Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

Friday thought about social media, the workplace and generating ideas.

The following appeared in the comments thread on a lighthearted post about things not to say if you are trying to get your org to go social. I’ve added highlights:

I used to have relatively strong disagreements at the foundation I worked at years ago when they were pushing video-conferencing to replace face-to-face meetings. I kept thinking that the most profound insights and creativity always happened “in between” the formal sessions–during coffee breaks, over lunch, casual encounters when moving between sessions, and particularly when the formal sessions completely broke down. I’ve got a colleague in international development that spends all his time at conferences in the hallways to converse with other folks “escaping” the formal structure.

For me, Enterprise 2.0. Gov 2.0–virtually any social media channel–recreates that “in-between” space, where interactions can spontaneously occur, where the pressures of “productivity” and deadlines are released enough to see and experience things in radically different light, and therefore always fresh opportunity. Can it be measured against a cost-benefit analysis? Probably not, but for the sake of argument, what if it were possible to measure ALL the communications that took place around a given community/organization/enterprise–formal and informal–and flag the points where the greatest creativity broke through? I think it almost invariably happens first “in-between” and then enters the “formal” discussion.

And that’s what social media opens up–a rebalancing of the “in-between” spaces with the formal structures.

Just thinkin…

Props to the author. This crystallizes the feeling that I have about the value of social media at work. The importance of social media in the workplace is that in enhances that informal, in-between space for idea generation.

It goes further than merely recreating the water-cooler experience.  Social media allows ideas generated informally to be efficiently captured for future use. Too often, those water-cooler chats vanish into thin air, and the spark of an idea that might have had legs dies out invisibly. By transferring those conversations online, they get preserved for others to build on.

And it gets better — Only a few folks can gather around a water cooler, but given the endlessly linked and continuously interconnecting nature of the web, you’re no longer restricted to a small circle of face-to-face connections for sending and receiving flashes of insight. You can take it much farther afield now, over a longer period of time also.

The always-on, instantly shareable nature of social media lets people capture those flashes of insight for immediate testing and validation or correction. At a scale that was previously unavailable.


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It was about a year ago that I first shared a snapshot of GCpedia. Here’s an update.


Home page has gone through a major revision and is now much simpler.

Click the thumbnails to see full size:


As of 28 April 2010 at approx 11 am, GCpedia consisted of:

  • 43 632 total pages (including talk pages, stubs, redirects and such)
  • 6675 pages that are described as “probably legitimate content”
  • 11 646 files uploaded
  • 3.27 million page views
  • 224 486 edits
  • 14 539 registered users

More or less, there’s about 3 times as much stuff — in terms of total pages, total edits and registered users.

File uploads have boomed — more than 4 times as many as there were a year back.

And lurking is up dramatically too — 4.6 times as many page views as last year.

Interesting that distinction between “probably legitimate content” and total content — I’d say talk pages are just as legitimate as “proper” articles in this environment.

Most Viewed Pages

  • Main Page (337,317)
  • Category:Welcome template (66,411)
  • Category:Communities (55,932)
  • Category:Project (17,231)
  • Applying Leading-Edge Technology Working Group – Le groupe de travail sur la mise en oeuvre des technologies de pointe (15,812)
  • Information management community (15,016)
  • Help:Getting Started (12,933)
  • Web Accessibility and Common Look and Feel (CLF) (10,630)
  • Information technology innovation campaign (10,310)
  • National inventory of bridgeable students (10,026)

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OK so the frist day of the GTEC conference is over and the second one is getting underway.

I just checked out the GTEC blog to see if there were any posts outlining highlights from yesterday. Nothing. Last post is from Oct 5, and was a primer for one of sessions from yesterday. To keep momentum up, why not a post about what took place?

I fully understand that in the midst of putting on a big conference, it’s hard to sit down and pull together some coherent copy about the day’s highlights. There’s a lot of other stuff going on, and resources are usually stretched thin in the heat of an unfolding event. So why not take advantage of the steady stream of tweets about the event?

A quick search reveals lots and lots of relevant content in the Twittersphere.

And best part is that this can be automated. I’m thinking here about a blog post with an embeddable widget — like ScribbleLive or CoverItLive, for example — to pull in tweets about GTEC that hit the right keywords or hashtags.

While not as coherent as a well-written blog post, grabbing tweets about the event would help to show the level of action happening. Even better, it allows the blog’s readers to make connections with others who are at the event or interested in it. And having something fresh on the blog as your event is occurring is far better than nothing at all.

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Dancing Lights, by lysergxi on Flickr

Dancing Lights, an accidental discovery by lysergxi on Flickr

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.
Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960)

Yesterday I spent a lot of time paying attention to WIREDcamp in Toronto.  It was a neat experience — because interesting stuff was happening, and also because of the long-distance, technologically facilitated way in which I participated from my cubicle in Ottawa. As I watched (and added to) the stream of tweets accumulating and the number of wiki pages growing, I learned about what my peers at the City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario were up to (and up against), and I was able to make some (weak) connections with public servants sharing similar interests. I acquired a lot great info that I will be saving for later use.

