Thoughts on a VTC

Many of you know that I am now deeply involved in Federal Green IT. Add that in with my personal nonprofit work on Food/Obesity/Recycling and I’m all ears for video conferencing.

Which is why I’m a bit wry in these thoughts scrambled on sheets during my first VTC:

Sitting in two separate rooms. Two different groups. A Turing test – feeding voice info through the mic to the other group. Like Turing would think, if the message is delivered and a smart reply ensues, we have an intelligent VTC.

The atmoshpherics of the VTC are such that any delay in transmission can fail the whole operation. The faces on the screen are cold, flat, and the size of a penny on a screen far away on the wall. Wait! There is a third interloper, a single person, in a dark room. Is that big brother? Did he see me writing these notes and now going to take me to secret prison number 72?

Papers are everywhere. We have video screens of each other and a million printouts. Separate notes being taken on each. Lots of writing. Redundant. Scattered. Back to their individual desk and then…lost.

Why not a single note taker – entering notes digitally – on the scene = available instantly back at my desk for free!

Is the whole point of a video conference saving time and money, with lowered stress? Appears to work but still seem so awkward. How to improve? Does the new meeting format ask corporate servants to learn new meeting skills – like muting the box, waiting for the delay to pass, squinting at the screen to see their faces?

Maybe its just me and Im now old. Used to my physical “warm” meetings…or maybe im not using the top of the line technology…what is that like?

Can I just sit at my desk and play/enter Second Life and sit at virtual desk?

What do you hope to do?

**this is cross-posted from the Navstar blog, announcing my new position**

It’s the beginning of my new life at Navstar and I am asked, “What do you hope to do?”

A simple question but it completely floors me. I’m so used to the opposite and its stifling restrictions and requirements. I just can’t fathom the answer.

Then day two rolls around and I’m still floored. I decide to ask our VP, Corinne Combeau, what do you think? She proceeds to paint a beautiful picture for me. Complete with flowing creativity, ambitious goals, and even a prop. A sheet of paper that she turns into a metaphor with one side representing the Navstar way with a sky is the limit, blank slate approach and the other side representing ‘others’ with a job description that forces you into a box.

Again, I’m floored.

I keep thinking to myself…is this what it mean to be working for a top 25 technology company in DC (pdf)?

——–

This all means that I am officially an employee of Navstar. They have offered me an incredible opportunity to join their team where I will be helping their Green IT and Enterprise 2.0 programs.

Our broad vision for Green IT is to help turn our Federal government in a mean green machine. Transform it one of the most sustainable and efficient operations in the world. Over the coming weeks we will be putting out more details of our program and services. The main focus of which will be providing sound solutions to federal agencies that reflect the modern environmental movement, where going green means cost savings, increased capabilities, improved efficiency, and much more.

In Enterprise 2.0, Navstar is already a leader in the space having caught the wave very early. Now, over 4 years later, the program is a defined leader in the space thanks to the work of Andrea Baker, the Director of Enterprise 2.0 for Navstar. I am excited to join her team and help grow the program (and this blog!). More details on my involvement to come.

This is an exciting time for me since I have a deep passion in both areas. In the field of green I am a passionate change advocate for food and waste. I created the non-profit, A Clean Life, to allow for greater impact and change. I spend my days and weeks helping DC turn into a zero waste city and its citizens discover the joys and health benefits of real food.

In the online world I am non-stop. Since my earliest days I have developed an alter-ego, starting as a Senior Game Master at Blizzard. In that role I learned the new language of the nets as our success on World of Warcraft went through the roof, defining a whole new genre in gaming (massive multiplayer). With that new language I quickly progressed to teaching others about it in the Intelligence Community, helping scores of Intelligence Officers understand what a wiki is and soon blogs, tags, and more. After that I joined the World Intelligence Review helping spearhead their Agile Product Development and Project Management programs, watching as it became the most successful online enterprise in Intelligence.

Now, I am poised for success again as I join forces with Navstar to grow their Green IT program and contribute mightily to their Enterprise 2.0 work.

Still…I am left pondering the question…”what do you hope to do?”

I want to do it all 🙂

Government 2.0: The State of the Meme

Meme – An idea or pattern of thought that “replicates” like a virus by being passed along from one thinker to another

As an idea or pattern of thought government 2.0 (gov 2.0) is still being defined and debated. To some it is merely an extension of Web 2.0, to others it is the serious work of transparency and greater citizen involvement through open data.

Let’s dig into this meme…

Gov 2.0 Summit and Expo

Wow, what an event this was. Tim O’Reilly and his leadership team put on quite a show. I was in attendance on a press badge and was fortunate enough to view the events in the crowd and on the inside.

