Government 2.0 Taskforce » engagement http://gov2.net.au Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.6 en hourly 1 From draft to final report http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/from-draft-to-final-report/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/20/from-draft-to-final-report/#comments Sun, 20 Dec 2009 06:43:01 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1597 Well we put the finishing touches to the final report on Friday and it’s been working its way through the proofing and designing stage.

We will be ready to provide the finished report to Ministers Tanner and Ludwig on Tuesday, 22 December 2009.

We have tightened the structure as described below. This makes the argument flow better and reduces repetition. We’ve got quite a bit more content in using about the same number of pages. We propose three pillars – a trinity if you’re feeling at all theological at this time of year which are the foundations of getting to Government 2.0:

1. Leadership,

2. Engagement and

3. Open access to public sector information.

Here’s the final report structure:

Executive Summary

The co-existence of an executive summary and a prologue was always a bit odd and so there’s a new executive summary.  It includes some material from the prologue (other prologue material has mainly disappeared. It’s a short and snappy seven pages. I vacillate between thinking it needs to spell out our argument more and making it short and assertive. They like the latter more in public service land, so that’s how it is.

Recommendations

The old executive summary was the recommendations summarised reported against the terms of the terms of reference. The new structure allows us the more usual course which is to provide a complete list of recommendations after the executive summary.  There’s a concordance of terms of the terms of reference and recommendations in the appendices.

There are a few small changes of drafting to improve expression, strengthen meaning, or respond to points from comments and submissions on the draft report.

1 What is Government 2.0?

This chapter is a little more focussed than it was in the draft report.

2 How Does Australia Compare Internationally?

More comprehensive chapter than draft report version and includes the chapter in the draft report “The Australian policy context”.

3 The Foundations of Government 2.0

This is a new chapter which summarises those arguments about the challenges of introducing Government 2.0 which were scattered mainly in chapters 6 and 7 in the old draft – though there are a few that were also in the corresponding earlier chapters 3 and 4.

4 Promoting Online Engagement

Bringing together and condensing the factual material in chapters 3 and 7 in the draft.

5 Managing Public Sector Information (PSI) as a National Resource

Bringing together and condensing the factual material in chapters 4 and 8 in the draft.

6 Open Government Enablers

Previous chapter 9: accessibility, security, privacy and confidentiality; information / records management; info-philanthropy; and.

7 Innovation and the Taskforce Experience

This new chapter explores our own attempts to model Government 2.0, and tries to offer a candid assessment of our successes and failures.

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Online engagement as a public service pathway: the column http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/online-engagement-as-a-public-service-pathway-the-column/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/18/online-engagement-as-a-public-service-pathway-the-column/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 04:53:35 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1587 Here’s today’s column in the SMH, which the SMH slightly edited down.

Who is Julie Hempenstall? She lives in Bendigo and she likes reading Australia’s historic newspapers. The National Library has hoisted its collection on the net and had them digitised by computers. I can see what keeps her there. Hard at work drafting this article I just spent the last hour reading about early Sydney – about the Governor’s plan for a school for aboriginal boys and girls to “improve the Energies of this innocent, destitute, and unoffending race.” It wasn’t a raging success.

Anyway, the computer digitisation of that article was full of mistakes. Why? Optical character recognition isn’t perfect even with clean print and certainly not with two hundred year old, stained, yellowed newspapers with antiquated fonts – or fontfs as it was printed in 1788. But people like Julie have pored over the articles and the Library’s clever ‘crowdsourcing’ website allows them to correct mistakes they find.

It’s addictive. I found the obituary of an extraordinary Englishman William Stanley Jevons who was an architect of modern economics. He turned up in Sydney in his teens in 1854 and was a busy fellow. He became assayer to our mint, was newspaper photographer in Australia (strictly a hobby) and the first to document the El Nino effect. Reading all the digitised mistakes I just couldn’t help myself. He didn’t gain an honorary degree from the “Umversity of Odinburgh”. It was the University of Edinburgh. Anyway it’s fixed now.

