No More “Social” Media: It’s Knowledge Media

NOTE: Originally published on July 24, 2009, I am re-posting since there is new energy surrounding this subject. What are your thoughts?


In light of the conversations and content of the Open Government and Innovations conference as well as my ongoing attempts to serve as a social media evangelist in agencies, I had an epiphany this evening. As I was preparing a presentation for an agency and thinking about ways to convince senior leaders that they should adopt the tools in order to better achieve their mission, I realized that the language we’re using is problematic.

It’s time to stop using the term social media in government. The new term I offer for your consideration is “knowledge media.”

GovLoop is Exhibit A. While personnel from government agencies and organizations associated with the public sector come to GovLoop to expand their connections and engage in social engagement, the majority of the content – from blogs to groups to forums – is tied to a pursuit for knowledge and information. In many ways, GovLoop is less a social network and more a knowledge network – a place where people come when they have questions on the job.

Members recognize that GovLoop provides a targeted community of people with a common desire to improve the work of government. It’s one of the best places to find real-time answers that arise during the work day. And it’s the place where people convene between conferences and other events to connect and collect new ideas in order to innovate and inform, streamline and strive for improvement.

With this post, I am determined to STOP using the term social media or social networking to describe the tools and activities of government related to collaborative technology. Instead, I am going to use “knowledge media” and “knowledge network.”

It’s time to change the language that we’re using in order to encourage broader adoption across agencies and organizations. Will you join me in this effort to re-define government’s use of collaborative technology to be more transparent, open and participatory?

Or am I just being anti-social? :-)


UPDATE as of 11/21: There have been other people writing about this subject since I first posted my thoughts above. I would like to draw your attention to their excellent remarks and enhance this conversation:

1. Chris Dorobek has two posts:

9/28/09 The Era of Social Media is Over – Long Live Collaboration Tools

11/19/09 Gov 2.0 moves beyond ’social media’ — and why it’s more than semantics

2. Mark Drapeau has responded to Chris:

10/14/09 Collaboration is the End, Social Networking is the Means

3. Chris Jones has been blogging independent of our conversation about the same topic:

11/18/09 The Problem with “Social” in Social Media

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Profile Photo Philipp Mueller

I completely agree that it is time to carefully evaluate the vocabularies we are using (http://www.philippmueller.de/the-idc-framework-ideation-deliberation-and-collaboration/). And I think moving from web 2.0 and government 2.0 to social media was smart and increased legitimacy of the discourse. Your term knowledge media should be even more palatable to old school policy makers. However, I would strongly disagree with the term. It does not work out that what is new (horizontal collaboration, granularity, and modularity of the contributions) and puts too much weight on the product (knowledge) not the process (collaboration). So let us stick to social media for now, but continue the discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the emerging vocabulary of open governance.

Profile Photo chris

It doesn’t matter what term you use for the methods or technology, the main thing to focus on is that it is a means of Collaboration, and that is what is needed, a means of the grassroots sharing knowledge with decision makers.

Profile Photo Henry Brown

An rose is still a rose by whatever name….if Knowledge media gets another door open, or maybe the correct term would be another convert, why not. I have found that using the term Web 2.0 AT THIS TIME, at least gets the audience to at least listen to me

Profile Photo Joe Sanchez

Per an earlier tweet, “what’s old is new again.” While I agree that the term “social media” could be better defined, I don’t think that “knowledge media” is the best term to replace it.

“Knowledge management” was all the buzz back in the mid- and late 90s, like social media is today. Knowledge management was a bad term for alot of good things that were being done. It was a bad term because, for starters, you can’t manage knowledge. Additionally, knowledge is a “thing;” it’s an outcome. There was too much attention focused on the outcome and not enough on the process, to which collaboration is critical, needed to get to this outcome. For these reasons and a whole lot more, KM failed to stick.

Given how society defines and tend to view anything with the word “social” in it, it should not be surprising that many people remain skeptical of the vaule of social media to business although as we heard at the OGI Conference, alot of government organizations are leveraging social media as part of their collaborative processes to achieve business-focused outcomes.

If you look a the two posts prior to mine, the one theme that is common is to both is the collaboration that social media enhances. Collaboration sounds easy but in reality it can be hard as we heard at the conference.

This is where the real value of social media lies; it’s in establishing processes that support the achievement of outcomes. A case can be made that a better term for business-/government-focused collaborative networks established via social media technologies is collaborative media.

