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Today was a very special day. It was more than simply watching history in the making. Change became more than just a saying on a button. In many ways we are not just ushering in a new President of the United States of America, but we are ushering in a new way of thinking and of doing business. It’s time for everything to be more open.


That was the feeling and there was a deep seeded message about both Government and Business in the sub-text of the inaugural speech and the visuals we all experienced. If we are to believe the presidential rhetoric, it is not going to be "business as usual," and for things to change – specifically when it comes to the economy – all of us are going to have to embrace the idea of being more open.

Facebook became more open.

While Facebook is, without question, the leading online social network, the general flow of it is very linear. Unlike the quick-bite snippets you can grab in a Twitter feed, the Facebook status updates seemed pretty pale in comparison. However, their deal with CNN to broadcast the big day by having the status updates run alongside the live streaming video from Washington was a game-changer. The ability to see what your "friends" were saying and being able to switch to see what everyone else was saying enabled us all to get beyond the fishbowl. It was an amazing blend of traditional mass media reporting and everyone’s individual point-of-view collected in one location. Opinions, emotions and even contrary perspectives were public, available and accessible. Plus, if you had something more to add (relevant, idiotic or different), all opinions were equal.

CNN became more open.

Along with allowing all Facebook commentary to run alongside of their broadcasting, they even demonstrated Microsoft‘s amazing photosynth technology (if you have never seen photosynth in action, you can see it here: TED – Blaise Aguera y Arcas – Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo). People who attended the inauguration were encouraged to send in their photos. The 11,000-plus pictures were dumped into photosynth to give an entirely new photographic representation of this special moment in time. CNN did not stop there. Throughout the day, there were constant references to not only the online channel and conversation that was taking place online, but also the many ways in which the public could share this moment with the world.

The White House website became more open.

The big news on both Twitter and Facebook was that as President Obama was being sworn in, the White House website had already been updated. Even more interesting is how prominent The White House Blog is on the website (granted, there’s not that much there just yet). Companies still grapple with whether or not they can handle having a Blog and being that "open." The answer is: if the White House is trying it, why can’t you?

Open is good for business. 

Maybe your business is still struggling to understand these many new channels. Many businesses still have a more traditional work ethic. If I saw one thing today, it was that all of these more traditional institutions either tried to open up just a little bit more or partnered with someone who would help them open up. Guess what? It worked. People liked how CNN flowed. They were thrilled to see a new White House website. It was memorable to share this moment with your Facebook friends from around the world. It was nothing complex. In fact, it was pretty simple.

If we really want change to happen, opening up just a little bit may well be one of the better ways to see what happens. How will things change? Well, there’s word that the President will keep his BlackBerry to stay more "connected to the people." One might argue that this also makes him more accessible… more open. What if you opened up a little bit more? What would happen to your marketing? What would happen to your business?

Just how open do you think things will get? 


  1. I’m not one of those “Can’t be a blog without comments (Seth!)…” people, but I’d like to see comments of some sort allowed on the new
    That said, I have no idea how I’d manage that many comments, but I’m hoping Macon Phillips will come up with something. The email/updates is a start.
    I think this administration is going to turn business as usual on it’s head and it will set a great example that companies will follow.

  2. I too was impressed with the momentum of openness and transparency Obama has caused. It is going to punch through into all sorts of places, including businesses and large organizations. Finally!
    Open is good but it can also be shocking. I was checking out some youtube videos of Nelson Mandela speeches today and was shocked by the racism permeating the comments. I suspect that would not exist if people could not hide behind their handles and avatars.
    Things will get very open but we all need to continue pushing for and supporting networks that promote real personas for that to happen.

  3. Mitch, I like the way you tied all the threads of today together. Now it will be interesting to see how this plays out – the linkages within technology and the grassroots communications of the new Obama administration. Exciting times!

  4. Great theme to elucidate from today’s events, Mitch!
    Most important in my eyes is the new potency of If the site is built out to support citizen voices as Obama campaign literature has hinted it will (inviting opinion on legislation), this will be an interesting first step toward leveling citizen and representative, moving our republic closer to the ideal on which it is based: a true democracy.
    Your recommendation that openness be a way to pump up any business these days is spot on.

  5. It was an amazing day for politics, for America for the world. Obama can be a game changing president, more than Blair, more than Sarkozy.
    There was also a tectonic shift today in the online world. The facebook CNN deal really brought together two worlds and made people sit up. It will have a big and profound impact on how events are reported in the future.
    Having this mass of comments, thoughts and expressions pushes openness. I think in the same kind of way that our capitalist system creates space for new products and continual innovation; a greater openness to ideas will improve our perception and understanding of events.
    Obama is after all the first president to be elected due to the open nature of social networks. Today is a historic day.

  6. After today’s events, something inside me has sparked a new faith and appreciation for the world of politics. Today’s level of passionate worldwide engagement both online and offline was absolutely remarkable. Today wasn’t just about Barack, but rather the mindset shift of the masses, for which he was the catalyst. Even as a Canadian, I truly look forward to his presidency and trust that he will continue to leverage the new channels of democracy made available through social media. The White House Blog launch was a great example of this. Congrats to President Obama, congrats to America!

