Category Archives: Social media

Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 3

I found that Venessa Miemis’s posting on Open Foresight helpful in thinking about how to address the issue of Australia’s Government 2.0 Future as there are some close parallels. Venessa described the ‘open foresight’ concept as being a process for analysing “complex issues in an open and collaborative way, and to raise the bar on public discourse and forward-focused critical thinking”. Surely that same process goes to the heart of the policy development potential of Government 2.0. And both ‘government 2.0′ and ‘open foresight’ share the same challenge in addressing the transformation being driven by communications technologies, and the emergent behaviours those tools enable.

In the context of ‘government 2.o’ I have paraphrased of the interesting questions that are raised:

  1. How are our notions of open government evolving?
  2. What role do social technologies play in the evolution of public opinion?
  3. What happens when Gov2.0 networks and collaboration teams form?
  4. What do these emerging Gov2.0 governance models look like?
  5. How do public servants build knowledge together and become more effective learners?

You may notice that I’ve not mentioned government agencies in these questions. That’s deliberate because I feel that the future of Gov2.0 is more about networks and issues, and less about government agencies. Citizens care about issues, not government agencies. Issues transcend organisational silos. Networks cross institutional, jurisdictional and geographic boundaries.

I’ll be given some more thought to the questions I’ve raised above, in particular on the potential for networked policy and networked regulation.

Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 2

Let ourselves be seen

In my first posting on this topic I stated that I would have some views to share about the cultural implications from Gov2.0. One of the greatest challenges for the public service in the short to medium term  is to let ourselves be seen; to expose our vulnerabilities and imperfections; to engage earlier and much more frequently with citizens and stakeholders in identifying problem issues and solutions; to engage with others as an ordinary, everyday activity.

But that challenge does not lie with public servants alone. For many citizens currently the machinery of government and policy development seems remote and they feel disconnected from it. The social challenge for citizens is to realise they can turn that notion on its head by engaging directly and constructively with government and with others through social media.

As connected consumers now have power through having access to much more information about goods and services, and new online stores to make purchase decisions, so to will citizens have more power to influence and shape government policy and practice.

A challenge that public servants and citizens share will be to foster new and authentic inter-relationships through social media engagement that were not possible before. That involves reaching out and making connections. It involves getting to know one another through sharing information … and through meaningful expression.

An open, learning dynamic

Out of these good relationships will come a deeper understanding of citizen and community circumstances and the identification and implementation of ‘fit-for-purpose’ solutions.

The outcome will be an open, learning dynamic that will be much faster to respond … in ways that are likely to be more relevant and therefore enduring.

 

The dilemma in providing skills for social business practice

Brian Solis has exposed the folly of many businesses in assuming their analogue-age communications and marketing processes can operate in similar ways in social media. The result is that many social media endeavours are “in reality, siloed and disconnected from the rest of the organisation”. Attempts to meld Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with existing customer relationship management infrastructure results in failing “to see the human touch points to connect with the right people in the right places at the right time”. It’s an approach that betrays a lack of understanding about networked relationships, to have the “ability to engage influential consumers in a one-to-one-to-many practice to amplify intention, purpose, and value”. What’s is evidently lacking are networked literacy skills – knowing what a ‘follower’ count is worth; interpreting the significance of a tweet; knowing the value from a ‘like’ and appreciating the participation bandwidth from blog postings and comments.

An obvious problem is thinking that the skill-sets of established communications and marketing units are good enough for social media. The reality according to Brian Solis is that “social media are the gold mines of anthropology, sociology and ethnography”.  This is significant because most organisations have focused on recruiting commerce or law graduates whereas value creation in social media comes in no small way from embracing social science graduates. Understanding the relevance to business of why and how people connect with others to share things, to learn and to express themselves is emerging as a core competency along with accountancy, economics, engineering and legal systems. So there is a disjunct between the skills necessary to succeed as social businesses and the skills base to hand.

