Tag Archives: government 2.0

An Awesome Interview with the Founder of GovLoop, Steve Ressler

Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

As announced this morning, GovLoop, the premier social network for the government community, has joined forces with GovDelivery, the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communications solutions.  Steve Ressler, the founder of GovLoop, will be leaving his day job with the Department of Homeland Security, and will now focus 100% of his time on leading leading the further development and management of GovLoop, now an operating division within GovDelivery.

Within the Gov 2.0 community, this is a monster merger – one that brings together not only two of the most successful Gov 2.0 initiatives, but also two of our best leaders, Ressler and Scott Burns, CEO of GovDelivery.  When Steve told me about this news last night, I was thrilled for him because he now gets an opportunity to do what we all want to do – get paid to do what we love to do.  And while I think the entire GovLoop community will ultimately benefit from this partnership, I also wanted to talk with Steve about how the partnership came about, how this impacts both GovLoop and GovDelivery, how it effects the members of the GovLoop community, and what GovLoop will look like in the future.

Here’s the full Q&A –

Why make such a huge change to a site that is, by all accounts, already one of the most successful Gov 2.0 initiatives?   What will be the short-term and long-term impact to GovLoop’s 18,000+ users?

The short answer was that the community was unsustainable.  As the site grew (now actually at 18,500+ members), the community needed more gardening.  Like any yard or dinner party, it needs care and feeding and I just wasn’t able to do it working another full-time job.  I like your quote on working a 9-5 and a 5-9.  GovLoop has been my 5-9 plus weekends for 18 months now and I needed to find a way to turn my passion – connecting government to improve government – into a job.

Why did you choose to partner with GovDelivery?  What does this partnership give you that you couldn’t get by maintaining the site independently? GovDelivery

I’ve been looking for a home for GovLoop for awhile and my criteria was finding a place that 1) Got Gov 2.0, 2) Had Good Values, 3) Had the resources to grow and better the community.  I met Scott Burns, the CEO of GovDelivery, at Gov 2.0 Camp so that was a good start and right away I just got a good vibe.  He “got it” plus he’s from Minnesota so he’s got the same Midwestern values as I do.  And finally, the more he told me about GovDelivery, the more I got excited.

Basically, GovDelivery is the #1 Government to citizen collaboration platform – think email, text messages, those cool gov’t widgets, etc.  It is used by over 300 government agencies at fed/state/local level with a ton of the big names like CDC, EPA, etc.  The more important thing for GovLoop is that they’ve been finding that 15-30% of the over 10 million people signing up to receive government alerts are actual other government employees.  Think the guy from City of Cincinnati Public Health signing up for CDC H1N1 alerts.  And they had been wondering how to provide places for these government people to move from push communication to a real collaborative space to work together.  And that’s what GovLoop does….

GovLoop has always held a unique position in the world of government and government contractors – it was for everyone because it wasn’t “owned” by anyone.  Now that GovLoop is part of a commercial organization, is there any risk that it will fall out of favor with government employees because they don’t want to be seen as “endorsing” a commercial product?

GovLoop has always been about the community and will continue to be.  I think of GovLoop as a platform – a place for government employees and contractors to connect on any topic – whether it is acquisitions, cycling, technology, or HR.  The community makes it and I’m passionate about working with the community to act on their ideas to do more good to improve government.  Government people always need homes to collaborate and there are a ton where great dialogue occur already from associations to events to government-specific magazines.  I think GovLoop will be another complimentary home (specifically a knowledge network) for people to collaborate.

And finally…if you know me, I’m passionate about public service (3rd generation fed) and care first about government.  If I do anything that starts not being awesome, let me know…

Can you describe how your role will change now that you can dedicate 100% of your focus to GovLoop?
First off, I probably should start cooking more as I owe my girlfriend countless meals for putting up with me.  Second, I get to put all my energy behind GovLoop.  So I hope to be a better customer service rep for GovLoop on your question (Craig Newmark-style), I hope to be even more active online both at GovLoop and other spaces, I hope to continue to speak and connect with the community at various events and associations.

But the biggest difference you will probably see is that I’ll be building a team to work on making GovLoop even more awesome.  Better community moderation, taking discussions into actionable events, building more best practice repositories, launching new features, and just general more awesomeness.

Do you think there is any risk that you will become too out-of-touch from the day-to-day work of government now that you’re not a government employee?

