Spider Jerusalem

Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan. Image by Darek_Smid via Flickr

Inspired by a recent reading of Warren Ellis‘ and Darick Robertson‘s exceptional sci-fi journalism epic Transmetropolitan, I’m going guns up on a number of communications issues affecting the communities through which I circulate in DC. Ellis’ self-described “outlaw journalist” Spider Jerusalem – fueled by copious amounts of drugs and madness in a delightful send-up of Hunter S. Thompson – promises his readership “The Truth. No matter what.” In his writing, Spider goes after all that is wrong with his beloved society, targeting everything from corrupt politicians to the public’s ignorance of special sub-cultures in their fine City. I find Spider’s epic story a galvanizing bullwhip across my back, forcing me off my Xbox-addled arse to write about some of the iniquities in government I see as part of my work. This will be just the first in a series of posts on subjects across the communications spectrum. I’m coming for ALL OF YOU.

Today, my first target is public diplomacy.


Readers of this blog should not be surprised by my intense disappointment in the modern public diplomacy (or PD) community.  Today’s premeditated murder was spurred on by my attendance and yet another PD gathering in Washington, DC: a meeting of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD). On the shores of our august capitol, PD enthusiasts, practitioners, and executives met to talk about the same retarded problems they have been since before the U.S. Information Agency‘s (aka the USIA) absorption by the State Department during the Clinton Administration. Panelists lamented continued lack of resources for PD initiatives, the imbalance between the State and Defense Departments in strategic communication capability, and a dilapidated piece of shitheel legislation called the Smith-Mundt Act whose Cold War roots strangle in the crib any offspring of modern government communication and engagement initiatives.

At issue for you oppressed, tax-fucked Americans? These same people have debated this same issue for a decade with no charted course for reform.

Hunter S. Thompson would have brain-smacked you all by now. Be thankful for my gonzo. Moo hoo ha ha. (Image from TopTenz.net. Comedy shamelessly ripped off of Warren Ellis.)

“That’s not fair!” some asshole will undoubtedly object, choking himself masturbatorially on reams of “DipNotes” from PD officers both home-based and overseas, begging our pardon thank you very much, “We have changed SO. MUCH. in the Obama Administration!” Let not these purported achievements fill you with comfort, dear seekers of AWESOME, for they elicit mere “yays” from the govvies roaming the halls of cavernous Main State and snickering derision from their interagency compatriots behind the green doors of MacDill and Bragg and Langley. Progress made under Judith McHale‘s reign as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs registers as little more than a cursory reshuffling of office space for most of the strategic communication community. Progress that scores an administration enough points for a minor electoral anecdote but changes nothing. In fact, Dame Judith hung her Mission Accomplished banner on July 1st and dashed back to the private sector, a political appointment weighing under her belt for new boardroom dances with wolves.

They define “progress” as anything more than what the last administration achieved. The politicization of public diplomacy continues. Even PD Jesus Bruce Gregory’s voice cracked with torpor as he queried the Commission about any indication of motivation amongst The Bastards of Capitol Hill to make revising legislation like Smith-Mundt a priority. No one could answer with anything but googly-eyed evasion and exhortations of more progress. All bullshit.

Key to these liver spotted deliberations is the disconcerting lack of any personage on the Commission the age of, it seems, 60? 50? 40? Said Commissioners are charged with advising the White House and Congress on the current state of PD and any required changes. Have these venerable veterans achieved any of these changes in the past? NO. Debates continue unabashed under their scrutiny, but ultimately, no capable young saviors have appeared to dash the fuckery of this decrepit profession into some semblance of modernization. Instead, more meetings. Many, many meetings.

Is PD even a necessary discipline in the 21st century? This existential question should be considered by this Commission and more. Panelists admitted that as communication becomes more social and content ownership franchises more to the individual… does a government agency have any equitable place in this modern communication continuum? How much of said agency’s budget could be repurposed into something more effective, especially in This, Our Decade of Economic Anal Probity?

