October 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm #82208
I’m a big fan of Steve and his efforts to build GovLoop into a valuable community for people in and around government to collaborate and connect with one another. To date, the community has grown organically, mostly by word of mouth. The GovDelivery relationship has brought new resources and a fresh blast of energy. Just this past week, the community grew by over 1,200 members. Previously, the average growth rate was around 400 a week, I believe.
Now that he’s full-time focused on GovLoop, one of Steve’s stated goals is to build the community from 20K to 100K members by the end of next year. His rationale: more gov innovators in one space sharing their insight with one another means more awesome problems solved in government and more best practices replicated across agencies.
So my question is: If you were Steve Ressler, how would you grow GovLoop?
Eager to hear your thoughts and insights…
October 2, 2009 at 7:44 pm #82248
I’d like to see new tools, directed at the mechanics of focusing discussions. Widgets that we can insert and become part of our comments to do specific things. For example, one that allows us to ask the community a question, and asks readers to either leave a reply, or order a list of those already given, and summarizes the results. Stuff that allows us to add a great deal of semantics to the content by labeling parts, like proposals, goals, issues, etc in ways that leave readers with far more options for responding that are intended to ultimately clarify, discuss, and resolve them into a library of interconnected wisdom (or whatever it is we collectively create.)
I’d like to see a glossary of conceptual objects to help us be precise about what we’re talking about, to help us find a shared lexicon, and allow newcomers to resolve jargon. And the technology to automatically map our textual references to those things as URIs or similar tokens that better represent them. And of course all of the other infrastructure needed to maintain that glossary collectively.
I’d like him to explore ways he might make our own political capital, as members of this forum more tangible. Suppose there were some outstanding issues to vote on (like what belongs in the glossary) I’d like to see something that more wisely harvested our will than the classical vote allows. Instead I’d like us to actually have an account that received a steady income of political capital that we spend in various ways to support or oppose issues, or more often, secretly delegate to someone we believe will make a wiser decision on that issue than we could.
A tangible PC approach allows a number of interesting properties of PC to be experienced–the fact that it evaporates, for example, into the accounts of everyone who does use it is easy to simulate. It facilitates a shopping mall approach to organizing the forum, and might better engage the public. He could advertise the site as the place Where you can spend the political capital you didn’t realize you had to buy a better government.
And next week, when he’s finished with all of that, I’d like him to consider adding other kinds of currencies designed to motivate us in completely different ways, as mentors and to become leaders. I’ve been thinking about gov 2.0 without actually realizing it for my entire adult life. So I have a great deal more to suggest than can be summed up in a reply on the fly.
October 2, 2009 at 8:10 pm #82246
Very good stuff….
October 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm #82244
Growing GovLoop is more than increasing membership. It is only a noteworthy goal, if more concrete and useful action occurs, past growing the numbers. As an evaluator, counting an increase in contacts has nothing to do with whether people are using the program or gaining any benefit from participation, let alone anything about the quality of the effort. In the business world, walking through the door of a store does not tell you if anyone actually bought anything. It is only a very baseline indicator of increased activity.
A similar discussion is taking place regarding ROI and new advertising frameworks for social networks and social media. Advertising on social networks is emerging as a topic of great interest, as people attempt to monetize their sites to support the work.
My own experience, even if groups have numbers, does not translate necessarily into participation. There are a lot of tourists and bystanders. This is a curiosity in many social networks, including mine and in my two groups on GovLoop.
So far GovLoop has done a terrific job of generating so much wonderful sharing, discussions, ideas, events and a sense of freedom to challenge current (old) paradigms of organizational design. Is the idea that growing the numbers of members will translate into increased leverage for change within our institutions?
As an outside of government group now, does GovLoop become a kind of lobbying organization for organizational change to support Web 2.0? How does the relationship of GovLoop, to government itself change, as a result of the new partnership with GovDelivery? How does this change government employees expectations and participation in this social network? Do you think members will continue to participate in the same way, especially government members?
Getting this change point “right” has to be very thought provoking for Steve and the key leaders within GovLoop. I read somewhere that Steve intends to pull together a good advisory board. Very good idea to host some candid meetings with people who are more than Steve’s cheerleaders.
Now that GovLoop is part of an outside, for profit, enterprise, what happens with the ideas which have been freely written and shared up to this point? Part of growing GovLoop has to involve writing clear guidelines, terms, and policies. That kind of ground work will make a big difference in the immediate moment and in the future to members.
Is GovLoop and Steve synonymous/one entity or is GovLoop a network with an identity separate from it’s founder? The recent changes at GovLoop have provoked questions organizationally and strategically in my mind.
I love participating, meeting incredible people and all the very smart conversations on this site. Looking at GovLoop always gives me a lift, and I’ve had fun writing out some of my ideas. I hope Steve will take it slowly enough so people understand the transition, what changes will occur because of selling/merging the site and the role GovLoop plays going forward in the bigger picture. Is Steve thinking GovLoop will act as an intermediary organization for change in government? Bringing inside and outside pressure?
If I was Steve, I’d be asking myself questions about the purpose of GovLoop, beyond a social network and idea exchange site.
