Have you ever visited, or even heard of, these Web sites: Flickr, Digg, IMDB, del.icio.us, Fark, Slashdot, Something Awful, YTMND, I-Mockery or Fazed? If not, you're neglecting the epicenter of the Internet-as-a-community phenomenon.
Government technology is in dire straits. No, not the magazine. It's the technology situation government finds itself in right now. The problem is that there are tens of millions of kids, teens and young adults who are, or soon will be, entering the work force - private sector and public. These are people who were born into technology. To them the Internet isn't a novelty; it's as elemental to their lives as oxygen.
Therefore it's critical that government understand what these people want and how they think. As a person still on the good side of 30, I will try to help you do just that.
To begin, answer this question: Have you ever visited, or even heard of, these Web sites: Flickr, Digg, IMDB, del.icio.us, Fark, Slashdot, Something Awful, YTMND, I-Mockery or Fazed? If not, you're neglecting the epicenter of the Internet-as-a-community phenomenon. These are the sites where tens of thousands of people get their news and share their experiences. Here, the mainstream media isn't a source of information - it's the subject of ridicule.
For example, in the hours following the Virginia Tech shootings - with the school's Web site overtaxed and cable media scrambling to report anything - many netizens turned to Fark.com. Mostly Fark is a site where people post amusing news and give each story their own outlandish headline, on which other members may comment. But on April 16, user comments went from silly to serious, and the Web site acted as a tool for students to reach out to one another and share news with other "Farkers."
Or take Paris Hilton. Within minutes of the media's descent on her home as she returned to jail, these community sites were furiously churning out witty, cruel, inane and intelligent comments on the state of our justice system.
When we talk and write about government technology, we often blather on about service delivery, citizen-facing services, etc. And while countless agencies have rolled out useful and functional applications for citizens, the type of services Fark and other sites offer are what the next generation finds valuable.
You've no doubt heard of YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. But have you ever been to those sites? While I am a staunch anti-MySpace-ite (I can't stand the visually crippling site design or the meaningless banter), I recognize the value users derive from the site - the value of community. Gone are the days of traditional community. Gen X, Y, Z, Millennials - whatever you choose to call them - find their sense of community online. It's at these virtual meeting places that tomorrow's elected officials will share feelings, express opinions and exchange information. Just as they don't care about old media - routinely lambasting CNN, Fox News and Katie Couric - they don't feel connected to old government.Government exists to serve the community. So it's important that government not only understand this new online community, but also find a way to integrate into it.