This bit of crowdsourcing has been a huge success. Without so much as an official launch:

  • In the first month in 2007 over 200,000 lines of text were corrected in 12,000 articles. By the six month mark 2 million lines had been corrected in 100,000 articles.
  • At no point since the first few days has there been a time when text correction is not taking place. It goes on 24/7.
  • Over a fifth of users log in from offshore – with growing communities of participants from the United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand and Canada. One of the top ten correctors was based in the US.
  • The top ten text correctors were correcting significantly more text than all other users spending up to 45 hours a week on the activity.
  • No vandalism of text was detected in 6 months so no roll back to previous versions or moderation was required.

Oh – and our Julie from Bendigo emerged as a leading contributor from early on in the project. When I last heard she’d corrected over a quarter of a million lines of code.

All this is a microcosm of how the world’s governments are starting to get with the vibe of ‘Web 2.0’. Web 1.0 comprised websites and e-mail. Today Web 2.0 is a platform of blogs, wikis and social networking tools for collaboration between all and sundry – often people who’ve never met and never will. Who knew that we’ve had an encyclopaedia in us just waiting to get out on a wiki? We all know now.

But we’ve only just begun thinking about what Web 2.0 might mean for the business of governing. Julie Hempenstall gives me a way of explaining just one set of possibilities considered by the Government 2.0 Taskforce.

For there are a two things we know about Julie’s work. We know she does it for its own sake – after all no-one’s paying her. And it’s very likely that, in addition to this intrinsic motivation, she’s also motivated by making some small contribute to the community. (All the respondents to the National Library’s survey of major contributors listed this as one of their motivations).

Now intrinsic motivation and civic mindedness are valuable things pretty much anywhere – but particularly around government.

We still don’t understand that much about intrinsic motivation or of how to maximise it in the workforce, but it seems clear that it is critical to highly skilled activity. The author of a groundbreaking book on volunteer built open source software (like Linux and Firefox) Eric S. Raymond, attributes much of the superiority of open source modes of working to intrinsic motivation:

‘Fun’ is . . . a sign of peak efficiency. Painful development environments waste labor and creativity; they extract huge hidden costs in time, money, and opportunity.

In the world of open source the ethic of voluntarism and the improvisational and open nature of online collaboration have led to a culture in which social recognition is a function of the quality of contribution as judged by the community around a particular project whether it’s Wikipedia, Linux software or some community congregating around a blog or blogs. Formal status doesn’t rate as it does within organisations.

In the future I’d like to see governments draw volunteer enthusiasts from the community more closely and explicitly into their own activities in policy design and service delivery. And they can go further still. Shouldn’t the best volunteer contributors – whether they’re correcting text or discussing policy alternatives – be afforded greater recognition? Over time we could see if they were interested in being given greater responsibility just as public servants are offered promotions? This could widen the pool of available talent to the public service and provide alternative pathways for recruiting people and developing their skills and authority.

If those pathways of promotion were built, as structures of authority are built in the world of Web 2.0 they would be based on self-selection, enthusiasm and a record of aptitude and contribution in the field. Firms in the Web 2.0 world are successfully experimenting with means of adapting aspects of this kind of volunteerism to their own organisational structures.

Thus for instance Google and the Australian global software maker Atlassian allow employees to spend one day a week on projects which are for the firm’s benefit, but which they are free to choose. Those with a creative idea can work on it and, equally important persuade others to use their own time to collaborate. The process can create many of the organic possibilities and associations typical of the undirected spontaneous activity of markets and civil society. It’s certainly created a lot of Google’s myriad products.

Introducing “Google time” by edict into the public service would probably just reduce productivity. So we recommended a much more incremental approach, proposing that government agencies give their staff opportunities to experiment and improvise with Web 2.0 tools to enhance their agencies’ work.

I wonder how long it will be before we get our first head of a government department who first came into the orbit of the public service as an ‘online Web 2.0 volunteer’.

Julie Hempenstall where are you?

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And the Mashie Goes To…[drum roll] http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/14/and-the-mashie-goes-to/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/14/and-the-mashie-goes-to/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2009 02:24:47 +0000 Mia Garlick http://gov2.net.au/?p=1453 Mashie

It gives us great pleasure to announce that the winners of the MashupAustralia contest have now been announced.