Profile Photo Scott Horvath

We should probably just not call it anything other than “business.”

Yes, it’s “social media”: networking, disucssions, etc.
Yes, it’s “knowledge media”: sharing ideas, learning from each other.

At the end of the day though, for a fast growing majority, it all boils down to “doing business.” These tools…the ones that help us network, share ideas, be more transparent, innovate…this is how business is being done. This is how it should be done. This is how it will be done.

The hard part is convincing others that don’t see them as such. Instead of focusing of the label why not just present it as “This is how business is done. If you want to expand your knowledge; if you want to grow your organization; if you want to remain a leader…this is how business is done. Do it.”

Profile Photo Mark Oehlert


Gonna have to disagree fairly strongly here. Keep in mind, I also fight against not using the word “game” when that’s what we’re really talking about. I think that “Social” is THE key descriptor in what differentiates this era from prior ones. Yes GovLoop is about knowledge but what makes it important is the SOCIAL context.

This isn’t just some web site with text and images…this is a social network which adds value to the knowledge here. Knowledge sharing is better than knowledge management (that always had a bit of a Soviet ring to me) but ‘knowledge media”? Does that mean there is ‘un-knowledge media’? I know that there is knowledge out there without a social context but I don’t know of any media that isn’t a carrier for knowledge.

When I talk about what came before Web 2.0 or SoMe, I always make the point that what was going on there was the connection of data to other data – web pages linking to other web pages. The moment that we are now in is clearly about connecting people to people – that’s social. I work in the learning and training field and we are just ow coming out of a long darkness where we lost sight of the fact that ALL learning takes place within a SOCIAL context….not a knowledge context. This has been incredibly valuable and provides me a pivot point on which I can turn and drill into the benefits of placing or learning and training objectives within a social context.

True, this social network, like many others, can be considered an object-centric social network – it is largekly focused on knowledge about the federal government, flickr is focused on images as an object, LinkedIn is focused on jobs (largely) – so there are objects/knowledge at the core but the context, that which makes this more than a database of government data, or flickr more than just a bunch of photos or linkedin more than a collection of databases is the SOCIAL aspect.

Having worked in game-based learning I know better than most the sting of trying to get corporate/agency higher-ups to understand a vocabulary that includes such heretical words as ‘game’ and ‘fun’ and ‘play’ but the reason I keep fighting for those words is because they carry important meaning. Over 10 years ago, we adopted the phrase “e-learning” because it was an easy way to get people to understand that we were talking about using technology as a force multiplier for learning and training. The problem is its a bad phrase, a bad word. There is no “e-learning” – learning is constructed between someone’s ears – there can be e-training or e-education but those just didn’t come off as well. So now we have this inaccurate descriptor and we’re stuck with it. Please don’t do the same with Social Media.

I am seeing the tide turn every time I talk about this topic – people get that these tools and this movement is about providing knowledge to people within a powerful SOCIAL context.

Andy – I love your stuff – I think you are one of the brightest stars we have here but PLEASE reconsider on this point – let’s go for an easy kill that could in the long run, saddle us with an inaccurate and misunderstood vocabulary.

Profile Photo craig lefebvre

I believe that the ‘social’ describes a philosophy or approach as much as tools or processes. An approach that recognizes and works with the social nature of communication rather than using the medical metaphor of inoculation (‘how do we stick a message into an audience?’). To use ‘knowledge’ to describe what happens in one social network, and then apply it to all others, does a disservice to those other types of communities where exploration, play, hanging out, socializing, sharing are what they REALLY are all about.
Government agents need to hear, repeatedly, that they need to live in people’s reality and not try and bend it to their reality. ‘Networked’ media or ‘opinion’ media may better describe what happens in many social media contexts. Fundamentally social media is about the people formerly known as the audience. However you think they will grasp the meaning of that shift, go for it. But knowledge is not the answer; it is more about control.

Profile Photo John Sporing

I think one of the toughest parts of implementing “social media” in government (and, in part, private industry) is the name. I think a lot of managers see social media tools as a way for “kids to download mp3s or post pictures from last night’s party.” The term social has a negative connotation to it in business–“We are here to work not to socialize.”

But I am not sure knowledge media is correct either. While a lot of knowledge is shared on this site and the others listed in the posts above, I do not see knowledge as the primary goal of this site. I use many of the SoMe tools for networking, some use for knowledge, and yes some use them for socializing. I think in the end, most people are using SoMe for collaborative efforts (as mentioned above). So if we want a new term, I would argue for Collaborative Media.

