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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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Government IT Dashboard Debuts


http://it.usaspending.gov/

http://it.usaspending.gov/

Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum conference in New York, Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips announced the launch of the new government IT Dashboard (beta of course) to provide an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides citizens with the ability to track the progress of investments over time.

Filled with news, statistics, and charts, the dashboard reveals IT spending across all the major federal agencies. Select any agency, and you can see its budget and spending pattern. For example, according to the site, the Department of Defense chews up the most tax dollars, with a 2009 IT budget of $33 billion.

An interactive data feed page lets you filter specific types of data by IT project, category, and department to see a spending snapshot and then export the data as a CSV file or RSS feed. While there is a thick smog of government-ease within this feature, the ability to export the data and create even more usable mashups is very promising.

I am very excited about the new Dashboard, however, I think the Whitehouse should take a step back from creating fancy new websites to evaluate and improve (or decommission) similar sites already out there. Late last year, the Visualization to Understand Expenditures in Information Technology (VUE-IT) site was debuted by the Whitehouse which basically gives the same info that the IT Dashboard has suddenly made “more transparent”.

The goal of VUE-IT is to improve the understanding of the annual Federal Government Information Technology investments made through the President’s Budget (sound familiar?). VUE-IT organizes IT investments by agency and bureau, as well as by the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s (FEA) service groupings; Service to Citizens, Support Delivery of Services to Citizens, Management of Government Resources, and Service Types and Components.  While VUE-IT doesn’t have all the pretty pie charts and visualizations as the new Dashboard, it kinda makes more sense.

Hopefully both VUE-IT and the new IT Dashboard will contribute to the accountability that we’ve all been looking for in agencies to create a substantial change to how IT programs are developed and managed before they start spending the money.


Related Articles:

New dashboard shows where federal IT tax dollars go

Whitehouse Preparing Data.gov 2.0

Launching in Beta – A Look at PdF ’09, Day 2

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USA.gov Adds Three New Web 2.0 Tools to Government's Arsenal


usadotgov_logo

With a long history of providing electronic access to government information through the Web, USA.gov is delivering on a commitment to use Web 2.0 tools to keep access to official government information on the cutting edge.

GSA announced the availability of three new Web 2.0 tools to better serve the public:
• a government-wide news feed service;
• a gadget gallery of online applications; and
• a word cloud depicting the most popular government online content.

USA.gov, managed by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, implemented these interactive tools to improve on what has already been declared the most effective federal web site in 2007 and 2008 by the Brookings Institution.

“Using these Web 2.0 tools is a huge opportunity for government to be transparent and save valuable tax dollars, said Beverly Godwin, Director of USA.gov and Web Best Practices.  “Tools such as RSS feeds and gadgets allow the public to directly access content from the original source, no matter which website they’re on.  It reduces duplication across government because an agency creates content once and makes it available for reuse by others.”

The first and most robust tool is the Government News Aggregator, which allows citizens to receive consolidated news and information from across the federal government, delivered via RSS feeds or really simple syndication.  The service (http://news.usa.gov/) lets anyone subscribe to news feeds on USA.gov, and receive fast-breaking news updates in industry standard feed readers. With this tool, the public no longer has to scour a vast array of government websites to follow news that’s relevant to them.  Visitors who don’t use RSS can also bookmark the Breaking Government News page in their web browser.

Citizens can subscribe to news feeds on virtually every topic: agriculture, business, economics, consumer news and recalls, defense, foreign affairs, education, jobs, general government and reference, environment, energy, family, home and community, health and nutrition, public safety and law, science, and technology. To provide the service USA.gov is partnering with NewsGator and using a leading enterprise RSS software tool, behind some of the world’s most popular RSS readers for Windows, Web and the Mac.

Behind the scenes, USA.gov content managers select the best government news articles for distribution. This human element ensures that only the most relevant content is being delivered through the feeds, which ultimately means a better experience for the public.

The second tool is a Government Gadget Gallery with a collection of gadgets or widgets organized by topic and created by subject matter experts across government. The government gadgets or widgets are online tools developed by one agency and shared. Anyone can embed these gadgets in personalized home pages, blogs, and other sites. Examples of gadgets include the drug finder hosted by the Food and Drug Administration which will allow you to search a medication by name and get specific information, the environmental tip of the day or the FBI’s predators and missing persons. Once added, the gadget requires no technical maintenance for the user because the original information source will update the content.

The third tool is a USA.gov Word Cloud that is a visual representation of the top 75 most popular search terms on USA.gov, with the most frequently used words given greater prominence or larger font. The word cloud was an idea inspired by change.gov. This graphic depiction allows a person to see at a glance which key words are searched the most according to site traffic.

Launching these initiatives is part of a larger effort of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services to provide leadership to the government web manager community.  These efforts include sponsoring the Federal Web Managers Council; supporting the Web Managers Forum, a grassroots community of 1,500 federal, state, and local web managers across the country; managing Web Manager University; and sharing web best practices via WebContent.gov.

GSA is changing the relationship citizens have with their government by making official government information accessible to the public through multiple channels, including, telephone, email, television, radio, traditional web content, print publications and now Web 2.0.

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.

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.

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Michigan History Goes Online


The Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries today announced the launch of the Seeking Michigan Web site, a growing collection of unique historical information that — through digitized source documents, maps, films, images, oral histories and artifacts — creatively tells the stories of Michigan’s families, homes, businesses, communities and landscapes.

Read more on GovTech.com.

Veterans Affairs Launches Blog, Mobile and More


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently relaunched their site  Returning Servicemembers for OEF/OIF veterans.  The new update is aimed at better connecting  with the younger demographic of returning soldiers.  The site features the VA’s first public-facing blog, a tag cloud of popular terms, and social networking links to the VA on Youtube, Facebook, and Secondlife.  The VA also now has a mobile site at m.va.gov with news, videos, facility locations, contact info and more. 

Check out the new updates!

Government Gadget Gallery


USA.gov has put together the Government Gadget Gallery, a collection of gadgets (or widgets) from around the federal government, to embed into your blog, homepage, email and more.

The gallery went live in December with a small number of gadgets.  The categories currently available are:

What gadgets would you like to see added to the gallery?govgabwidget
View the complete list here and check back often for  updates.