I recently attended the Adobe Government Assembly at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington, DC. The event was very well done with speakers from organizations such as DHS, DOD, and EPA. Government employees and government contractors gathered to discuss and consider the idea’s of government transparency.
While many topics were debated, one question that emerged was “how does the government share ideas and ask for feedback from the public, without sharing too much, or creating unrealistic expectations?” As Al Kamen’s Washington Post column examines, (washingtonpost.com), even the “super secret” NSA is conversing with the public on Facebook.
An extremely bright panel including Alan Cohn (Strategic Plans-DHS), Price Floyd (Public Affairs-DOD), and Dee Dee Myers (Former White House Press Secretary) debated how to handle public interaction and information sharing, while answering questions from the crowd (answering questions from the public about how to answer questions from the public?!?). Myers pointed to the release of the White House Visitor list (bbc-white house list) as an example of how sharing some information increases the demand for more information. The public responded to the list by saying, “Thanks for telling us who was there, now tell us why they were there and what they were talking about!”
While the panelists agreed that this can become problematic, they also agreed that it isn’t something to be afraid of and that it is the reality of today’s world. The days of government communication to the public being a one way street are over. Today, US Government officials aren’t only deciding what to share with the public, but what to tweet, what to re-tweet, and how to respond to difficult wall posts.