In truth, some kind of coordinative communication apparatus is probably mandated, but a standalone office of diplomats still trying to get Teh Brown Peeples to read our press releases is not the answer. The profession of public diplomacy itself has even been attacked indirectly by the wild success of independent citizen diplomacy efforts. As much as foreign cultures balk at the elitist diplomacy practiced by our leaders, they clamor for more of US. OUR people. Our CITIZENS and THEIR culture. It is THIS influence, the kind Americans exude in their daily interactions with EVERYONE, that fosters our best destiny in achieving any kind of global equilibrium where U.S. interests and foreign policy objectives are met.

So. What to do?

Less bullshittery. More AWESOME.

We need not more reportage of the latest personnel changes in State PD to accommodate engagement with people of different cultures online. Instead, we need INSANE RISK TAKING. We need programs that make managers shit their pants. We need BOLDNESS. We need MADNESS. We need BETTER. Everyone lives in fear of breaking the law (i.e., Smith-Mundt), but no one has ever been prosecuted much less charged for it. COWBOY UP, PEOPLE.

Retire the old. Empower the new.

If PD is to survive, it needs to stop chasing off all its talent. Instead of rewarding the tired old Foreign Service Officers in their Cold War era suits with prime postings and political appointments, recruit badass social communicators and rockstars. Were I the President, I’d beg Jack Dorsey to fix my State Department. I’d heap tons of cash upon Katie Stanton and Jared Cohen to keep challenging the system instead of being chased off by white-faced, skeleton-eyed Statey lifers. It’s time for PD to evolve and kill its parents.

Flexible, dynamic interagency doctrine.

Christopher Paul, RAND analyst and a speaker at the ACPD meeting, noted voluminous mountains of reports all describing the same problems with the US government’s PD and strategic communication enterprise. All of them, he said, cited failures in strategy, leadership, and resources. While this is true, understand that they can only be fixed with doctrine– legislated, enforceable operating procedures that name the leader and give them authority, power, and dollars. Said doctrine should be written and executed dynamically and train its future communications professionals to a standard of dynamism instead of the usual tired old PD goals shat out by Foreign Service Institute instructors.

An organization… or not?

Since PD people love to retread the same issue over and over, the ACPD discussion inevitably turned toward the idea of a rehabilitated USIA of the future or some such public/private organization that could strategically execute funding for PD or strategic communication programs. If you think this is the solution to your PD problems, I refer you to the abortion that is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a case study in placenta cannibalization. Ultimately, we will not know if a new organization is needed until we agree upon one final yet primarily critical issue.

Communication is communication is communication.

In the ecosystem of government influence, we have public diplomacy. We have strategic communication. We have military information operations and its subordinate components. We have public affairs. We have countless different ways of describing the same thing, mainly because Our Bastardry In Office refuse to modernize legislation and policy to reflect the present day much less prepare for the ever-fluid yet super-AWESOME future. Instead of rewriting arcane definitions and arguing them over interagency turf, we need a frank and fundamental understanding by our entire government that all of these things are influence and communication is the mechanism by which we engage that influence, be it passively or actively, openly or surreptitiously. We need a pedigree for professionals charged to operate in this ecosystem and high qualifications for the ones assigned to advise senior leaders and decision makers.

Hope Is Not Lost

It sounds doomy and gloomy from the PD pulpit, doesn’t it? Well, here’s another lovely fact for you to chew on: NOBODY CARES. That’s right. Outside of DC, Americans could care less about a minuscule communication discipline practiced by a cadre of foggy eyed concerto directors and staffs of douchebags wielding postgraduate degrees from learning institutions designed to pump out partisanly political clones year after year.

Within this black hole of apathy lies opportunity. While no one is looking, those with the drive and the passion to make change – not ask for it – can turn the modernization of PD into an ecstasy fueled RAVE. The Executive Branch needs not the pusillanimous posturing of political poobahs on the Hill to create true strategic communication primacy in government right now. But to make permanent visionary change, we will eventually need to rustle Congress into the pasture of the future.

To achieve this, however, we need YOU – that’s right, YOU – to get up off your ass and MAKE THIS AN ISSUE. Every time you vote for the guy who likes to tweet dick pics to his mistresses, you screw us out of balanced, effective decisions. Stop sending immense wankers to DC.

