How I Learned to Love Twitter

I was at SXSW last year when Twitter launched.  They had monitors outside conference rooms showing “tweets” from users, little random bits of text unfurling on a screen.  I thought it was interesting, like a bad stream of consciousness novel, but didn’t see the point.  Why would I want to let the world know about the trivia of my life?

Twitter won a SXSW Web Award, in the blog category.  The founders gave a clever acceptance speech – in less than 140 characters.

Still, I was unconvinced until a few weeks ago when my buddy Neil suggested that I try it. He and his hard-working IT colleagues use it to keep track of one another across a busy college campus.

That seemed useful so I tried it out.  I found that several other of my friends and colleagues were already on Twitter and it’s been really interesting to discover the projects that they’re working on.  It’s helped me make connections and get good ideas.  For example, I found out that:

Despite the fact that Twitter is not 100% reliable (a real danger, one that doomed Friendster), its simplicity and utility make it a very attractive tool for web workers.  
Note: this post was inspired by the excellent 101 Uses for Twitter.


Seniors Spend More Time Online Than Anyone Else

This seems counterintuitive but seniors (age 55+) spend more time online than any other age group, according to a recent Jupiter Research report.

How times have changed since my days at AARP in the late 90s, when seniors were underrepresented online.  More than once, I heard the argument that seniors would never use the web, that “old dogs don’t learn new tricks.”  They would never give up newspapers and figure out how to use computers – how wrong and silly those ideas seem now.

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.