Should OpenGov Spark OpenGovLoop?

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This topic contains 42 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by  Sam Allgood 11 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #87313

    1/26/10 UPDATE: The majority of you think we should allow people to view content on GovLoop without signing up…and we’ve heard you! Now we have another question for you:

    If we do this, people may be more apt to be lurkers readers (!) vs.
    active, content-creating and commenting members. Sooo…

    How do we encourage people to sign up and join the fun
    vs. sitting on the sidelines as a spectator?

    Incentives? Member-only benefits? Access to certain groups?Eager to get your feedback and ideas!

    What do you think about the idea proposed by @mstoddard in the tweet above? While @mstoddard is framing the issue in light of usability and accessibility, his suggestion really begs a much broader question about the status of GovLoop, especially in light of the release of the Open Government Directive last week: Should GovLoop be more open?

    Currently, anyone who follows a link from Twitter or elsewhere across the web arrives on this GovLoop page:

    Current GovLoop members simply sign in. Non-members can sign up at this page:

    Sign-up is free and takes about 30 seconds.

    Too often Steve and I hear people, as we’re out speaking about #Gov20 and #GovLoop, say, “Yeah, I came to the site and then saw that I had to sign-up and decided to think about it.” But they don’t think about it. They just don’t return. This thin barrier is enough to prevent people – and we are talking about fellow public servants here – from joining the community.

    In response to both @mstoddard and other potential members, we can consider several potential options:

    1. GovLoop is closed – member only, moderated (we approve every member).

    2. GovLoop is slightly closed – anyone can join and view without moderation (but we still have veto suspension/removal capability).

    3. GovLoop is slightly open – upon arrival on site it’s read-only, then two member options here:

    a. Immediate access (person signs up with username to comment right away, can still remove bogus members like spammers). UPDATE: is a good example of this one.

    b. Moderated access (we monitor and grant approval…slight delay before comment/content creation, usually no more than 2-3 hours for a broad swath of the day in the US).

    4. GovLoop allows read, comment and content creation to anyone.

    Currently, GovLoop hovers between 1 and 2. Most traditional media sites are somewhere between 3 and 4, with some charging subscriptions to view content from the outset or after a certain number of articles have been clicked.

    Thoughts from our perspective:

    Our A1 goal is to make sure that GovLoop is a safe space for government employees to connect and collaborate. This is YOUR community and we want to help you get big things done. Period. End of story.

    Search engines do not index GovLoop content because of current settings. We rely on word-of-mouth and news stories to make more people aware of our community’s existence. We are taking other steps, such as creating a GovLoop button that can be placed on association and appropriate government websites, to create broader knowledge of the network. But all the great conversations we are having are not found by Google, Bing, Internet Explorer, Ask and any other search sites.

    • GovLoop is a limited resource at this time. As a result of the second bullet, only members benefit. If we were to move to #3 above, then people who are not members would be able to read the conversations right when they arrive on the site, but they would NOT be able to comment or create content unless they joined.
    o Under #3a, we could allow them quick access to comment quickly, post a question, create a blog or launch/join a group. If we saw spammers or inappropriate content, we could still take it down or suspend a member.
    o Under #3b, we would review every single member before allowing them to participate…which provides an extra layer of protection against spammers and strangers. We think this is a win-win: non-members benefit from the content, AND we still preserve a safe space for people who want to engage one another with positive intentions.

    Moderated groups remain private and controlled by creators. Under all of the scenarios above, members can create moderated groups. So even if the site is a bit more open, agencies and associations can establish groups that require approval to join. The good news is that groups are going to gain even more functionality in 2010 (think of all features – blogs, events, etc. – in each group), so this becomes an attractive way to belong to the broader community and still carve out a private space for protected collaborative activities.

    We’d strongly shy away from #4. See our A1 goal.

    So what do YOU think? That’s what really matters to us. Have your say!

    Thank you.

  • #87397

    Sam Allgood

    I vote for 3a. I would expect that allowing anonymous visitors to view the content would translate into more people joining and engaging.

  • #87395

    Thank you for your thoughts, Sam…our hope is that more people joining and engaging means problems get solved and great stuff gets replicated faster = immediate, real-time access to people and information that makes your job easier.

