It’s like summer camp, but inside and with whiteboards

Firstly, for the hundreds dozens singles ok, nobody was really waiting for this post. But I feel the need to apologize nonetheless. See, ChangeCamp Ottawa was over two weeks ago and I’m only now getting around to finalizing this wrap-up post (thanks Ian Capstick!). Frankly, the day provided more food for thought than anyone could really hope to digest in a day or two – and I sat out one round of sessions to collect my thoughts. Ian is working on what should be a comprehensive wrap-up so I’m going to keep this short and share what my major takeaways from the day were.

  • Holy crap, people are doing stuff out there! Social media events tend to attract a whole lot of talkers. Thinkers. People who have a lot to say about how others should be doing social media but little in the way of tangible experience or case studies. ChangeCamp was different. Campers had stories to share. Ombdusman Ontario is on Twitter and Facebook, reaching out to citizens who feel the government has failed them. The Public Health Agency of Canada took to Twitter in an attempt to dispel swine flu myths. Unofficial public service bloggers like Nick Charney, Doug Bastien and countless others are building a network of engaged and committed bureaucrats that will undoubtedly be the nexus for the actual renewal that the public service so desperately needs. It’s refreshing to hear from on-the-ground people at events like this.


  • Those of us outside the firewall need to suck it up. I was firmly entrenched in the frustrated-outsider ranks when it came to goverment social media initiatives. Why does GCPedia have to be so exclusive? Why isn’t the public service playing more in public social circles? Well, it ain’t happening. At least not until there’s a certain level of comfort established with the tools. And that comfort is going to be built by playing inside the firewall. Frankly, most of us non government types advocate the same process too. We build comfort internally before moving externally. Rest assured, there are things happening inside government. And there are passionate, intelligent advocates who will help ensure these things succeed. Only then will there be enough comfort to move externally on a broader scale.


  • I’m torn on the practice of limited participation. The aforelinked Public Health Agency twitter feed was widely heralded as a good initiative. And I guess it is, assuming the feed contributed to halting the spread of disinformation or, at the very least, helped spread good information. But it’s hardly a model twitter account. No interaction, no original content, just a broadcast of links to old-style web content. Advocates call this an important first step – the agency is, theoretically at least, taking tentative first steps and getting familiar with the medium. And, to be honest, I guess that’s what I’m doing in my 9-5 work too. We have a podcast feed with no option to comment on each post. We use RSS feeds to broadcast our content but the messages are one-way, no comment threads and no discussion forums. But is it good to be present in social channels even if your presence is anything but social? Not sure. I guess it’s not realistic to suggest risk averse organizations like government departments are going to do it any other way. But still, a boy can dream.


  • The unconference/camp model can work. I admit also to being a bit skeptical of the very model of the event. This was my first ‘unconference’ and I was pleasantly surprised with the awesome session topics and general sense of order that emerged. Sure, a few douchey types pitched sessions that were essentially self-serving or self-promotional but, in general, people seemed to be there to share ideas and have meaningful discussions. The organizing committee did a great job of steering the ship with a light touch, keeping things organized without building too rigid a framework in which to work. I’m still not a fan of the terms ‘unconference’ or ‘camp’ but I’m a convert to the model.

So a big tip of the cap to all those involved with putting ChangeCamp together and thanks to everyone who indulged me in conversation, debate and idea-sharing. T’was a great day.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *