July 22, 2009

Useful links for the Minnesota Digital Summit

Filed under: Government, social networking — kirk @ 10:03 pm

Here, in one place, are the many links I will reference in tomorrow’s talk. If I think of others that would be relevant, I’ll add those later.

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July 20, 2009

Making everyone in your agency a communicator

Filed under: Government, social networking — kirk @ 9:17 pm

imageThe week is going by pretty fast as I prepare for the GovTech Minnesota Digital Government Summit.

As I’m getting ready to co-present on the use of social media in government, I’ve realized the possibly the best example of how government should engage social media can be found with the Air Force.

Take a look at their publication, New Media and the Air Force. For one thing, the publication is a great primer on many of the terms used in social media. However, the following three observations made in the publication strike me as important when it comes to social media:

  1. The Air Force encourages Airmen to use it.
  2. All Airmen (not just PR folks) are communicators.
  3. If the Air Force doesn’t tell its story, someone else will.

This isn’t just lip service. As David Meerman Scott pointed out in a blog post in 2008, the Air Force is actively engaging and training their staff to use social media. Capt. David Faggard, Chief of Emerging Technology for the Air Force, has even created a handy little flowchart that anyone could use to guide staff on how to engage social media.

One of the big issues government agencies make for not using social media is that they have no available staff. However, look at what the Air Force is doing. They’ve realized that social media depends on individuals with different social networks. Social media is often a personal exchange of information. This means you have to use everyone in your agency.

The key is training them on what social media is and how they can use it. Then empower them to use it.

Why isn’t government on Youtube?

Filed under: Government, social networking — kirk @ 8:21 am

Actually, many government agencies are. This week I’ll share what I know about government agencies using social media such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter as I finish preparations for the upcoming GovTech Minnesota Digital Government Summit.

As I’m preparing, however, you might be able to help. If you’re in government and you don’t think you’re using social media as much as you might……why? What are the main hurdles standing in your way?

Hurdles I’ve heard include:

  • We don’t have staff who we can dedicate to it.
  • It’s too expensive to develop.
  • It’s a security risk.
  • We don’t want our agency to get into social media (because we don’t know alot about it, can’t control it, etc.)
  • Our Internet use policies won’t allow us.

Drop me a line or add a comment if you have additional ones or if you think one of the above is particularly significant.

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March 7, 2009

Use Twitter to create a straw poll

Filed under: Government, social networking, twitter — kirk @ 9:53 am

poll Twitter is now getting enough traction that people are finding some pretty good uses for it.

One contender is to run an informal straw poll.

One site that can help you do this is

The system interfaces with the Twitter api so that you an create a poll and send folks to that poll via Twitter. The poll not only keeps track of the breakdown of your poll but also provides for comments as each person responds.

Here is a sample poll I built in less than a minute.

March 6, 2009

Missouri pops up in Google’s Moderator

Filed under: Government, social networking — kirk @ 8:08 pm

Back in Sept. of 2008, Google launched the Google Moderator. What does Google Moderator do? When Google has tech talks or company-wide meetings, it lets anyone ask a question and then people can vote up the questions that they’d like answered.

The launch in September opened that to a larger audience and, thus, larger set of questions. Anyone can submit questions to be voted on. It also appears that you can target locations (like the state of Missouri, example) for viewers.

moderator So, I open Moderator and see that the second question listed is, “How Can We Eliminate Wasteful Spending?” I click there and find Senator Claire McCaskill. Senator McCaskill’s question has gotten voted high enough that it’s showing up (at least on this Missourian’s page) at one of the top 5 questions.

I’m still learning about Moderator myself, but it seems that it certainly has potential to help government officials and agencies learn what questions interest the public.


February 24, 2009

Portland’s Twisitor center

Filed under: Government, social networking, twitter — kirk @ 8:30 am has a great article on Portland Oregon’s use of Twitter.
Portland is the first U.S. city to launch an official “Twisitor Center.” This Twitter channel connects travelers with those who can answer their questions and help plan their trips.

Yet another example of how government is using Twitter.

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June 8, 2008

Twitter and government (or…something else on the Web we’re not doing)

Filed under: Government, Collaboration, social networking — kirk @ 9:30 am

By ‘we’ I mean government in general. What the heck is twitter?

It’s ‘micro-blogging’ and it’s getting traction. Check out this short post by Joshua Bullock at sumtingnu. You can also see what he’s up to during the day (via Twitter) here:
Want to start? Go to

So how can it help government? Some ideas are:

  • Getting a person to twitter about their workday for education (e.g., what is a fireman’s day like?)
  • Fast collaboration (e.g., what are the members of my team doing today?)
  • Digging people out of the woodwork to help you do your job (In Joshua’s experience, he’s already run into several new Web tools and resources from people responding to his ‘tweets’ (a Twitter post…yeah, I know…).
  • Jeff Davis suggests epetitions.

So are any government agencies tweeting? The Free Government Information blog lists several — including the FBI and Nasa….oh, and the British government (man, they kick our butts with social media).

