Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Social Media – INEVITABLE ? So jump right in and ride the wave!!?

Our objective in this class is to understand how social media can be successfully used, especially in government and non-profits. An important aspect for me in being able to do this is to find a way to believe that this can indeed be accomplished given my limited experience, skepticism and a weariness regarding information overload. For me, what I was looking for was an overriding value statement and/or mindset that would set me on the path with a positive outlook. The 2 guest speakers we have had in class have helped make this happen.  Rachel Flagg of GSA and her amazing website HowTo.Gov  provided much information about the specifics of how to implement social media applications in Government. In addition, she answered one of our questions about how you deal with all the details, the instability, the beta factor, barriers, constraints with the advice to “just jump in”. Don’t let the uncertainties hold you back – have faith that you will make it work and “go for it”.  I plan to take this advice.  I watched the way young people were using all these tools all the time and simultaneously. They were crowdsourcing their decisions, making deals and creating networks at a breathtaking seemingly effortless pace. I started seeing ‘join us on Facebook,  ‘join us on Twitter’  everywhere online and in print media. Bill Greeves , the IT Director of Roanoke County , Virginia commented on the inevitability of the use of social media to become a dominant force in our communications both inside and outside government. “Inevitable” is defined as “impossible to avoid or prevent” and that sums up how I was feeling. His obvious determination and careful planning to harness the coming surge and, in fact, become a pioneer in the embracing of this technology was inspiring. So, thanks to Rachel and Bill, my resolve has been strengthened and I will adopt a surfing metaphor – “ride the wave” and if you “wipe-out”, get back on and wait for the next one.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Networking and Social Media Networks

This weekend as many current Maxwell students ventured to Washington DC for our annual networking trip, I was struck by the interaction between networking in the traditional sense and social media networks. At a recent event that I attended, the presenter suggested searching for attendees on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms prior to a networking event.  Previously I have used these tools to connect and follow up with people I have met; using them in anticipation of meeting someone was something I hadn’t previously considered.

While I was a little uncomfortable with the idea initially, as I began to find several of the attendees’ social media pages I began to realize how invaluable the information would be. Finding commonalities in experience and interests gave me a much better idea of how our meeting could be mutually beneficial, and also allowed me time in advance to determine appropriate questions. 

After networking events, I have often felt I could have utilized my time better; having prior detailed knowledge of potential contacts allowed me to make the most effective use of our time. I came away with many meaningful interactions and a new appreciation for the value of both traditional and social media networking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What next for web 2.0 ?

After Blogs,RSS feeds,Facebook,Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn etc comes Pinterest , a site that revolves around pictures. Perhaps because "A picture is worth a thousand words" . Pinterest is a site that lets you bookmark pictures/ videos on the internet that you find interesting and wish to share it with others . But wait can't i post links on facebook or twitter , you ask ? The answer is yes and no . Yes you can post links to other websites , No these links only post the images as thumbnails and not as the main content to be shared. Another difference between posting photos on Pinterest and Facebook is that facebook photos cannot be categorized and pinned to public boards that may be followed by people with similar interest but unknown to you. I think of Pinterest as Twitter with photos where i follow boards of my interest with pictures shared by people i may not know.

A year ago i was working on a web application that would allow staff (based in the field office of the non profit i worked for ) to share pictures and case description about the work they where doing with staff at the headquarters . These pictures and case description where later used to report back to the donors on how their donations where being used as well as the monitoring and evaluation team to track the progress of work. We spent quite a lot of time developing this system but now Pinterest can serve the function and i must say, serve it much better. We can now possibly use Pinterest to share pictures (with case stories on the organizations blog) not only with our own staff but also with donors and general public . I think government agencies can use pinterest or similar sites to promote/report the progress of work esp development work that can be better understood visually (eg. new buildings, bridges , repair work etc), the advantage is that they will get instant feedback from the citizens who follow the public boards.