    Jean-Paul – Interesting notion that the more closed aspect of GovLoop makes it less likely for people to post original content here first…curious to get perspectives of regular bloggers on GovLoop to chime in there.

  • #87393

    Andrea Schneider

    I am really interested in how this gets handled. I feel our Social Networking Group is very original and I hadn’t thought about who could participate really. I do feel a sense of security in knowing that people responding are members so I can communicate with them and see who they are and what they do. It helps me individualize my comments if I want.

    However, I know membership does not reflect the actual number of visitors to the site, which is way more impressive. I’m not sure how to handle this myself.

  • #87391

    Adriel Hampton

    3a sounds good.

  • #87389

    Sam Allgood

    Another option not mentioned that could be helpful to non-members to build on their interest … allow non-members to enter their email address to ‘follow’ the conversation.

  • #87387

    Steve Ressler

    Fascinating comments. I lean towards 3a but looking to the community for guidance.

    My hypothesis is that there is more good with making the default more open. And this is the general trend with opengov. While risks of being open, there is also a risk of being closed. People in govt community are looking for guidance using search and other techniques and aren’t finding the useful ideas, cmunity, and collaboration on govloop

  • #87385

    Ari Herzog

    Your fourth option above is reminiscent of Facebook Pages: Anyone can read and share, but only fans (who need to be Facebook members first) can comment.

    Why should Govloop be different?

  • #87383

    Michael Stoddard

    I like 3a best. A user can read content and, once he/she signs up, comment. This exposes content but provides a layer of protection against spammers and trolls.

    I’d like to see an A2 goal: Make sure GovLoop is an accessible place for government employees to connect and collaborate. For me, accessibility is all about search. Let those great conversations and ideas be found by Google, Bing, etc. This would expose more people to the community and its content, and potentially convert them to members. And it would make it easier for those already part of the community to find relevant content.

  • #87381

    Justin Grimes

    My vote is for 3a. I agree with others in that I think this is an annoying problem that hinders a lot of participation. I would also very much like to see GovLoop content as indexable as possible.

  • #87379

    Are you comfortable with others being able to read the conversation, even if they don’t jump in and participate? That’s what would happen under #3. They would have to join GovLoop first, then join your group to contribute to the conversation.

  • #87377

    Hi Sam – we just started asking people at events to share their email addresses if they are not yet ready to sign up for GovLoop, but would like to see the kind of content. They get the GovLoop Weekly and can see the titles and links…but would have to join to actually see the content.

  • #87375

    Andrea Schneider

    Are non-members allowed to read the content? If we link to our groups can people see what’s written?

    I totally understand the issue about spammers and trollers. If non-members can see what is going on, read the blogs and discussions I think it would draw more people in to govloop. Thousands upon thousands of people visit my site, only a very small percentage actually become members. I think that is a bigger commitment for many people.

    This discussion is very interesting.

  • #87373

    Hi Andrea – Yep. I just made an update to the original post including as a perfect example of 3a.

    All content is viewable/readable…but if you want to contribute to the conversation, you have to join.

  • #87371

    Amy Bell

    I like 3a. I like to feel the merchandise so to speak, before I decide to try something out, and the way govloop is set up now, I can’t get a feel for it beforehand.

    Also, once I did decide to sign up, I actually closed out of the signup process because, despite being an employee of GovDelivery, I got to a point where it sounded like I had to actually work for government. I came back out of stubbornness and decided to try, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could join. Then I wondered why the slight subterfuge…

    Now that I’m signed up, I still can’t bring myself to fill out the “I work for the government because:” field. I wasn’t as clever as Andy in crafting something like “you all are awesome”, which does connote not actually working for government. Still, I feel I am riding a line here between my acceptability. Like there are degrees of acceptability. Does that make sense? I propose some new wording on things like that…

  • #87369

    Amy Bell


    You’re awesome for creating this discussion, which has been skirted in various recent blogs and discussions. I started writing a blog entitled: The Emporer Has No Clothes! about this very issue, but wasn’t sure what to write. This is exactly the discussion GovLoop needs right now… where do we place the GovLoop button? Govloop: Government to Government? Government to Citizen? Citizen to Government?

