In Washington They Ask, "What Can We Actually Use?"

As many of you know, I’ve spent the better part of the last three months looking for sustainable employment. Historically (in the past two years), I have focused on technology startups outside of my geographical region, but, as time has gone on I have seen increasing value in planting roots with a local firm.

In this process, I have interviewed with agencies, political action comittees, social cause organization, activist groups, development shops and even the occasional PR firm. However, by and large, most of these organizations are connected to the Washington government machine in some way.

A question that comes up frequently in interviews, specifically because I have a unique position as “power player” in the web space, is “What is out there that is new that we can use?”

This question has been answered in a variety of ways, being refined for each organization and group. Different folks, different strokes, different spokes.

As an early adopter of most new web technologies, I recognize this question. It is a question that generally stems from the desire to “be relevant” but often doesn’t consider the mission and constituency. So, in an admittedly generic and assumptive way, I’ll answer this question, and leave you scratching your head as to why I get hired for my social media strategery… There is nothing new out there that you can use.

Nothing. Absolutely Zero.

The principles of communication are really simple and have remained consistent over 10,000 years of recorded history… Talk to people the way you would want to be talked to. Give people information the way they want to consume information. If that’s a YouTube video, make a YouTube video (Bonus points if you can articulate a surefire way to make a viral YouTube video! ;-) ). If you have a thousand attorneys on a email newsletter, then communicate with compelling email newsletters (and talk to my buddy, Greg Cangialosi, over at Blue Sky Factory about their solutions). If your constituency wants a “pull” aggregator of interesting related content, give them a Delicious feed. If you are dealing with foreign wars, try to communicate with photography. If you’re dealing with climate change, work with a Google Maps mashup (build one!) showing the effect of rising sea levels and deforestation.

In other words, communications principles always remain the same: communicate with people on their level with respect. The execution of such principles varies according to organization.

Putting aside the “best tool” question, the real question becomes: How will you use the tools available to execute on mission, not simply be sexy?


Nuke the Nukers (and other benefits of social media to Government)

Editor’s Note: I had a chance to meet a fantastic guy recently. He has very clear and vivid, if sometimes offensive, thoughts on the web space we live in. He’s actually a little crazy, so I thought he would make a great addition to the family. Lou P. Nuts has a distinguishable voice and told me, over Prairie Fires shots (which he absolutely adores – I told you he was loopy!), that he is not in this business to make friends, but that he notches his belt when he makes enemies. I hope you’ll enjoy his writings that will be featured here.

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about our government and the great democracy we live in. We have a new President who is going to save the planet from our greedy selves. He single handedly will stem all sorts of ungodliness in this world with his efficient, Messiah instincts. Obama is my hero, and if he isn’t yours, you should die a bloody death for your unpatriotism.

Already, he has promised that the technology created by an innovative private sector will be a key cornerstone of his administration. Social Media rocks and the Messiah plans to use us, his willing servants, to make change come to pass.

Our next challenge is proving our worth. Rohit Bhargava, of Ogilvy, has a great post today where he implores us to pray to the Messiah that we might be found worthy of his benevolence and servitude in helping.

There are so many areas of the government that require change that we can bring, if they will listen. For instance, we should suggest that all military and paramilitary operations be run through the Digg machine. There is no group better for vetting the enemies of the state, than the Digg crowd who, without filter, dictates to all who may listen exactly what should be targetted. For instance, Digg correctly identifies WordPress, Microsoft and Christians as “Great Satans”. Clearly, we must listen.

If we want to engage in GOA, as Rohit calls it, we should crowdsource White House photography. Clearly, hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money does not need to be spent on a staff photographer when Flickr exists.

And Twitter? @BarackObama is already the most followed man on Twitter. All we need to do, as social media gurus, is ensure that he is tweeting out links to his latest initiatives.

Put the TARP 2 stimulus package on WikiPedia to ensure that the citizens have an adequate chance to offer their own markup and amendments. Representative democracy in action!

I think Rohit is spot on. The more we make government understand social media, the more the power will rest on us. I’m waiting for August Capital to fund a startup that will bring “the keys” and “the suitcase” to us. No one should dictate how nuclear weapons are used or who they should be used on.

This is a parody.

BART Goes Wireless

imagesIn a story that we’ve been following in the past week, it seems the survey that was sent out to BART users last week is not simply a “feeler”. When BART users received the email from the Bay Area mass transit service requesting participation in a survey, it suggested that the organization was considering some level of wireless connectivity, but as best as I could tell, it did not suggest such access was imminent.

Thomas Hawk, who I’ve previously referred to as the best photographer on the web and is also a client of mine, apparently got a chance to try an initial pilot phase out and reported some problems logging on.

the San Francisco Chronicle reports that BART has signed a 20 year deal to provide wireless internet access in it’s entire system, but the news does not disclose terms of the deal or who would actually be managing and deploying the service. The story does indicate that access would be provided via fiber as opposed to satellite or cellular.