One interesting fact about Pinterest is that there are more females members than males. What does this mean ? I don't know , but may be it can be used to share materials that may be of more interest to females . By that i don't mean decor or clothes n apparels but things that are beyond this. Let me think more on this and in the meantime if you have any answers please do comment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Information Management. Privacy.

While social media and internet in general have made it easier to store, sort, present and share information, they have also imposed some costs on us, the users -namely, privacy and surrendering information to thrid parties and to provide the government to even more information about us.

Privacy has, in some way or another, been a tangent topic in our class. Talking to a couple of classmates, we acknowledge the inherent difficulties of the web 2.0 success -that is, how to separate your real self from your online persona? Is that even possible or desirable? Internet is a two-way street: we can peek inside the government but the government can also take a look into our lives.

Over the past month, I read a couple of articles about the topic that I would like to share with you. It was recently revealed that Google exploits a glitch in Safari to track iPhone users and that all of the larger software companies are doing the same.

Europe has been reluctant to jump into the e-gov and gov2.0 bandwagons and has pushed for protection of the user privacy (such as the ban Germany at frist had on Google Street View or the right to be forgotten online). The US, partly because its more individual and liberal tradition and partly because of economic interests (think SOPA), has refrained from doing so. The US government is spending on fulfulling the Open Gov Memo tasks, thus pushig US citizens into social media whitout giving them much control over the information they post online.

This, however, not only happens online. An article on NYT showed that Target can predict when you are pregnant based on your shopping habits, so this breach in trust and privacy intrusion is not confined to the web.

Anonymous DoS hacks of the past couple of months have shown that there are security gaps on government websites (as they are on thrid party websites). For government2.0 and in general web-collaboration, information assurance and privacy policies need to be tightened not only with the information shared with other companies, but with the information share on goverment websites and applications.

Guest speaker: Bill Greeves, Social media policies

Our guest speaker on Monday, February 27th, will be Bill Greeves.

Greeves is the Director of Communications & Information Technology for the County of Roanoke, Virginia, where he oversees the organization’s Information Technology and Emergency Communication efforts. In the fall of 2008, Greeves co-founded MuniGov2.0 – a coalition of governments focused on exploring the use and principles of Web 2.0 in an effort to improve citizen services and communication via technology. The organization continues to grow and gain international recognition and praise for demonstrated leadership in the area of government social media. Prior to Roanoke County, the Virginia-native was the Director of Information Technology for the City of Hampton, VA and held positions in the City of Virginia Beach. He has been working in municipal government since 2000.Greeves is the co-author of the forthcoming book Social Media in the Public Sector Field Guide: Designing and Implementing Strategies and Policies from Jossey-Bass. He is also a frequent public speaker and a nationally recognized resource on the topics of government social media, collaboration, consolidation and cloud computing. His work has appeared in several periodicals including Public CIO magazine, Government Technology magazine, Emergency Management magazine, The General Services Administration’s Government by Collaboration newsletter, Governing magazine, The Alliance for Innovation’s Ideas Quarterly Report, the GSA’s dotgovbuzz newsletter, StateTech and Kommune21. Government Technology magazine included him in their list of Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2010.

Follow Bill's technology in government blog and his Twitter updates via @bgreeves.

