Government Web Managers Conference Presentations Online

The presentations from the Government Web Managers Conference are now online. There’s a wealth of useful information in these slides, relevant to all web managers, not just government ones. The highlights for me were:

  • Janice Nall from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describing her risk-taking ways as the CDC tries everything from Second Life to “virtual viruses” to get the word out about health. Her point was not to be afraid of the lawyers and to get out there and experiment.
  • The EPA is very similar to NOAA, the agency I work for, and Jeff Levy from the EPA demonstrated some of the ways (Flickr photo contest) that they’re way ahead of us. Not that we’re jealous or anything.
  • Dan Herman, nGenera, introduced the audience to the “wikinomics” concept.  Command and control management is painfully yielding to mass collaboration.  The boomers had the Age of Aquarius.  We have Age of Participation. Not quite as catchy.

The Digital District

enjoying the wifi
Put down the laptop and have a look around.

Where do the digitally savvy roam?  According to a new study, Austin, Las Vegas, Sacramento, San Diego and, coming in at #5, Washington, DC.  Maybe we should be called The Digital District.  It doesn’t surprise me at all.  People here wuv their Blackberries a little too much.  (Not like us iPhone fanatics, we’re the normal, well-adjusted ones.)  DC is all about the trading of information for influence and our digital gadgets make these transactions so much more efficient.

Austin – I’m surprised by you.  You’re a city of music, bars, BBQ, bike paths and “Keep Austin Weird” – you have much better things to do than play online.

How Much Time Does Web 2.0 Take?

I twitter, post pictures on Flickr, comment on other people’s blogs and write my own blog postings. More than once, I’ve been asked, “How much time does that take?”

Really, not much.  5-10 hours a week at most, time that I’d otherwise spend watching TV, I’m sure. Museum 2.0 has a great post on how much time Web 2.0 really takes and includes a handy chart showing how much time each tactic can take.

And how did I find this article?  Twitter.  The author, Nina Simon, is a Twitter friend of a friend of a friend.

Artomatic – First Look

Artomatic – it’s on!  I made my first visit Friday night to sample a bit of this arts extravaganza.  This year, Artomatic has taken over an entire office building one block from the New York Avenue Metro station.  More than just an open art show, Artomatic features music, movies, fire dancers, life modeling classes, bars and creativity untamed by professional aspirations.

Here’s a first look at some of the things I found interesting/scary:

personal jesus


art critic

You can see more photos on Flickr.

Friday's Links

Here’s what interested me this week:

Starting tonight, one of my favorite events of the year.  Artomatic this year takes over a new office building near Union Station for a month’s worth of art, music and culture.  Must be seen to be believed.
The mantra of simplicity, so needed now.  They’re talking about web sites but, really, this could be a life philosophy.
A site for urban hipsters, trying to make DC cool.  Not sure if I love or hate this site.  Probably a combination of both.

2008 Government Web Managers Best Practice Award Winners

Congratulations to…
The Centers for Disease Control have really been a leader when it comes to adopting new technologies to reach out to the public.  They use email updates, RSS, podcasts, blogs, Second Life, Whyville and other tools to get their message out.  Their site is attractive, easy to use and almost makes it fun to learn about the latest pandemics.

VA MidSouth Healthcare Network
Navigating and obtaining government benefits can be an onerous assignment.  This network of six VA Medical Centers and 32 community-based outpatient clinics has made this vital task easier by surveying their users and then adapting the site to their needs.  The use of the “I Want To” box on the home page provides quick access to medical benefits for patients.

This year’s winners and finalists were recognized by their peers as federal websites that had done an outstanding job of making it easy for their customers to complete their most important task online.

Government Web Managers Conference

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. 

Friday's Links

Here’s what interested me this week:

Washington City Paper: Building the Great DC Novel
Surprisingly, no one has written a Bonfire of the Vanities for DC.  The article is correct that most novels of DC are just about a niche of this city (Edward P. Jones) or treat things with a very broad brush (Christopher Buckley).  

