Mar 11 2010

Listening to America: Social media flips at Sweets ‘n’Tweets in DC

Tweeter and Corporate Blogging Guru Debbie Weil has a series of talks in Washington on social media topics. Last night the speaker was Anil Dash of MacArthur Foundation funded Expert Labs.

The location, a wired cupcake shop in Georgetown with a pink bike parked out front, thus the name of the series.

Dash says the goal of Expert Labs is to open government (gov 2.0) using social media to LISTEN as well as talk to their audience. His company is currently working with the White House Science and Technology office. So far, no other gov’t agencies, Congress, etc.  Of course, he saw applications in the commercial sector as well.

During the discussion of his project, there was discussion about citizen participants having  to “put on a tie” when talking to gov’t. Really some form of identification and a call for responsible comment.

IMHO, not the way to get folks to participate.  Especially in this over-media hyped environment. Dash mentioned that most issues now activate the legalize pot crowd when comment is called for. So his software is able to collapse issues and summarize.

This new software is designed to have a civil conversation and learned discussion. Good idea, hard, if not impossible, to impliment. That is where Expert Labs software and cloud computing coming in.

Other attendees, in discussion with me, felt the whole conversation with all 305+ million Americans, in theory, was 20-30 years away due to computer limitations. I don’t think it’s the computer limitations but the fear of government, the certainty that everyone thinks they know best that is factor to slow this “group listening.”

I live and work in the Washington area and see plenty of boldface political people in  everyday life – at the supermarket, the gym, getting coffee and whatnot. They generally seem to be genuine but all too often, their objectives are driven by many things, the least of which is direct public input. Even for good ideas.

That is hard nut to crack. Did the Constitutional founders expect us to run everything by opinion poll? Or was it their belief that even a “common man” can do the job of representative in Congress by voting and shaping legislation he believes best represents his voters and any other groups he is representing.

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