Day 2 was my day to be a conference attendee – no sessions for me today! The day started with an excellent breakfast and a great talk by Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America. Go ahead, click the link and check it out. It’s sort of a Peace Corps for the IT world – a small number of fellows get to spend a year researching, developing and implementing a solution to a particular problem in a particular city. The results have been good – she told of several stories, including one in Boston, where the development of a web app that helped parents map out which public school their child would attend, based on location, was a big success and done cheaper and faster than would be possible through a standard requisition process.
In Honolulu, the web site was out of date and not at all useful to citizens. They did a content refresh and created a “Honolulu Answers” mini-site that took the top 15 searched phrases/questions and answered them. They also did a one day write-a-thon (think hack-a-thon) where 60 people showed up and helped to write the content to answer the next 30 most asked questions in the site’s search logs. While Code for America wasn’t big enough to do all of it, they found capacity in the community itself.
She told more stories of successes – and admitted to failures – and then began talking about how citizens see the government. She has an iPhone for which she pays a nice chuck of change. She doesn’t begrudge that money, though, because the interface of the iPhone makes it a pleasure to use. If gov’t interfaces were a pleasure to use, would people see paying taxes as less of a burden?
That was the keynote talk – and it was a good one. The next session I attended was on Hootsuite for Government. We use Hootsuite at MRRL, but not to it’s best effect, as far as I could tell. From the information I got from this session, I was right. I found out a bunch of new tips and ways we can use even the free version of Hootsuite to get way more value out of it. The slides for the session, including the list of resources and other information, are linked above – go check them out if you have any interest in managing more than one social networking account.
After all that knowledge got stuffed into my head, I went for a walk. I ended up at the Williams Sonoma in the plaza and spent some time wandering around, trying really hard not to actually get drool on anything. I succeeded. Mostly. There was the whole section of Le Creuset cookware, you see…
After that, I went to the networking event sponsored by NationBuilder. There was some sort of seafood pizza and free hard cider and cool people all over the place. I hooked up with an especially cool person and ended up talking everything from Moodle to kids while enjoying the bounty provided by the sponsors. After that, we decamped over to the Melting Pot (fondue!!) for a party sponsored by CivicPlus.
At this festive event, my new friend and I hooked up with one of the sales people and started off talking about civic engagement and web CMSs. After a couple of whiskey and diet cokes and a metric tonne of fruit, brownies and rice crispy treats covered in chocolate, we were all having a grand time.
That party didn’t break up until nearly 11. You will have to wait until Day 3’s post to find out if I actually woke up in time for breakfast tomorrow, though… 🙂 Stay tuned!!