However, I am not sure there is a need to change the name at this point. A lot of us (including many members on this site) have spent a of time and energy fighting to get these tools implemented in government. I think the tide is turning and senior leaders are seeing the value of social media. To bring out a new term now will erase a lot of the work we have done to date (“What is this new knowledge media? How does it differ from social media or Web 2.0?”).

Profile Photo Meagen Ryan

“Social media” as a term is both imprecise and important. Imprecise because it covers a wide swath of trends and platforms without really illuminating their use or value much. Important because, whatever your understanding of its meaning, it means change from “business as usual.”

Like most of the commenters, I’d encourage you to keep using social media as a term, but maybe only at the beginning of presentations. I think those of us who evangelize about this stuff need to get down to real benefits and real usage pretty quickly if we’re going to successfully persuade skeptics.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Wow – every single comment above is thoughtful and valuable. Thank you. I just got done with the presentation at Labor and they are moving forward with the implentation of an internal blog designed to gain employee feedback on various issues.

I’m on my phone, so not able to provide a lengthy response at this time, but I I want to make a distinction between knowledge and information. To me, we did information well in the Web 1.0 iteration of government. Knowledge, in my mind, adds a human dimension. It is P2P – people to people. Therefore, knowledge exchange is an inherently social activity.

The other key element is that there is, as was stated above, a business need. In fact, if you check out my tweet stream (from the wee hours last night), I first used the term “business” media a la Scott’s remarks.

Okay, so I won’t stop using social media but I will start using knowledge media as a consistent variation to reinforce the fact that collaborative technology is an enabler to accomplish our important work on behalf of the constituents we serve. It’s social, AND it’s serious. It’s cool AND it’s crucial.

Thanks again for helping to crystallize the approach to evangelization.

Profile Photo Dennis McDonald

I gave up long ago trying to stop using “web 2.0” so I just gave in. I agree with the importance of words, though, and I’d caution about “knowledge media” since there may still be some folks who will think back to older concepts of “knowledge management” which are no longer in vogue. I think a better term might be “collaboration media” or “collaboration technologies” but I’ve also realized that there are a lot of people out there who are threatened with the idea of being able to easily collaborate across traditional hierarchies. Sigh.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Liking “collaborative” media…seems to sum up all of the comments so far. It’s unfortunate that KM has a bad name.

It’s all really about framing the discussion with key stakeholders to garner adoption.

Profile Photo Mark D. Drapeau

I want to call it Network Interaction Media. Who’s with me?

Seriously, as someone who once tried to have a contest to get rid of the term “Government 2.0” there’s nothing anyone can do about terms that stick. Social media is a term that sticks. I don’t know if Knowledge Media will, even if it makes more intellectual sense.

Profile Photo Dennis McDonald

Just saw your comment about focusing on an internal blog. I definitely think that, If your focus on internal networking is the case, then “collaboration” might be a more useful concept. People have a greater difficulty with “collaborating” with people outside their organization than with people within it. They still have old fashioned boundaries to deal with but the gulfs are narrower than with “outsiders” like customers or citizens.

Profile Photo Andrea Schneider

This is a really healthy and welcome discussion. Working with social networks has become, an essential tool among many, in my toolbox. I wouldn’t ever be good at it, if I hadn’t spent most of my career trying to understand collaboration and community building from all points of view.

I received a $3M HHS grant to study and create collaborative methodologies, which tied planning to results, built strong community relationships and got tangible things done. People understand and want to see real outcomes for their effort. If they can see the benefit to themselves or job, in whatever way, we are way ahead.

I can see multiple ways to use social media depending on the project. We have to know what we are doing with a project, to add social networking in a meaningful way to the package. We have to understand it ourselves before we should sell it to anyone else. Fluency matters along with concrete examples of the benefits.

I tackle social networking as a compelling tool, which takes away “some of the pain” of feeling disconnected in a very fast moving world. If you infuse your network or project with collaborative qualities and values, it falls in more easily. I could go on and on about collaboration…in communities, organizations, etc. Collaboration can also create community fatigue.

Right now, I’m pushing very hard on Social Networking and Grants Management. As I’ve worked out my model, I know exactly what it will add to the challenge of effective grant making. I know it will save money, cut way down on geographic boundaries, help us discover best practices and evaluate grant work much more easily.

