovLoop is to create a platform where the government community can connect and find, create, and share valuable information. I’d love to grow the community to 25 or 50,000 members; however, there are clear issues of community moderation and content organization as GovLoop grows. So I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the best way to organize information on GovLoop and what information GovLoop members want, like the project of week initiative and GovLoop TV.”

According to Steve, most of the ideas for growing GovLoop come directly from members. For example, the Twitter feed on the home page was a suggestion of Andy Krzmarzick. Adriel Hampton designed the GovLoop t-shirt. Also, coming soon, look for the GovLoop lanyard to go with your t-shirt. Another idea soon to be implemented is RSS feeds on the home page. Do you have a good idea for Steve? Message him on GovLoop or email him at [email protected], remember you can also find him @govloop on Twitter.

To wrap up… Did you take the time to read “The Top 10 Reasons Steve Created GovLoop?” If so, you surely noticed the bonus reason for starting GovLoop. Steve said “rather than just read PerezHilton.com, I thought I would do something valuable with my time.” So I had to ask if he still had time to read PerezHilton.com and what else he did in the little free time he has away from the DHS and GovLoop. He replied “Yep… I still read PerezHilton.com and a lot of sites on the Internet and definitely make a dent at the library. I also love attending USF sports games, traveling when possible, watching Gossip Girls, playing pool at my local pub, and getting back into tennis.”

Thank you to Mary Davie for this awesome project idea! If you have a cool idea for a “Project of the Week” project, please share it with me or Mary… I promised her an idea that was just as awesome (or at least close) so please don’t let me down!

What Is The Project of the Week?
Steve explains… “The best part of GovLoop is the really interesting, innovate govies that are the members. I’ve wanted to spend more time highlighting the members and their work on the site. The first part was the GovLoop Member of the Week series which has been a lot of fun and I’ve gotten great feedback. Part 2 is the GovLoop Project of the Week series. The idea here is to focus on a project a GovLoop member has been working on and digging in to find out lessons learned, the challenges, and get ideas for new projects at our agencies. The project will vary and can range from a new website (recovery.gov) to a new challenge (EPA YouTube challenge) to an interesting event (SBA Enterpreneurship week). Should be fun – as always, we welcome comments and ideas”

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Amy Hooker

What a great story! Practically a how-to case study on building an online community. Nice job putting it together, Greg 🙂

Mary Davie

Greg- you did a great job telling the govloop story. Steve is an inspiration to us all! Thanks for the “plug” too! Mary


Got to include the ladies. Definitely met some awesome female GovLoopers like Andrea (and Meghan and GeekChick and Mary and IJ and Celia and and and ). And I’m a sucker for cool swag.