Best Week in SocialGov Ever: 1

(This is the first installment of an ongoing series charting the programs, events and people that make the emerging field of social media and data in government an exciting place to serve the public. Agencies are encouraged to submit their own stories for this travelogue of digital innovation.)

From where I sit, I think we recently had the best week in #socialgov yet. Between the Library of Congress’ new Innovation Talks, the chance to learn from Saudi Arabian digital artists from halfway around the world, and now looking forward to a groundbreaking new event with Social Media Club DC, whatever comes to mind that week is hard to beat — and it will only get better next week.

Library of Congress Innovation Talks

First, the Library of Congress launched an interesting new series called the Innovation Talks that showcases a cross-section of innovative scholars, researchers, policy makers and authors, who share their enthusiasm and knowledge with citizens.

The inaugural presenter was Dr. Stephen Wolfram, distinguished scientist, inventor and author of “A New Kind of Science.” He’s founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, the creator of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, a tool that digitizes the wealth of human knowledge and provides an interface to answer questions. Dr. Wolfram was just the kind of brilliant mind I wanted to discuss many of our social data initiatives with, and thanks to the Library of Congress I got that chance.

After his presentation, which included an in-depth demo of the Wolfram Alpha engine and exploration of issues surrounding the digitization of so much information, a handful of us were invited for lunch with Dr. Wolfram for more direct discussion. Check out National Digital Stewardship Resident Molly Schwartz‘s Storify post on the experience, and keep an eye on the Library of Congress for the next opportunity to participate.

Saudi Arabian New Media Delegation

If that experience wasn’t enough, later that week a group of nine new media entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia visited GSA‘s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies to learn about our Federal Socialgov Community and Challenge.gov. Throughout out my career and community involvement I’ve met a lot of people, but this group opened my eyes in new ways.

Consider that despite what many may think, more than 51% of Saudi Arabians are active on Twitter — one of the highest per capita use rates in the world. There are no public cinemas in the Kingdom, which makes YouTube the preferred social network for creating and distributing film, television and collaborative projects. It was certainly the first time I’ve discussed our social media programs with a group who had an interpreter translating each sentence into ear pieces, but despite the language barrier we quickly learned of shared challenges that all of us face in using social media to improve services and opportunities for our communities. The need to provide trust and reliable information, while still engaging and competitive in a saturated market, is a challenge all digital media managers face.

What’s Next?

We’re looking forward to sharing more of the intriguing stories, ideas and travels you experience as we work together to advance better services and cost savings through digital technology. This week, for example,** Social Media Club DC** invited us to showcase some of our programs — we not only delivered some of our best programs to share with attendees, but also are streaming in our colleagues from other countries like Australia, Ireland and Canada via Google Hangout to discuss the challenges and opportunities we all face.

I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be the best week in #socialgov yet, but let us know why it is in your world.

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