Having been a grant maker, a grantee, an evaluator and now a social network founder, for over a year, I have gotten a much clearer picture of the convergence between my career and social networking processes. It is much harder to run a network than I originally thought! As hard as it’s been, I can explain, in plain English, exactly what will happen, how it would work and why it has value. I wouldn’t trade that learning curve for anything.

Social Media and Social Networking can become meaningless buzz words, but if we wrap it into our serious knowledge and skills, we can make a very strong case. Our timing now couldn’t be better. It’s a time for creativity, risk, and new ideas. But not just for the sake of it. Social networking is just like building a community on the ground. It’s also different.

I had a huge whack on my head last winter, when I realized the convergence between my background, and now my experience, in actually running a successful network on a daily basis with real people. It takes a lot more management than I ever thought it would. Also a lot of conscious strategic effort to keep it interesting and compelling.

Anyway, thanks Andrew for starting this conversation off. I think using the terms is helpful if we use them correctly.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Mark – As I wrote this post, I had your “Gov 2.0” contest in mind.

I recognize that this language may not stick, but you’ve also accurately stated that we stand at a key inflection point (again, on phone here and do not have a ready link to your posts).

Agencies are starting to adopt not necessarily because it ties to mission, but because they are feeling something akin to peer pressure. The common social media icons are appearing on agency home pages (which I applaud), yet we want to continue to frame the conversation as serious and legitimate culture changes rather than a passing fad or trend. The words we’re contemplating here contribute to the process of ensuring that this move to transparency and openness – the Gov 2.0 mindset enabled by the web-based tools – is truly “sticky, scalable and “sustainable.”

Profile Photo Amanda Blount

Andrew, I agree that the term social media or social network has given way to the concept that we social folks sit around all day and gossip. When I speak openly about using social networking and social media for just about everything, I get this “deer in the head light look” and then the questions begin. “Like myspace or chatting?” I do believe there is a great group of people who look at social media as something for the kids to do, or they see a bunch of people sitting around gaming at work. I personally like the way you are headed with the new terminology. Even if the new terminology does not work, I can see how new terminology can turn the heads of those who are against using technology to our advantage. I have always been a huge fan of using the most up to date technology to find more and more information. And I know that once the nay sayers of Web 2.0 products see how useful they can be, they will be won over. One very cool example: I was working with someone about 10 years ago, and they wanted to write a essay and use some very popular quotes. I was on the phone with them and invited this person over. We jumped on the internet, which this person thought was the devil itself, and I hit play on Martin Luther Kings speech. I could not get that person off my computer for days. She was so impressed with everything that she could find on the internet right away that she looked up historical facts, speeches, etc. And that was 1999! I can only imagine what she does now!

My point is, no matter what it is called, showing others the wonderful side of the internet, and later social media, will help win them over.

Profile Photo chris

Well said Amanda, seen the cool effect many times myself in my volunteer work in the village. We call it the ‘AHA’ moment, when somebody ‘gets IT’

Profile Photo Dawn Boyer

What I have seen in the defense industry is that many of the large “big boys” defense companies are scared to allow their employees access to ‘social networking’ sites, thus actually taking away vital and valuable tools for the employees to expand their knowledge base.

I was a Director of HR, as well as Senior Corporate Recruiting Manager and whenever I typed in the URL’s for: AOL, MySpace, FaceBook, etc., I was barred from reaching those sites because the heads of the food chain (corporate executives and MIS managers) were scared their employees were going to waste time playing on these social sites instead of doing real work. What the company was doing was preventing their employee (me) from being as productive as I could be using the available tools on the internet. I would have to use my home computer to access these websites without issues.

Unfortunately, the error messages coming back from the attempts to link to these sites indicate that the server was looking for meta-tags in the websites that labeled them as social networking sites. BUT, LinkedIn – I could reach just fine. I haven’t attempted to reach govloop from inside a defense contractors’ server farm, but they might be acceptable also – as long as there isn’t a metatag indicating it’s a social network site.

It’s too sad that these large corporations are using example of a few employees who waste time on these sites to keep their entire workforce from accessing these web 2.0 applications and data sources.

I accept all invites to connect on this govloop!