However, a much more significant problem is that most educational institutions have changed focus over the last few decades moving away from social science to churn out lots of commerce graduates in response the demands of business. There is a structural imbalance between the need to adapt and evolve as social businesses in a networked economy with the courses on offer by universities and business schools.

What a dilemma. It’s about time business groups and universities got together to address this fundamental imbalance in contemporary education.

Wisdom 2.0

For a long time I held the view that the value from strategic thinking and foresight is in applying that knowledge to developing strategic action plans.  Like many others I guess I started to question my assumptions while reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan.  From my point of view, Taleb’ s message basically was that people were fooling themselves by thinking that, in a constantly changing, unpredictable world, it is possible to really know what action to take that will be sustainable over time.

The challenge as I feel Taleb would define it is to constantly review and refine what to do in a world we don’t really understand as well as we think we do. The skill sets here are to be constantly alert to new, potentially disruptive developments, and to have the agility and resilience to take timely action. It’s like having a ‘ceaseless quest for learning’.

So it was with some pleasure that I found just that phrase – ceaseless quest for learning – in Umair Haque’s The Wisdom Manifesto. Haque used the phrase in the context of renewal: that the measure of a day spent wisely is a day where you learn five new things.  And Haque – as with Taleb – utterly debunks strategy as a worthwhile activity. For example Haque describes strategy to develop ‘best practice’ as limited in that it adds nothing new compared to the inherent value in wisdom from finding “…new ideas, concepts, and solutions” and “…acting on what people, communities and society lack”. The effort is not physical and intellectual energy but emotional and ethical too.

According to Taleb, being alert to constant flux and change necessarily involves regular interaction with people such as in cafes and attending social events – developing extended networks of relationships. It’s about being out there, tuned in and fully engaged. It’s not a new idea of course – the coffee houses in 18th century London and Vienna were hotbeds of innovation and creative thinking.

For organisations based on hierarchical layers and formulaic compliance protocols, that kind of wisdom lies beyond the pale. For those organisations really intent on finding new ideas and solutions, and where they are disposed to a ceaseless quest for learning (ie. they want to be wise organisations) then their people must be out there interacting with people – customers, clients, communities and citizens. This is where the internet and Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 interaction kicks in. Haque refers to Starbucks crowd-sourced learning from mystarbucksidea. Perhaps it can encapsulated in the term ‘Wisdom 2.0′.

While ‘strategy’ seems to be limited, I still feel that strategic thinking still holds – indeed I feel it is central to the ‘ceaseless quest for learning’. Strategic thinking involves suspending your assumptions, being capable of dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. That’s why I’m so active in social networking and social media – so I can tap into the constant flow of information and interact with people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to do so. So ‘Wisdom 2.0′ has meaning to me.

Social barriers on the social web

As the reach of social networking and social media continues to expand, developments such as Facebook Groups come as no surprise. Online or offline, social relations can be very similar – whether the connections are fleeting, accidental, weak or whether connections are closely meshed in everyday life or work – there can be little to differentiate many offline and online relationships. So it makes sense for users to have similar controls over their connections online as they do offline.

As this Gigaom posting reveals, users (when given the choice) may prefer to restrict their availability and presence  to after-work friends or other selective relationships according to their context. Some users have multiple profiles to focus on specific interests. Having personal and professional profiles on Twitter seems to be a more commonly practised now. Over the last year or so social media guidelines have been developed or refined to keep pace with social media and government 2.0 developments.

I’m in two minds about this. Like many others, I’ve found the open nature of the social web to be engaging and insightful. I have connections with people who I would not have dreamed of having seven years ago. More generally, opportunities for innovation and creatively enabled by the social web have been game changing everywhere.

However, what concerns me is that the trend to having social gateways in place is likely to be a limiting force in terms of forging new social connections. I can see that gaining more control over who you want to see what you are up to at any one time is clearly a good thing in terms of privacy. It’s likely to help build more confidence and trust in making use of the social web.