Is Social Media Where They Are? Hmmmmmm

One of the supporting factors for the use of social media in government and business to communicate with customers/constituents is that the majority of people are using the internet and of those a large percentage are posting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, authoring and reading blogs. This number appears to be growing all the time and to include many more than just young people. The new buzz phrase for reaching people is – “go where they are.” So, is social media where they are? In order to satisfy my own curiosity and help decide if I will use my own workplace for my final project, I developed my own anecdotal and unscientific social media survey. The group I used were 28 full-time staff in a variety of departments on the business and finance side of SU. They were mostly well-educated and experienced professionals ranging in age from 30 – 60. All used the internet and email in their daily work. I asked them the questions verbally – no written survey. The questions I asked were -  where they got their news and if and how often they used different types of social media. The results are as follows: 1.  where did they get their news? – Many got it from multiple sources, but 19 still received the newspaper with 10 getting Sunday only. I asked which medium they got most of their news from and 4 got it mostly from the newspaper, 7 from the TV, 9 from the Internet, 1 from Facebook and the rest a combination of TV/internet or TV/radio. 2. which social media application do you use and how often? – 16 had Facebook accounts with 11 using less than once a week, 5 at least once a week; 2 had Twitter accounts but never used them. Only 3 people had ever created a blog; none follow any and 1 person had uploaded a you tube video. I found it interesting because most of my interviewees wanted to talk about this subject and had some relevant feedback. Many saw the use of social media as not relevant to serious work, but as a way to connect with family and friends and maybe some businesses as a consumer. Several people said that they can barely keep up with responding to all their work emails so that adding another layer of communication would negatively impact their ability to complete their work. “I am just too busy doing my job to play with social media.” Others mentioned that they had a lot of privacy and security concerns even with using something like Facebook for communicating with friends. They didn’t really want to have multiple on-line accounts to worry about. From the statistics I had been reading about where people get their news and how many use social media, I was somewhat surprised that so few seemed to reflect those statistics. So, given this climate, I think the task of implementing social media applications would require a lot of education of users of their value and a good well-documented business plan.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Plugging in to Social Media with the iPhone

So. I finally did it. I broke down and bought a smartphone. While I don't have Siri to respond to all of my needs, the first three apps that I downloaded were ones for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

It is incredibly addicting to have access to tweets, messages, pictures, emails, and everything else in my hand all the time. My question is this:  is it more efficient to have quick access to all of these tools on your phone, or does it end up consuming an even greater portion of your time?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Integration of Communication Tools

As I have been reading the assignments and taking a closer look at websites out there that have incorporated many of the social media features, it looks to me like these sites, both government and business have a complicated task on their plates. The statistics show that there are still many people who do not use social media and some who do not even use the Internet. These numbers are growing even among older citizens, but in the short run most businesses and governments will have to adapt to the challenge of maintaining all the historical ways of bi-directional communicating and adding on new ones as they emerge. Some of these ways would be snail mail, phone calls, personal contact/interviews/town meetings, newspapers/newsletters, email, listservs expanding to web pages with email contact windows, links to other internet sites, on-line forms, blogs with comments, listservs, discussion groups and expanding even more to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and others. I looked specifically at the website to see what they had available for citizen engagement. They had blogs, document downloads, you tube videos of meetings, a discussion page, a feedback page for either comments, complaints, connect and share with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flikr, Google+ and several more. What this means is that everyone who is involved in these communications will expect feedback, answers, solutions and all in a timely manner. For those using electronic media, the expectations will be even higher – will demand efficiency, quality, accessibility – the e-citizens effect. So, what I think is the challenge is how to integrate all this communication and information and respond to the multiple sources. How will organizations determine trends of opinion, if and how to process a formal response, how to let people know if they have actually contributed to a change in policy or new procedure. The TSA example is always mentioned as a clear example of how citizen input changed a procedure, but I wonder how often an individual really knows if they have had an impact. In my own experience using old-school tools such as calling or emailing my Congresspeople, I have received a thanks and a canned response on whatever the issue was and I often wondered if my feedback made any impact whatsoever. In the current world of paid organizational lobbyists vs. citizens lobbying individually maybe even becoming an aggregate through social media or petitions, I wonder how much influence private citizens can have when paid lobbyists have lots of case and influence on Government officials. It will be interesting to see how this whole new world of open and constant communication will continue to play out as government and business try to make it work effectively and efficiently.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Government Agency? Pause...Before Opening a Facebook Page

While musing recently on the many benefits of social media adoption by government agencies, I thought it wise to devote some thoughts to the downside. Facebook and Twitter have been hailed as amazing tools for government agencies to communicate more effectively with the public, and indeed it is. Before the Mayor of Syracuse, NY can summon the press corps together to announce a new economic stimulus plan, a tweet to all her followers will be instantly retweeted by the several thousand residents of the city who might be following her. Likewise, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ who has made his Facebook page the premier outlet for celebrating the reduction of crime in Newark can attest to the fact that it's much quicker and effective in reaching people without the fear of being quoted out of context.