I also accept all invites to connect on LinkedIn!
http://www.linkedin.com/in/DawnBoyer ([email protected])

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Amanda – My goal here is to give you, Dawn and others some different language to use in those situations where you are experiencing resistance. When the senior leader scoffs at “social” networking, you can turn around and say, “Well that’s the technical, accepted term….but we should really think of it as ‘knowledge’ media or a ‘knowledge’ network. In fact, 90% of my activity on sites like GovLoop and Twitter is business-related knowledge acquisition and information gathering. The other 10% is social insofar as it’s building relationships…but that has an immense business value as well…arguably, the social element IS the greatest business reason to be engaging others on these networks. Why go to conferences and other events (which cost a lot of money) when we can have a significant presence at THE perpetual conference related to government? Better yet, let’s form and nurture the relationships online, then have a warm or hot contact when we arrive at the conferences or events…much more likely to lead to substantial dialogue in person after the virtual connection’s been made.”

Profile Photo Moira Deslandes

There are some great insights in these comments. The International Journal for Public Participation’s next edition will focus on these issues and the call for papers is out now – you can find the details on http://www.iap2.org We are really keen to capture the thinking about all this as it relates to open government, collaboration and partnerships.

Profile Photo Ted McLaughlan

Personal use of the electronic media channels and destinations that industry has accepted as “social media” (i.e. open source collaborative portals, tagging sites and tools, user-driven information mashing and categorization tools, etc.) is probably approached quite differently according to the relationship network you’re addressing as the first degree of separation (obviously your activity will spread far beyond that). For example, in this post, I’m addressing my “public service professional technology consulting” relationship network (a “community of interest”). It overlaps with my “company and company partners” network (a “community of practice”), my “work friends” network, and my “subject specific knowledge and discourse” networks. Lots of different networks, with different interests and agendas, different communication protocols and collaboration styles, different levels of “information-sharing” abstraction. But the constants are (1) using these freely-available, mostly accessible and community-managed online tools, and (2) socializing. (Some persons in forums like these are here solely to make friends, I’ll bet.) So, I’d posit that social media opens the doors to the places “knowledge media” is helpful, useful, available.

Profile Photo Jane Kennedy

I think Knowledge Media works well. I’d be interested in seeing the talking points you use as you present to senior leadership. If you’ve already done your presentation, what issues were raised? How difficult is the sell?

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Good point, Ted. We alter behavior for various “social” settings and the same is true across the virtual networking realm. For instance, I am more personal on Facebook as the audience is mostly friends and family, whereas I am operating on GovLoop, Twitter and LinkedIn as a professional. The key with using “knowledge” is to elevate the stature of GovLoop from being solely a social network to brand it also as a key place where serious exchanges happen…in the midst of building valuable personal and professional connections.

Profile Photo Maggie Davies

The term Social Media does lead you to believe it is an exchange of digits not ideas. But in the social scale of things along with the exchange of digits COMES the exchange of ideas – collaboration.

Profile Photo chris

exactly Maggie, that is the keyword, collaboration, all the other words are just descriptions of the tools

Profile Photo Caryn Wesner-Early

I wanted to suggest Collaborative Media, but John Sporing beat me to it! Although if we’re trying to convince old-liners, I’m not sure about the “media” part. Collaborative – what? Maybe we could merge Andrew’s and John’s ideas, and make it Collaborative Knowledge?

Thanks for posting the question – it’s an interesting discussion.

Caryn Wesner-Early

Profile Photo Amanda Blount

Andrew – Referring to your comment “Why go to conferences and other events (which cost a lot of money) when we can have a significant presence at THE perpetual conference related to government? Better yet, let’s form and nurture the relationships online, then have a warm or hot contact when we arrive at the conferences or events…much more likely to lead to substantial dialogue in person after the virtual connection’s been made.”
Oh my gosh! I cannot agree more. How many times have we gone to very important conferences, just to spend the first two days passing out business cards and not really ever getting to know the people who really are in your “group”. Yes, we want to get to know each other, but there is no way in the world you can know everyone in the world. I have always found this to be so rude. So, I use social networking before I go anywhere. Before I go to any class or conference, I try to find a few people who have my same interests, and my same goals. I contact them, and they contact me. We get to know each other before we go. Then, at the conference, we don’t have to spend the valuable time “feeling” everyone out. We can spend the time together really doing business. We also make dinner arraingments ahead of time. This eliminates the whole conversation of “where are we going for dinner?”. Who really knows the great resturants before you go somewhere? I know how! Network with someone near the area. Yes, doing business is important. But finding the out-of -your-comfort zone, good food is important also. :-) Social networking can be so much more than just wasting time at work. As professionals, we spend 40-80 a week doing our jobs. Any tool I can use to make that time more productive I am going to use it.