    I think a true “loop” would be a circle connecting any configuration of citizen and government, as long as the arrows are reciprocal, and at least one of those reciprocal arrows is between citizen and government.

  • #87367

    Amy Bell

    Where’s that fun Venn diagram tool when you need it? 🙂

  • #87365


    Most important – your Venn diagram tool:

    What makes GovLoop so unique is the fact that it’s truly multi-sector – government, non-profit, academia, private contractors and everyone in between. You work for government by improving government to citizen communication…that’s a critical link, and ultimately why any of us are trying to improve government here – to improve information and services for citizens. And how do they know about that information and those services? Well…GD plays an important role in forging that link!

    But you’re right – citizens aren’t here yet. But I have a hunch more will come and find out what their government is talking about on GovLoop should we open it up. And my hope is that they will be really, really impressed….smashing the age-old assumptions and misperceptions about public servants. Then, if they want to join the conversation about improving government, we’ve brought it all full circle, eh?

    And the button? Let’s start with G2G sites (I am already talking with a county who’s interested in placing it on their intranet), B2G (vendors that primarily focus on government), media and events planners (Federal News Radio is adding it to their website….why not the Washington Post and others that have a large government target audience?)…and non-profits/good government organizations (like AABPA, ICMA, Partnership for Public Service)…for starters!

  • #87363

    I’m a big fan of 3a as well… reminds me of the Twitter approach and would bring more hesitant people in the government into the conversation. I’m afraid some people aren’t benefiting from the content because they don’t want to sign up – especially those at more senior levels.

  • #87361

    Tim Constantine

    I vote for 3a as well, 3b at least. I think people need to see value before they register and restricting content (no matter how easy the registration process) leads a good many people to say, “Well, never mind then.”

  • #87359

    Amy Bell

    Sounds like a plan, Andy! So I take it GovLoop is not pursuing being placed on AddThis quite yet, as that would then be too accessible for G2G and (G2)B2G… makes sense.

  • #87357

    No, still doing AddThis…moving in that direction…just a million things going on! Targeting Friday COB for completion of that task.

  • #87355

    Steve Radick

    I think I like 3A the best as well – allow anyone to view (read-only), but to comment, they need to create an account and sign in. I like 3B too, just from a perspective of trying to maintain authenticity on the site. 3A is the best in an ideal environment, but would also allow people to create “fake” accounts just to be able to comment on a site in a somewhat anonymous way (fake email address, etc.). Whatever option you choose, I think it’s important that anyone can read and share true URLs without necessarily having to sign up.

  • #87353

    Amy Bell

    Oh, does AddThis support the kind of selectivity govloop wants? My understanding was that it was a broad tool… if companies use the AddThis button, it gives them a link to the entire AddThis realm of choices. I think I should take more than a cursory glance at how that works…

  • #87351

    Donita Prakash

    I think 3a too. Allows for the most interaction right away but still gives the community an ability to review and control. I think this approach is one of the best practices in commercial web content today and I think GovLoop should mirror this approach. 3a says to me “trust but verify”. 😉

  • #87349

    Kevin Lanahan

    3a. That would let me forward links to interesting articles to co-workers. If there is enough to interest them, they will sign up.

  • #87347

    Thanks for your feedback, Steve. People sometimes create fake accounts as you mention…definitely like a 0.5% kind of thing. We try to swoop in pretty quickly and suspend anybody who’s a fraud…and the community has been awesome in letting us know quickly if there’s someone we’ve missed.

  • #87345

    Caryn Wesner-Early

    3A seems ideal to me, too. My main problems with the current setup are not being indexed on Google, et al. – when I say something clever, I want people to know about it! And not being able to send links to friends. Several times I’ve wanted to send an entry from here to someone, but haven’t because of all the bother on their end of signing up to read it. Thanks for letting us give our opinion on this!

    Caryn Wesner-Early

  • #87343

    Adriel Hampton

    And it’s key that the problem there is not anonymous accounts, it’s spammers.

  • #87341

    Lorie Obal

    I think that’s an excellent idea. This seems to be the logical next step, since wider dissemination and collaboration are the ultimate goals of social networking sites.

