Posts Tagged ‘egovernment’

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The 21st century fireside chat: was it effective?

March 26, 2009

people-for-open-government-cartoon

Thursday around lunchtime (which in retrospect sounds like kind of awful timing), President Obama hosted the nation’s first-ever online town hall. For days, the White House was literally open for questions. 92,925 people submitted 104,132 questions and cast 3,606,841 votes on whitehouse.gov. And they saw their most popular questions get answered: on education, universal healthcare, legalizing marijuana, outsourced jobs, and more.

The point, as Obama said at the beginning, was “to open up the White House to the American people.”

The fun thing about any political event in 2009, or 2008 for that matter, is watching all the chatter on Twitter as it happens. You have reporters being smartasses, people being really critical, and smartass reporters telling people to calm down, and other reporters responding to each other. It’s really entertaining.

But it’s interesting to me, because I wonder, how effective are all the new media things that Obama’s administration is trying? Do people like it? Do they think it sucks? or does no one really care cause we’re all cynical and think politicians suck anyways? I like watching the Twitter stream because you can try to get a gauge of what people are thinking about an event as it happens.

I thought I might try to write a “review” of the online town hall today but I realize now that that would be kind of pointless. I would just be one more of the millions of online wannabe political pundits who thinks they know everything about what Obama did right and wrong today. Well, I don’t. But what I want to know is whether people liked it, and whether it really addressed the people’s concerns and needs.

Sure, people are excited. When you do a Twitter search on “Obama” today half the results that come up are along the lines of “Watching Obama’s online town hall, he’s so cool!” I get that. Everyone’s excited about innovation. But I don’t think we should get excited about innovation just for innovation’s sake. He shouldn’t be doing it because it’s “cool.” That would be like CNN trying hologram interviews… Oh wait, they did that. And it made them the laughingstock of news networks.

My point is, what is the White House’s goal of trying all these things? It isn’t just to create a tech-savvy, “cool” personal brand for President Obama and his White House. It should have clear-cut aims. And then I want to know: did the online town hall achieve its aims? Do the people feel like they had a voice? Do they feel like their questions were answered satisfactorily? Do they feel more confident in where the economy and the country are going? Do they feel like the President is listening to them, or do we all still think he’s an out-of-touch politician?

Did you watch it? Did you like it? Do you think it was effective? Did you get bored out of your mind?

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eGov: Naperville gets it

December 9, 2008

I am so proud. Not so much of my state

But my hometown of Naperville, IL, has a Twitter account. And I think it’s a sign that local government is starting to get it.

Naperville isn’t known for being cutting-edge. They’re known more for being a happy, family-friendly, booming suburb with great schools and lots of awards racked up for being the “best place to raise your children” or whatever.

I am excited for two reasons:

One, I think it is long overdue that government — local, state, and federal– start using social media to better their communities. The tools are out there. They’ve just been slow to move, as government usually is. But many towns, cities, and states are starting to embrace social media as a new form of communication, and even the White House, House, and Senate have Twitter accounts.

Two, politicians have clearly embraced social media as a strategy to get elected, but it can’t end on election day. Creating engaged and informed communities lasts well beyond election day, and so using new media can’t just be a political strategy, but should be a part of government strategy. Joe Trippi gets it when he talks about the idea of “MyWhiteHouse.Gov” — an interactive way for government officials, rather than just political candidates, to interact with the constituents they serve, and for the population to get involved in government affairs. There is so much potential to use these tools to increase civic engagement. Obama gets it when he emailed his 3 million supporters on election night promising that “the work has just begun.” This guy definitely gets it too. Instead of using blogs, Twitter, and social media purely for the sake of getting people to pay attention to an election long enough to vote for you and then dropping it, government officials can continue to use it once in office, having already created a connection with their supporters — and now, hopefully, their constituents will choose to be more aware and more involved.

Last week Chris Brogan wrote about what twitter might look like once it’s no longer dominated by tech geeks and others start to use social media in large numbers. I think we’re reaching that point. Twitter has the ability to bend to the will of its users — so it will be interesting to see how local governments can use Twitter and other social media to enhance and engage their communities in the future.

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