Andrew – This is a really great topic.

Profile Photo Adam Arthur

Andy, I’ve went back and read this blog post a few times and I have to say you’ve hit the nail on the head with this. I am forwarding this post to everyone I know. Thanks for sharing.

Profile Photo Chris Jones

Great post. Thanks Andy for sending me over here from my recent post on the same topic. I think we have to be careful not to rekindle the pitfalls of KM (Knowledge Management). Knowledge can be esoteric to many. Knowledge Media might draw parallel concerns. I think I agree most w/ Caryn, if ‘collaboration’ gets traction, I’d advocate Collaborative Solutions. Here’s my original post on that. I imagine the ‘media’ concept originated on the journalism side, since blogging etc. has transformed many things there. If so, no need to perpetuate the ‘media’ reference in Gov20.

‘Solutions’ has the benefit of focusing on the apps, not the tools.

Something shorter still? Was it DoD that started calling it New Media? That may be the simplest and easiest of all. Can I have two votes?

Profile Photo Christopher Dorobek

Andrew… This is a great — and I believe important — discussion. And as I have argued, I think this is more then just a question of semantics. The term “social media” lets organizations discount the importance — and power — of these tools. This is about sharing information. It is about collaboration. There certainly is a “social” aspect to it, but… it isn’t why an organization would use these tools.

Thanks for keeping keeping the discussion going.

Profile Photo Noel Dickover

Hmm, no, Chris & Andy, I don’t buy it. Knowledge media sounds catchy to me, but doesn’t resonate as having meaning. Knowledge network has meaning, but knowledge media??? Social software to me is a far better term if you are looking to capture what’s happening. The question is what do we think the term “social” means? Is this akin to “Coffee break”? This is a problem in the DoD – many hear the term and in essence say, “We don’t have time for any more play activities.” I think the term “social” in this context is more about an anthropological pattern of interaction and activity. Social doesn’t imply whether the activity is work related or not – it provides a process attribute about the activity.

And really, are you coming for the knowledge or to interact with an ongoing basis with people who can provide context to new and ongoing things? I would contend the “knowledge” on Govloop is only valuable if the community is vibrant. 5 years from now, we probably won’t care about the details of the Gov20 conversations here that are 5 years old – we WILL care about the Gov3.7 conversations happening “in the moment” though. :)(

Profile Photo Jeffrey Levy

I’m afraid I disagree. When I use the term “social media” with sr. EPA managers, they nod. They know what I’m talking about. I ask them to define it, and they get it: interaction, collaboration, online tools. They name those tools: blogs, wikis, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

I’m not ready to start over with a whole new term that no one knows.

And if those folks get it, and can use it and understand what it means, why do we need a new term? Isn’t the point of whatever term to communicate the set of things we intend? If it’s conveying that, then again, why start over from scratch?

Profile Photo Jeffrey Levy

After reading the earlier comments, I want to note something Scott Horvath said: it’s getting to be “just business.” I was amused today while discussing another potential use of our blogging platform for a discussion forum. We’ve done a few now, and they’re pretty much old hat. That is, what was revolutionary a year ago is now routine.

There’s so much that’s not yet routine, though, and the terms Web 2.0 and social media are what non-techie, non-webbie people are using. When I use them, these folks think “right – those new Web things Jeffrey’s going on about.” They’re not parsing the phrase, they’re immediately associating it with the right things. Since they’re the ones we need to convince, let’s not change the terms they’re used to hearing.

However, it’s even more vital to get into details without using techie terms. I use “collaboration” instead of “wiki,” “interaction and engagement” instead of “blog.” That is, I describe the desired mission-support functionality, then discuss which tools get us there, whether they’re social media or Web 1.0.

Profile Photo Chris Jones

Absolutely Jeffrey, its about explaining gaps in mission functionality, in the context of improved collaboration and engagement. The solution language has to reflect the need, using the most helpful context for the audience at hand. And yes, I always prefer to talk about applications and benefits over tools.

Even framing it as ‘collaborative approach’ .. keeping the technology out of it ..

You mention below that among your EPA stakeholders, the SM message has been received. But back in the summer at DoD perhaps SM was not the right phrasing, and “new media’ helped them refocus. I wasn’t there, just reading the tweets. Actually, come to think, I did respond to solicitation on Web2.0 policy (maybe I was there in a sense !?). *Time warp*. Noel, help me – can you speak to the past/current DoD position?