Great Question Andrew!
October 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm #82242
This is going to sound kind of corny, but here is my two cents. How would I grow Govloop?
Steve should look at his company as a child. You bring this child into the world, and you have many plans already in your mind on how you want to raise this child. You figure out what type of parent you want to be, what kind of home you want to make for your child, and you set up a successful plan (with many great ideas from friends). BUT, then reality hits, your child comes home from school wanting to be an actor instead of a computer engineer, your child screams and crys, and they tell you they don’t like you at all, but through it all, you still stick with the plan — but with a little flexability. You watch your child grow, and you learn what works for one child does not work for another. You learn that the best laid plans need to be looked over once or twice a year, and maybe even changed all together. And to the surprise of all, you have to figure out a way to pay the bills for this child. I mean, having 20,000 friends are no good if you can’t send you child to college. You have to make big decisions with this child that not everyone is going to like, BUT in the end it is yours and yours alone. You do the best you can for all of those around you, and you hope that the people who really believe in what you are doing will be there to help you raise the baby…. and be there to baby sit when you go off to conferences. 🙂
If I were Steve, I would look around and realize this is the best time of my life. I may never get this oppurtunity again. This is it. Grab on and hold on for the ride. I would also know I do have people, some I have never met, who will be there through the up and downs of growth.
Hey, your baby is only 1 1/2 years old! Your baby has not even hit the terrible two’s yet!
October 3, 2009 at 12:50 am #82240
I sure hope we don’t have to wait twenty years before his site finally gets a job and moves out of Steve’s house! But I did love the analogy. I guess I liken the site more to a sort of neurogenesis–a search of the sort of linkages that can turn this pool of collective acumen into machinery that can automatically find and bind to the right sources to bring a great deal of shared wisdom to focus on any particular issue.
October 3, 2009 at 1:46 am #82238
If I could only add one feature, and was hoping to make it something that really added the sort of value that government employees are hoping to find when they visit this site, it would be a dynamic FAQ section, the refinement of which was designed to be a sort of outstanding workload for the more active members.
I think it should be a prominent part of the opening screen, perhaps even the primary product of all efforts here–like a catalog of our findings. I see it as an alternate way to index our discussions (linking them into the reasoning behind the answers to specific questions, and allowing someone trying to come up to speed on a topic to quickly find a good deal of useful discussion about it.) I think we are more than ready to collectively provide a very useful service to those simply not ready to make an account, dive in, and look for answers more proactively. Perhaps we should offer an email service where government employees could send a question and get back a document crafted collectively by us to answer it and provide a list of related links.
The FAQ itself might be in the form of a up-to-date primer on all aspects of the OG process where we collectively edit and refine each other’s best attempts to explain our working knowledge and interlink this site to all related sites and sources.
October 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm #82236
LOL 20 years would be a long time… so let’s say this website will grow in Dog years! 🙂 (20 years really being almost 3 years)
October 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm #82234
OK, I helped develop and market a few sites in my time, and really put some thought into this.
We know that Steve must make money to make this his dream. He can’t sit at home, take care of a future family, and run this site off of wishes. But, more and more ads are getting terrible. We already have a “main” page for this part of Govloop. I think one thing needs to be added on Govloop, especially as it grows, is landing page.
Here is a very basic description of what I have in mind.
Imagine this…the Govloop landing page (basically a “front door” to the home of all of GovLOOP). On the landing page all the sponsors can be listed, even a link to all the sponsors could be listed (maybe some conference specials for “special” members). You can have a paid member section and a link to the pay area. The paid area could have some top notch videos, interviews, and speakers. On the landing page, there could also be pay per fee services. For instance, you want to see, or do something special, you have to pay a small fee for it. You could also have links to free areas. The wikis could be placed in a different area, and a link straight from the landing page could lead new people to that information. There a number of things you can add to the landing page to the “front door” of Govloop.
Our area would remain free and we could still have our little world here. But, the great thing about it, we could join pay for fee services, and then talk about how great they were on the free site, and more and more free members would start paying for the services. Steve could even set up a super GOVLOOP membership, where a member could pay one flat rate per year and be able to do everything on the whole site. Also, the paid members could enter drawings from your sponsors; books on CD, t-shirts, cups, all fun stuff that is also cheap to ship.
I have lot’s of other ideas for the landing page, but the main idea of a landing page is you can change the front of your store as often as you want to. Run specials, announce all kinds of stuff…but the people in each area will not have their activity affected. If you can imagine a Mall, it follows the same concept. I come up to a mall, and the sign and specials may change everyday, but my favorite store remains the same (except for the items directed affecting that store).
Again, I have done this a time or two, and that is the way I would go.
October 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm #82232
My answer to that question is much more simplistic, albeit perhaps more difficult to accomplish, than the other responses thus far.
Obtain institutional buy-in from all of the various agencies.
Currently, I assume most of the members of GovLoop are those willing to “color outside the lines” and do so without looking for permission from their respective agencies. In my experience, that population represents a very small percentage of an organizations employees.
The bulk of the rest are not willing to do something, such as join a site like this, without some overt policy statement informing them it is acceptable.