In case you have missed it, here is some background about the contest – from launch and initial response to a final wrap-up.

We’ve also tried to follow the conversation that you have been having elsewhere about the contest. Most recently, we came across this interesting four part discussion on the All Things Spatial blog about some of the contest entries (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

All that remains is to know who will go home with the coveted Mashie (see image (yes, the trophy is a potato masher)) and, of course, the prize money. Our esteemed judging panel have deliberated and considered all of the entries against the rules. As we indicated might happen, more than one prize per category has been awarded because there were so many high quality entries.

For Excellence in Mashing, the Mashies go to:

  • Surburban Trends a mashup of different types of crime and census data that allows you compare and contrast suburbs by a range of economic, education, safety and socio-economic indicators. The judges thought the ability to compare suburbs visually combined with the selective choice of statistics was excellent especially in a field dominated by many entries using similar datasets.
  • Know Where You Live which bills itself as a prototype of a mashup of a range of open access government data based on postcodes so that you can truly know where you live. The judges loved the very citizen-centric “common questions” user experience of this app and the groovy, and again, selective repackaging of what could otherwise be considered (we’ll be honest here) slightly boring data. The integration of publicly-held historical photographs and rental price data was a nice touch as was the use of Google’s satellite images in the header. Judges were disappointed that some of the data for states other than NSW wasn’t available for inclusion. The focus on compliance only with the most modern standards compliant browsers was not seen as detrimental to this mashup.

The Highly Commendable Mashups were:

  • geo2gov which serves an excellent example of what can be possible with open government data. This entry provided an online service that will take a location description in a wide range of formats, and map that location to the government. The testament to its utility was demonstrated by the fact that several other entries used geo2gov. Contest judge Mark Pesce said that this app that was such an impressive prototype of what was possible with government data that it made his geeky pants wet.
  • Firemash a timely entry that analyses notices from the state of New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service and sends you a tweet if you are at risk. The judges were particularly impressed with this entry’s use of different services and its real time web goodness. The ability for citizens to submit fire information and be notified of nearby fires was quite unique. The dual purpose – citizen to Government and Government to citizen – possibilities with this site made it one of the few submitted mashups to explore data in this way.

And the Notable Mashing Achievements were:

  • In Their Honour which brings together service records, maps and photographs for each of the service men and women who have died for Australia. The judging panel felt that although a similar service already exists provided by the Australian War Memorial,  this entry explored the data in a noticeably different way attracting the opportunity for a different kind of engagement with the same datasets.
  • LobbyLens shows connections relevant to government business (e.g., government suppliers, government agencies, politician responsibilities, lobbyists etc.). For the judging panel, the relationship visualizations that this entry gave aligned well with much of purpose of Government 2.0 even if its usability needs a lot of work.
  • FlipExplorer this entry combines an interactive online search interface, 3D tagcloud, and timeline widget, which allows you to browse through the Powerhouse Museum’s Collection as you would any physical book. Although not truly a mashup of more than one data source, the judges felt that this was an impressive use of a visual interface.

For the People’s Choice Award, once we adjusted for the malicious voting up and voting down (shame on you who partook), the clear winner was In Their Honour — which is consistent with the judge’s thoughts on its usability. As commenter Nerida Deane said “I just looked up my Great Uncle Al and found the site easy to use and I liked the information it gave me. Maybe one day I’ll have a chance to visit his memorial.”

The Student Prize goes to Suburban Trends (obviously) and to Suburban Matchmaker, which the judges felt was a clever idea (albeit potentially raising some interesting questions for future ethics classes). Because rewarding and encouraging our students can never be a bad thing, the judges also agreed to award both Earth:Australia and Community Rivers each a partial student prize for a commendable effort in student mashing.

Finally, the Transformation Challenge for entries that enhance and/or make datasets available for re-use programmatically – the bonus prizes are awarded to geo2gov (see above), Neogopher (judges’ comment: this provides a pretty comprehensive set of transformation and API access to many of the data.australia.gov.au datasets in one place) and absxml (judges’ comment: a nice conversion idea that needs a bit of work to make it more usable.).