Anyway, Jeffrey, you’re listening to and responding to your customers at EPA. So were the folks at DoD. And it appears different semantic solutions emerged. That might be okay. What are decision makers in other agencies saying? Does #gov20 need “one size fits all” terminology?

Or can solution teams across agencies adapt and flex to ‘local conditions’ .. ?

Profile Photo Nahum Gershon

Andy, I do not understand what is meant by knowledge vs. information. Also, by dropping the term social, one might de-emphasize or even not include the collaborative and participatory aspect of this new media. When people meet, they always exchange information and feelings, etc., but the main motivation is to associate with one another. Social media to me is using this yearning of people to associate with one another to change the traditional organizational structure and to exchange information, etc.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Folks – Glad to see renewed discussion here. Having now read several other opinions on this subject, I’d like to reiterate my original intention in broaching this subject. It was all about making the business case – and I think we all agree on this single point: we need to use whatever language is appropriate for our target audience to explain that there is a serious use and need for web-based applications to accomplish the mission more efficiently and effectively. Just so you know how I use “knowledge media” in my presentations, here’s a sample slide:

Why? = Mission, Goals, Objectives, Measurable Outcomes tied to activity

Maybe we’ll use collaboration tools, social software, social media, knowledge media, web-based applications or a myriad of other words to describe what ultimately we’ve all come to realize – this stuff is improving government communication and others who have not yet adopted them ought to get on board. Right?

Profile Photo Jeffrey Levy

Chris: I agree that people should use whatever term resonates with their target audience.

But if DoD calls it “blue eggs” and EPA calls it “gravelly stumps” and DHS calls it “Flitter” then no one has any clue what the other agencies are up to.

So it’s a challenge. As Bev Godwin says, leading is hard. :)

BTW, social media isn’t accepted universally at EPA. What I meant to say was that people know what I mean. Convincing them still takes some energy, but at least when I say I want to come talk about “social media,” they know what it is.

Profile Photo Keith Moore

Hello Andrew, I for one would like to toss in both a vote to open up your conversation to a broader consideration. I whole heartedly agree in your epiphany of changing the term social media for Government to another term. Your requested term change is knowledge media. Not to in any way attempt to out do your epiphany, because I believe very much so in epiphanies. But I also agree that Government the most powerful institution known to our universe outside of the institution of faith, deserves its own distinctive and recognized brand if it is going to entertain adopting social media. Once this brand is established, then I believe the passage and dissemination of the new form of communication will more readily gain acceptance within all federal agencies.

Thus, I share with you that social media is not a term that best reflects governments business for and of the people. I also believe that the term “knowledge” media sets government in a exclusive and not equal category that may be separating the public from the public sector at a time when we need the public sector to engage, educate and empower the public. Henceforth, my vote is to continue this discussion by requesting that we consider for use within the government community from social media to “information media”..

Government at both its optimum and its minimum is chartered to provide the public with information. In this age of collaboration, participation and transparency, what the world needs now is information. Information we can believe in. Our government suffers from distrust. Evidenced by our heated health care debate and any other public issue today is poised for a debate and simply put; many feel that they have not been afforded information, the accurate information. So if Government is going to live up to any type of media challenge, at the very core, it should be information that government strives to offer to the public. I am afraid that the term knowledge may only heat up the debate and do less to bring about collaborations to ensure that the information we send out to the public is believable. The more we send out good information, the more knowledgeable the public will become to benefit from the information shared. I believe if we get this right, this will outpace social media, government will take its rightful place in leading our economy, stimulating new economies and providing requisite supports, funding, and information for our economy and communities to once again get back on their feet with credibility and less debate.

Profile Photo Chris Jones

Great debate. Sounds like it’s heating up.

I’ll offer a definition of knowledge as information in context. Raw data, blogs, random insights and tweets are useful and interesting, but unless we put them in context, we can’t easily know their relevance or their relationship to one another. Our ability to track them by topic is strained. To Jeffrey’s point, we can’t reconcile that various inputs are related.

With the increasing rate of content flooding our virtual desks, this becomes increasingly important.

So one aspect of productive use of this new media (if pushed, it’s still my vote) is to help us establish context. Tags & hashtags (metadata) are vital for this, which exposes a link to KM (knowledge management). So I definitely see the desire to incorporate ‘knowledge’ in the framing of the Gov2.0 mission.

