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Should We Get Excited About the Obama Administration’s Efforts with Social Software?

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  January 15, 2009  |  2 Comments

Andrea DiMaio with this post is trying to quell my excitement over Obama’s leadership in social software. He and I work together pretty closely on government and Web 2.0 (I focus more on the US while he covers the world). But I have to tell him that it won’t be easy to quell my excitement 🙂 Definitely not by pointing out the usual challenges of building a productive community. As my Dad always told me, “If it is too easy then it probably isn’t worth doing.”

Certainly it will be challenging. Growing and maintaining a productive community is very difficult. This particular effort may not be very effective. However, the Presidency is about leadership and he is showing leadership here. As you know, there are literally millions and millions of ways federal, state, and local governments can benefit from more sharing, collaboration, and community involvement. Some of them will be easier and some will be almost impossible.

If this particular effort fails to deliver transformational results in the long run but spurs numerous successes through its leadership then it will still be a tremendous success.

So I do say, “Let’s get excited about this example of leadership in government trying to do things differently and to take advantage of new transformational ways of collaborating.” If we do get excited about it then we will participate and it just might work.

If we treat it as just another governmental program to present the appearance of change then surely it will fail. That is part of the beauty of the social movement. It is primarily up to us (the people) to make this successful.

If I were President Obama I would not open it up to the entire public. I would randomly select say a million or so citizens as my “Citizen Advisory Community.” To remain in this community you must be active. If you are not active then you will be replaced (random again).

This would Andrea’s first two issues. The third one is a matter of Presidential usage and discovery capabilities. The Administration does not need to expose all possible decisions up for community feedback or try to gather everyone’s ideas. I would advise them to get more specific and targeted in soliciting feedback. Technology can easily help citizens find what they are interested in.

The challenges Andrea outlines (and there are many more) are not unique to this social implementation. All large communities deal with these or similar challenges. They are surmountable and have been overcome by many organizations. Whether the Obama administration can conquer them will be interesting and important to watch. I think we will learn a great deal from their leadership.

What do you think? What is your advice the new administration?

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Category: social-applications  

Tags: government  social-applications  

Anthony J. Bradley
10 years at Gartner
26 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a group vice president in Gartner Research responsible for the research content that Gartner publishes through its three internet businesses (, and These responsibilities include creating and leading the research organization and infrastructure needed for the strategy formulation, planning, research, creation, editing, production and distribution of the content. He has four global teams of highly talented people who are advancing towards the world's greatest destination for content on how small businesses succeed through information technology.

Thoughts on Should We Get Excited About the Obama Administration’s Efforts with Social Software?

  1. […] makes a good point in his reply to my earlier post, and stresses that “This particular effort may not be very effective. […]

  2. […] be useful for this purpose. I may have been too cautious in my previous posts and my colleague Anthony Bradley could be having a first demonstration that his optimism was well placed. The jury is still out, but […]

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