So having the choice to be open or closed is a positive development. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that the ease in which users can move from open to closed relationships online is likely to be of significance in shaping the future direction of the social web.

Mobiles and Social Web over the next 10 years: five megatrends

Having gone through some 22 forecasts about mobiles and social web from 2010 to 2020, I’ve collapsed them all into five transformative trends:

1. Mobiles will be used for more things, dominating other networks

Mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks) are not only set to come much more important for communication and broadband connectivity, there will be more content generated and distributed, more digital marketing, financial transactions, health care services and environmental monitoring over mobiles.  The cost of powerful smartphones will fall…and handheld form factors become old hat. Advertising revenues may exceed TV and the Internet by reach and by revenue.

2. Mobiles will change our reality, through augmented/mixed reality and location/person/object aware applications

New applications will be used for search, discovery, entertainment, gaming, healthcare and retail. In time, nearly every user interaction with mobiles might be location-aware. Advanced augmented reality and location-aware applications will become mainstream and core revenue earners.

3. The Social Web matures

The era of experimentation with social networks will end with users, businesses, governments and civil society embedding social networking and social media into everyday lives and business activity. User sophistication develops as filtering tools and techniques are applied and the relevancy and utility of connections improve. Collective intelligence helps to filter and respond to what is worthwhile to users. More control over what is created and done online is placed with individuals and their trusted intermediaries.  Porting data will become easier.

4. The Social Web transforms

Social networks online change the nature of work and generate new economic value and social benefits. Companies will function on social networks. Online reputation drives work and personal relationships. Most people expect social network connectivity and interaction to be real-time and available anywhere.

5. Applications re-shape the value-chain

The applications market continues to grow internationally, with more stores and more uses, within an open and innovative environment for applications development. Underlying networks and platforms provide utility access and connectivity.

Government 2.0 Taskforce draft report – a centralised response to decentralised action

The Government 2.0 Taskforce draft report released earlier this week more than delivers against their terms of reference. They have exceeded expectations. I’m really pleased! There has been international interest in the draft report. From the U.K. Glyn Moody said that the report is  an inspiring document. Those who have been participating in the deliberations are pleased. Stephen Collins put it this way “The release earlier this week of the draft report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce has the potential to be a watershed moment in the management and delivery of government and its services to the people of Australia”.  Nat Boehm is  really impressed, really excited.

So there is much to get enthusiastic about. But as others have indicated, the hard yards lie ahead. Stephen Collins tempered his expectations by raising concerns- quite rightly in my view – about the ongoing momentum once the final report is handed in on 31 December 2009. I agree with Stephen – it would be a shame to lose the momentum achieved so far. Craig Thomler has been open about the challenges ahead in implementing Gov2.0. Indeed, the Taskforce report is right up front in stating that “the greatest barrier to Government 2.0 is cultural” (page ix).

It’s fair to say that the rapid rise of social media and social networking over the last few years has left many people in organisations with business models, management systems and ways of working that are not only difficult to adapt to the networked society of 2009 – they are just too slow to keep up with the ongoing state of flux and change. Just to be clear, that applies to many in the private sector as well as in government.

But these developments that are so challenging for industrial-age institutions and practices are not are fad, they are not ephemeral. It’s what people want.  Indeed, the changes going on are all about the people. Self-expression, connecting with others and sharing are basic social needs. They are not going to go away. The underpinning technologies of broadband infrastructure, protocols and standards have generated innovative applications and services that internet users around the world have embraced like a duck takes to water.

Process wise, there has been a strong congruence in the work of the Taskforce with the philosophy and the practice of openness, transparency and participation. There has been many opportunities for citizens to contribute to the work of the Taskforce. I have been particularly impressed with the high quality of interaction on the  Taskforce blog. Sure, I’ve said some things could have been done better bur really I’m not fussed about that. There is time still to influence the final report by commenting on the draft. The way the Taskforce has worked has been so different to the way that the machinery of government usually works. That is a signal message in itself.