We just need to keep in mind ‘knowledge’ and ‘information’ are esoteric to many. If we need to make terminology more accessible to a larger base, let’s use terms that create common ground, not perpetuate confusion.

In the end, I do agree w/ Gwynne – the real magic here is engagement and participation. Which I think this thread demonstrates. Let’s keep it going, and get to an answer that everyone can buy into.

Profile Photo Noel Dickover

Hi Chris,

Regarding DoD’s position on the terms, I do know this intimately, but am somewhat hamstrung in that I really can’t comment on much about it publicly. I will say that the big language distinctions we’ve been working through is the difference between “social networking services” versus “social networking sites”. Regarding the use of the word, “social”, there absolutely has been some misunderstanding on that term from people who don’t use anything of the sort. To the uninitiated, it really comes across in our world as “coffee break”, so there is an education process that must follow (Maxine Teller’s catch-22 discussion on this point is very relevant – those who haven’t used it find no reason to start, which makes it hard to explain what’s different). This in part is probably why we went with “Internet-based Capabilities” – a far more encompassing term that is relevant (hopefully) today, but more importantly, should cover the new emergent cool things of the future.

Unfortunately for Andy, I think the knowledge term would be far worse. We’ve already had our “run” on knowledge management in DoD, and by and large that term has been largely thrown out as a money wasting fad. We largely spent our time trying to teach people the language of KM when we should have just been adopting the principles but still focusing everyone’s attention on the actual problem using their actual business terms.

And I fully agree with Gwenne that regardless of what we call it, the basis of the difference really does involve the word “social”. Like Chris (Dorobek), I don’t really dig the “media” part as a term (I prefer social software), but the important thing is to find a term that resonates. If Social Media works in the EPA, they should go with it, especially if senior leadership accepts and understands that it. I doubt we’ll all end up using the same term though. Really, the term that seems to have resonated the most across the Federal Govt is “New Media”, which if you think about it, really just focuses on the idea that something different is happening.

Profile Photo Jeffrey Levy

Ah, language.

My problem with “new media” is that the White House New Media team uses it to mean “everything that isn’t print.” A video posted on whitehouse.gov with zero interaction is considered “new media.” So Web 1.0 is “new media.”

But, look. Use whatever terms resonate with whoever you’re talking to.

And when we talk to *each other,* I promise to interrupt anyone using a term I don’t recognize and I’ll count on you to interrupt me when I do it. And we’ll keep talking and helping each other. :)


Profile Photo Peter B Meyer

“Social media” emphasizes interaction and may have better traction with extroverts. But wikis and blogs can be useful also for activities like keeping track of one’s own notes and calendars for one’s own purposes, or conveniently logging experiences or data without knowing who if anyone will read them. They are ways to create and use web sites for one’s own purposes through various tools without interactions with others. Therefore I agree “social media” goes off track.

I’ve read a lot about “knowledge” versus “information”, and found it was useful to use the terms this way: “knowledge” is in someone’s mind (and so is context-aware and ready to support decisions). “information” is a signal between minds, or in a machine, and so may be interpretable or visible to many minds. And it may include context or not.

Therefore I pick “information media” over “knowledge media”. Both are more accurate than “social media” but unfortunately they are bland, and so seem ambiguous and fuzzy.

Profile Photo Anne Steppe

My comments are much simpler than what has already posted. In my particular agency, the term “social media” scares the upper echelon. The mental picture conjured up by “social media” is not a positive one, and instead of embracing the technology, it is shunned with only program-related exceptions. Having just proposed a new internal-use only (and that still it scared them) web site that acts as a mix between Twitter and Facebook, the only concern was for the receiving negative feedback or postings. An entire room of GS-14’s and 15’s and not one could see a benefit for forums, bookmarks, wikis, etc. targeted to help the employee. Had I steered the idea toward “knowledge media” or “information media”, though the idea would be the same, the words might have conjured up a different mental image and less anxiety on behalf of the directors. My next go-round will definitely incorporate the ideas of ‘knowledge media’ or ‘information media.’ It’s amazing what semantics can do.

Profile Photo Steve Richardson

Both are misleading. Social sounds too much like extracurricular activity and Knowledge overpromises. Networking seems a better descriptor because anyone who has done it appreciates that its appeal is the potential for discovery. In my opinion, those who take it too seriously or not seriously at all just don’t get it. Most of these people will not participate for long, if at all, while those who stick around find their niche.