I got that gov blood in my veins so I think I should be good.  All my friends and families are govies plus all I do is hang out at government events/meetups so I don’t think I’ll lose touch.  But if I ever do, you can smack me around and tell me whats up…

At a high level, what does GovLoop look like in five years?
I think the opportunity for GovLoop is to move further to become a knowledge network connecting hundreds of thousands of government employees at all levels (Fed, state, local, international).  I want it to be the home to help you do your government job better – solve more government problems and solve them faster.    Right now, GovLoop solves 5-10 real government problems a day (someone looking for help on a new hiring program and boom..they get an answer).  I’d love for that number to be 500-1,000 real government problems solved a day in five years.

I’ve studied formal and informal network and written a paper as a part of the Wikinomics series on Gov 2.0 and I think there is a great value for informal networks.  GovLoop is an informal network…it is not behind the firewall and is not the place to do top-secret intelligence work – that place is Intellipedia. But I do think GovLoop can full a void in what I call soft collaboration where people working on a topic whether it is section 508, learning to implement SharePoint, or figuring out how to move to a government executive – can connect, collaborate, and share ideas.  Let’s not reinvent the wheel – gov’t folks are not competitors and we should learn from each other.

You mentioned doing more charity work, especially with the GovLoop Kiva group.  What charities are you particularly passionate about, and how do you plan to help them?

I’m particularly interested in businesses like Tom’s Shoes and Honest Tea that are social enterprises and have a focus on doing good and giving back.  GovLoop will be like that and I have a ton of charity ideas. But at the heart I want them to be government focused – I’d love to give scholarships to GovLoop members who can’t afford to go back to school for a degree.  I’d love to give training scholarships so those govies who want to advance their career can get the training they need.  Or the GovLoop members in need – maybe they got laid off from their city government and are having a hard time getting their bills paid.  I’d love to help out with that.

Last question – if someone is interested in doing more to help GovLoop succeed, what’s the best way for them to do that?
First thing, join GovLoop if you haven’t already.  Takes two seconds.  And it’s free…gratis…

Second, join the conversation.  You only get what you put into it.  So I suggest you join some GovLoop groups, comment on blogs, ask questions, and find your passion.

Third, tell your friends.  It’s not invite-only.  You don’t only have a +1.  Bring the whole crew and let’s jam….

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Here’s Your Chance to Shine: Government 2.0 Expo and Showcase

Have you done something to help usher in the era of Government 2.0 and want to show it off?  Have you changed the culture of your organization from one that hoards information to one that openly shares and collaborates with each other?  Are you tired of toiling in obscurity while you see the same stories about Intellipedia, the TSA blog, and GovLoop getting all the glamour and accolades (note: I think these are fantastic projects and don’t mean to diminish their value – just that they’re typically the most popular examples)?  Maybe you are bringing openness and transparency to the government at the state or local level, but think that no one cares because it’s on such a small scale?

Well, if you answered yes to any of the questions above, here’s your chance to shine and maybe even win a coveted “Govie” Award.  O’Reilly Media, Inc. and TechWeb, co-producers of the annual Web 2.0 Summit and Web 2.0 Expo events, are holding the Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase, a one day event featuring government projects that leverage the Web as a platform.  The event will highlight the projects exhibiting transparency, participation and collaboration in government.  The Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase will take place September 8, 2009 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

So, how do I participate?

Submit a proposal in one of the six categories, Government as Process, Provider, Partner, Protector, Peacemaker, or as Product.  The Program Committee (full disclosure: I’m a member of the Program Committee), will review all submissions and choose four projects in each category who will give a five minute “lightning” talk about their project, followed by a panel discussion.  Of these four presentations, one will be chosen to receive a “Govie” award and will be asked to come back and speak at the invite-only Gov 2.0 Summit taking place the next day.

How do I know if my project is good enough to be selected?

You don’t.  But, the good news is that neither does the Program Committee unless they can read your proposal.  The Committee is looking for the architects, managers, leaders and catalysts of real-life Government 2.0 projects to submit proposals for this unique event.  They should represent new thinking, demonstrate the value of web 2.0 and gov 2.0 principles, and have made an impact on government and the citizens and communities it serves.  We don’t know the full range of the projects that fit into the Government 2.0 revolution, which is why we’re hoping you’ll show us what you’ve got.  These examples can be found at the state, local, federal, international, departmental, and agency levels.  We’re looking forward to being surprised, both at the scope and nature of the proposals we receive.