  • #87339

    Alberto Cottica

    3a. Quote Kevin and others. 🙂

  • #87337

    Noel Dickover

    Regarding the account approval, the question I would ask is who do you turn down and why? If you don’t have strict enforcement standards, there probably isn’t much of a point in doing this. It might result in a faux feeling “safeness” but isn’t really stopping those from viewing content that we’d rather not view it.

    Again, unless there is some rationale and process for strict enforcement, I would pick 3.a. This should allow the content to be more easily crawled; it would make it clear to all that this is an open site, and would allow far more participation from those interested.

    The gamble you in effect are making is that you can control the spambots easily enough, and that those interested in participating are really the only ones who will hang around.

  • #87335

    Steve Ressler

    All very good stuff…Andy’s leading the change and w are taking it in….

    Seems like 3a is the way to go but want to make sure we address some of Steve and Noel’s comments re: controlling spambots, etc.

    I really love this b/c it’s another example of power of collaboration. I’ve thought about this topic alone and read blog articles. But so much more meaningful and useful to just ask the community and get super rich ideas and comments with angles I’d never thought of.

  • #87333

    David Harrity

    I’m fine with 3A, although don’t be suprised if we’re reconsidering that at a later date to be more like 3b or 2.

    I still have somewhat an issue with 3A in that people outside of government may not understand or misinterpet statements made in a discussion forum that can be read by all.

    Also, I’m not a fan of repeating content elsewhere for repeat sakes. There are several members today who simply cut-and-paste a government-related article from,, GovExec, and so on…., and provide no additional comment (and frankly value) here. These groups, FCW, etc., already have comment areas for stories that anyone can post to. Let that happen there. But, if someone wants to post (aka, repeat) an article posted elsewhere, then at least have the common courtesy to explain why you posted it here at and “start the conversation”.

    Simply repeating an article here on is not “starting the conversation” in my opinion.

  • #87331

    Hi Noel – Right now, Steve and I share the responsibility of moderating GovLoop. In fact, after I finish this post, I have 11 new members to review and approve. In terms of the process, here’s our checklist:

    1. Are they government as shown by their .gov, .mil, .state, .us address? If yes, immediate approval.
    2. If they don’t have a government address, we review their profile responses. If they indicate that they are a government employee, then we grant approval.
    3. If they are not government, then we do a little research on them. We will conduct a quick Google search on their name and organization. If it supports government, then approved immediately. If it’s not directly tied to government, but a legitimate organization, then we approve and monitor that individual.
    4. If a person has a limited profile and we cannot find their name on Google to learn more, we will deny their request.
    5. If they fill out the profile more completely, but their company is not even tangentially related to supporting government (i.e. a towing company in Las Vegas or some kind of acai berry juice that makes you strong and virile), DENIED!
    6. If after this process, someone still slips through the cracks and we spot them (usually because one of our Community Leaders/Greeters or another member points out bogus or questionable activity), then we’ll suspend their account, which deletes all their content.

    Sometimes denied or suspended members send us an email to ask why we took that action, and we give them a fair response. If they prove that they have positive intentions, we’ll reinstate them.

    And we also engage in coaching activities, pointing people to our Engagement Guidelines and stating clearly how they could operate better within those parameters, often giving 2-3 tips or examples.

    So we have a solid review process…and are open to ideas from the community in order to ensure that members continue to feel safe and respected…especially if we make this change to a more open GovLoop.

  • #87329

    Quick update…that review I just conducted turned up this individual…that was quickly denied:

  • #87327

    Amy Bell

    Talk about transparency! I love it… nothing like a little reality to give a little perspective. I do want some kind of moderation to guard against stuff like this. You do a good job, Andy, and are the epitome of diplomacy always.

  • #87325

    If were to open up GovLoop a bit and allow people to view content without signing up, my hunch is that we’d get a lot more lurkers. More people would benefit from GovLoop as they’d find us more easily…but they may be less likely to become active members. So what’s the process/incentive for getting them to join?

    – Irresistible conversations that they can’t NOT join?
    – Content contests that encourage people to join and participate?
    – The ability to vote on content (not yet a function, but just thinking “pie in the sky”)?
    – Member incentives…like when you’re part of an alumni association and get special deals?

    What are your ideas?

