How should Regulations.gov be using social media?

The Internet offers new opportunities to involve the public in regulatory rulemaking, including industry, media, nonprofits and citizens. A new social layer for the Web has shifted what’s possible in open government forward again, both hosting and enabling conversations. Below, one of those conversations is captured using the social media curation tool, Storify.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

4 thoughts on “How should Regulations.gov be using social media?

  1. The folks at Regulations.gov are barely setting up shop on Facebook. The questions are all good and valid, but let’s give them a few weeks to settle in, shall we?

    In terms of public participation, I think that by and large the most obvious goal in using social media is still to inform (rather than to consult, involve, collaborate or empower, to use the IAP2 Spectrum) and to promote any participation opportunities to a wider audience.

    Clay’s outline is headed in the right direction, but it will take a lot of smaller steps to get there.

  2. While I can appreciate Jeffrey Levy’s point on experience and your point on needing time to develop, these new accounts should be able start much further along the learning curve because of the ground broken by others over the past 3-4 years. For me, just “being there,” is not acceptable at this point. Social media is no longer an experiment – these are real and viable business tools and should be driven by real strategies and real goals.

    And if we follow your suggestion that informing and promoting participation opportunities is the goal, I’d argue that automated tweets posted to Facebook is an effective communications strategy to reach that goal. And the strategy should always be in place before the new tool gets launched.

    I do look forward to seeing where the account goes and thank Alex Moll for reaching out to us!

  3. Hi Alex.  Cool that you captured the conversation on Twitter here@twitter-8739552:disqus

    I have many ideas about using social media in a big, big way to take comments and create discussion.  I agree broadly with the points you and others made, including Clay Johnson.

    But “should” and “do” are two different things, esp. in this age of very, very constrained budgets and given where our attys say the APA is.  Being able to handle what is sometimes thousands or tens of thousands of comments in a reliable way is made MUCH more difficult when those comments come in through multiple channels.

    Again, I want to see gov’t going exactly that direction (and you know me – I’m pushing as much as I can).  We’re just not there yet, at least not at the federal level.

    So my question remains: do people argue that unless a gov’t effort hits the ground with 100% two-way dialogue, they should stay offline?

    I still think no: being there is better than not.

  4. I think the core of the question here is, “Why is regulations.gov on Facebook in the first place?” There already exist a number of ways to subscribe to information about the regulatory and non-regulatory official activities of government – including, but not limited to, the Federal Register. A simple calculation of the volume of regulatory activities and the duration of their comment periods would clearly show that creating a Facebook feed of that information will bury many important regulations. Monday, October 3rd’s Federal Register has 18 rules, for instance (and 105 notices!)

    I’m going to take the controversial stance that no one is going to subscribe to regulations.gov in hopes of being able to filter signal and noise. People interested in regulations should be driven to the appropriate agency for content about the rule, not to a Facebook clearinghouse in hopes that they will be looking at the feed on the right time on the right day to find the right regulation that might matter to them.

    So, that leaves us where? Many studies point us to the fact that citizens do need to be oriented to the rulemaking space to make effective comments. If all we’re doing is migrating the UX of regulations.gov to Facebook, we’ve missed the boat entirely. This is the same strategic mistake we made when we just threw all our stuff on the Web a decade ago. Plopping the Federal Register online, with no markup and layering of content misses the opportunity to take advantage of the capabilities that the Web offers to package and make content digestible.

    I’ve said this in other forums, and I will say it here: many proposed rulemakings offer key questions that the agency is asking the public to provide input on. If there was a way to tag those questions, package them as facebook updates/tweets, and use regulations.gov as a marketing platform, agencies might indeed drive more traffic. So, let’s take the the example of @RegulationRoom:disqus  and how it’s tweeting on *just one regulation* right now. Asking questions, inviting people to the discussion, etc.

    If all we’re doing is being on Facebook to say were there, then…no, we shouldn’t be there.

Leave a Reply

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