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USDA to Mix Social Media into Online Training


One of the leading online training programs in the federal
sector has an interesting idea to improve the completion rate and overall
quality of its online courses. The USDA’s AgLearn
program
has plans to install social media and “Facebook-style” aspects to
their training program in order to provide a more traditional classroom structure
to the emerging world of online training.
Some of these aspects include blogs, wikis, groups, and comment/user
tracking.

OhMyGov recently spoke with Stanley Gray, the USDA’s
director of e-training, about this new idea and how it is coming along.

[Read More on OhMyGov]

Gov Blogger Position Open at CPSC


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently posted a job announcement for a Public Affairs Specialist focusing in Social Media.  The person in this position will serve as the Media Coordinator and will be responsible for creating blogs and other social media content for the CPSC.  The salary starts at $86k with a duty location of Bethesda, MD.  Any US citizen can apply.  The deadline is Oct. 20th.  See the full announcement on USA Jobs for more information.

The CPSC has already gotten its feet wet in the new media arena with presences on Twitter, Flickr, and Youtube.

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Federal Agreements with Social Media Providers Released


Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request in April by the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC), the GSA has released the “Web 2.0 agreements” that were generated by the agency on behalf of the federal government with many social media providers in March of 2009.  The release includes contracts with Blip.tv, Blist, YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace and the amendments to the Facebook, Slideshare, Vimeo, and AddThis Terms of Service.  It seems that while these agreements may resolve legal concerns associated with many standard terms and conditions that pose problems for agencies, such as liability limits, endorsements and freedom of information, the contracts with the GSA consistently omit statements concerning Web 2.0 service providers’ obligations to protect privacy.

Read More: Privacy and Government Contracts with Social Media Companies

Related Post: Government Social Media Provider Update

Links:

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Boston Announces First iPhone App for City Complaints


Boston city officials will soon debut the cities first official iPhone application, which will allow residents to snap photos of neighborhood nuisances – nasty potholes, graffiti-stained walls, blown street lights – and e-mail them to City Hall to be fixed.

City officials say the application, dubbed Citizen Connect, is the first of its kind in the nation. It was designed as an extension of the city’s 24-hour complaint hotline for the younger set, making the filing of complaints quicker and easier for iPhone users.

The application, which will be free to download from Apple, will allow residents to use the global positioning system function on their iPhones to pinpoint the precise location of the problem for City Hall. After submitting a complaint, users will get a tracking number, so they can pester city officials if the problem persists.

In the past, residents have grumbled that their complaints disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Some said they had to call the city hotline repeatedly to get results. A new computer system Menino installed last fall has quickened response times.

The iPhone initiative is part of a push to make City Hall younger, hipper, and generally more user-friendly, a campaign that Menino has intensified during the mayor’s race.

The application was largely the brainchild of Nigel Jacob, a 36-year-old mayoral aide who totes a silver MacBook covered in bumper stickers and holds the exalted title senior adviser for emerging technology.

City officials say they expect to pay Connected Bits, the New Hampshire firm that designed the software, about $25,000 for technical support this year, and then review whether the cost is worth it.

[Read More]

Web Site Helps Coordinate National United We Serve Initiative


The United We Serve summer service initiative began yesterday and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. The United We Serve Web site will help volunteers find projects in their communities and exchange stories about projects that make a difference in their communities.

Serve.gov

[Read More on GovTech]

Starting your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA's Spacebook Project


NASA is building a social network for Goddard Space Flight Center, codenamed “Spacebook”.

Spacebook Prototype

Spacebook Prototype

Spacebook is an enhanced Intranet designed around user profiles, forums, groups, and social tagging. The goal of the project is to use social media to help NASA be more competitive and innovative, encourage collaboration and information sharing, and take better advantage of the information & resources they already have. Emma Antunes (@eantunes), Project Manager for Spacebook, recently gave a great webinar to share how she approached this project, got the buy-in from users, contractors, and management, and other invaluable lessons she learned in getting this implemented.

I’ve capture my takeaways from her presentation on implementing an internal social network and listed them below.

  • Get buy-in from the suits.  You need a champion in a senior management office to sponsor the project.  Get them excited about what you’re doing.  This allows you to engage them to remove any roadblocks and they can give the bossy stink eye when needed.
  • Approach it like any other technical project; Design first, technology second.  Focus on solving a business problem.  Don’t just jump into new media because it’s what the cool kids are doing.
  • Be proactive.  Get your legal support, privacy office, security group, and accessibility team involved at the jump off.  Miss the boat on one of these areas and your project could get shut down faster than the revised Facebook Terms of Service.
  • Use exisiting resources where you can.  This increases management buy-in because you’re not asking for additional funding right of the bat.  Try to re-prioritize existing developer staff and take advantage of internal hosting, existing contracts, and open-source software.
  • Take the perspective of the employee to really understand what user needs are.  What’s going on?  What’s in it for me? How can I participate?  How do I get answers to my questions?
  • Don’t expect people to change their processes unless you give them a big incentive.  If you build it they won’t come, if you make their job easier, they will.  The new process must be easier than the old one.
  • Get web developers out of the content game.  They don’t want to do it and you don’t want to have to ask them for updates.  And honestly, they cost too much money anyway.  Let the people in charge of the material manage it.
  • No content should exist without an owner.  Integrate and complement content that you already have.  Don’t just replicate it in a new forum that requires additional maintenance.
  • Don’t give someone another inbox they won’t check, a new username and password to enter, make them request a new account, or fill-in information that you already know.
  • Engage early adopters and group owners and get commitment from them to post content regularly.
  • Even if your audience is a bunch of twenty-somethings, you still need to train them.  We may like technology but, we hate extra work.  Show me how I can use your product to make my job easier.