Next Time On Strategic Communication Theater…

In subsequent posts, we’ll explore more about what this weird world of strategic communication and influence looks like from Washington. Many of you dear AWESOMESAUCERS have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s part of the problem. So look for a series of “WTF…?” posts detailing simple explanations of complex processes, systems, and disciplines related to Our National Communication Nightmare.

The gloves come off.

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Greetings from wet and humid London! Your intrepid host of AWESOME has skipped the pond to attend and speak at IQPC’s 10th Annual Information Operations Europe conference.

The guts of the conference don’t actually begin until tomorrow, but the organizers have a history of bookending the conference with operator-focused practical workshops like the one I started with today. Because wifi is a bitch to string up (shame on you, IQPC), I figure I’ll try my hand at a read-out via blog and livetweet when possible (under the hashtag #IOeurope).

Chatham House rules generally apply at IO Europe, so I’ll be judicious in my reportage.

Session 1: Can Commercial Advertising Teach IO Professionals Anything?

M&C Saatchi presented a case study on its Change 4 Life campaign against obesity, executed on contract from the UK Department of Health. I really liked this campaign’s use of iconography to get across its message: demographic-neutral cartoon characters aimed at borderline impoverished families. While several lessons could be learned from the case study, many IO pros in the room didn’t find application because the nuances of public information campaigns work very differently from military information operations. Most military attendees were fresh off IO tours in Afghanistan and Iraq where they have a very different environment in which to work versus the generally permissible domestic audience to which M&C Saatchi catered.

The Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall

The UK Department of Health (Image via Wikipedia)


This doesn’t necessarily mean there weren’t any good kernels of knowledge here; there were. But I think only in the context of those who are looking at evolving the IO practice. Unfortunately, few of those people exist as today’s current environment of budget cuts and drawdowns leaves very little research & development space for future state IO and influence. It may become incumbent upon the private sector PR, marketing and advertising industry to consider designing future state IO training pro bono or at least in such a fashion as it can be demonstrated as useful and effective to those who watch the number of zeroes in the check box. Most of the cutting edge work and thought in influence is happening at places like Edelman, Wieden + Kennedy, and the tech startup world… all of which are a long way from MacDill Air Force Base.

Side note: there was a fun little practical exercise where we were to put together an on-the-fly ad campaign for selling more caravans (RVs, to you Americans). It was interesting that all the groups arrived at many of the same conclusions when presenting their campaigns. Ultimately, however, the exercise was too short to get into the meat of the differences between IO processes and PR/advertising processes. I’ve long argued that communication is communication is communication, but delineations do exist between disciplines like IO and PR… even though they are very, very subtle.

Session 2: Afghanistan

I hesitate to mention too much about this session due to operational sensitivities, but suffice to say, there is no good news about the situation in Afghanistan. Everything every pessimist has written or analyzed about that country and our united presence there is true. Much of the problem involves flawed objectives and poor partnerships with corrupt Afghans not to mention the looming drawdown coming in the next year. Afghans trust Westerners very little on long-term promises or operations; they know our political will to sustain change in their country is fleeting. Worse, we keep pumping money and time into communication through a flawed-from-the-start Afghan national government, where tribal engagement at the lowest possible local level proves more effective in the long run.

Many of the Afghanistan vets in the room conveyed a sense of unfortunate hopelessness. They believe that it’s possible to sustain change in the region, but they’re not optimistic about it given the political and economic realities in their native governments.

Fish and chips, lads?

Coming up: THE PUB. Where the real work in the influence business gets done.

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Not much to report this week due to a flurry of Du4licious activity in prep for this week’s Sister Cities International conference in Arlington. But a couple things did catch my eye.

Congressman Rahm Emanuel (center) with Sol Sch...

Image via Wikipedia

Revealing the Man Behind @MayorEmanuel


Like many across the country, I fell in love with the raucous foulness of Rahm Emanuel‘s parody Twitter account, which started broadcasting shortly after Rahm left the White House to run for mayor of Chicago. As @MayorEmanuel’s popularity grew, so too did the mystery of who was really behind it. In this Atlantic article, @MayorEmanuel’s pilot is revealed: Dan Sinker, a Chicago punk rocker and new age digital storyteller. Sinker describes @MayorEmanuel as performance art, a new sort of digital political commentary that weaves in and out of fiction, celebrity, and current events. I’m massively intrigued by the potential of using Twitter in a manner like Sinker did. Anonymity is so easily protected on this network, there are huge opportunities for persona manipulation… which makes me wonder about the future of digital identity. Great read.