In spite of the awesomeness of social media, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria will not be quick to celebrate the speed with which he can be reached through his Facebook page. When the government of Nigeria made the decision to cut the subsidy on fuel production in the country on January 1, 2012, thus increasing gas prices by a whooping 150%, he must have regretted not closing down his Facebook page. The barrage of criticisms and insults he received from many of his 696,993 Facebook friends was intensely frustrating.

Beyond criticisms for ineffective policies, government officials are subject to several challenges in the adoption of social media. Firstly, there is the burden of increased expectation for service delivery. When a citizen follows a government agency on Twitter, he assumes that a tweet to the agency to fix the puddle in front of his house will be treated with utmost agency. In stark contrast to the era of Government 1.0, a message sent through social media has very slim chances of getting lost in transit, and is received instantly by the government agency, therefore the regular delay in communication between citizens and elected officials is eliminated. Secondly, government agencies have no control over the design of the social media applications which they are expected to adopt. A government agency might not particularly be impressed with the 'like' feature on Facebook, or might not be excited about the privacy settings on Twitter but has very little control over that. A government agency might also want to include additional features on a design of its own interface if that were possible, but evidently, government agencies are subject to the same designs that all citizens utilize.

Finally, there is the possibility of government social media sites instigating violence. An uncanny citizen might post false or incriminating information on the Facebook wall of a government agency, which might inspire negative emotions in the readers. If that agency does not have an efficient social media manager who can douse the flames before they get started, an entire city might be ablaze before word gets out that the information was false. It is also not impossible that hackers might get behind official social media accounts and broadcast false information that does not bode well with the people, and the disaster management process might not go as smoothly as is preferred.

The moral of this exposition therefore is for government agencies to pause before adopting social media tools, weigh the pros and cons of possible occurrences, employ capable social media managers, prepare disaster management strategies and then open up to the world. A failure of preparation on the part of a government agency will surely be exposed in no time; and hopefully, more than a few jobs can be saved when disaster strikes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The science of social networks - How social networks affect our healt

Harvard Med School has some cool labcasts on a variety of topics. While not Government 2.0 per se, one of the labcasts is on how social networks affect our health and how public health professionals can use them to provide insight on social phenomena -in this case, they rally of the Kenyan diaspora.

You can find it here.

Collaboration with Social Media

In the readings and discussions for class, I have been particularly interested in the possibilities for collaboration in solving problems and creating networks of like-minded contacts. In the Web 1.0 world, useful and interesting content and the opportunity to conduct business was made available to others, but it was essentially a one-way street. It was mostly one-way communication focused and included such tools as blogs, podcasts, youtube videos. With use of more collaborative social media tools like Wikipedia, Facebook, Wikis and Twitter, the wisdom of the crowd can be tapped in a much more robust fashion. Businesses and individuals can put a problem out there and get feedback from all corners allowing for the possibility of developing a more comprehensive or creative solution. In "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy", a social media consultant is quoted as saying, "I outsource my entire life. I can solve any problem on Twitter in six minutes." In the "Paradox of Interactive Web in the US Public Sector", the term "crowdsourcing" is referenced as a process using social media tools to establish a peer-to-peer way of mining ideas. Another example of these collaborative improvements is the development of - a platform to allow government employees to participate with each other in an open way to share ideas and best practices. A term that was used in "Leveraging Web 2.0 in Government" was "collective intelligence". I particularly like that term and it parallels the recognition of the use of teams in the workplace in general - replacing the top down hierarchical practices of decision-making and problem-solving with a more collaborative approach. There is the recognition that this approach results in more creative, inclusive and comprehensive solutions. The adoption of the social media tools to open up the conversation to a wider audience can improve the ability for governments and businesses to provide better services, build trust with constituents/customers.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bloggers’ code of conduct -Tim O’Reilly

