Our Social-Networking Government

Recently I attended the Web Managers Roundtable here in DC for the first time. (I can’t link to it because I can’t find it on the Web: It doesn’t have a Web site!) The Roundtable is managed by Julie Perlmutter, who wears a tiara at meetings so that people will be able to find her. I admire her style.

This meeting, marking the Roundtable’s fifth anniversary, was on The Power of Enterprise Level Social Media: How Government Agencies Are Leading. Surprisingly, government agencies are leading in many ways. I’d already discovered that NASA is big on Second Life, so I was eager to find out more about what the gov’t was doing.

Here are some tidbits I learned:

  • The NASA channel is being posted on YouTube — and NASA has no idea who is doing it (but they’re glad it’s getting out). That info was from Brian Dunbar, from NASA’s PR office. Brian also admitted that despite what people  like to believe, the government — like every other organization — often does technology for technology’s sake. How human of it!
  • Molly Moran, who is the “new media advisor” at the State Department, said that they’ve got an internal social network, “Diplopedia.” She said that there are 50 “community” discussions on the department’s network, yet most of the leaders believe they don’t blog. I recall when computers first hit campuses, and a co-ed (do they still call them that?) was eager to show me how much she loved her word processing software, her e‑mail and messaging capabilities, and her saved files, yet insisted she hated computers.
  • Chris Rasmussen of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a title with trendy words like “social” and “knowledge management” in it. He made another point that supports my own observations: you can’t force collaboration. He said that people don’t trust others enough to collaborate with them, at least not without testing the waters. Chris suggested that the most any manager can do is establish processes for coordination. Chris says coordination could lead to cooperation, and cooperation could lead, finally, to collaboration. I think this is a particularly valuable insight for those who want to take advantage of social networking and collaboration software: start with coordination. As one of the speakers  (it may have been Chris) said, just because “share” is in the title doesn’t mean using SharePoint means you are collaborating.

(Chris had made the same point at an earlier conference on the intelligence community’s wiki, “Intellipedia.” Thanks to Dave Cassidy for pointing that out.) 

2 responses to “Our Social-Networking Government

  1. Nice article, Judith! I think we should all have trendy words our titles. I’d like “Paris” and “hoodie” in mine, please.

  2. I actually have been very impressed with NASA and their willingness to become more transparent and interactive with their space geek following, including myself. I was able to follow the Mars Phoenix lander decent on Mars and subsequent events via twitter @marsphoenix. Additionally, their is video coverage of NASA tv on a video streaming site Ustream (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/spacevidcast ).
    Not only the landing was followed, but the recent launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. In fact, as I am typing this I am able to know that the Shuttle is over Cancun, Mexico right now and will be crossing into daylight in 25 minutes.
    In another light, Chris Rasmussen couldn’t be more right, just because you are say you have a tool that is meant for sharing doesn’t mean you actually are. The recent conference referred to in the FCW article was a very exciting event. In the past 2 years we have come so far in breaking down silos, by engaging the community to use a wiki to collaborate, but we still have miles to go. 70k users is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many days left on the 500-day plan.
    If you are in the Federal Government and not on Intellipedia, what excuse do you have not to share? It really is the place to be.

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