Government 2.0 Club is an informal organization focused on convening the tribe of technologists and thinkers focused on applying social technologies to the governments worldwide.
web 2.0 and DOD
August 18, 2009 at 11:54 am #78156
Dear DoD, the Web Itself is Social
By David Recordon on August 17, 2009 8:30 AM
A few weeks ago, Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog wrote about how the, “U.S. military is strongly considering a near-total ban on Twitter, Facebook, and all other social networking sites throughout the Department of Defense.” According to Wired, the DoD believes that social networks, “make it way too easy for people with bad intentions to push malicious code to unsuspecting users.”
In April of this year, Mark Drapeau and Linton Wells II (previously the acting CIO of the DoD) published a thirty-five page report titled Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment which looked at the interplay between social software and national security. Combining a few of their conclusions, social software, “is an important information sharing enabler between individuals within government, between government employees and communities of interest, between researchers and government data, between the government and its citizens, and between governments of different countries” and that while, “information security concerns are non-trivial” that, “there is a point at which a mission can be hurt by strictly enforcing such draconian approaches that it keeps government from taking advantage of social tools that adversaries and other counterparties are using.”
While it would be possible for the DoD to block specific social networks by denying troops access to domains such as facebook.com, myspace.com, twitter.com, among hundreds of others around the World, as Stowe Boyd said on the Department of Defense’s Web 2.0 Guidance Forum, “Web 2.0 is fundamentally social, treating the individual at the center of the universe as opposed to groups or organizations, and then basing communication and information paths on social relationships between individuals.”
It’s my belief that even if the DoD tried to block all access to social networking sites it would be a never ending and ultimately unsuccessful battle as social is becoming a core component of the web itself. Not only are traditional social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace expanding through their own web-wide API programs, but social features are increasingly pervasive in what used to be “normal” web sites. A few examples:
The New York Times “Times People” – The New York Times launched the ability for you to sign in to nytimes.com, create a profile and follow other readers all without having to leave nytimes.com. This includes the ability to directly recommend articles that you’re reading to your followers on NYT as well as see those recommendations on every page of their site.
Palm Pre and Android – Both phones have address books that are integrated and updated automatically with your contacts elsewhere. The Android is constantly in sync with your Gmail contacts and the Pre has a feature known as Synergy which combines contact information, calendars and instant messaging from data stored locally on the phone, Gmail, Facebook, AOL, and Exchange.
ShareThis and AddThis – For the past few years, bloggers and other content providers have integrated those Nascar-style widgets into their sites to provide an easy way for readers to re-share articles. While they initially focused on re-sharing via blogging services, today they support and default to services such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and AOL instant messenger.
Google Reader – Not long ago reading blogs and other content online was a solo experience from within your desktop “feed reader.” Google Reader changed this with the ability to follow other users and see what your friends are reading. In July they added the ability to group your friends and filter what you read based on what they liked. A few weeks ago they also added ability to share stories via Facebook and Twitter. Lifehacker writes in more detail about Google Reader Updates with Still More Social Features and More Google Reader “Send To” Tricks.
Identity – Whether via OpenID, OAuth (Twitter), or Facebook Connect it’s now simple to use an existing profile to sign into millions of different sites around the web. Well over one-billion people have accounts that are enabled with either OpenID or Facebook Connect. In many cases, it isn’t just about sign in but being able to find people you know on these sites and share content you create back into a variety of social networks. I’ve previously written about the Anatomy of “Connect” and how it’s becoming increasingly possible for any web site to integrate profiles, relationships, third-party content and activity sharing with these technologies.
Niché social networks – Whether it is a Ning community like GovLoop, a standalone network like GoodReads focused on book lovers, or Intel Communities for IT professionals, it’s clear that social networks will not only be large destination sites. More traditional blogging tools such as Movable Type, TypePad, and WordPress have all added various social features themselves over the past two years. See Movable Type Motion, Top Reasons to Love The New TypePad which includes an activity stream, profiles and sharing, and BuddyPress. (Disclosure: I work for Six Apart who creates Movable Type and TypePad.)
From infrastructure technologies like OpenID and OpenSocial, to widgets like ShareThis and Friend Connect, to The New York Times itself and your phone, features and interactions that you once only found on social networks are becoming ubiquitous. While it may be convenient for the DoD’s IT department to think about social networking as a list of URLs that they can block from any network, the reality is that social networking is becoming a core piece of the web itself.
August 18, 2009 at 12:50 pm #78161
AMEN! BUT the possibility of failure has NOT bothered DOD since I have had some level of involvement with it/them for the last 45 years or so!