On Revolutions

Pretty interesting perspective on the Middle East protests from Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity. Guillebeau has made a name for himself as a “travel hacker” by finding inexpensive means of visiting all sorts of places around the world. He is, in my opinion, a true citizen diplomat (public diplomacy peeps: take note). His experiences flying into Afghanistan, Libya, and Iran (!), give him an interesting “average joe” insight to what’s really at the forefront of people’s minds in those countries. Highly recommended read, and be sure to subscribe to Guillebeau’s blog too. It’s a must for nonconformists, proto-world dominators, and doowutchyalikes.

Announcing: Open Foresight & The Future of Facebook Project

Venessa Miemis is at it again with what sounds like an AWESOME forecasting initiative via Kickstarter. She has already interviewed several notable social media and tech influencers and has opened up her research questions to the public on Quora. I highly recommend EVERYONE go and participate in this project. I’ve blogged about Venessa before, and I think her work as a modern digital/social futurist demonstrates a LOT of required skills we as humans need to adopt to adapt to the new digital lifestyles in which we find ourselves.

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Skipped out on doing these for a couple weeks as I head my head down in the trenches producing pages for a brand new writing project I’m cooking up. Sometimes, you have to quit consuming to create. This week, we’re back!

The Future of Work

I’ve specifically tried to not link to or quote anything from the big social media men on campus like Brogan or Godin. It’s simple linkbait for one thing, and more importantly, a lot of their content lately has been less than interesting. This post from Chris Brogan, however, is a spot-on bit of writing. Others have been writing about how we’re changing the definition of “work” in the 21st century, but Brogan has a good summary of the high points in this conversation here. I think more of us should be sticking this post in front of our bosses and every worker over the age of 25 in this country.

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

Developing this week is a Rolling Stone story about LTG William Caldwell‘s orders to an Afghanistan IO/PSYOP cell to influence the perceptions of visiting U.S. legislators. There is a HUGE kerfluffle happening in DC over this, and it’s the latest ding against military psychological (or information support) operations. On the front lines, Joint forces – and particularly the Army, historical home of the PSYOP regiment – have been trying to make sense of convoluted legislation and backwards policy governing the employment of information warfare in combat. There are clear lanes between strategic communicators, and one is that IO/PSYOP pros are only allowed to deploy their craft against foreign populations. To do so against Americans would be an illegal propagandizing effect, which seems to have been committed by LTG Caldwell.

That said, the modern information environment is such that easy distinctions between what’s propaganda and what’s neutral information are fast becoming irrelevant. Worse, America’s national security apparatus has essentially thrown in the towel on addressing this issue, afraid to engage the White House and Congress on the very real need to reform our en toto strategic influence and communication capability. Until such a thing happens, mistakes like Caldwell’s will continue to provide justifications to know-nothings in the Pentagon and on the Hill to further eviscerate our badly-needed interagency strategic communications and influence budget.

FUBAR: Army Inquiry Taints Its Next Chief

For those not familiar with the U.S. Army‘s non-warfighting components, this should be an interesting read. The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, should be designing the doctrine of the future and developing or modifying training programs across the force to support soldiers’ learning needs against future threats. Instead, TRADOC is INFESTED with old, ineffectual men trapped in the Cold War who are convinced the U.S. will be going to conventional war again any day now. I think Ackerman is way too lenient in this Danger Room post. Having worked at Fort Leavenworth myself for a TRADOC element, I can say with authority that the Army’s future leaders are FUCKED if we keep guys like Dempsey in charge of things. Buddies of mine who have recently graduated Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth have told me that things are getting somewhat better: counterinsurgency training is finally attaining primacy. But if I were Secretary Gates, I wouldn’t have nominated Dempsey for Chief of Staff of the Army with such a horrid track record for backsliding behind him at TRADOC.