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Don't feed the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

Original source: Tim O'Reilly

Content Sharing

What is more social than content sharing? I still remember sitting on my mom’s bed, flipping through her old photo albums. I can remember watching my parents’ wedding videos, old family trips, and other family moments on VHS. I had a fantastic bulletin board in my bedroom where I would put my favorite clippings from newspapers and magazines, as well as ticket stubs, museum maps and other mementos.

What is so different about today’s technology? We are still sharing very similar kinds of content, but now there are a whole new host of tools to choose from. These new technologies allow for real-time content sharing that allow us to instantaneously connect with friends, family, and increasingly casual acquaintances.

While I used to look forward to Christmas each year to catch up with my cousins and see pictures of their travels, I now look no further than Facebook, FlickR and to keep up with their recent exploits. I look at videos on YouTube or shared through TwitPic to see my friends cooking or my niece taking her first steps. Pinterest and Lockerz provide an interactive space for me to collect and share projects, items, images and other content that I find interesting.

These are fantastic innovations in social media, which build upon the natural interests and activities of their target users. So explore, use, and share!!

Class 4: Organizational institutions for the use of social media in government

In preparation for class 4 on February 13, 2012, please review GSA's "" website, the assigned readings  and prepare questions for our guest speaker Rachel Flagg.

Rachel Flagg is the Deputy Director, Center for Customer Service Excellence at General Services Administration and the Federal Web Managers Council Co-Chair. According to her LinkedIn profile, her current projects include: strategic planning for the Federal Web Managers Council and Content Managers Forum; helping agency Web Managers implement web-related aspects of the Open Government Directive; and increasing Citizen Engagement to improve openness and transparency in government operations. She supports,, and helps coordinate the annual Government Web Managers Conference. At GSA she is also responsible for You can find her on Twitter: @rachelflagg.

Please post your questions in the comment section of this blog post!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Do I Feel About the Brave New World?

I have been involved in IT since the late 1970s and have actually been a part of the evolution of computer technology that has led us to where we are today. Personal computers, cell phones, “the web”, social media were not even on the radar when I started my career. I was a computer programmer-analyst for the Defense Dept and wrote COBOL code for a mainframe computer. There were no personal computers – all computing was done on a very large central main computer on a carefully controlled schedule – paper reports were generated and delivered to end users. The turnaround time for a new program from specification development to successful execution and report generation could take months. Those that engaged in this work had to have significant technical training and aptitude. The most advanced changes during my time there were the development of the use of computer terminals connected to a mainframe (that didn’t even have to be in the same state) for local processing and the incredible new program called word processing. Many of you may take for granted the ability to spell check and fix text errors on the fly and move chunks of text easily around in a document, but I have the perspective of having typed my college papers on an electric typewriter. Word processing was an amazing change that revolutionized and sped up all that was to follow. From that time, the personal computer and networks were developed, the World Wide Web, client server platforms, relational database systems. I learned to create my own websites using html, develop databases and use standard query language to access the data in those databases. As we discussed in class, new fundamental structures have been developed to allow everyone to share content with the world – you don’t need to know html to create a standard website. Then came social media with its incredible power to break down the barriers of communication and knowledge and launch the world with warp speed into the world of information. However, with this came the challenges about how to use and control this new world and harness it for use in government and business. Some of the these challenges are mentioned in the “Technology & Public Management Information Systems” by Bretschneider & Mergel namely how to manage standardization and integration; information security; privacy; the constant and immediate need for information; and the dispersing of incorrect and damaging information. Over these last many years, I think I have kept up pretty well with all the changes in IT, but I must admit that social media, while I know how to use it, is the most daunting. It seems to me almost like information overload – multitasking expectations at their most oppressive and that to be useful at all must overcome the challenges as described above. But, I guess it’s a good thing I am taking this class because social media is here to stay and cannot be denied. My hope is that by the time I finish this class, I will see the light and see the ways that the power of this new ‘information processing’ can be used successfully in government.