Finally, as part of any awards ceremony some thank-yous are required. A repeated big thank you to all of those involved in organizing the hackfests, to those who participated in the events and everyone who submitted entries or provided comments and feedback. Many thanks are due to our esteemed judging panel for their time and attention to all 82 entries. Thanks also to the Federal, State and Territory government agencies who provided datasets for the contest. And to the teams on the Taskforce Secretariat at the Australian Government Information Management Office and at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy who provided the project support. This has been a collaboration in every sense of the word and hopefully demonstrated its purpose namely, to show what is possible when agencies liberate their data…

[cue the music to cut the presenter short and get them off the stage]

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Blegging the power of the bleg http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/13/blegging-the-power-of-the-bleg/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/13/blegging-the-power-of-the-bleg/#comments Sun, 13 Dec 2009 12:59:27 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1497 I was just reading the bleg – relatively successful it seems – of Michael Neilsen seeking information on the fascinating phenomenon of some of Intel’s chips which were designed without any single person knowing the whole story about how they were designed.  Sounds a bit like government.  Anyway, it struck me that if people out there have any examples of particularly successful blegs which have turned up needles in haystacks which have turned out to be very helpful to whomever has blegged – preferably in a government context but neither bleggers nor beggers can be choosers – can they please come forward with examples in comments documented with links.

Also we’re trying to come up with a nice diagram to encapsulate our message which is summed up in the para below.  Haven’t read it?  No – that’s because since we’ve stepped back and had a look at our Draft Report we’ve seen that this seems to be our core message – from the current draft of the final (no promises it will appear in precisely this form). (And we’ve taken note that a blood feud will ensue if we remove the Google Group’s excellent definition of Govt 2.0 and it seems to be staying in – so far anyway). So here is the quote and the diagram. Please sing out if you can improve the diagram.

Government 2.0 involves a public policy shift to create a culture of openness and transparency, where government is willing to engage with and listen to its citizens; and to make available the vast national resource of non-sensitive public sector information. Government 2.0 empowers citizens and public servants alike to directly collaborate in their own governance by harnessing the opportunities presented by technology.
The three pillars of Government 2.0 are:

  • The application of Web 2.0 collaborative tools and practices to the processes of government
  • Open access to public sector information (PSI)
  • Leadership, policy and governance to achieve the necessary shifts in public sector culture and practice

Government 2.0 will subtly change the relationship between government and its citizens.

Engagement Three Pillars

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Draft Report – out on Monday http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/05/draft-report-out-on-monday/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/12/05/draft-report-out-on-monday/#comments Sat, 05 Dec 2009 13:28:42 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1425 Hi all,

The draft report will be released this Monday and we will be welcoming comments until at least Wed 17th December.

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Online Engagement Review http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/30/online-engagement-review/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/30/online-engagement-review/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2009 00:46:22 +0000 Darren Sharp http://gov2.net.au/?p=1419 Darren Sharp works for Collabforge, who have been commissioned to undertake a review of the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s online engagement activities.

The Taskforce has attracted significant public participation during its operation and will attract equal interest in terms of the legacy it leaves behind, both in terms of its engagement methods and approach to community management. The Online Engagement Review will provide an independent assessment of the Taskforce’s activities and the input of the community to date. This review will also propose and explore various options that build on the unique knowledge, networks and resources generated by the community via the Taskforce’s online engagement spaces.

As senior consultant with Collabforge I’d love to hear your views on a range of issues related to the Taskforce’s online engagement efforts including:

  • Your views on the conclusion of Taskforce activities, and what, if any, transition measures should be implemented to protect the ‘network value’ (public goods, social connections & knowledge) generated by community participants.
  • Reflection on pathways for sustaining the various existing web spaces that have been created (the blog, mashup contest, IdeaScale, Facebook & Twitter) with the express purpose of leveraging any future community participation in a structured and ongoing fashion.
  • Consideration of legacy issues regarding the online initiatives and assets of the Taskforce .

Please fire away in the comments with your thoughts and reflections.