Kirk to Clapper on Muslim Brotherhood: WTF?

I used to have a modicum of respect for James Clapper, former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and recently appointed Director of National Intelligence. However, he has made a number of embarrassing gaffes answering questions in public lately, so many so that I’m beginning to think the guy really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I echo Congress’ WTF on this one. If ANYONE should know ALL the nuances of the Muslim Brotherhood – to include its doctrinal promise to subvert America using its own legal system – it’s the top intel guy in the country. FAIL.

Pentagon’s Clandestine Killers Get New Chief

Here’s some good news: the only uniformed officer of the American military for whom I would lay down in traffic is taking over Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the military command that coordinates the activities of Delta Force, Navy SEALS, and other elite American special ops teams. Major General Joseph Votel was nominated by Secretary Gates for his third star last week and command of JSOC. I worked for Votel on the IED Task Force back when he was a wee colonel and I was a wet-behind-the-ears contractor. He’s the type of leader we need more of in our government: fearless, risk tolerant, intensely dedicated to his people, and a true patriot. I’m really proud that he’s achieved such success.

Many STAR TREK Bridges, No Bathrooms

Count on my new favorite pop culture blog, BADASS DIGEST, to find the OCD Star Trek fan’s guide to every bridge design in the history of the series.

Image courtesy Ex Astris Scientia

Happy 50th Birthday, Bruce Timm! [Art]

To round off this week’s batch of catch-up links, here’s Comic Alliance‘s tribute to Bruce Timm, one of the AWESOMEst animators and comic artists EVAR. Timm was one of the design brains behind the landmark Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s, which went on to spawn a host of AWESOME television featuring DC characters (Superman, Justice League Unlimited, etc). Aside from his inimitable artistic style that defined said generation of DC characters, Timm’s an amazing storyteller and producer. He has since left television behind but not the DCU: Timm continues to adapt popular DC storylines and characters into direct-to-DVD features. Comic Alliance has a full gallery of their favorite Bruce Timm art at the link.

This AWESOMEST image EVAR brought to you by Comics Alliance and DC Women Kicking Ass.

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I am extremely honored that Dr. Craig Hayden has invited me to speak to his public diplomacy class at American University Thursday evening this week. I met Craig through shared colleagues at the MountainRunner Institute, and we have since collaborated on a number of things. He’s a great dude, loves beer, and I thought it would be cool to throw up a landing post for me, him, his class, and anyone else who gets PO’d by the sure-to-incense incendiary fire that will come burbling out of my Macallan-addled lips Thursday night.

I have a love-hate relationship with public diplomacy. Coming from a background in the Department of Defense, I did not understand the peculiar delineation between PD and other forms of government communication and influence until my own graduate work at Johns Hopkins. Upon discovering the very simple definition that PD involves a government’s communications directly to foreign governments’ citizens (and thus bypassing that foreign government), I became instantly enamored of the idea. After all, in DOD, when you “communicate” with a foreign population, you’re usually dropping a bunch of comic strips from the sky written so badly that the recipients think all Americans really are retarded.

My work generally involved finding ways to improve the U.S. government’s communication capability, be it PD, public affairs, IO/PSYOP, or other means. One of my mentors, the late Jeffrey B. Jones, called all of these disciplines strategic communication, a term that has since entered the DOD lexicon and gone on to confuse and infuriate virtually everyone else in government. If DOD does one thing well, it defines its doctrine exhaustively, and an integrated communication and influence doctrine is something our government has needed for a long time. I became a fan of Jeff’s definition from the get-go, and I proceeded to execute my work under such a fashion.

This is how it feels like working in public diplomacy EVERY DAY.

How does this affect public diplomacy? Well, aside from all the other problems in the U.S. national security apparatus, PD practitioners have been almost historically kicked in the ass by said interagency apparatus. Since the U.S. Information Agency – the premier public diplomacy institution of the Cold War – was folded up into the State Department by the Clinton Administration, PD has been regarded as a largely unnecessary, unneeded career field.

