Last year’s Personal Democracy Forum conference featured a lot of discussion over the infancy of new media in government and how crowd sourcing would help connect citizens to civic engagement.

Just a year later, new media seems to be learning to crawl. Between the White House’s blog, the Department of Education’s Flickr account, various arms of the government are reaching to constituents to try and get the public more involved.

photo(3)Norman Jacknis of the Cisco Systems works on co-production projects: Initiatives where government agencies contract with private and public citizen to complete work. For example, Michelle Obama’s Healthy Kids Initiative has government enterprises working with public and private entrepreneurs to build projects combating childhood obesity.

These projects do many things, Jacknis said at this year’s PdF conference. They educate the public, educate civil service workers on the public’s needs, they save money, and they provide higher quality work, since those working are investing in their own communities.

Gwyn Kostin of the Department of Education doesn’t think government doing nearly enough, however. She compared government efforts in new media interaction to the and of an under-six soccer season, when all the players get trophies no matter what.

“We need to stop saying that we’re all winning because we’re trying,” said Kostin.

Kostin suggests its time to stop “throwing spaghetti against the wall” to see what sticks. She believes the time for vague experimentation is over, and it’s time for the government to analyze what they’ve done, form a policy and move forward.

Kostin’s vision is for the government to move away from the spaghetti model to a more complicated but successful soufflé.

Tracy Russo with the Department of Justice doesn’t think the government’s ready for even that.

“Until we have a really firm foundation, I think citizen engagement is just icing on a cake that doesn’t exist.”

She thinks the departments should focus first on fundamentals, delivering strong websites that help citizens to solve problems.