New York, NY Had a two-minute conversation with Tim O’Reilly yesterday, standing in one of the wide, wide hallways of the Javits Center where O’Reilly and TechWeb’s Web 2.0 Expo took place this week. I knew from his bio that he was a Harvard grad and asked him what year he graduated. ’75 or ’76, he said, depending on how you qualify it. That’s my era at Harvard (I’m class of 1974).

But Tim went through in three years, hence the date confusion. He majored in Classics. He lived in ultra cool Adams House. And then moved off campus. OFF CAMPUS! Too cool and, by Harvard standards, daring. Almost all the students live on campus in the residence clusters, or houses, as they’re called.

Meanwhile, I majored in English (not very cool), lived in Winthrop House (because my boyfriend was also there) and felt completely stupid most of the time. It was only after I left Harvard that I realized I wasn’t as dumb as I thought.

The new dot com is dot gov.
Anil Dash, director of ExpertLabs

Which brings me to the point of this post: context is everything. In one setting, you may be one of many. In another, you stick out and your ideas look brilliant.

Tim’s outsider status vis-a-vis Washington is precisely what gives his new focus on Gov 2.0 a nice spin.

To be sure, there are a whole bunch of us inside DC’s Beltway who “get” that the adoption of and experimentation with social media by federal agencies and by the White House is a revolution – or at least a revolution in the making. Stodgy, impenetrable, glacially-slow-moving Washington government adopting lightening fast, 24X7 social technologies in order to… surface questions, surface answers and spawn new ways of thinking about intractable problems – ? Wow.

The list includes my friend Mark Drapeau, as well as friends and colleagues Peter Corbett, Chris Dorobek, Frank Gruber, Leslie Bradshaw, Shireen Mitchell (aka @digitalsista) and many, many other smart DC-based digerati.

But it took a Silicon Valley insider to pull the curtain and peek inside DC and say, “This looks familiar. It looks like Web 2.0… but wait, it’s Gov 2.0. Hell, it’s equally significant, if not seismic. I’m gonna start a new conference series, call it Gov 2.0 and take it to DC.” (Tim didn’t really say that, BTW. I made up the quote.)

Below, Tim talks to U.S. Deputy CTO Beth Noveck at Web 2.0 Expo. This was one of the best sessions of the conference.



Anil Dash and ExpertLabs

Meanwhile, we learned about another example of Silicon Valley meets DC when Anil Dash of Six Apart fame announced that he has launched a D.C. Do Tank (as opposed to Think Tank) called ExpertLabs. Funded with a $500,000 grant from the (Genius) MacArthur Foundation, and housed under the wing of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it will connect smart citizens in science and technology with intractable government problems. 


As Anil put it in his official announcement from the mainstage at Web 2.0 Expo: “The new dot com is dot gov.” 

And to that I say, Yes! As a DC-resident for many decades, I can tell you that this is the most exciting of times here that I can remember. Finally, DC is cool.