However, some of the brightest information warriors I have ever met have come from PD backgrounds. Some still serve the State Department. But they are a dying breed, and State is not adapting fast enough to the 21st century to train, educate, and deploy PD officers of the future. Many communication and diplomacy experts have even called for the dissolution of the public diplomacy career field, arguing that others do it better in today’s day and age.

I come down on this issue very simply: communication is influence. Period. Call it public diplomacy. Call it public affairs. Call it public relations. Call it fuck all, I don’t care. It’s all the same shit and these penny-ante fights government gets into over who owns influence planning and execution are mere dick measuring exercises to protect budgets and retain standing within our own ranks. If any of us PD “professionals” had a whit about us, we would (re)read Unrestricted Warfare by Senior Col Qiao Liang and Senior Col Wang Xiangsui and understand that global communication, global influence, requires the strategic, national integration of ALL government branches and agencies and their communications initiatives. It requires, to borrow an analogy, for America to conduct herself as a composer would an orchestra, creating multitudes of musical movements that all combine into one big, beautiful symphony.

If you’re a student in Craig’s class, drop me a line in the comments. Send questions, concerns, or even challenges, and I promise to answer them to the best of my ability in class on Thursday.

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Arlington County, Virginia seal

Image via Wikipedia

Next week, March 3-5, Sister Cities International brings its 55th annual conference to Arlington, Virginia. As a member of the board of directors for both SCI and Arlington’s own Sister City Association, I’ve been helping to put together an AWESOME conference experience for everyone. SCI has a great schedule lined up this year, from briefings by the State Department to best practices roundtables. You can get a fuller look at the schedule and register here: http://www.sistercitiesconference.org/.

Additionally, the Arlington Sister City Association will be throwing a reception Friday March 4th at 6:30pm to celebrate its sister city relationships around the world. Arlington’s sister cities include Reims, France; Aachen, Germany; San Miguel, El Salvador; Coyoacan, Mexico; and friendship city Cochabamba, Bolivia. We will be celebrating the official signing of a sister city relationship between Arlington and longtime friendship city Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine as well. As part of our reception, attendees will see dancing and music from some of these groups and get to experience ethnic foods from each of these unique cultures. Tickets to the reception are only $40 or free with the purchase of a full conference registration from the SCI website above. We’re also giving away free memberships to ASCA for a year with the purchase of any of these tickets.

If you’re interested in volunteering, SCI and ASCA could use a few AWESOME citizen diplomats. We have open shifts for ushers, greeters, desk managers, and badge checkers all days of the conference. These are all-ages volunteer opportunities; we’ve got something for everybody. You also get free access to some of the conference sessions and some other cool bennies, so give it a think.

We at ASCA are also still searching for 2011 sponsors. Sponsorships help us not only conduct cultural celebrations like this reception, but also specific trips for students, artists, and musicians between Arlington and its sister cities. We welcome corporate and individual sponsorships with a variety of different benefits including logo and brand placement amongst our community, access to speakers at the SCI conference, and free tickets to conference events (dependent on sponsorship level).

If you would like to contribute, learn more, volunteer, or just buy a reception ticket, shoot me a note at du4 at mustbeawesome dot com.

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Here’s Part 4 of my MountainRunner Institute talk from the “Now Media Seminar.” HOWF!

Also, you can follow this link to see the actual slides from the event.

I mentioned in a prior post that Andrew Wilson had taken the first meaty stab at a list of requirements for the new Twitter Government Liaison. I want to spend time directly addressing his thoughts, because they are true AWESOME gold.

The United States Congress approves federal fu...
Image via Wikipedia

Andrew rightly calls for people to submit and discuss ideas about the Gov Liaison’s duties. His overarching theme though is that those duties are non-political. This seems to fly in the face of Twitter’s original requirements in the job listing, but in actuality, Andrew is trying focus people on the more important issues of connecting citizens to their representatives in DC and at the state and local levels through discussions of open government. Tools are just tools, as Andrew says, and it’s up to us to responsibly figure out how to employ them to the best benefit of everyone.

On to Andrew’s list. (Warning: this will be a longer post than usual.)

