On Monday and Tuesday, I attended the Government Web Managers Conference held in Arlington, VA. This two-day conference brought together federal, local and state web folks from around the country to listen to expert speakers, hear about the latest web tools and discuss how to improve government websites.
A major focus of this year’s conference was Web 2.0, meaning the new set of participatory web sites like Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and blogs. Web 1.0 was the static publishing of information; Web 2.0 is everyone publishing and commenting on everything. There is broad agreement among government web folks that government sites should use these tools because that’s what the public expects. There are two major barriers to government adopting Web 2.0:
1. Lawyers. Regulations for government web sites were designed for a pre-Web 2.0 age and have not been consistently applied across the federal government. For example, on NOAA Ocean Explorer, we’re allowed to post our videos to YouTube but other agencies are not. In some agencies, you can’t even view YouTube.
2. IT Departments. The principles of Web 2.0 are openness and sharing, which are a security administrator’s worst nightmare. IT departments these days are often about locking things while we want to open up and share our information with the rest of the world.
It was interesting to hear that other government folks have the same challenges we do. The organizers of the conference are getting together teams of people to try to develop a unified approach to these problems. This cross-governmental cooperation will hopefully help agencies adopt these tools. There’s value in having a critical mass of government web folks pushing to use Web 2.0. The creation of this community of interest may be the best outcome of the conference.