Friday, October 30, 2009

Column: A Personal Story of Renewal

Below you will find the audio/slide capture of a presentation I did in Vancouver at the Governexx Conference and again in Ottawa at PWGSC's National Youth Network Annual Forum. First I want to thank both groups for the invitation, it is always a pleasure to meet other public servants.

The presentation below is just over twenty (20) minutes and chronicles my personal story of renewal, explaining the challenges I faced when I entered, how I almost left the public service after one year, my decision to get more involved in my organization and in public service renewal more generally, and finally my call to action directed at others (leveraging that personal story), because "we" can do so much more than "me" ever could.

Feel free to watch the embedded video below, or grab it at the source. My apologies about the poor quality of the audio/video, but it is the best I have.

Warning: Viewer discretion is advised.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update: Case Study Jam: What the Doers are Doing

Hey Everybody,

I just wanted to drop you all a quick note regarding a great opportunity for those of you interested in social media in Ottawa. On Thursday November 19th at 6pm the first Case Study Jam will take place at La Roma Restaurant (430 Preston).

[Proactive Disclosure: I am a very small part, of a great team heading up the Case Study Jam.]

The Jam is a free event inspired in part by a session held at ChangeCamp Ottawa by my friend and all around good guy Joe Boughner. Joe is the man behind the Association of Canadian Financial Officers (ACFO) use of social media to communicate more effectively with its members. You may recall that we did an interview with Joe about the unions efforts back in January.

So what is a Case Study Jam?

Case Study Jam is a place for communications practitioners to come together and share their stories – successes and failures. How are on-the-ground, front-line folks using social media and, more importantly, how are they integrating these tools into overall communications strategies and practices?

You can find more information about the Jam here.

Come'on out to the Jam and find out what the doers are doing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Column: The Three Laws of Open Public Servants

  1. If you don't act, you don't exist
  2. If you don't share, you can't engage
  3. If you can't act or share, you can't empower
Act, share and empower. That's what we want, and that is what public service renewal is at it's core.

(Note: This post was prompted by some great work done by David Eaves, namely the three laws of open government piece.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Column: False Assumptions About Working Openly

One of the cruelest ironies of the public service is that public servants are reticent to share while simultaneously pointing to poor communication and/or incomplete information as the biggest hindrance to their work. I hear about this irony almost daily, be it in anecdotal discourse with colleagues or appearing in more structured ways such as employee opinion surveys. What is most unfortunate about this cruel irony is that it makes certain web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis, a difficult sell to many public servants, public servants who would otherwise have a lot to gain by using them. Sadly, and I don’t want to dissuade you here, but if David Eaves’ assessment of the hype cycle is correct, then it’s about to become a much harder sell.

The Push Back

Whenever I explain public service wikis to public servants the push-back is usually immediate: people are very much opposed to opening up their work in a manner that would make it readable by any other federal public servant (in the case of GCPEDIA) let alone editable.

The False Assumptions

However, I think that there are a number of false assumptions that people have about working in a more open manner. I say they are false assumptions because they are generally offered up by people who aren't working openly. With all due respect, who knows more about working in an open manner - those working in that manner, or those making excuses not to? Here are the assumptions:

  • Assumption #1: People are interested in your work enough to search for it
  • Assumption #2: Once they find it they will take the time to read it
  • Assumption #3: Once they read it they will likely decide to edit it
  • Assumption #4: Whatever edits/contributions they make will decrease the quality of your work

The Facts

Regarding the first assumption, my experience has been quite different. I am unfamiliar with the majority of the work going on inside GCPEDIA, as are most users, I suspect. What people are familiar with however is what they have either interest or expertise in. The messy nature of the wiki and the vast amount of information therein means that one can really only get to something that they are actively looking for.

As for the rest of the assumptions above, consider these statistics about the wiki version of Scheming Virtuously:

  • Created on December 9, 2008
  • 35th most viewed page in GCPEDIA (2,014 views)
  • Edited 5 times (I personally know each of the people who edited the page)
  • Less than 5 comments on the discussion page (again all from people I know)

The edits were as follows:
  • Categorized the page
  • Added a link
  • Fixed a grammatical error
  • Contributed two sentences of content
  • Recoded the entire document to make it more accessible for people using assistive technologies
Despite my best efforts to make Scheming a dynamic page that was envisioned to solicit input from other public servants it is essentially static. So, while people are viewing it, very few have decided to edit it, and those who did added substantial value to it.

The Relationship to Open Data

This little exercise got me thinking, is the reluctance faced by the open data movement built on similar assumptions, is the experience from practitioners as contradictory to those assumptions as in the case above?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Update: I was on Gov20Radio

Hey Everybody,

I am finally back in Ottawa after a week on the road. The road trip culminated in a guest spot on Gov20Radio with Adriel Hampton. The segment was entitled "Breaking the Boundaries of the Public Service".

We discussed my role in the Canadian Public Service, this blog (and some of its more popular posts), the Gov20 hype cycle, and Govloop North.

Feel free to have a listen and let me know what you think.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Column: Video from WiredCamp, but first...


I have been on the road this week and haven't been able to write anything. My talks went well and I am fortunate to have met many new, interesting and excited people. For those of you who listened to me this week, thanks so much for taking the time to connect. I also wanted to especially thank those who watched me struggle through my talk in Vancouver (I lost my voice by that point, it wasn't pretty). I know I talked about a lot of different things, so here are some links that you may find interesting:

Video from WiredCamp

Two weeks ago I shared my deck/speaking notes from my presentation at WiredCamp. Both of which pale in comparison to actually seeing the presentation delivered, thanks to Doug Bastien for the capture of this. (note if you are having trouble with the embedded video, try this link)

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Column: Putting the Social in Social Media

Here is the deck I used for my presentation at the Advanced Learning Institute's Social Media in Government conference. You can find out more about my presentation include a snapshot of the live tweeting about it by clicking here. Enjoy!

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

If you don't have the 30 minutes to watch it now you can always download the presentation and watch it later (redirects you a the site where you can download the AVI file); I have also made it available on Govloop if your firewall blocks (like mine does).

Last update, big h/t to @georgewenzel who macgyvered up a download link that should work.