The event signaled a shock to the Washington DC government crowd. For a long time these beltway folks had been toiling away under the radar before an unsupportive administration. Now, they are in position to make some major moves in the federal sphere.

On the same level of shock, Silicon Valley and the O’Reilly team faced some hard facts about the beltway. Their can-do attitude and forceful energy stepped on one too many toes. And, I think it safe to say turned many off because of the government inefficiencies and roadblocks in the way of innovation and reform.

I saw a little east coast, west coast rivalry pop-up. Fortunately, the show went on and many from around the country attended the event, had a blast, and completely missed out on the kerfuffles.

For an interesting review on the event check out Amy Senger’s ‘The Gov 2.0 Showdown

Celebrity Status

Gov 2.0 has yet to make it big. A google news search shows that only 222 articles mention the term. Few large media outlets are talking about the movement. It has yet to penetrate the consciousness of the average person and more importantly the middle manager.

A google blog search reveals over 40,000 hits. Apparently there is some viral conversations taking place with many thinkers opining on the topic.

The Definition

Is it about personal brands, twitter, and facebook. Or, as Tim O’Reilly says its about government as a platform. Maybe, its about Enterprise 2.0 as Professor Andy McAfee and Andrea Baker have been talking about.

We have yet to come to a solid agreement about the definition. In fact, much of the discussion revolves around each blogger stating their own definition or throwing stones at another’s.

It does appear that gov 2.0 is infiltrating every level of government. With each office incorporating social media, cloud computing, and open API’s into their job buckets. Which leaves some remaining tough questions about openness, transparency, and the role of government in all of this.

Leadership

In an age of personal brands it appears that everyone is a leader in the space of government 2.0. Everyone has done everything and is an expert in all. Just a few years of experience and a blog post published on a prominent website, make you a star.

Sarcasm aside government 2.0 is hard work. It takes community building, relationships, coding, networking, promotion, and more. The most striking leaders in this space are those performing nearly all of those roles. Which means they are often hidden from popular view but deeply influential in their spheres of work.

This hidden work combined with the lack of celebrity status has left a clear opening for profiteers. Many are hoping to be the first to break the story and claim success. A challenge to ethical underpinnings of this new community.

Community

In my opinion the single largest effect of Tim O’Reilly’s move into the gov 2.0 world is to bring all of this hard work to a broader audience. Personally, I feel like I am now connected to every state government, city government, regional federal office, all in addition to the existing Washington DC offices, which are legion.

Beyond that are hundreds of NGO’s on both sides of the aisle and in the middle are pushing agendas, uncovering scandals, and playing with data.

The community encompasses so many folks that it is going to be tough to wrangle all of them together.

The Future

Is very bright. We appear to have at least three more years of enlightened tech policy coming out of the white house. Which filters down to every level of public and private work. Big contracts and big corporations are starting to take notice and follow the money.

The recession too is providing an opportunity for gov 2.0. The realization of improved efficiency and cost savings are helping to overcome transient cultural barriers. I’ve even seen stimulus dollars used for gov 2.0 work (blackberries for Baltimore PD).

Behind the scenes the back channels and ego battles are just as interesting. Players are being challenged, camps are forming, and feelings are being hurt. The traditional way of doing business is being challenged with women asserting their rights in tech. Average folks who normally have no voice are able to trumpet their issues across new communication mediums to make their voice heard and responded too.

I look forward to more rapid growth, another gov 2.0 event, and ever more kerfuffles. I hope the progress and reform continues. I hope the west coast can help break the stranglehold the major defense companies have on government work. I hope that our community overcomes its own ego and looks to the common good.

This piece comes as a follow on to Andrew McAfee’s, Enterprise 2.0: The State of the Meme, written over 3 years ago in June 2006

I’m Rejoining Gov 2.0

I am very excited about this week. The new fall weather is heralding my return to the government world. I had been on exodus exploring personal interests in environmentalism. I loved the time away and even used it to create A Clean Life, find utlimate personal health, and become an evangelist for a better world.

As I ease back into this I am excited to re-join the ranks of Gov 2.0. The Gov 2.0 Expo and Summit are the perfect events to jumpstart all of this. They provide the perfect opportunity to network, reconnect with old friends, and catch up on the latest in government tech innovation.

The event is reaffirming my zeal for innovation. I really did miss the technology and rapidly changing environment. It has made me look back into my past and reassess my experiences. Their are so many fond memories on my resume and a lot of years starting to build:

5 yrs – community manager
6.5 years – trainer/teacher
7 years – customer service
1.5 years – project management
8 years – social media
15 years – computer software/hardware/online
3 years – post-baccalaureate
  • 5 yrs – community manager
  • 6.5 years – trainer/teacher
  • 8 years – social media
  • 7 years – customer service
  • 1.5 years – project management
  • 15 years – computer software/hardware/online
  • 3 years – post-baccalaureate

As you can see I have a wide range of experience with a strong focus in computers, community management, and teaching. I hope to see my new focus move into more social media and project management. Two areas that I am already deeply involved in and would like to explore more.

