The social media quagmire

This week was the Open Government and Innovations conference in D.C. I’ve attended as many as I’ve been able since moving to the area in 2007. The thing is, it’s been the same conference every year.

And it’s not a problem with OGI, the organizers, or the speakers; I would say it’s a problem with the open government community.

It’s a problem I’ve heard, re-heard and said again in the echo chambers: that we hang out in echo chambers.

Same objections, same cautions, same fears, same possible solutions—the topics that come up during OGI are varied, but similar, in a year-to-year basis.

This isn’t a hit on the people attending either. It’s not a plea for more elitism in open government. It’s not a chance for me, Josh Salmons, to beat his chest and be considered someone who “gets it” a certain percentage faster than someone else.

I say it because I’m afraid the echo chambers and constant need to train newcomers are bogging down the revolution.

We need to define skills that lead to open government. We need to stratify experience levels. We need to develop 101, 201, 301 levels for efficient, productive government. Even this has been said before, but it’s important.

Because we love newcomers! A couple of years ago, I was one too. I attended my first series of seminars, voiced my concerns about adoption rates and access to sites and had my fears assuaged, just like the more experienced social media advocates did this year. Having new blood in the mix shows the health of the ongoing culture shift. That’s not the issue at all. I’m eternally thankful there are people who admit to being “clueless” at every conference. I appreciate their honesty and their willingness to learn.

My problem is we are doing both the new and the seasoned social media advocates a disservice by keeping things as they are. I believe we should be more formal in our evaluations of our skill sets. Asking “Who here is on Twitter? Who here blogs? Who here is on Facebook?” was cute three years ago, but why are we still at that level now?

Maybe it involves an accreditation system like 6 Sigma—green belts, black belts; that sort of thing. Maybe there is a comprehensive wiki-like exam that we can develop and, based on your score, you can fall in to certain strata of social media advocate.

Again, not to establish some sort of class system, but as a triage sort of approach. Since there are only so many minutes, slots and sessions during seminars, wouldn’t it be more productive if we can identify who needs what treatment? Who is just there for a yearly checkup? Who needs help, stat!?

I’ve been honored to receive a lot of invites to seminars over the last couple of years. I’ve met some really awesome people. But it’s getting to the point where I don’t want to show up for the whole conference. I start to dread the same questions from the same levels of experience. It might sound a bit selfish, sure, but I spend most of my time training. I don’t have a problem giving back. But I would also like to know I could get some targeted content as well.

A few people turned me on to a few existing places where others are trying to do just this. Awesome! Let’s keep things moving forward. I don’t think we need to have college degrees about this stuff just yet, but we need something.

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About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

One response to “The social media quagmire”

  1. Jay Cizzle says :

    I like the belt idea. And in my mind, that would naturally lead to Dojos.

    JC

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