That’s great marketing-speak, but bottom line, what’s in it for me?

Aside from fame and fortune, you mean?  Well, how about:

  1. The chance to win a prestigious “Govie” – given only to the best example of Government 2.0 in each of the six categories.
  2. An opportunity to highlight your work, your organization, and your ideas in front of your Government 2.0 peers and other activists.
  3. Should you win a “Govie,” you’ll also be given the stage at the Gov 2.0 Summit where you can speak to some of the most influential names in social media and Government 2.0, including Tim O’Reilly, Vivek Kundra, Aneesh Chopra, and Bev Godwin.
  4. You’ll get to network and rub elbows with these same people as we will undoubtedly sample of the District’s finest drinking establishments.
  5. Validation of your hard work and long hours to realize the vision of Government 2.o.
  6. Help shape the focus of the Gov 2.0 Expo coming up in May 2010.

Good luck to all who submit proposals – I can’t wait to hear about all of the success stories out there that haven’t gotten all of the publicity, exposure, and awards.

More Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase Information

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What’s Your Government 2.0 Personality Type?

Over the last few years between starting the social media practice at Booz Allen and getting involved with the broader Government 2.0 community, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a ton of different people, all with different motivations, frustrations, and aspirations.  While sitting through seemingly endless hours on my flight back from Hawaii, I got to thinking about these different Government 2.0 personalities, and attempted to categorize them here below.

Edgerider – You are always looking for the latest and the greatest Internet meme, idea, and initiative.  You’re an early-adopter of all things technology and were at the forefront of the email, Internet, and personal computer waves.  You own an iPhone and either already have, or are eagerly anticipating buying a new Netbook.  You’re a big Government 2.0 champion now, but will move on to some other shiny new thing when the Government 2.0 meme inevitably bores you.

Innovator – You’re a tinkerer who can’t stand seeing an opportunity go to waste.  You’re a workaholic not because you love your job, but because you see a small chance to make a difference and you always take that chance – the problem is that you have trouble letting opportunities pass by.  You tend to suffer from both FOMO and HOLI.  You may not have been the first one in your office who recognized the potential of Government 2.0, but you were the first one to actually do something about it.

Rockstar – You are the loudest voice in the room.  You’re the one who happily volunteers to give the Government 2.0 briefing.  You’re the first one to raise your hand and challenge the person who’s speaking at a conference.  You’re loud and you’re confident, but more importantly, you’re incredibly knowledgeable.  However, you are also a little ADD – you tend to get involved with a LOT of different initiatives without diving too deep into any particular one.

Risk-taker – You thrive on pushing the envelope and rocking the boat.  The status quo is boring to you, and as such, you’re always looking for opportunities to make things better.  You’ve most likely been in your current position for more than a year and have built up a certain amount of trust among your colleagues.  You think getting reprimanded for something at work is just part of the job and not necessarily a bad thing.  Your Government 2.0 involvement is predicated on you “being the change” whether you should be or not.  You’re still learning that change isn’t always the right answer.

Salesman – Rather than jumping right into the Government 2.0 movement, you bided your time and did a lot of reading and thinking.  You are deliberate and entrepreneurial and have developed a piece of software, a platform, or a website that is meant to help the government, but is ultimately meant to make you or your organization money.  You would do well to shift more of your energy away from selling your product and instead focus more on providing value to the community.

Realist – You’ve been there, done that.  You’re more than likely older than most of the other Government 2.0 people out there.  You understand the challenges that the government is facing, and you recognize that Government 2.0 isn’t going to happen overnight.  While this realism is needed, it also gets you labeled as too conservative and pessimistic.  You don’t get too excited, nor do you get too down – you’re the steady hand that is more than likely managing a Risk-taker or an Innovator.

Laborer – You are the “do-er.”  You’re the foot soldier who’s drafting the social media policies, who’s gardening the internal wiki, and who’s developing the briefings, talking points, and speeches for the Rockstars.  You aren’t interested in being a member of the Goverati and would rather blend into the background.  You are probably well-respected for the Government 2.0 work that you do, but not many people know about it.  While arguably the most important group of people behind Government 2.0, you receive little to no fanfare.