All well and good. But that brings me to my one remaining area of concern. The Taskforce proposes that a lead agency take responsibility for Government 2.0 policy and provide leadership, guidance and support to agencies and public servants. The agency would consult with relevant agencies through a Government 2.0 Steering Group. In other words, form a committee. Now that is classic public service stuff and would almost ensure that the momentum collapses.

However, developments in the networked society will not wait for guidance from a government committee. I’m enough of a realist to know that a lead agency and steering group are likely actions assuming the Government runs with the recommendations. But those actions need not defer ongoing agency progress in adapting to networked ways of working.  Like the revised APSC guidance on the use of social media, which I see as being permissive and encouraging, I say there is scope for the Taskforce to recommend that agencies start taken action now, or go further than they have so far, in leading the transformation to Government 2.0. Such permissive action is entirely consistent with Web 2.0. People do not need permission to express themselves and to be innovative on the Web. So to with government agencies. Sure, it means taking responsibility for actions that are taken. But then, internet users expect other users to take responsibility for their actions online. So let’s get some more action happening here. Sure, agencies can be guided by centralised processes. But in the end, it will be people in the agencies and their networks online – decentralised networks and ways of working – that will be the change agents over time.

Will the ABC be all spikes and no hub, or will virtual hubs rule?

Last month I blogged about innovation in media, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) move to develop widgets for users to aggregate ABC content on their social network sites. As I’ve said before, this is a smart move by the ABC. In taking this initiative, the ABC appears to have recognised the reality that social networks are the new hub for news and entertainment.

So it is interesting to contrast this strategy with the ABC’s primary vision to become Australia’s “virtual town square” – a hub for user-generated content. In May 2009, Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC, described the virtual town square as “a place where Australians can come to speak and be heard, to listen and learn from one another”. By November 2009, planning had advanced to the point where the ABC is to employ digital media trainers around the country to teach Australians how to upload their own content to the ABC’s website.

What strikes me about the virtual town square idea is that conceptually it is not  a new. Local radio chat shows are a long-standing example of user-generated content in media. The town square idea also rests on media institutions continuing to provide the hub or the space for people to use.  I just wonder how congruent the strategy is with social media has it continues to grow in importance in the everyday lives of Australians.

For when it comes to creating and uploading content, people are already doing this for themselves. The emerging social media hub is a personalised place, one that is open to friends, family, coworkers and other associates in the work place and in the community. The social media hub has user-generated photos and videos, status updates and wall posts for expressing views about whatever is of interest.  It’s a place to join groups of interest and for political activism. It’s a place where users aggregate  news feeds, music and videos from third parties, updates from their other social media sites, and feeds from people they connect with. It’s a place that links data from all over the web. In Australia, that could well mean some content from the ABC. It may well mean that data is collated and shared within user-created and run virtual communities. Users doing it for themselves.

Where might social network site aggregation and sharing go? Steve Rubel has suggested that user preferences for personalised social network sites may mean that the next great media company will not have a website, they will be “all spokes and no hub”. I’d say that is a good call.  With the widget initiative, the ABC is positioning to play in the user-defined media hub space. The corporation is doing that as well as playing host to virtual town squares on its own website. It will be interesting to see how these two plays pan out over the next couple of years.

Future of Social Media…and Media

The online media platforms of broadcasters and newspaper publishers have been integrating social media into their channels for some time now. Integration takes on many forms including offering space for comments, providing web widgets to share articles on the likes of Facebook, Twitter or del.icio.us. Recognising that people carry with them devices that can capture and distribute media in real-time, broadcasters and newspapers encourage people to send them information about events. Professional journalists have blogs and Twitter accounts. Indeed the inter-dependency between media and social media has evolved to the point that some say it is impossible to separate the two.