The Environmental Protection Agency is blogging!  Hopefully, this will spur the rest of government (including the part I’m in) to blog as well.

The New Influencers
I’m working my through this fascinating book.  The world of corporate PR and the mainstream media is over. Blogs and communities of people connecting online are the future.

DCist Overheard
The “nice balls” comment is one I submitted, LOL. 

The Three Things Writers Need

I spent a beautiful spring afternoon at the Conversations and Connections conference held April 5 in Washington, DC.  This was a writer’s conference featuring “experts in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writing for children, making connections, using the web, marketing, and everything in between.”  

But the highlight for me was the keynote by Mary Gaitskill, author of Two Girls, Fat and Thin and the short story which was the basis of the movie Secretary.  In her inspiring talk, she recounted her long and painful struggle for literary success.  Here are the three things she believes writers need:

  1. Comfort with Solitude.  You can go to conferences, join groups, talk to people online.  But, in the end, being a writer means spending time alone in front of a screen.  A lot of time.  When other people are enjoying group pursuits in the sunny outdoors, you’ll be pounding away on a keyboard.  You better like your own company.
  2. Persistence.  Success came late for Gaitskill.  She kept at it over the years, in the face of anonymous rejection letters from literary journals.  Family and friends pitied her and told her that she should pick a different career.  But she didn’t give up because being a writer was the only thing she wanted to do with her life.
  3. Courage.  Gaitskill’s fiction is unique and disturbing, exploring ideas and situations that can really bother people.  In addition to dealing with rejection letters, Gaitskill had to cope with venomous reactions from agents and others who took a visceral dislike to her work.  What’s great about Gaitskill is that she didn’t change her voice, that she kept her singular perspective despite the occasionally hostile reaction it engendered.

Library of Congress Lecture on Digital Natives


rose takes a picture
Our future digital overlords.

I went to the Library of Congress recently to hear distinguished scholar and child-development expert Edith Ackerman discuss “The Anthropology of Digital Natives”.

Digital natives are defined as people who grew up with the Internet – basically K-12 students.  Interestingly, one point Ackerman made was that what we consider “technology” are the things we didn’t grow up with.  For digital natives, the Internet is not complicated technology but is just a normal tool.

While I’m a “digital immigrant” instead of a native, I did somehow manage to take notes on my iPhone during the talk, which I’ve expanded upon here.

With every new wave of technology, kids readily adopt it while older people hold back.  They grab hold of what’s new and make it their own.

K – 12 is the first digital generation, and spends hours each week gaming and using computers  The educational system they’re in was designed for a print generation, not a digital one.

Literacy must be redefined as encompassing all media, not just reading – beyond print.  Digital natives Google instead of going to the library, make a video instead of writing a paper – these are new, hybrid ways of being an author.  Rather than starting from scratch, they capture, collect and share.  This is done in ways that are often considered plagiarism, like the author who borrows text from Wikipedia or copyrighted content from YouTube.

Kids must learn new relationship skills and a sense of self in a world of multiple identities (MySpace vs real life).  Kids love navigation games and the return to home – these are archetypal myths.

Four traits of digital natives:

  1. Shareism – co-creation rather than individual authorship
  2. Border Crossing – private is public (like Facebook), kids belong to multiple tribes, have multiple identities
  3. Media Literate – borrow from others with copy and paste, read/write combining (like a wiki), everyone is an author
  4. Expect Tools to Be Easy – everything has an undo button

This lecture was part of a series at the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress.  Here’s upcoming lectures and more information.

Monday, May 12: “Internet, the Private Mind?” by Steven Berlin Johnson, author of “Everything Bad is Good for You.”

Monday, June 23: “The Anthropology of YouTube” by Michael Wesch, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.

Monday, June 30: “Open Source Reality” by Douglas Rushkoff, author of “Screenagers: Lessons in Chaos from Digital Kids.”

For further information on the Kluge Center, visit