1. Please engage, in a transparent manner as possible, with the federal, state and local employees that are using these tools to get their input, ideas and concerns. This is a community with no end to thoughtful, innovative leaders… and listening to them will benefit everyone.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Twitter fosters engagement, so the Gov Liaison should be blowing it up with AWESOME, connecting with folks like the ones Andrew mentions, the Gov 2.0 crowd, and anybody who has some insanely great ideas. You can bet your ass I’ll make this happen if I get the job. This is a great community to be a part of, and I would demand that level of engagement from Twitter.

2. Please use your position to help raise awareness about section 508 (accessiblity for people with disabilities) so that EVERYONE can access Twitter. This includes having Twitter throw its weight around, when possible, to get 3rd party services to develop compliant and accessible services and add-ons.

I actually need to get a lot smarter about 508 and really get an understanding for how this affects government leaders and workers in the workplace. I do think there’s something to be said for Twitter using its throw-weight to push policy and legislative change where needed. This is something I’ve found way too many companies in DC unwilling to do.

3. Please make sure to devote enough attention to state and local government concerns. Some of the best and most innovative uses of social media are at the local level and I firmly believe that social media is most powerful when it reinforces and enhances existing (in real life) connections.

This would be a hallmark of my work if I got this job. I got jazzed seeing all the cool hyperlocal innovations from state and local folks at the Gov 2.0 Expo a couple weeks ago. But I think the federal government could act as a change agent to help more communities adopt Twitter for innovative local use. We’ve just got to educate some people and get some others voted out of office. 😉

4. Please make (or work with the Library of Congress to make) an archiving and access tool that would be truly useful for government employees and, in particular, policy makers.

Done. I too want to see quick and easy access to all of Twitter’s data when anyone wants it, anytime. I’ve participated in some research projects in the past where my team designed analytics to run on captured tweets, and the hardest thing was just capturing the tweets in the first place. We need to figure out how to make that data access easy and available.

5. Please help establish a quick and transparent process to get “Verified” on government accounts.

This is a must and a quick fix, in my opinion. Especially if the Gov Liaison duties are getting govvies on Twitter in the first place, we should be able to verify very fast.

6. Please create a public directory (perhaps with some associated metrics) of federal, state and local accounts

Does this already exist somewhere? I know I’ve seen sites like Govloop and GovTwit try to list tweeting govvies, but I’m not sure it’s comprehensive (especially at the state and local levels). I bet we could police that up pretty easy with verfied govvie accounts and develop lists. This may even help folks understand the Byzantine organization of our government.

7. Please develop some more robust off-the-shelf metrics to help measure engagement. Facebook Insights would be one model for this and perhaps access could be tied to verified government accounts.

I’m guessing Andrew wants to measure the engagement stats on govvies? That’s a pretty interesting method for accountability. Having spent some time helping develop algorithms to measure influence on Twitter, and now seeing easy-to-use, free measurement tools hit the web (like Edelman’s TweetLevel), I think it’s important that we use commonly available and individually modifiable tools versus sinking money into colossal objective systems. The latter way leads to government pork like Future Combat Systems. What Twitter could do is start organizing the creators of some of these tools and promoting specific accountability measures tailored to the agency or politician of choice.

8. Please be available when emergencies occur to help government use Twitter in the most effective manner possible. AND publicly post lessons learned, best practices, a related archive of tweets and possibly links to any relevant research on the issue.

I think the Gov Liaison should be more than just available. I think he should be the point man for such issues. There are tons of lessons to be learned from the State Department’s engagement with Twitter, lessons that Twitter itself could take a leadership role in collecting and publicizing.

9. Please expand your government cases studies beyond the USGS to highlight best practices by school districts, local governments and state agencies, as well as federal agencies.

Totally agree. Like I mentioned above, there are tons of case studies to be made from State’s AWESOME work, San Antonio’s traffic and transportation program, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s bus notification systems, and many others. It would have been great had I this job at the Gov 2.0 Expo, because I feel like there so many cool stories of local governments using Twitter to solve communication problems with their citizenry. Those stories would have made good captures, but it’s not too late!

10. Please partner with the Open311 standard to increase visibility of inter-governmental efforts to create a universal API for access to non-emergency services, and work with law enforcement and emergency services agencies on use of geo-location capabilities for emergency reporting and response.