Media Futurist,Gerd Leonhard, describes the outlook for social networks and social media as an online operating system for individuals, for business and for government – for society generally. Whether you are communicating with people, looking for information or looking for other people or points of interest nearby, whether you are on the mobile web doing some purchasing or banking online, or some citizen journalism, whether your location enables information or advertisements about things of relevance to you to be pushed to your mobile device…you get the picture.

Portable identity tools such as Open ID, Facebook’s Facebook Connect and Google’s Friend Connect allow users to share and aggregate news and information from one web site to another. These developments are regarded as forerunners to technologies that enable portable identities creating (according to a Forrester analysis on the social web) shared social experiences – where socially connected people take their digital identities with them and interact with their social networks over the Web. Those shared experiences are more likely to be contextual situations where their reality is augmented and/or mixed through digital online technologies.

For people entering this space – possibly up to a third of the population over the next five years – content will not be king, nor will their voice calls be mainstays for the telecommunications industry. Content will remain important, but its placement will be contextualised and personalised. It will be relevant to and timely for individuals and their social networks. As Gerd Leonhard says, content will be embodied, packaged and curated in ways that offer value to people. That’s the rationale behind Google’s Social Search – this posting by Mahendra Pasule explains why. I like the terms used by Mahendra too, particularly social relevancy. I feel we will see that term becoming a mantra for social media value-adding strategies.

For more information on value generators see media Futurist Gerd Leonhard’s Future of Social Media presentation delivered at PICNIC ’09 in Amsterdam back in September 2009. I found the 30 minute video to be time well spent.

Gerd Leonhard

The direction that social media/media is heading in is not cross-platform. The operating framework is as a social platform, a shared digital media space. The ‘community hub’ will not be a physical location as such, it will be a socially networked space, where content and services are socially relevant in terms of who and what people are connected to, and their context at the time.

Clay Shirky on the future of newspapers and accountability journalism

Professor Clay Shirky

Professor Clay Shirky spoke recently at Harvard on internet issues facing newspapers. Click here to view the video or read the transcript. It is very interesting and fascinating stuff, covering newspapers’ shrinking ability to produce accountability journalism. The focus is on the U.S. and the public good role that commercial media – in this case advertising supported newspapers – have played in accountability journalism.

I read the transcript to learn about the role that social media is playing in this…and was not disappointed. Social media disrupts the traditional role that media has played in deciding what information is bundled with the ads. Newspaper web sites by and large have mirrored the print copy of newspapers, assuming that readers would go to the web site just as they picked up a newspaper to read. With social media, that assumption no longer holds. Instead of going to the web site, people go directly to the storey, because someone in their network Twittered about it or put it on Facebook or sent a link in an email. So the audience is being assembled not by the newspaper, but by other members of the audience. Now, that’s true for me too. I spend less time on media web sites and on RSS feeds and more time on Twitter & Facebook because of the quality of information I’m getting through my social network.

There is little doubt that social media is a disruptive force in media and in advertising. Companies born digital are taking on more social dynamics into their business model. Take Google for instance, having just released an experiment with search going social.

Professor Shirky’s presentation goes into the public good generated by the social distribution of news online. The public good comes from republication and reuse on a scale that was not feasible from just hard copy print alone.

People can share or forward commercially produced articles online very easily right now, but for how long is unclear.  If newspapers put news and information behind a pay wall, that would block republication and reuse. But then, as Shirky says, the internet enables non-commercial models for news and information production and distribution, including socially produced material. So whatever newspapers do, they will need to rebalance with these alternatives. But the uncertainty is whether the alternative models will be effective substitutes for accountability journalism. Shirky thinks a transitional problem is looming due to the rapid decline of the newspaper industry (particularly in the U.S.); and the uncertainty about the nature and length of time of the intervening period until the (or whether the) social media ecosystem has evolved to fill the gap, particularly in respect of local journalism.