Hmm..odd sidenote….who actually wrote this article? I’ve got two people claiming credit for it I think:

[Note: the folks at FGI cleared up for…same person..just cross posted…see the comments]

June 5, 2008

Government: less Web pages; more Web services

Filed under: Government, Missouri Mapping Project, social networking — kirk @ 8:40 am

Check out the recent article on ars technica. It discusses a new paper from researchers at Princeton University. David Robinson, Harlan Yu, William Zeller, and Ed Felten, all of Princeton’s Information Technology Policy Center, suggest that government officials focus less (much less) on developing usable web sites, and instead focus (much more) on providing raw public data such as regulatory decisions.


A number of reasons. The public sector has many developers and resources to develop innovative Web sites. While a government committee may spend weeks debating on what color icons to put on Web page, an individual can build a googlemap everyone can use in an evening. But individuals can only do this if they have access to the data.

We already know that good Web development means splitting out presentation, business logic and data access. We build applications that call Web services to access data. Then we post that information in xhtml pages that are styled with CSS. Why not build the Web services so they are exposed to the public? Then, anyone can access them.

‘Wait!’ You may say. ‘Our Web services are behind a firewall. We don’t want to punch a hole in our firewall.’ Fair enough..and you don’t have to. Consider this:

Many of us want to use AJAX in our Web pages. These AJAX pages must sit on a public accessible server (or else the public can’t get to them). AJAX pages require javascript to grab data for dynamic updates. Javascript cannot make calls to data services that are not on the same server as the javascript. This means that if you want AJAX in your application, you’ll need to have some sort of public Web service. In MDC development, we’re calling it a ‘proxy service’ (following the lead of Jeremy Keith of ‘Bulletproof AJAX‘ fame). This proxy service is a public accessible application that turns around and calls your real Web service that is behind the firewall. If you want to use AJAX for the public, this is how you’ll have to do it.

But if you’re doing this, anyone in the public can call that same application (because it’s on the public facing server). Poof! You’ve got a public facing Web service.

In short, building public facing Web services is something you’ll have to do to build AJAX pages. So why not develop a strategy now for figuring out how to make your data available to the public?

And why stop there? Why not have Missouri government foster an environment that encourages the public to access and mashup our data? I mean, what good is public facing data if no one knows it’s there?

In the United Kingdom, a non-profit group has joined forces with government to create the Ideal Government prize competition. To win the prize, individuals or groups in the public hacked government data with a free online map, and sent a short description and a link to Ideal Government contest. Entrants showed what’s possible in terms of locating public-sector data (schools, crimes, hazardous waste dumps, high-spending councils, whatever) on maps as easy to use as Google. All this was done by simply having government release access to its data. This group is even going further by actively engaging the public in government with
Missouri could encourage such use of it’s data if it simply listed all agency data feeds. In fact, if Missouri government knew of all its existing data feeds, we could probably improve our own state and agency Web sites (by accessing feeds of other agencies). For more on this idea, see my posts on the Missouri Mapping Project.

In the next fiscal year, our development team here at MDC are going to be piloting these sorts of public Web services to expose information on our public conservation areas, job openings, area regulations, and available publications (we’re already releasing RSS feeds of our news in coordination with several other state agencies to present news on the Missouri state portal.)

For all this to work, then government needs to do the following:

  1. Build public facing Web services
  2. Make the URL to these services a permalink (i.e., a URL that will never change)
  3. Make the public aware of this service (and encourage it)

So…how can we make this happen in Missouri?
As a final note, see what Utah government is already doing in this area by checking out David Fletcher’s blog.

April 22, 2008

Power Up 2008 Conference: notes

Filed under: blogging, accessibility, social networking — kirk @ 9:43 am

RSS feed readers: What they are and how you can use em.
Josh is doing a great job presenting and I’m busy writing this post via my Blackberry while he’s finishing up the presentation. Turn out is great. We’ve got about 40 here.

Some links to help you get blogging or using other social media:
Before you blog checklist

DMD presentation: The case for social media in government

I also came across Kevin O’keefe’s do’s and don’ts on company blogging, which provides a nice checklist to those getting ready to create a policy.

when to begin

April 21, 2008

Social media and accessibility

Filed under: Uncategorized, Government, accessibility, social networking — kirk @ 9:49 am

The Power Up conference logoYes, I’m back after a long spell away from the blog. Today I and Joshua Bullock are polishing off a presentation we’re going to be doing at the Power Up 2008 conference and expo: A conference on Missouri assistive technology.

I will be presenting on why organizations should even be interested in social media. I’ve pulled out the old presentation I did back in June 0f 2007 and realize just how far everything has come in the past year. I’ve changed many references about how people may be using social media to definite statements (e.g., your employees are using social media now)

Joshua Bullock is a great Web designer I work with at the Missouri Dept. of Conservation. He’s one of the best Web designers I’ve worked with when it comes to CSS, XHTML and all things related.

Joshua is going to be covering the accessibility side of things when it comes to using social media tools like Wordpress, and Drupal. He’s come across an interesting observation. While these new Web 2.0 tools are great at presenting XHTML strict and 508 compliant pages to the people who read the pages these tools produce, they aren’t as great when it comes to compliant backend pages. Josh has more on his blog.

The conclusion? I’m thinking here again we have a situation where developers are so busy thinking of how the public uses their tools that they forget that employees or internal content developers may also need assistive technology.

Look for another post on the presentation as well as links relevant to the presentation.

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