I don’t normally spend much time focusing on the corporate structure behind the tentpole companies of today’s social media movement. But the recent announcements from Linden Labs and Twitter both seemed to be worth a little review, particularly from the Government perspective.
First – The What?
This week Twitter announced that they are “looking for an experienced, entrepreneurial person to make Twitter better for policymakers, political organizations, and government officials and agencies.” The position is intended to be housed in Washington, DC and apparently is supposed to focus on being a liaison between all areas of Twitter as a company…and all areas of government. According to the announcement, “responsibilities will include:
- Provide excellent support of government and political use of Twitter.
- Advocate for government and political users within Twitter.
- Increase political use of Twitter.
- Develop best practices and other educational material.
- Do outreach to better understand government needs.”
Wow – good luck with that! That’s a pretty tall order. In my observation, there are dozens of PR and communication firms inside and outside the beltway who focus on each of those bullets individually already. And what about the rest of us who don’t operate in DC? Local governments and state governments have proven that Twitter use can be an integral part of our communications and outreach strategy, but our support needs are very different than those on the federal level. And the politicians too? Very, very different needs. Truth be told, this probably would’ve been more effective if it had been in place a couple years ago when tweeting first started. I know it would’ve saved a lot of us govies the trouble of trying to figure it out ourselves. But now it seems a little late since so many govts are already doing it, and doing it well I might add.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Twitter for looking at us in government with enough interest to appoint somebody to liaison with us. But that job described above, in today’s 2.0 environment, is going to be hard to do as a one-person show in my opinion. So far, from one what I’ve review online, most of the people who’ve thrown their hat in the ring are not actually in government. Even so, some of the nominations are certainly worth reviewing. I hope that whomever they select doesn’t stay inside the beltway all the time. Don’t forget the 50 states and the hundreds of counties and cities out here who are also being innovative and would welcome an opportunity for a little face time as well!
We shall see what happens…
Second – The Bad?
This week also brought what most are considering to be bad news to the 2.0 realm. Linden Labs announced “a strategic restructuring to increase focus on the company’s consumer business including investments intended to enhance ease of use and participation in its virtual goods marketplace through browser-based and mobile applications.” Unfortunately, that also translates to a cut of about 30% of their workforce, including our government liaison. This comes on the heels of the recent release of their drastically redesigned client interface, which has had consistently mixed reviews from the user community. Additionally, the prices for Linden land are steep, which makes it difficult for governments to participate in SecondLife, particularly when they are much less expensive alternatives available. Is this a downward spiral for Linden Labs when it comes to government? IMHO, this is still TBD.
On a positive note, the news release also promises a stronger focus on the company’s primary long-term goal: “to create a browser-based virtual world experience, eliminating the need to download software.” This could potential be a huge step forward in the government sector. Information security concerns and the steep learning curve have made it difficult for many organizations to get in-world long enough to see the infinite possibilities available. Technologically speaking, this is becoming much closer to a reality and if LL truly does focus on this goal, it could mean a second (larger) wave of acceptance and popularity as tool, both in general and specifically in government. So, as with the Head Gov Twit appointment above, I am conflicted and will have to wait and see…
Third – The Good!
And finally, the last job related note from me this week. This one, although it has received much less fanfare and notoriety than the first two above, is nonetheless to me the most positive. AmericaSpeaks.org has posted a help wanted ad for a newly-created position called Director of Online Engagement & Participation. According to Susanna Haas Lyons from America Speaks, “the position is unique in the way that it draws on three distinct skill sets – digital tools, business development, and citizen participation – and correspondingly offers a leading opportunity to advance the voice of citizens in governance while changing the way agencies at all levels of government use technology to achieve their mandate.” Social media as a platform and citizen participation as a focus? Now that is truly an innovative opportunity. The person in this spot is going to have all kinds of fun with the tools and the practice of engagement!
Also this week, the Big Apple posted a new job – Chief Digital Officer. The new position is designed to “develop forward-thinking policies on social media, digital communications, Web 2.0 initiatives and other tools to better serve the public.” Very similar to the America Speaks position in some ways, albeit more focused on the NYC’s well-publicized digital channels.
If you’ve got the tech chops and the communications experience, I’d suggest you toss your hat in the ring early ’cause my guess is that both of these are going to be very busy! Meanwhile, I will be over here festering in jealously, waiting to hear more about the lucky souls who gets to fill those spots.