Skeptic – “Why the hell are you spending so much time on Twitter and Facebook when you could be doing real work?”  You don’t see the real business value to social media, and would prefer that your staff stick to the mission-related activities.  You’re conservative and would rather just do your job and go home.  You don’t like change, and you’re probably the one who’s pushing to see metrics and ROI of social media.  You’re not necessarily opposed to social media, but you just don’t see the value yet.  Because of this, you’ve become an adversary to the Risk-takers, Innovators, and Rockstars, but you could offer real value in a Devil’s Advocate-type of role.

Thinker – You’re not on Twitter, nor do you maintain a blog.  However, you ask a ton of questions and do a lot of reading about social media and Government 2.0.  You look up to the Rockstars and the Innovators, but your conservative and private nature keep you from putting yourself “out there.”  You see the value of Government 2.0, but prefer to deal in the theoretical, rather than actually doing it.  You have a job totally unrelated to social media, but want to be involved, as long as it’s on the periphery.

Techie – You’re an IT developer, web programmer, enterprise architect – some sort of IT guy/girl.  You’re an avid World of Warcraft player, and have been using forums and online bulletin boards for more than a decade.  You know the difference between UNIX and Linux, and easily get frustrated when people ask for your help with their computer.  You’re responsible for actually creating the software, platforms, and websites that the Rockstars use, that the Innovators dream up, that the Salesman plugs, and that the Skeptic told you was a waste of time.  You wish you had more say in the strategic development of Government 2.0, but aren’t sure how to get involved at that level.

Opportunist – You got involved with Government 2.0 because you saw an opportunity to make money, enhance your career, or build your business.  That’s your first and primary goal – if you do something good for the government too, that’s great, but if you do something good for you, that’s even better.  Your motivation is on using Government 2.0, not in being a part of Government 2.0.  You are probably one of the most active and vocal people in your organization and in the Government 2.0 community, but because of your motivations, you also present some of the biggest risks.  You and the Skeptic do NOT get along.

Bystander – You have no interest in Government 2.0 or social media.  You’re happy coming to work, doing your job, and going home.  You value your work/life balance, and aren’t interested in anything that infringes on that.  You’re not opposed to Government 2.0 – you might even see the value in it at a holistic level – you’re just not interested in getting involved.

The following personality types were suggested by some of the Rockstars, Innovators, Edgeriders, etc. found in the Comments section.

Networker – You believe in information sharing and connecting people to one another.  You are the government version of Gladwell’s Connector.   Networkers have extended contact lists and actively share information — often through listservs, email, and presentations, oftentimes not even realizing that you’re living Government 2.0.  While probably less tech-savvy than the others on this list, you see the potential of Gov 2.0 and dream of the time when everyone will be a Networker without even trying.

Ambassador – You’re a Rockstar at the core, but you realize that one of the tenets of Government 2.0 requires flexibility.  Ambassadors do whatever it takes to advance the cause, whether that means talking code with a Techie debating the merits of social media with a skeptic or trying to get your Edgerider friend to slow down long enough to give the Laborer time to put something in place.  Depending on who you’re talking to, you can fill all, or none, of these roles.

What’s your Government 2.0 personality?  Would you categorize yourself as one of the above or would you create another category?

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Swine Flu 2.0 : A Case For How Managing Social Media is a Matter of National Security

The following is a guest post by Michael Dumlao, a member of my team who specializes in creative design,  web development and social media.  He’s also our Crisis 2.0 go-to guy and has spoken at several conferences on the convergence of social media and crisis communications.  Follow him at @michaeldumlao on Twitter.

Jack Holt, Director of New Media at the Department of Defense who oversees DODLive, the DOD’s social media program, recently said with great conviction, that if government is not in the social media space, then government abdicates control to other people who can adopt – with potential malicious intent – a convincing digital masquerade of that agency. Hence his warning that engaging social media is a matter of national security. Specifically, the government needs to lead discussions in social media because it is the government’s job to be there and in doing so, protect the public from misinformation.

This scenario was recently played out with social media’s contentious role in the H1N1 flu outbreak. That social media was criticized for its lack of editorial oversight is not necessarily new. The difference now is the proliferation of social media amongst the public is far greater that when initial concerns about the credibility of social media first came out. Furthermore, with Twitter’s portability on mobile phones, the misinformation that any participatory media can and will create becomes more omnipresent. How then do folks filter through the rumors and (at times, dangerously) erroneous claims without ignoring valid and vital information that could save lives? To this I offer the following thoughts:

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