A group for Forest Service Public Affairs Officers, Specialists and Web Managers and designers to share ideas, information and resources.
USDA Unblocks YouTube
July 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm #76491
Yesterday, USDA quietly unblocked YouTube! You can now access YouTube at work on the Forest Service network (at least I could yesterday while VPNing from home).
For those of us who see YouTube as a new and exciting frontier for transparent communication with the public, this is cause for celebration. However, unblocking obviously doesn’t mean we can start producing and uploading official videos. Still, this is a significant milestone in the Forest Service’s emerging embrace of social media/networking.
As you may also know, GSA has negotiated a Terms of Service agreement for government agencies. You can view this agreement on the Web Content Managers Forum at http://forum.webcontent.gov/?page=TOS_YouTube. (I have also attached a copy of the TOS to this discussion.)
In case you wish to pursue use of YouTube, our agency Point of Contact is David Black at USDA
The current branded USDA YouTube channel is called usdacrees (USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service). Here’s a video about switchgrass on this YouTube channel.
At this time, I’ve heard there is no Forest Service channel yet. I’m wondering if anyone knows if the Forest Service is pursuing its own channel?
I’m also wondering how many Forest Service communicators welcome this news? If so, do you already have videos on the shelf that would make good candidates for distribution on YouTube? Or, do you have ideas for new video projects?
July 25, 2009 at 6:36 pm #76504
First, just a couple of points to clarify. YouTube access within the FS network was allowed early on the morning of Thursday, August 23rd, and it came unannounced through official communications, as you suggest. In fact, many people — including management — were quite surprised by this change. In Region 5, we immediately started to query OC/AV leaders and others in Washington about how or if we will use this tremendous opportunity to our advantage. By Friday, the 24th, we had heard back from some folks that we wanted to pursue “Forest Service TV” (note: I don’t like that phrase), but with a caution to “stay on message.” So, there is interest (we are quite interested in Region 5) and a beginning awareness of developing a strategy. In my opinion, that strategy should include a strong emphasis on delivering accessible video to YouTube. Others may think a need exists for guidance to all employees, etc., on using YouTube at work.
Secondly, here is a link to “The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Official Youtube Channel“: http://www.youtube.com/user/USDA. Please note there is opportunity to customize and brand one’s YouTube presence as an official government agency. This again underscores a need for a strategy. Actually, you can see some very high-quality designs linked from the US Government’s Channel. And one must wonder what the Dept. will require of us as we think about a presence on YouTube.
Let’s not make hasty decisions about a FS YouTube Channel, and rush to do it, but instead, take time to articulate ways in which we can put ourselves there in the most favorable way possible.
July 28, 2009 at 2:52 am #76502
Toni Stafford NewbyParticipant
You know, my own reaction to it was not in the direction of creating videos but rather of consuming them. There are a number of high quality videos out there from academics, authors, and consultants which are, at times, relevant to some project or team.
For example, a group in the agency known as Change Consultants (chartered in FY07 and still active today) has embraced the work of John Kotter, change expert. Now that the lines are open, I can share links with my fellow Change Consultants, such as this one: Feelings Lead Change
July 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm #76500
fun – do however keep in mind that just because we’re using another provider – doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible for ensuring that what we post is 508 compliant. Right now our accessibility (internally and externally) is really problematic. Make sure you’ve got captioning. Just because it’s YouTube doesn’t take the responsibility for accessibile communications away.
Frankly, we’re ALREADY vulnerable to a class action suit as we stand. The last one (hiring only – in CA) cost us 32 million. So… just do it right. That said… go for it. Great tool.
August 1, 2009 at 2:56 am #76498
We’re all good soldiers, I know that. Still, I hope it’s not just me feeling rather disappointed, in participating in today’s conference call about social media, that the Department wants control over a FS presence on YouTube. I mean, designing the site for us, reviewing videos before they are posted and still deliberating over a social media policy. All of it seems quite contrary to 2.0 efforts. I wonder what has happened to trust …
It’s clear it is not up to me to decide about this stuff, but we do need agency leadership to deal with these kinds of approaches to bureaucratic control. As I have stated before, social computing is a workforce planning issue … even for the Forest Service. We need a unique strategy detailing the ways the agency will engage in social media efforts.
Earlier today, I posted a quote to GovLoop that seems appropriate at the moment:
“There is one thing in the world more wicked than the desire to command, and that is the will to obey.” ~ W.K. Clifford
August 2, 2009 at 8:41 pm #76496
I couldn’t agree more. On Friday, one of our Forest engineers told me he had found a great video on asbestos abatement. Probably not a video I’m going to rush out and watch, but that’s the beauty of it — something of value for everyone!
If the Forest Service never puts up a video on YouTube, there’s still enormous value in our freedom to view the great videos others share. Still, it would be nice to share back. . . .
August 4, 2009 at 4:36 am #76494
You’re not alone in feeling disappointed.
On the brighter side, I didn’t hear any enthusiastic support on the call for USDA’s YouTube policy, and I appreciated the gentle push-back. From the perspective of protecting the USDA brand, I can understand that they don’t want to see embarrassing amateurish videos popping up. After all, USDA is apparently widely recognized for its discerning taste in video. (Did you see that one about okra farming? Riveting!)
I also understand the compulsion for bureaucratic comfort foods: rules, plans, and permissions. And in fact, there is an enormous technological concern that if every employee in the Department uploads a YouTube video at the same time, the network’s dilithium crystals will fail catastrophically. (Nobody wants to explain that kind of episode to a Congressional committee.) So I can sorta understand where they’re coming from.
But what worries me is that this very well-intentioned, very prudent policy will work so well that aside from putting the obligatory Smokey Bear PSAs on YouTube, there won’t ever be a single little video approved about the hiking trails, campgrounds, or wildlife on my forest because few forests can or will justify spending $1500/minute to professionally produce video when we have so many other pressing needs. And a year from now, when that kid who wants to visit the woods goes to YouTube to check out the best places to hike or camp, the only thing she’ll find are little videos made by somebody other than us. We — the Forest Service — will be missing from the conversation. . . again.
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