Getting back to open government, this is definitely a partnership worth pursuing. Twitter’s value as an emergency response tool is, I believe, so far untapped despite being so promising. I have not read much about Open311, but I’ll start getting smarter on it ASAP. 😉

There are some additional thoughtful ideas from some of Andrew’s commenters as well, like standardizing hashtags for specific gov agencies, engaging better with African American constituents on Twitter, and a wiki for best Twitter practices in government. Suffice to say, I don’t think any of these things are impossible. In fact, I think most of them are pretty easy to do if we can catalyze the right communities. I just hope I get selected as that catalyzer. :)

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Monday, October 5th, I attended an event at George Washington University billed as “New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach: Smart Power on the Front Lines of Public Diplomacy (PD) and Strategic Communication (SC).” A mouthful of whaaaaaat?

The point of said “event” was to purportedly discuss strategic and tactical issues involved in U.S. government communication. Quite a few familiar and some new faces were on the panels, to include Rosa Brooks from DOD’s Policy shop, Daniel Sreebny from the State Department’s Global Strategic Engagement Center (GSEC), public diplomacy scholar Kristin Lord, some old guy from SOCOM’s Strategic Communication Directorate, and a Congressional lawyer that made me want to commit seppuku on the spot.

A bunch of other PD bloggers are going to scholarly and academically get into the nuts and bolts of this discussion, and the conversation will turn back to how sorry we all are that there’s no strategic leadership for PD/SC, how no one can agree on who owns what, how no one cares, blah blah blah.

I, on the other hand, want to know why this community is purposely avoiding AWESOME.

We’ve been having this debate about the delineations and roles/responsibilities of PD, SC, military information support, and all the other information disciplines for years. Like all good alcoholics, we know we have a problem… we just aren’t going to stop drinking because we’re such assholes. We always end up asking the same questions, arriving at a bunch of solutions, but then drop the ball at implementation. Oh sure, there are reams of reports out there analyzing specific problems with the USG’s communication apparatus… but to paraphrase Dr. Bruce Gregory, no one seems to want to actually LEAD this community and establish a SOLID BUSINESS PLAN for implementing reform.

Im here for yer publik diplomasees.

I'm here for yer publik diplomasees.

So what ends happening? Everybody putters about like a mass of retarded lemmings, hanging on the charity of others, hoping someone else will figure things out and give their lives meaning. Meanwhile, it’s Clown Shoes Day every day on the world stage, and the United States is Ronald McDonald.

The tragedy is that this is not even LAME. It’s just… mediocre. None of these people is purposely LAME. Some are weak, some assholish or crapulous. But ultimately, the community is just… meh.

It’s just a community that shows up. Do they care? Sure. Will they do anything about it? Not… really.

Well, wait, doesn’t it count that we’re talking about the issue? Sure. But we’ve been talking for YEARS. People have been railing against the State Department’s mistreatment of the public diplomacy field since the U.S. Information Agency was forcibly integrated into the department in 1999.


The lawyer at the panel basically defended Congress’ abdication of responsibility for fixing the interagency legislation, oversight and budgetary authority. The SOCOM guy complained about antiquated laws. Sreebny said he was new on the job. The refrain was the same: “It’s too HARD.”

Well, you know what, taxpayer-paid-for govvies? THAT SUCKS.

We do not need more administrators managing the status quo. We do not need more lawyers to find new loopholes in the problems. We do not need more apologists for this bullshittery.

We need LEADERSHIP. Moreso, we need AWESOME LEADERSHIP. If this administration is truly about change, then get off your goddamn asses and FIX IT.

Stop the complaining. Stop the beauracratizing. Stop the crack-addled fantasies that this will all be taken care of by someone else.

If you claim to be a public diplomat, a strategic communicator, a PSYOPper, a Foreign Service officer, a counselor, a scholar, a believer… if you call yourself anything that tracks back to this venerable profession then get involved. I, and many of my fellow taxpayers, are tired of you bitching about how screwed up the communication disciplines are. FIX IT!

Defy mediocrity. BE AWESOME.

[Joker pic H/T to Ben @ LikeCool.com.]

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