August 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm #78159
Gotta surprise for these folks! SUSPECT that there are a whole lot more users of social networking tools who DON’T fit in the 18 to 24 age group…
END OF COMMENTARY
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2009 – Defense officials at the Pentagon have redesigned the Defense Department Web site to use social networking tools to engage the American public — particularly 18- to 24-year-olds.
“We need to embrace these technologies. We need to use them because that’s what the young people use these days. We need to communicate with them,” said Price Floyd, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
People between the ages of 18 and 24 are much more likely to communicate using Twitter and Facebook than they are traditional communication tools, Floyd told the American Forces Press Service, the Pentagon Channel and DoDLive Blog Talk Radio.
“If we just stick to the traditional ways of communicating, we leave out a huge portion of society,” he said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recognizes both the need for engagement with the American people and the value of these new tools, Floyd noted.
“The secretary wanted to figure out ways to engage more with the public, and one of the ways you can do that is through your Web site,” he said. So defense public affairs officials redesigned the Defense Department’s home page, launching Defense.gov on Aug. 17.
The department’s former home page DefenseLINK.mil focused on providing news and information, Floyd said. The new site, Defense.gov, will emphasize personal, two-way communication.
DefenseLINK was a name more suited for an internal Web site, an intranet, as opposed to an Internet site, he added. “Most people on the outside wouldn’t have guessed that DefenseLink was the Web site for the Defense Department.”
“Instead of trying to figure out one new name, we’ve taken several domain names which all lead you to the same place – DoD.gov, Defense.gov and Defense.mil, and Pentagon.gov and Pentagon.mil,” he said. “This puts the site more in line with the other departments in the government — State.gov, Whitehouse.gov. — and it’s a more intuitive name to search for.”
Defense public affairs officials used the newly interactive White House Web site as a model. Just as Whitehouse.gov asks people to give their policy recommendations to the President, the new Defense site will seek people’s input on defense policies and issues, thus giving the site more credibility, according to Floyd.
“We do live in a democracy and that feedback from people is important to know what they’re thinking, what they believe is important,” he said. “It’s their national security policy, it’s not ours. It’s theirs. The president was elected and he appointed people here at the Defense Department to lead, but it starts with the American people.”
“I think we might be surprised by the issues and policies that are important to the American people, versus what we think are important,” he added.
A new feature on Defense.gov will enable people to pose questions for the defense secretary, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top defense and military officials.
“You can type in what you want to ask the secretary,” Floyd explained. “We’ll leave that open for several weeks. Once it’s done, people can then go in and vote on questions they want to have asked. They can vote on more than one, and the software will enable us to determine the top five questions which the secretary has to answer.
“There will also be a place where you’ll be able to type in policy initiatives that are important to you,” Floyd continued. “After several weeks, people will be able to come back and vote on the policy initiatives that are most important to them.”
The new site also will link to the Defense Department’s Facebook and Twitter sites. People can post comments and these engagement tools also will help people in the Department see and hear what the public regards as important.
Floyd said the goal is to encourage commanders to launch their own social networking sites, “so there’s not just one DoD Twitter site, or one Facebook site the military uses, there are hundreds, thousands.”
U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, European Command and Southern Command, for example, have Facebook sites, and there are numerous sites within each of these commands.
“Here in the Pentagon, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has his own Twitter site. I have a Twitter site,” he said.
He stressed, however, that operational security remains a concern, and cautioned people to be careful when posting information on these sites. The security of the social networking sites is a major concern to Strategic Command, he noted, and the Marine Corps has banned the use of social networking on official computers.
Recognizing that there are risks involved, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III has tasked the department’s chief information officer to conduct a short-fused study. A report is due to the deputy on Aug. 31 and a policy is to be announced by the end of September.
Floyd said officials will look at both the threats and opportunities social networking sites hold for the department. The study will allow defense officials to make a decision on how to move forward and implement a uniform, department-wide policy for dealing with social network sites.
Floyd hopes the number of visits to Defense.gov will increase beyond DefenseLINK’s two million visits a month.
“Unlike most Web sites, more people over 45 go to DefenseLINK than under 45,” he said. “This was another reason why we needed to change the Web site and rebrand it was to reach that younger audience. But we also don’t want to lose the audience we have now.”
The American Forces Press Service news and feature articles, photographs and special reports currently on DefenseLINK will continue to be available as an internal page on Defense.gov.
Floyd’s message to the American public: “I encourage everyone to go to the new Web site to check it out. If you see things we can improve, please let me know. Feel free to reach out to me on my Twitter site which is on there and give me your comments. Don’t just let me know what you think needs to be improved, but let me know what you think is working really well and what you like.”
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