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Collective Sense-making from Gov2.0 Camp

BY Dave Witzel | Tuesday, March 31 2009

co-written and data assembled by David James

This weekend’s Government 2.0 Camp is further proof that something very exciting is happening around the concepts of open, participatory, self, government. The Camp, the inaugural event of the Government 2.0 Club, is one of a series of mostly volunteer-led events tackling the meaning and implementation of the next generation of democracy and government.

Approximately 500 people interested in Government 2.0 assembled. It was a diverse group, including government employees, entrepreneurs, government contractors, and interested citizens. Through discussions, panels, and lots of hallway conversations, the participants came together to figure out what Government 2.0 means, where it is going, and how it applies to their work.

Matthew Burton commented, as a participant, saying "the sessions are okay" but "the value of the conference comes from the break-time conversations." But we know that participants were doing a lot more than chatting in the hallways including shooting video, blogging, and micro-blogging to record lessons and connect the physical event with a larger online community.

Gov 2.0 Camp Wordle
At the very least, this allowed participants who could not attend in person, including Dave Witzel, to stay in touch virtually. But does it do more? Can we learn from what was recorded? Looking at the the Twitter-stream from the Camp is one way to find out. Thanks to David James' early morning hackery we were able to collect a dataset of over 5500 tweets produced during the event.

An initial review suggests two things. First, there is gold in them-thar tweets but you have to dig for it and second, effort towards collective sense-making from all the materials that will be produced from all these events could create real value.

Here's a quick summary of the twitter data and ways you can play with it.

We captured 5533 tweets from the two days of the Government 2.0 Camp from over 700 twitter users. Our first conclusion was that many more people were talking about the Camp than were able to attend. Our quick second was "that's a lot of stuff" -- over half a million characters! That's equivalent to almost 200 pages or a decent-sized book. While most users only tweeted once or twice, a small group were very active.

The most frequent tweeters were:

User Tweet Count
dslunceford 150
sarahebourne 145
minaah 105
Gov20Camp 104
cheeky_geeky 96
Lyne_Robichaud 91
jkerrstevens 88
lovisatalk 85
cdorobek 77
NoelDickover 72

After spending a little time playing with the data in Excel, we exported it to IBM's ManyEyes tool  to try the visualizations. Here are some dynamic visualizations you can play with:

Dave Witzel picked out a few favorite tweets (without looking at the author):

  • OH: We don't allow unauthorized progress.
  • Planning to download film from in April. Some clips up now covering #gov20 in UK.
  • Stood up in front of 500 people @  & mentioned I needed job due to upcoming merger; amazed @ generosity/helpfulness of folks THX!
  • Listening to Macon Phillips describe Open for Questions and being open about it. This further confirms Obama transparency.
  • My active side projects are: (1) open source tool for transparent voting/polling on the Web (2) open debate format.  Join me?
  • note, ";wing tips on the ground"; fs officer's personal blog.
  • @dsearls @dweinberger I am in a session with government people talking about how they apply the Cluetrain Principles
  • putting social media into workers' performance tool: it's already in there. collaboration, participatory and team work!
  • CTO of Seattle- every fire truck dispatch is published to Google Maps w/in 60 seconds. Wow #govdata   @rodbeckstrom
  • Advocate for ";open government"; - may be less geeky, more meaningful to more people

What other approaches can we use to comprehend what the crowd can produce?