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Sheila Campbell Joins the techPresident/PdF Blogging Family

BY Sheila Campbell | Tuesday, March 31 2009

Hello everyone. I’m thrilled and honored to be a new contributing blogger on techPresident.com and Personal Democracy Forum. This is my first extended attempt at blogging, so bear with me as I get into my own groove and work out some kinks as I go along (I told my bosses this would just be a “pilot” so that should give me some latitude if it turns out I’m not very good at this!). But seriously, in full disclosure, you’ll see from my bio that I’m no professional writer or journalist like many of the other bloggers. I doubt you’ll be reading my posts because of my brilliant prose. But what I’m hoping I can offer—as co-chair of the Federal Web Managers Council—is an insider’s view of the government web manager community and the challenges and issues we face every day in trying to transform government websites to better serve the public. I want to share some observations from inside the trenches. And I want to get a dialogue going about how we can work together to effect meaningful, lasting change. Over the past year, I’ve seen too many conversations in the echo chamber, where government people just talk to government people or the “we-want-to-reform-government” folks only talk to other government reform folks. This blog is a small attempt to try to address that.

So here’s what I’m hoping to do. I want to: 1) have a spirited, ongoing discussion about how we can use the Internet to transform interactions between government and its citizens; 2) change perceptions that the government is a bunch of faceless bureaucrats; and 3) amplify important and innovative things going on inside and outside government that we should adopt as government-wide standards or benchmarks.

The main theme you’ll hear from me is: what is the right thing to do for the American people? If we use that as our compass, we'll rarely go wrong.

The fact that I’m able to do this blog is, in and of itself, a positive sign that government is opening up. When Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry first asked me to blog, I wasn’t sure if my agency (GSA) would let me. I wasn’t sure if the leadership would find some legal or policy reasons why I shouldn’t do it. But, in fact, they embraced it, as they have with other new media efforts. It was refreshing to hear them say, “it’s no different than other forms of public speaking or representation you would normally do. Just follow the same guidelines as you would otherwise. Then go for it.” That’s the kind of approach we need to see more of across government.

In that spirit, I’m excited to use this blog to take a pulse of the state of online government: what’s working and what’s not working. But more importantly, what are some realistic solutions to improve what we do? Our government web manager community has a lot of ideas (which we outlined in our November 2008 White Paper) But we don’t have all the answers. So over the next few months, I’ll float some ideas and ask some questions. Questions like, What policies should we change? What kind of standards should we advocate for? Which government agencies are getting it right? What problem should we tackle first? I’m sure we can crowdsource some creative solutions, starting now, starting here.

Thanks for reading. I hope we can have some fun with this.

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