The inaugural PS Engage learning and networking event in Ottawa on Monday provided a stage for the Canadian government to announce formal guidelines for playing the social media game.
Yet the lukewarm reception to the idea that layers of bureaucracy must continue to be involved in the most elementary interactions with the public served as a reminder that the future of communications can't be left to career policymakers alone.
Fortuitously, that evening, a second Metaviews salon in the capital city picked up where the October event left off, by asking the question "Will There Ever Be Open Government?"
This question wasn't going to be definitively answered in one night, of course, but a mixture of insiders and outsiders — all of whom have wondered about a more effective evolution of online public service — seized the opportunity to swap thoughts.
Disruption was the central theme of one conversation — as everyone in the room has closely observed the transformation of all media industries over the past decade. Open Government can similarly provide a breakthrough for the younger generation of civil servants. Currently, the way most of them interact on the job compared to in their personal lives remains a century apart.
Closing that gap might require enough ingenuity to transcend the boundaries presented for the use Web 2.0. Then again, senior management may also be compelled to recognize the benefit of colouring outside of the line, as it can help their departments build a legacy ahead of the curve.
And, when it comes to governments across Canada, a real leadership role in communications innovation is still up for grabs. Who is willing to fail a few times on the way there?
The seeding of alternative business models for Open Data might be the best course of action — although the country seems to be collectively waiting around for a catalyst.
Scandals have been a good spark for making government more responsive in the past. There needn't be a Royal Commission to make sense of Twitter. Perhaps decision makers will have to be humiliated into shaking up the status quo.
Artificial Intelligence could also eventually be employed to extract information that the public service has kept close to its vest. Reorganization of government could simply be a matter of setting data loose and letting the machines sort it out for us.
As long as we are electing human beings into office, however, the switch to make it happen will be in their hands.
Look out for our next Metaviews salon on Open Government in Toronto in early 2012.