As David All and I have written, the rules governing member Web sites are not fit for the 21st Century Web. If the rules were enforced with any regularity, instead of used as a scarecrow to keep members from innovating, then some of the best practices by members on the Web wouldn't be happening. Case in point: Rep. George Miller (D-CA).
Today, George Miller announced a new campaign, called "Ask George," calling on citizens to send videos, through video sharing sites like YouTube, to Miller's office regarding the War in Iraq. Miller's office describes "Ask George" as a "distributed, virtual town hall". Miller also suggests that participants in this conversation "tag" their videos "askgeorge" so that his office can go and find the questions. This way, Miller is the one going out to seek the conversation rather than the citizen or constituent who is usually the one seeking out the congressman.
This is exactly the type of activity that allows members to communicate more effectively with their constituents, and Americans in general, about the issues that matter. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) asks people to send YouTubed questions for him to answer, to which he responds in kind. Miller's use of YouTube to engage in a conversation with citizens goes a step further though. He has worked with Splash Cast to create a Facebook application for the "Ask George" campaign and will be hosting an "Ask George" Facebook page for citizens to discuss with the congressman, and amongst each other, the War in Iraq.
This is by all accounts the first time that a member of Congress, in their official capacity, has gone to a social networking site to connect with citizens. The innovative use of social networking and video sharing sites by Miller's office is astounding considering the restrictions that members are told they have to abide by. It's time for more members of Congress to start communicating and connecting to people online as George Miller is. The barriers created by congressional Web use rules will cease to exist if members and their staff simply ignore them.
George Miller is one member of Congress leading the way in using Web 2.0 technologies to connect with constituents and citizens. This only enhances his ability to do his job. It's time for more members to lead with him.