October 2, 2009

We’re hiring another UI designer!!

Filed under: Government, accessibility, UI design — kirk @ 9:19 am

Alright, let me first say that my employer, the Missouri Department of Conservation, doesn’t have a position called, “UI Designer”. That’s not how jobs are typically named in government. However, we’ve been luck enough to have a team of folks who are UI designers. They just also often have other tasks on their plates as well — updating content on the web, for example. But now we’re filling a new position for UI designer and that’s pretty much their whole job.

For those of you who want to cut to the chase, the job applications close Oct. 15th and here’s the link:

There are clear reasons why you’d want a UI designer. The first and main one is this: You just can’t easily build applications in an iterative fashion, incorporate user feedback on usability and keep your timeline unless you follow a strategy of splitting out your content from your presentation via XHTML/CSS. To do that effectively, you have to have a UI designer.

I’m not going to waste space explaining all the details on this. The main reason being that many people have already done so. Take a moment to read these blogs regarding good Web design:

Pass this blog post to anyone you know looking for a job who really gets web UI design and the role of CSS in it. I’ll even be happy to answer a few questions via email,


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.


March 2, 2009

Two great online tools for government

Filed under: Government, Productivity — kirk @ 10:14 pm

Ok, these aren’t just for government. They’re for anyone forced to work without a budget and limited staff.

One of these are for online collaboration with staff. The other is a great tool for quickly building slick online applications (and you don’t even have to much about how to build applications). All of them are free (although some provide more features for a fee).


Mind mapping at

This site gives you a great tool for building mind maps. If you’re not familiar with how mind mapping is done, check out this video on YouTube.

Even if you don’t use the site, it’s interesting to view various mind maps that other users have published to get ideas on how to more effectively use mind maps.

Zoho Creator

zoho Zoho, of course, provides a whole suite of office productivity tools that are freely available. The Creator, however, allows you to build or use prebuilt web applications that can collect and manage data for you. Again, YouTube provides a video overview of what you can do with this tool.

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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February 22, 2009

Government and education in Second life.

Filed under: Government, Second Life — kirk @ 12:59 pm

Unpacking at the lab.I’ve been doing some work in Second Life for a number of years at this point. Missouri state government has also gotten into the game. Check out this news article in Converge magazine.
I figured that, while I was helping with that project, I could post some of my work here.

You’ll find the lab.of my alter ego (Marcus Variscan) in Second Life. I’m still unpacking so you won’t see much at this point.
If you have Second Life installed on your machine you can go directly to the lab. by clicking here. Second Life uses spatial links called SLurls. You can find out more about them at

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]

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