What a Twitter map can and cannot tell: The Gates Foundation Twitter network

Crossposting this from my "Social Media in the Public Sector" blog:

The Twitter network below was created by Marc Smith, Social Media Research Foundation. He used it in a recent workshop on Social Media Network Analysis that I organized here at Syracuse University on January 19-20.  I picked it up and posted it here on my Social Media in the Public Sector blog, because it relates to the Global Health Advocacy and Policy Project (GHAPP), PI Jeremy Shiffman (American University). It is a Gates-funded project I’m involved in to study the global public health issue networks. From the project website:
The team is investigating six global health policy communities — networks of individuals and organizations linked by a shared concern for a public health issue. The aim is to develop generalizable knowledge concerning why some networks are more effective than others in generating resources and attention, facilitating national policy adoption and supporting the scale-up of interventions. 
This specific Twitter network was created by Marc Smith tracking the keyword “gatesfoundation” among Twitter users on January [Please visit Marc Smith’s Flickr page with a full description of the process and statistic]. It shows Twitter users who have actively chosen “gatesfoundation” either as a hashtag in their tweets, retweeted a message from the @gatesfoundation Twitter account or mentioned other users’ messages. In our workshop, Marc used the Gates Foundation Twitter network as a way to contrast two different types of networks: brand networks vs. broadcasting networks.
The brand network, where many Twitter users are over and over using and re-using the same keyword independent of each other, results in a tight knit community around a specific hashtag. As an example, Coca Cola or Nike have become brand networks.
The Twitter network that resulted in the attached graph is clearly a broadcasting network originating from the official @gatesfoundation account. Messages and connection radiate in a star formation out to other Twitter users.
This can have many different reasons:
  1. Gates is mainly seen in an authoritative role: broadcasting studies, press releases, etc., but nonprofits, advocates, policy makers, etc. are choosing not to actively interact with the Foundation’s Twitter account online.
  2. The mission of Gates is to promote global public health and so they might want to use Twitter solely to educate their audience and are part of issue network conversations in other types of contexts or through other channels.
  3. Another possible interpretation is that Gates does not see itself as an integral part of the global health community – instead it relatively passively pushes out content without being part of follow-up conversations in local issue network.
What this network can tell:
  1. The overall structure of the network can potentially tell how an organization’s communication strategy is aligned with its mission fulfillment: Does the organization reach into the diverse audiences it is trying to access? Do audiences have the right information an organization aims to provide?
  2. The network also tells a story of how connected or disconnected an organization is online: If no one pays attention to the messages the Gates Foundation is promoting, the foundation needs to carefully think about its engagement strategy and effectiveness in reaching into diverse audiences.
What this network map cannot tell:
  1. This one-time snapshot of a very short period of just one day of tweets among a limited amount of Twitter users can’t make any generalized statements about the overall communication strategy or even the Gates Foundation’s overall Twitter strategy. Recreating the map on a daily basis including world events, crisis situtions, large funding announcements, etc., will provide a more comprehensive picture over time.
  2. The Gates Foundation keyword might also be used in combination with other keywords highlighting the global health priority targets Gates is working on, such as diarrhea, new born survival, maternal health, obesity, tuberculosis, etc. The network might look very different and in fact might reveal insights into how Gates engages online in specific issue networks.
  3.  This snapshot of Twitter messages cannot make any statements about the content of the tweets. Do retweeted messages show endorsement – based on the mere fact that people were willing to share? Or do they retweet and add their own negative/positive comments to the original message? A deep dive with the help of natural language processing or other types of content analysis are necessary to make a statement about the sentiments within different parts of the overall network is necessary.