  • #87323

    Amy Bell

    For myself, the order of attraction would be:

    Irresistible conversations (things I can’t keep quiet about, or questions I have)
    Voting ability
    Contests/member incentives

    I think the usefulness of the lurker should not be underestimated… think of a Neighborhood Association meeting, or other physical gathering of people. Just being there and sitting down is participating, really. And there isn’t time at those things for everyone to speak, really.

    We have a representational system of government. Once I’ve cast my vote, I really am a “lurker” of the democratic process, watching it all unfold. I can find opportunities to put in my two cents worth here and there, but mostly I passively absorb data to inform my next opportunity to be heard (my vote). If someone cared enough to read a conversation thread amongst people discussing Knowledge Management In Government, for example, I say: more power to them. Perhaps it will inspire them?

  • #87321

    Tom Formby

    Good question Andy,

    If we look at how people use SM, et al in this graphic,, then we have to consider who we want to have drawn into the conversation. If we want to turn spectators into conversationalists, then we may want to have some sort of tiered access. Maybe it could be up to the poster if they want their post to be public or not.

    Just a thought!

  • #87319

    John Able

    First, I’m a proponent of radical open government. How else can democracy work?

    Second, thanks for this discussion. What you are doing here is a model for all online communities — involving members in the conversation and the decision. That’s real collaboration. Thanks?

    I’m hopeful about what may come from the Open Government Directive. But I’m also skeptical . If EPA is any indication — “use social media but get permission and stick to the talking points” (a simplification, I know) — I am worried that our top-down command-and-control management systems in government agencies will squeeze the “social” out of “social media,” and openness will be all show and no substance.

    I doubt federal agencies would ever block from their networks, but I can imagine a scenario in which the daytime visitors to GovLoop will be Public Affairs Officers who are tidying up the personal expressions of their employees with official rebuttals, while the rank-and-file members who are government employees will be pressured to do GovLoop on their own time after hours (or not at all), while managers and supervisors ensure that whatever an employee writes here is in strict compliance with a policy similar to EPA’s.

    I don’t mean to go all 1984 on you, but I think these concerns are real and present, despite the recent Disneyesque explosion of flowers, dancing forest creatures, and symphonic flourishes that appeared on the movie screen in my mind when I read the Open Government Directive.

    So GovLoop may be caught in a perilous position: either become more open because it may get more users (4 above) — a valid concern for any business model; or become more controlled to appease federal “leaders” and managers (most of whom have probably never visited GovLoop or any other social networking site) who remain firmly entrenched in dusty agency cultures that severely limit an employee’s personal freedom of expression (1 above).

    All that said, my answer is. . . 3a.

    We need more non-government workers/contractors — aka citizens — on this site, and we need them to see the side of public servants displayed here that they would never get to see within the rigid social media policy structures of bureaucracies. To me, the highest purpose of this site is for citizens to see that a) public servants are not mindless ciphers merely mouthing the talking points sent down from HQ, but that they are human being who wrestle responsibly and thoughtfully with policy and compliance every day in the service of a greater good, and b) that conversation (and collaboration) between public servants and citizens is not only possible, but essential.

    But registering to use the sites full capability is not only prudent, it’s a standard practice on the Web — a small price to ask. Citizens understand they have rights and responsibilities, and they will not balk at registering before joining the conversation. Then, if a rare member violates legal, ethical, or common rules of decorum, the private owners of the site can courteously escort them off the premises. (Forget the courteous part for spammers.)

    You have a tough decision, but it also one that can always be modified in the course of site and membership evolution. The nature of a site like this is that it stays iterative.

    Thanks for GovLoop, and thanks for the opportunity to upload.

  • #87317

    Hi John – really appreciate your thoughtful response.

    We’re striving to work in tandem with agencies every step of the way to ensure that GovLoop remains a space that serves the needs of government…coming alongside public servants to get their questions answered and connect them to people doing similar things.

    So far, there are only a handful of members (to my knowledge) that have needed to sort out their involvement with internal agency stakeholders. In every case, they were able to proceed with clear caveats that they were expressing their own opinion and not that of their agency…again, very few cases…

  • #87315

    Sterling Whitehead

    If 3b were done, it would create more of a hassle for site administration (in addition to be really, really boring work).

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