  7. Great post, Mitch. I echo much of above comments. A beautiful and moving day on so, so many levels.
    His campaign’s overall strategy and commitment to the use of social media cannot be understated: considering their efforts in that area, I wonder about the trickle down effect; had they not fully embraced the platform, would CNN have forged their Facebook and Microsoft initiatives?
    Edelman’s “Social Pulpit” whitepaper .pdf should be read by all.
    Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, some will look back at “The Moment” and realize it wasn’t the turn of “an Inaugural Address phrase” but, in large part, it was when social media got some real serious street cred.

  8. The other major thought I had about yesterday is not how traditional mass media worked compared to new media, but rather how when both worked together the sum of it was much more than its parts. Working the two together – as CNN did with Facebook- gave the overall experience a huge multiplier. Later yesterday evening, when I was just watching CNN, the experience was much less exciting than when I fired up the online application and could interact with my community or just follow the comments and insights.
    The lesson might be that this is not an “either or” game, but it’s about how you can make the experience that much better by working the two together.
    And, all of that can only happen if a company is open – in listening, acting and responding.

  9. Mitch,
    I would agree that things became a lot more open yesterday. The challenge, however, is not in the first day, it’s in living by the spirit of that openness. There are a lot of very tough challenges facing this administration (Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, economy, environment, energy, and numerous others we have not yet thought about). Some of those will require backroom deals and tough decisions, that’s the way things work.
    It will be a very interesting 4 (8?) years to watch, and I truly hope that the openness lasts. We haven’t yet hit the first test of it though, so I hesitate to celebrate too early.
    Thanks for a great post.

  10. Great Post Mitch. To be honest, I may not have been an Obama fan (nor was I a McCain fan), but yesterday was something really special, and the more I think about it and write about it, the more important it becomes to me. The fact is, with yesterday, we started making a move – a move back to community, a move to openess and a move back to responsibility. Each of these plays upon each other as we create a sense of community through our openess and sharing, and with this level of visibility and communication, we create a new level of accountability. The impact of social media I think will now truly be seen – with the ability to voice opinions and connect directly with their government, citizens can now drive what happens in our country and our world. I believe we’ll see a movement away from relying on news reporters who are sanctioned by their owners agendas and outcry of individuals left unheard to a place where timeliness and voiced opinions leads what happens. This is the meaning of government, this is the idea behind having community, and this is hopefully the way to a better future. I truly am amazed and smiling at the possibilities. Keep up the good work!

  11. Oh dear. I’m afraid I’m going to have to add a dissenting voice here. As much as I value transparency and openness, there are real limits on how open government can be. Mark Story has asked this question, and opined on it both on his blog and on Media Bullseye. Geoff Livingston has too. Both of them are in the thick of things in DC, and I have a background in politics and government, so with that, here’s my .02.
    Openness can be extended in looking for citizen contribution, but if it’s acted upon, people will quickly develop ideas to game the system. Think of paid Amazon reviews, but on a far more serious scale. And frankly, I don’t want to see comments on the White House blog until I can be convinced that people will behave and discuss things rationally–and I have seen precious little evidence that can occur. If people want to argue policy matters, I’d prefer they take their cases to Daily Kos or Redstate. I do not want the office of the President dealing with comment approval: I want them working hard on fixing the economic mess we are in. I won’t even bother to go into the records retention mess that this could cause. The former governor of Missouri has been up to his eyeballs in a legal mess caused by the records retention of emails from within the office of the Governor. Again, think “same mess, larger scale.”
    Also, to gently and respectfully add a correction to Erin: the United States is not a direct democracy, it is a representative republic. The founding fathers understood inherently that a direct democracy would not work in a country as large as the US–and that was when the population was considerably smaller than it is now. A direct democracy–or “majority rules”–tramples on the rights of the minority, and squashes dissent. See Federalist #10 for Madison’s brilliant dissection of this principle.
    A participatory citizenship is a laudable goal, and that is my hope for the level of openness I’d like to see.

  12. One more thought: it was a great day, and a solid and thoughtful speech.
    I wish our new President all the best; I think he has the temperament and smarts to do great things!

  13. Love the question Mitch. I suspect we have a long way to go before hitting the wall on openess.
    There’s been a lot of talk about the relationship between trust and transparency [read openess]. But, openess must be mindful. There are security, legal and regulatory limits that are real. There are security, legal and regulatory limits that are used as an excuse due to unfounded fear. And, there are security, legal and regulatory risks that are real. I am hopeful that this President of the United States knows the difference and will run his administration based on values that are clear and in touch with reality. Listening, acting and communicating mindfully… hmmm. I’m looking forward to a lot more more openness.

  14. In words borrowed directly from Barack Obama’s inauguration speech:
    And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
    Or, to quote the old cliché, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
    This was great evidence of Obama starting out by leading by example. It’s an example I hope we are all inspired to follow.

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