For GovLoop to grow and become mainstream, it needs an official Stamp of Approval from each of the agencies. This would not be hard to accomplish, given the current push for transparency in government and support for collaboration from the Obama administration.
An Executive Order, issued to each of the agencies, directing them to open this site up to their employees and encourage its use would probably be sufficient.
For example, I know there are many military installations within DoD where this site is not accessible because it is Ning based.
October 3, 2009 at 10:29 pm #82230
That is a very good point…and if we were to include GovLoop and sites like this along with the other Apps.gov approved social media sites, that might help to increase the membership.
In general, there is really no Federal policy at this time with regard to when, where and how to use the social sites. The positive side of that is that there are very few approval hoops to jump through for those of us willing to trailblaze..
October 3, 2009 at 10:53 pm #82228
I like that word – “Trailblaze”. It is much nicer than the things we could be called. 🙂 LOL Let’s see some other words which sometimes mean the same as Trailblaze; Trouble maker, stubborn, not a team player, “out there”, etc. Yeah…let’s call it Trailblazing. 🙂 I can put that on a power point and not get fired. LOL
October 4, 2009 at 12:31 am #82226
Trailblaze. Beta. Pilot. Early Adopters.
For our in-house adventures: Work in progress. “Dogfooding: i.e., eating your own dog food. Prototyping. Proof of concept. Conceptual architecture. 🙂
October 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm #82224
Very cool analogy and great ideas here.
October 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm #82222
Lots of really good ideas here. Amanda has some gems in there as well.
I think getting a formal OMB memo granting formal seal of approval for GovLoop is probably a long time coming…change takes a lot of time and also I really think the value of Govloop is that it is more than just federal but state and local as well.
One idea that I’m working on is getting approval in the ways association get tacit approval from head government as a good place to meet and learn about various topics. They show this approval by validating their training, having their reps talk there, and generally saying good things about it. GovLoop already has a lot of this going for it – lots of senior officials are on the site and talk good about the site. But would be good to get even more of this and consolidate it.
October 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm #82220
I would make presentations on Government campuses. We have so-called “experts” who visit one of our campuses in Atlanta weekly…and none of them are more qualified than Steve. We have individual development dollars to spend and we have to have somewhere to spend them. I believe Steve could earn a great deal for GovLoop and teach a great deal about Gov 2.0 by doing this.
I believe we could help him set these Gov 2.0 lectures up. I volunteer!
October 5, 2009 at 2:12 am #82218
Thanks, everyone! Been gone all weekend…will look through and strive to summarize as we enter the week tomorrow.
Keep ’em coming!
October 5, 2009 at 2:44 am #82216
Thanks for the shout-out. 🙂
October 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm #82214
As I shared with Steve last night at the Fiscal New Year’s Party, as evidenced by the growth in GovLoop from all the media attention in the last week, that GovLoop needs to establish itself as a Subject Matter Expert that the media and others inside/outside the community would look to for insight on Gov.
In graduate school, we would read the Economist each week, pick three articles and then share them. We would discuss emerging trends and then see how those trends continued or died off. Building upon this same strategy, we could, or Steve and his “trend advisers” could watch the blogs and discussions on GovLoop and identify trends that bubble up from the blogs and discussions. This trends could be published on a quarterly basis for discussion or implementation of a project that might lend itself for community involvement.
This would be the GovLoop Trend report that would be published quarterly with an annual wrap up that could be delivered as part of one of the existing Gov conferences or GovLoops own confab.
What I like about this as well it it would also be a chronicle of the opportunities and challenges the Gov 2.0 community and other Gov communities are experiencing and if they continued, faded away or were dealt with.
As we look to the transformations that we are experiencing along with those that will be happening over the next few years, it would be helpful to know what they story has been step by step rather than sitting around a cafe’ in 2013 and say “gee whatever appended to cloud computing”, or “why didn’t anyone predict the collapse of the program XYZ?”
Just my thoughts.
October 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm #82212
This is not a suggestion, but more of a question – is bigger always better? I know that sitting drinking beer by yourself is a bit sad and that it is better to have a party and that 40 person party is generally better than a 10 person party (although it depends), but in parties you certainly hit a law of diminishing returns at some point (probably before 100 and certainly before 1000 although perhaps the Carnival in Rio is an exception!). Somehow I think what you need are both smallish communities that are sufficiently intimate for people to really do stuff together and bridges between communities that keep things fresh and help avoid group think. Not quite sure how you do that, but perhaps something to think about.
October 19, 2009 at 4:57 am #82210
If you want objective feedback from GovLoop users, you need to come up with a “customer survey”.
Properly done, a survey asks customers the same questions and, by doing so, provides data instead of a collection of anecdotal opinions in response to an essay-question.
Even when you use the “crowd-sourcing” approach to improving GovLoop, you still have to then ask the users if a particular step “works for them”.
Just the fact that membership is increasing (for now) doesn’t mean that GovLoop members are also highly satisfied. Having the highest number of customers does not guarantee future success (or prevent future failure). Just ask AOL and GM.
I suggest you ask about “customer surveys” at the GovLoop group on “:Building Effective Performance Measures”:
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