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Australia, You Have Been Mashed http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/18/australia-you-have-been-mashed/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/18/australia-you-have-been-mashed/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2009 05:32:56 +0000 Mia Garlick http://gov2.net.au/?p=1353
OpenAustralia Hackfest, Halans CC BY-NC-SA

OpenAustralia Hackfest, Halans CC BY-NC-SA

Last Friday November 13, 2009 saw the close of the entry period for our Mashup Australia contest. While our esteemed judging panel is now hard at work assessing the entries, it’s timely to pause and consider how it has gone so far….in word: wow!! The response has been fantastic.

As you may recall, the contest was designed to provide a practical demonstration of the benefits that open access to public sector information can provide. We asked you – the community – to help us with this. We released some datasets on terms and in formats that enable reuse and asked you to help us show the benefit that can result. And show us you did.

We have had 81 entries — a huge result that positions this contest on par with similar contests held in other jurisdictions (or possibly even with greater impact if you pro rata entries per head of the population ☺). The entries are diverse in their focus – from Australia’s world heritage listed areas, to a Darwin bus map, to “Know Where You Live” (a visualization of Australian Government data based on your geographic location with accompanying images relevant photo).

Without doubt, considerable momentum for the contest was generated by the hackfests that were organized to get people together, sharing skills and ideas and building things. One of these – GovHack (see this report back) – was supported by the Taskforce but four others – the GoogleHackNights #1 and #2, the Melhack and the OpenAustralia Google Hackfest (see this report back) – were self-organised. All of them were huge successes.

All in all, I think its fair to say that you have definitely helped us demonstrate the innovative potential that can be unlocked when government information itself is unlocked, both via the hackfests but also via the blog posts explaining how you created your mashups (see e.g. “Building mashups for the society (Mashup Australia”) and “In Their Honour – Mapping Anzac Graves”). You have also helped us better understand how government data can be improved with your feedback about your experiences in trying to use the data (thanks, for example, to pamelafox and Jo Decker).

A big thank you to all of those involved in organizing the hackfests, to those who participated in the events and everyone who submitted entries or provided comments and feedback.

Don’t forget, we are keeping public voting open until 4pm this Friday November 20th and don’t worry geo2gov, we’re on those attempts at vote rigging.

Stay tuned to find out who the Mashies go to….. ]]> http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/18/australia-you-have-been-mashed/feed/ 3 If I could start with a blank piece of paper… (part 2) http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/11/blank-piece-of-paper-2/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/11/blank-piece-of-paper-2/#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2009 23:43:24 +0000 David Eaves http://gov2.net.au/?p=1338 David Eaves is a member of the Taskforce’s International Reference Group. This post continues on from his previous post.

The other week Martin Stewart-Weeks posted this piece on the blog. In it he asked:

“…imagine for a moment it was your job to create the guidelines that will help public servants engage online. Although you have the examples from other organisations, you are given the rare luxury to start with a blank sheet of paper (at least for this exercise). What would you write? What issues would you include? Where would you start? Who would you talk to?”

Last week I responded with this post which explained why my efforts would focus on internal change. This week I want to pick the thread back up and talk about what applications I would start with and why.

First, Social Networking Platform (this is essential!):

An inspired public service shouldn’t ban Facebook, it should hire it.

A government-run social networking platform, one that allowed public servants to list their interests, current area of work, past experiences, contact information and current status, would be indispensable. It would allow public servants across ministries to search out and engage counterparts with specialized knowledge, relevant interests or similar responsibilities. Moreover, it would allow public servants to set up networks, where people from different departments, but working on a similar issue, could keep one another abreast of their work.

In contrast, today’s public servants often find themselves unaware of, and unable to connect with, colleagues in other ministries or other levels of government who work on similar issues. This is not because their masters don’t want them to connect (although this is sometimes the case) but because they lack the technology to identify one another. As a result, public servants drafting policy on interconnected issues — such as the Environment Canada employee working on riverbed erosion and the Fisheries and Oceans employee working on spawning salmon — may not even know the other exists.

If I could start with a blank sheet of paper… then I’d create a social networking platform for government. I think it would be the definitive game changer. Public servants could finally find one another (savings millions of hours and dollars in external consultants, redundant searches and duplicated capacity. Moreover if improving co-ordination and the flow of information within and across government ministries is a central challenge, then social networking isn’t a distraction, it’s an opportunity.

