Tired of Hearing About Web 2.0?

I was reading through the blogs on Gov Loop earlier today. A lot of what I saw was “Web 2.0 this” and “Web 2.0 that”. But when I read more, well, it all started to sound the same. We all want our government agencies to actively use it in some way, but there are some bumps in that road.

Yeah. Tell me about it. For the last seven or eight years I’ve chaired a web policy group for the Department of Commerce. The past year we have been hard at work on creating guidelines for our various agencies on the use of Web 2.0 services. Woof. Talk about a frustrating job. It would help if the industry would stop evolving. There’s nothing quite like developing policy for a moving target.

If anyone out there reads my blogs, you know that I don’t usually blog about work. Reading about other folks’ jobs doesn’t interest me, so I can’t imagine that blathering about my job could interest anyone else. But obviously I’ve made an exception here.

The biggest resistance to Web 2.0 technologies is the security risk. After the procession of incredibly careless people who let laptops containing personal data go missing, we have all had to clamp down to a nearly insane degree on security. Some SES folks have actually turned in their office provided laptops because working with the security safeguards is not worth their time or trouble.

I often wonder if half this nonsense isn’t caused by over-zealous security services vendors who paint the scenario from hell when chatting up agency CIOs. There has to a reason why that section of the Commerce Department that stamps the lids of tuna cans has better security than the CIA.

But I digress. The government is a leviathan-sized bureaucracy, through no fault of its own. All those checks and balances built into it to make it FAIR in reality make it unwieldy. Getting it to move quickly to embrace any new technology is an uphill battle. I mean it was just recently that the Vatican apologized about Galileo. We might have better luck over-hauling health care…

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Lewis Shepherd

The only thing I disagree with is your (I assume facetious) call for industry to stop evolving 🙂 Otherwise, I feel your pain (I’ve lived it when in government) and will bear in mind the remonstrances on security. Nice piece.

Joe Flood

Rather than creating detailed guidelines, maybe Commerce should just adopt some general principles on Web 2.0. Like don’t write anything you wouldn’t on the front page of the paper. Web 2.0 is just a reinvention of things that agencies already do, like talk to the public, but much faster. I always thought you could just apply existing rules on communication to Web 2.0 in government. I used to work at NOAA so am somewhat familiar with the issue.

Except for security – got no solution for that! I’m relieved that America’s tuna canneries are safe from cyberattack 😉

Scott Burns

This is a very insightful comment:

I often wonder if half this nonsense isn’t caused by over-zealous security services vendors who paint the scenario from hell when chatting up agency CIOs. There has to a reason why that section of the Commerce Department that stamps the lids of tuna cans has better security that the CIA.

I am always amazed when the very people who make money off of providing security services are providing “advice” on how much security is needed.

My firm provides software/services so I’m sympathetic to contractors and don’t want to paint them as all having malicious intent, but I’ve had some firsthand experience with this type of situation where security contractors with clear conflicts of interest are making decisions that should have been left to civil servants.

Gabriela Dow

No, not tired of hearing about it, just wish I had more time to get into all of the info published on “Web 2.0” — to be honest the issues are still the same, at least those I deal with: How do gov agencies deliver better service and operate more efficiently with reduced resources…? Some aspects of Web 2.0 are great for the day-today nuts and bolts, other elements too abstract for agencies that need to process permits faster, offer some form of online self-service, truly connect all departments in centralized systems or just create the momentum needed to study current process and take the first steps toward re-engineering with technology a part of the end goal…

Amanda Blount

Joe – you could have not said it better. Some people believe the cyber world should be treated differently than reality. But, in most everyday issues, that is not the case. What you write in the cyber world can be brought to court as if it were written in your own hand writing. You see this thought process with alot with teens and young adults (and, scary, some adults). They post photos, or posts threads about themselves which most people would never share in real life, then they are surprised when it comes out publically and it hurts their career, or relationships. If the policies would just relate reality with virtual I think we would be ok. I would never carry a large folder with a report of SSNs and names, etc in my hand out of the office. So, why do some people think this behavior is accepted on a thumb drive or a laptop? Follow the online/tech golden rule; If you would never do it in reality, do not do it in the virtual world.

Ed Albetski

The issues we are working on are not for personal use by employees; many agencies simply ban access to social media as it can be a time sink. My committee is concerned with guidelines for official use by the agencies. The reason any rules or policies or “guidelines” have to be spelled out is that they have to hold up legally if they are challenged. As with life in general, if you want complications, add lawyers 🙂