None of this was in the plan. When I arrived at work yesterday morning, I was going to be spending my day working my way through the backlog of tasks piled up on my desk. I had no idea that I would be spending a chunk of my time following along and interacting with the WIREDcamp peeps. I was totally unaware of the event until I just happened to see a few tweets with the #wiredcamp hashtag in my stream in the morning and got curious.

I love this kind of serendipity. Accidental discoveries and random events that end up having value. Sure it upsets the schedule, but for me it’s worth it.

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Signed on to Twitter this morning to see tons of #wiredcamp tweets.

It’s an unconference thingy for public servants going on today in Toronto.

Lots of City of Toronto and ontario.ca public servants (and a few GoC’ers too!) looking at this Q:

“How do we re-imagine government and public service in the age of participation?”

There’s sessions happening on wiki collaboration, social networks, open data etc. etc. Fascinating stuff.

Participants are using the #wiredcamp hashtag. I’m following via the liveblog post here: http://technowonk.ca/2009/09/wiredcamp-liveblog/

Update 4.30 pm: things look like they are wrapping up for the day.

Notes from the various sessions have been captured on the WIREDcamp wiki.

One interesting development that I noticed coming of the session -the idea of a “Govloop north” – Govloop is an unofficial social network that was set up in the USA about a year (or so?) ago. It has really taken off. There is already canuck representation there, but we’re a fringe element there. So why not a Canadian-centric version?

Some tweets:

Govloop North has taken over the conversation at #wiredcamp. First question: Can we get a Canadian skin for the network (eh)?

#wiredcamp resource: http://www.govloop.com/ do we want to re-create this or just Canadian-ize it? Cdns already using it as platform

It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

Talk from citizen advocate on open source principles being used in government. Skip forward to about 13:10 mark:

Government is made of people, and when you find someone [in government] who is doing good work, you need to reward them… we need to be talking about it… hold these successes up – let people know that government people are not lazy and they’re not stupid. They’re just constrained by a broken system.

Then at around 13:38:

Let [government] people fail – as long as they’re small failures. If someone has a clever idea… give them $1 million dollars to go try that idea out, and if it doesn’t work? Oh well, now we know it doesn’t work. It can’t be that every time a program in the government fails or goes off the rails or goes over budget that it ends up on the front page of the Washington Post. That’s a bad set of incentives. We’re all in this together and we should be helping each other.

OK, so don’t get bogged down in the $1M figure — the point is that government tends not to develop its programs and services in modular, iterative fashion. And that maybe it should.

More importantly, interested citizens and government should be reaching out across the chasm that has separated them. Here in Canada, I see action on the citizen side (example: transparency movement), but considerably less so on the bureaucracy side. But I do see signs of things changing (example: copyright consultations).

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Nick is the lead voice of the CPSRenewal blog and an all round good guy. He’s just been interviewed at GovFresh in their Government 2.0 Heroes column. Well done!

Here’s his thoughts on how web 2.0 can be best applied in government:

What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?

My background is in conflict studies and organizational management, so it’s no surprise that the largest opportunity I see is better internal collaboration enabled by Web 2.0. For example, since the adoption of GCPEDIA (the Government of Canada’s official government-wide wiki) I have seen innovation through collaboration that would have been otherwise unattainable, and we are only at the tip of the iceberg.

I agree, my experience with GCpedia (sorry, link internal to GoC) has been really good so far – much better then I would have expected in fact. This wiki and other platforms (especially Twitter) have allowed me to connect with other public servants who’ve got similar interests and are dealing with similar issues. So, government 2.0 as public servants using collaborative technology to work more effectively. Fair enough; and an obvious first step.

But I would think that the greatest opportunities for government 2.0 are those with external focus – using the web to improve our relationship with citizens and stakeholders. After all, public service is ultimately what us bureaucrats are here for.

So what exactly? Just adding blog-style commenting functionality to government web content would be a huge improvement. But here’s some more evolved forms of externally focused web 2.0 use by government:

  • policy consultations: I’m thinking true online consultations here, where discussion can occur in a visible way, rather than the more usual way of asking for input online via an email address for making submissions. Recent examples bookmarked in my delicious account.
  • service delivery: many opportunities here, from providing data online (the idea behind data.gov) to web-based updates of more traditional forms of customer service, such as help desks – I could see use of Twitter in this light.
  • marketing and promotion: various marketing activities are a natural for web 2.0 use by government: social marketing (for example, lookit this cool thing from getprepared.gc.ca – complete with a Common Craft video!) and recruitment campaigns spring instantly to mind.
  • media/public/stakeholder relations: the rise of the participatory web means that if government wants to get the story out about issue X or program Y, it needs to be present in the social media space – both listening and storytelling. So being in touch with key bloggers, being present on social networks, the list goes on.

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