Second, Encourage Internal Blogs

I blogged more about this here.

If public servants feel overwhelmed by information one of the main reasons is that they have no filters. There are few, if any bloggers within departments that are writing about what they think is important and what is going on around them. Since information is siloed everybody has to rely on either informal networks to find out what is actually going on (all that wasted time having coffee and calling friends to find out gossip) or on formal networks, getting in structured meetings with other departments or ones’ boss to find out what their bosses, bosses, boss is thinking. What a waste of time and energy.

I suspect that if you allowed public servants to blog, you could cut down on rumours (they would be dispelled more quickly) email traffic and, more importantly, meetings (which are a drain on everybody’s time) by at least 25%. Want to know what my team is up to? Don’t schedule a meeting. First, read my blog. Oh, and search the tags to find what is relevant to you. (you can do that on my blog too, if you are still reading this piece it probably means you are interested in this tag.)

Third, Create a Government Wide Wiki

The first reason to create a wiki is that it would give people a place to work collectively on documents, within their departments or across ministries. Poof, siloes dissolved. (yes, it really is that simple, and if you are middle management, that terrifying).

The second reason is to provide some version control. Do you realize most governments don’t have version control software (or do, but nobody uses it, because it is terrible). A wiki, if nothing else, offers version control. That’s reason enough to migrate.

The third reason though is the most interesting. It would change the information economics, and thus culture, of government. A wiki would slowly come to function as an information clearing house. This would reduce the benefits of hoarding information, as it would be increasingly difficult to leverage information into control over an agenda or resource. Instead the opposite incentive system would take over. Sharing information or your labour (as a gift) within the public service would increase your usefulness to, and reputation among, others within the system.

Fourth, Install an Instant Messaging App

It takes less time than a phone call. And you can cut and paste. Less email, faster turn around, quicker conversations. It isn’t a cure all, but you’ve already got young employees who are aching for it. Do you really want to tell them to not be efficient?

Finally… Twitter

Similar reasons to blogs. Twitter is like a custom newspaper. You don’t read it everyday, and most days you just scan it – you know – to keep an eye on what is going on. But occasionally it has a piece or two that you happen to catch that are absolutely critical… for your file, your department or your boss.

This is how Twitter works. It offers peripheral vision into what is going on in the areas or with the people that you care about or think are important. It allows us to handle the enormous flow of information around us. Denying public servants access to twitter (or not implementing it, or blogs, internally) is essentially telling them that they must drink the entire firehose of information that is flowing through their daily life at work. They ain’t going to do it. Help them manage. Help them tweet.

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Do we have a Best Blog Post in our midst? http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/09/do-we-have-a-best-blog-post-in-our-midst/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/09/do-we-have-a-best-blog-post-in-our-midst/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2009 12:38:37 +0000 Nicholas Gruen http://gov2.net.au/?p=1319 In 2006 I read a review of Black Inc’s The Best Australian Essays. As an enthusiast for the new medium of blogging, and thinking that the selection of the essays had been somehow unadventurous, I initiated a process whereby a few of us got together, advertised that we’d put together a collection of best blog posts for that year and, as is the way in this new world, within a few weeks Best Blog Posts 06 was done.

As we explained in 2006

The process embodied the strengths of blogging and more generally of the new wave of “user-produced content” on the Internet – the most spectacular examples of which are open source software such as the Linux/GNU operating system and the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Where it had taken Black Inc many months to produce its anthology of essays, BB06 was compiled in a little over two weeks. And you won’t have to pay to read them. They’re all already available right now on the Internet – if you know where to find them. And you’ll know where to find each of them as they will be published again in On Line Opinion throughout January.

Of course there were the obvious arguments. We were being elitist, we were being partial, etc etc. The complaints were true of course, the collection came from a particular perspective and was thrown together by a bunch of people many of whom had never met (physically anyway). And all other anthologies suffer from the same problems to a greater or lesser extent.