Related Reads:

The Facebook Phenomenon – How Government is Getting Into The Act,  on Socialfeds.

Up, Up, and Away! Five Tips for Launching an Internal Network, by Zack Miller (@zgovernment) on Govloop.

Kiss of Death for Social Networking Projects: “What is your Business Case?”, by Brock Webb on Govloop.

The Elements of Social Architecture, by Christina Wodtke on A List Apart.

How should we collaborate?


As the Social Media Subcouncil continues working to develop strategic social media recommendations and guidelines, questions regarding practical social collaborative models have emerged.

After considering several options, the Social Media Subcouncil has arrived at four possible collaborative models we can use to deliver recommendations and guidelines to the Federal Web Managers Council:

• Social Media Subcouncil writes recommendations, and then requests collaborative comments from the online community. An example of this model could include Naming Conventions recommendations.

• Social Media Subcouncil offers our thinking by way of formal recommendations, and then includes collaborative comments in writing the final document. An example of this model is Wikipedia.

• Social Media Subcouncil solicits feedback on specific, more structured items and the online community “fills in the boxes.” An example of this is our requests a list of web 2.0 governance policies where you provide the documents via the wiki, online form or survey method.

• Social Media Subcouncil from the beginning works in conjunction with the online community to form a final document.

These are a few options that may work better for some issues or situations than others. What do you think would work best and when?

Do you have any other models to propose?

Let us know and let’s get going!

Dan Hernandez is an IT Specialist for the Bureau of Land Management and member of the Social Media Subcouncil.

This entry was orginally posted by the Social Media Subcouncil on Govloop.  Imported here for wider distribution.  Learn more about the Social Media Subcounce by visiting our wiki and following on Twitter.

Business.gov – Social Networking for Small Business


A new social networking Web site designed for small-business owners is now on the Small Business Administration’s Business.gov site, agency officials announced today.

Business.gov Community was launched about a month ago and has nearly 900 registered users, said Nancy Sternberg, the program manager of SBA’s Business Gateway, the agency’s organization that runs the site.

Registered users on the community site are able to post and respond to questions and dialogues, Sternberg said.

Read more at Federal Computer Week.

Health and Safety Widgets From The CDC


The Center for Disease Control is, in my opinion, one of the leading government agencies making use of web 2.0 tools and services.  They are actively working to provides citizens reliable, up-to-date information on health and safety concerns like the peanut butter recall and flu activity.  As part of their social media efforts, the CDC has available a number of widgets to add to your blog or home page.  Currently, 10 widgets are available for both healthcdcwidgets consumers and providers.  The newest widgets include the Flu Updates, Emergency Text Messages and the CDC Data and Statistics Widget.  Adding one of these widgets to your site is as easy as copy/paste or, if you’re an iGoogle user, you can simply click on the ‘Add to Google’ button next to each widget.

You can view all of the available widgets here and the full range of the CDC’s social media efforts here.

The Facebook Phenomenon – How Government is Getting Into The Act


Let’s face it, Facebook is huge.  More than 150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. This includes people in every continent—even Antarctica.  Now many government agencies are deploying their own version of this popular social networking site to share  information and connect with niche communities.

ExchangesConnect is a social network administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State.  The site is geared toward people interested or participating in international exchange and learning more about other cultures.  Have you participated in a exchangesconnectstudy abroad or student exchange program?  Or know someone who has?  Imagine being able to connect to those people after returning home.  ExchangesConnect aims to help you do that and much more.  Recently launched in October 2008, ExchangesConnect already has more than 7600 members and over 60 active groups.

This spring NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will debut an internal social network for its employees.  The site will mimic Facebook and feature individuals’ profiles, expertise and personal interests, said Linda Cureton, chief information officer at Goddard.  Spacebook seems to be NASA’s latest foray into social networking after their massive success with the @MarsPhoenix account on Twitter.

A-Space (A is for analyst), dubbed the “social network for spies”, was reportedly launched in September of 2008 as a social network for the intelligence community.  The effort is spearheaded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, a post created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to coordinate foreign and domestic security.  A-Space was developed specifically for prominent intelligence organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) with a total of 16 intelligence agencies participating.  The site aims to give spies a chance to interact with their peers and share data like they never have been able to before.  A-Space even made Time Magazines list of Best Inventions of 2008.  Naturally, the A-Space network will not be open to members of the public and only intelligence employees with the prerequisite level of security clearance will be granted official access.

And of course, you can’t talk about government social networking without mentioning Govloop.  It may not be federal agency run but is aimed at federal employees.  Govloop was launched by federal employee Steve Ressler in his spare time with the goal of connecting the government community.  It’s proving to be a great way for government employees at the local, govloopstate, and federal levels to collaborate, share ideas, and ask for advice and assistance.  Govloop now boasts more than 6000 members, 800 blogs, 300 groups, 250 discussions, 2000 photos.  Are you on Govloop?  I am.

The US isn’t the only place government is getting in to the social networking game.  In late 2008 Transport For London (TfL) – the government owned company running the public transportation system in London – launched a social networking site called Together For London. The purpose is to gather ideas from customers about how to make London a better place. Registered users can create an avatar (called “Little Londoner”), start and participate in discussions, and even set up a campaign.

P.S. I wonder if the Dept. of State employees can even access ExchangesConnect since it is built using Ning, which is blocked by many government agencies.  Hmmm…..

Related Read:

Start your own Facebook- Lessons Learned from NASA’s Spacebook Project