Now, off to chat up some old friends in Gov 2.0 🙂

Vote for Our SXSW Panels!

Hey Everyone – voting opened today for SXSW 2010 panels. The SXSW panel committee will use our votes to help determine what kind of conference SXSW ends up being.

So, please vote for my panels and my friends. All the words below are clickable

From me, Steven Mandzik:

Local Food: Creating an Online Community of Local Eaters

How a Zero Waste Lifestyle Can Save Your Life

From Friends

Dating 2.0: How Social Media Gets You Dates – by Amy Senger

Innovating Bureaucracy: Getting Government To ShareAndrea Baker

What Does Corporate America Think of Web 2.0? – by Andrew McAfee

Developer from Mars Takes on Designer from Venus – by Chris Bucchere

Technically Women – 4 panels by women

Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998)

“Velvet Goldmine” is a movie made up of beginnings, endings and fresh starts. There isn’t enough in between. It wants to be a movie in search of a truth, but it’s more like a movie in search of itself. Not everyone who leaves the theater will be able to pass a quiz on exactly what happens.

Set in the 1970s, it’s the story of the life, death and resurrection of a glam-rock idol named Brian Slade, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and probably inspired by David Bowie. After headlining a brief but dazzling era of glitter rock, he fakes his own death onstage. When the hoax is revealed, his cocaine use increases, his sales plummet, and he disappears from view. A decade later, in the fraught year of 1984, a journalist named Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is assigned to find out what really happened to Brian Slade.

Do we care? Not much. Slade is not made into a convincing character in “Velvet Goldmine,” although his stage appearances are entertaining enough. But a better reason for our disinterest is that the film bogs down in the apparatus of the search for Slade. Clumsily borrowing moments from “Citizen Kane,” it has its journalist interview Slade’s ex-wife and business associates, and there is even a sequence of shots that specifically mirror “Kane”–the first interview with the mogul’s former wife, Susan.

“Citizen Kane” may just have been voted the greatest of all American films (which it is), but how many people watching “Velvet Goldmine” will appreciate a scene where a former Slade partner is seen in a wheelchair, just like Joseph Cotten? Many of them will still be puzzling out the opening of the film, which begins in Dublin with the birth of Oscar Wilde, who says at an early age, “I want to be a pop idol.” I guess this prologue is intended to establish a link between Wilde and the Bowie generation of crossdressing performance artists who teased audiences with their apparent bisexuality. Brian Slade, in the movie, is married to an American catwoman named Mandy (Toni Collette) but has an affair with a rising rock star named Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), who looks like Kurt Cobain, is heedless like Oscar Wilde and is so original onstage that he upstages Slade, who complains, “I just wish it had been me. I wish I’d thought of it.” (His wife, as wise as all the wives of brilliant men, tells him, “You will.”) The film evokes snatches of the 1970s rock scene (and another of its opening moments evokes early shots from the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”). But it doesn’t settle for long enough on any one approach to become very interesting. It’s not a career film, or a rags-to-riches film, or an expose, or an attack, or a dirge, or a musical, but a little of all of those, chopped up and run through a confusing assortment of flashbacks and memories.

The lesson seems to be that Brian Slade was an ambitious, semi-talented poseur who cheated his audience once too often, and then fooled them again in a way only the movie and its inquiring reporter fully understand. In the wreckage of his first incarnation are left his wife, lovers, managers and fans. It is a little disconcerting that the last 20 minutes, if not more, consist of a series of scenes that all feel as if they could be the last scene in the movie: “Velvet Goldmine” keeps promising to quit, but doesn’t make good.

David Bowie (if Slade is indeed meant to be Bowie) deserves better than this. He was more talented and smarter than Slade, reinvented himself in full view, and in the long run can only be said to have triumphed (if being married to Iman, pioneering a multimedia art project and being the richest of all non-Beatle British rock stars is a triumph, and I submit that it is). Bowie is also more interesting than his fictional alter ego in “Velvet Goldmine,” and if glam rock was not great music, at least it inaugurated the era of concerts as theatrical spectacles and inspired its audiences to dress in something other than the hippie uniform.

Todd Haynes, the director and writer, is an American whose first two films (“Poison” and “Safe”) were tightly focused, spare and bleak. “Safe” starred Julianne Moore as a woman allergic to very nearly everything–or was she only allergic to herself? These films were perceptive character studies. In “Velvet Goldmine,” there is the sense that the film’s arms were spread too wide, gathered in all of the possible approaches to the material and couldn’t decide on just one.

ROGER EBERT / 6 November 1998