Anyway, Best Blog Posts is now in its fourth edition! Yes, that’s right folks, in January On Line Opinion will be hosting the forth annual collection of best annual blog posts.*

I mention this because I think we’ve come up with some really good posts here, and I wanted to invite suggestions from you guys as to which posts you think are the best. I already know a thread I’m going to nominate, not really for the post itself (though of course it’s a fine post) but for the really extraordinarily high quality discussion it engendered.

What are the highlights of this blog for you. And since Best Blogs has always had an unfortunate bias towards the political/cultural interests of the old farts on the judging panel who these days are usually only ever seen on Anzac Days down the pub reminiscing about the good old days of the Battle of the Somme, I expect we’d be interested in the best Australian blog posts from the Web 2.0 and Govt 2.0 communities posted anywhere on the net this year and not published in the MSM.

* Declaration of interest, I am the Chairman of National Forum which is the non-profit that runs On Line Opinion.
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If I could start with a blank sheet of paper… http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/02/if-i-could-start-with-a-blank-sheet-of-paper%e2%80%a6/ http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/11/02/if-i-could-start-with-a-blank-sheet-of-paper%e2%80%a6/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2009 00:06:10 +0000 David Eaves http://gov2.net.au/?p=1256 David Eaves is a member of the Taskforce’s International Reference Group.

Recently, Martin Stewart-Weeks posted this piece on the blog:

“…imagine for a moment it was your job to create the guidelines that will help public servants engage online. Although you have the examples from other organisations, you are given the rare luxury to start with a blank sheet of paper (at least for this exercise). What would you write? What issues would you include? Where would you start? Who would you talk to?”

While the Taskforce is looking for suggested guidelines for how employees should interact on the web like those found here (a lot of these are great – I was impressed with DePaul University’s guidelines) I wanted to take a step back. Guidelines are important, but the post implicitly suggests the focus of a government’s web 2.0 strategy should be focused externally. If I had a blank slate I would write guidelines, but my emphasis would be to get public servants to start using Web 2.0 tools internally. This approach has several advantages:

  1. Start with a safe environment for individuals to learn: As a medium the internet is a notoriously complicated place to communicate. Flame wars, endless and pointless discussions, and even simple misunderstandings are commonplace. I’d like a place where public servants can get comfortable with both the medium and the different web 2.0 tools. People forget that only a tiny fraction of people have embraced Web 2.0 and most public servants are not part of that early adopter group. Throwing public servants into the deep end of the Web 2.0 pool risks setting them up to drown out of frustration. Creating Web 2.0 tools behind a government firewall gives public servants a lower risk environment to get comfortable and learn to use the technology.
  2. Start with a safe environment for institutional to learn: Developing a new communications culture, one where more public servants are accustomed to engaging with the public directly will take time. Giving public servants an opportunity to practice using social media behind the government firewall enables the organization to assess its strengths and weaknesses and determine what policies should be in place as it further ramps up its public facing engagement.
  3. Make mistakes internally first: For better or for worse, many government agencies are deeply sensitive to communication mistakes. An innocent gaffe that goes viral or is picked up on by the media can quickly temper a ministers or deputy ministers appetite to experiment with social media. Every ministry or department will, at some point, experience such a gaffe (most probably already have). Better that these initially happen internally where they can become learning experiences then having them happen publicly where they become communications crises that risk shutting down Government 2.0 experiments.
  4. Internal focus will drive much needed structural change: Building off point number 2, I frequently tell government officials interested in having their organizations “do” social media to stop thinking of this as a communications exercise. Rather than trying to get an analogue government to talk to a digital public – why not make the government digital? Adopting Web 2.0 tools internally is going to change how your organization work for the better. Social media allows people to more effectively exchange information, identify critical resources and avoid the duplication of effort – all of the types of things siloed, hierarchical governments aren’t good at. The fact that adopting these tools will make engaging in the online world much, much easier is only one of many much larger benefits.

All this isn’t to say that Governments shouldn’t engage with the public via social media/web 2.0. They should (they need to!). It is to say that there is huge value, learnings and efficiency gains to be had in adopting web 2.0 internally. If we focus exclusively on the external strategy we risk only changing how our governments communicate with the public and miss out on the real gains of transforming how our governments work.

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