The Department of Defense has a site devoted to a discussion of using Web 2.0 and social media in general.
- DoD Web 2.0 Guidance Forum
"We want to examine the importance and relevance of Web 2.0 capabilities to Military families and get your view of its impact."
- Signs Of Support For DoD 2.0, By J. Nicholas Hoover, InformationWeek, (August 12, 2009)
"An online forum created to promote discussion about the use of social media by the U.S. military is buzzing with commentary. The White House is pointing to the forum as an example of the type of openness and transparency the Obama administration seeks to encourage among federal agencies."
Red Flags Raised By Web 2.0 Contracts, National Journal, "Tech Daily Dose" (August 10, 2009).
The U.S. government's contracts with Internet companies for video, photo sharing and other Web 2.0 services may have ignored key privacy obligations of federal agencies, according the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
[UPDATE 7/12/10: I updated the link to the paper from Justin's site to the umd site where the paper was officially published. jrj]
I thought I would give the readers of FGI the first scoop on some early research that is coming out of the University of Maryland on how members of Congress are using Twitter.
Abstract: Twitter is a microblogging service boasting over 7 million members and growing at a tremendous rate. With the buzz surrounding the service have come claims of its ability to transform the way people interact and share information, and calls for public figures to start using the site. In this study, we examine the way Twitter is being used by legislators, particularly by members of the United States Congress. We read and coded over 4,500 posts from all members of Congress using the site. Our analysis shows that Congresspeople are primarily using Twitter to post information, particularly links to news articles about them and their blog posts, and to report on their simple activities. These tend not to provide new insights into government or the legislative process or to improve transparency; rather, they are vehicles for self-promotion. However, Twitter is also facilitating direct communication between Congresspeople and citizens, though this is a less popular activity. In this paper, we report on our results, analysis, and provide suggestions for how Twitter can be used by Congresspeople in ways that benefit the citizens, not just the PR machines of the legislators themselves.
From the results of this study we found that Twitter is being used effectively in some spaces and not as effectively in others. In particular, Twitter has created opportunities for increased communication between citizens and Congresspeople, but the majority of posts contained information or location and activities which were being used for outreach and self promotion rather than to provide information that is helpful to citizens.
* Note this paper has been submitted for an upcoming conference but has NOT been accepted, peer-reviewed, or published. Please DO NOT CITE this article but if you are interested feel free to contact me.
The U.S. Department of State has a web page with an interactive map showing travel by the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The site is an example of a hybrid site using Google maps, Yahoo APIs, and services from Thermopylae Sciences and Technology in addition to .gov hosting.
Grading WhiteHouse.gov, By Jose Antonio Vargas, Washington Post, March 24, 2009.
Remember when government information was boring and no one talked about it? Well, not anymore! Now everyone wants to weigh in on making government information accessible and interesting and useful. At the Washington Post, there is a new series, Grading WhiteHouse.gov, "a monthly feature that invites five thinkers across the online political and cultural spectrum to grade President Obama's WhiteHouse.gov." Cool!
Your Government Needs You: Re-design Congress Online, by Phil Glockner, ReadWriteWeb, March 20, 2009.
This is an open call for your thoughts and suggestions on the legislative databases that should be made accessible, as well as how that data could be used to drive innovative approaches on policy and 'shape the future of the nation'. There are a number of ways you can participate in this open call: you can submit ideas via this surveymonkey link, use the #honda2.0 and #opengov hashtags in your tweets, and, of course, leave a comment on the original article.
The Sunlight Foundation has a new website called OOGL: Open Our Government List, for you to vote and submit ideas for what the Open Government Directive should address.
Shortly after President Obama's inauguration, he issued a memo on transparency directing his top officials to develop plans for an Open Government Directive to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration. The Sunlight Foundation has created this page in order to add a public element to the crafting of this Open Government Directive that is itself transparent, participatory, and collaborative.
So far, the highest vote goes to Ethics Information, APIs & Bulk Data Access, and Procedural Information.
Spread the word and vote!
There is an interesting article over at Wired magazine's website by Evan Ratliff, entitled "The Wired Presidency: Can Obama Really Reboot the White House?".
The various obstacles that Obama will have to deal with are discussed, including license agreements, purchasing rules, a ban on endorsements, and restrictions on revisions, among others. They even mention the Change.gov's CC license (which appeared after FGI and others wrote many many emails about why they had a copyrighted site initially!):
The Obama team was able to sidestep these kinds of troublesome rules on Change.gov, in part because, as a quasi-governmental site, it's not subject to executive-branch restrictions. They were able to post videos on YouTube, link to outside sites, and even publish content under a Creative Commons license, allowing it to be freely shared.
Here are some other good quotes from the article:
...turning his innovative campaign and transition into Government 2.0 won't be easy. The nimble Obama startup is about to be absorbed into a stodgy, technologically backward behemoth: the federal government...Ahead are bureaucratic obstacles the campaign never imagined, along with the political land mines that transparency brings.
"We know that there are a lot of people advocating for more open government," Godwin says. "We're saying, absolutely, put the data out there. But I think we have to be realistic."
Do you remember not that long ago when, if you said "blog" to a colleague, you had to explain that a blog was a tool and not all blogs were done by teenage girls putting their diaries online? That was my experience anyway. It takes a while for people to figure out the difference between the tool and the media's depiction of one popular way the tool is used.
Today the tool we have to make sure people understand is "social media" -- an all-encompassing fuzzy term that covers everything from wikis to FaceBook, collaboration tools, communication tools, multimedia tools, and more. See the nice overview at Wikipedia.
Now that these tools are being used by government agencies, it is important for us to understand them as another group of channels of information dissemination. The recent outbreak of salmonella tainted peanut butter, gave agencies an opportunity to demonstrate the use of social media tools and gives us an opportunity to see this in action.
- Agencies used social media to manage salmonella outbreak, By Gautham Nagesh, NextGov 02/09/2009.
The agencies started by brainstorming ideas via conference call on how social media could be used, said Dick Stapleton, deputy director of the Web communications and the new media division at HHS. He said the calls were "very rewarding." HHS, FDA and CDC officials decided how to build on each other's social media experiences. "We tried to use every available form of media," Stapleton said.