Conversation on Collaboration

The below series of comments is an anonymized version of the comments submitted during the OpenGov Conversations on the MAX OMB Wiki during the months of February and March, 2009. Names of specific individuals not publicly associated with the subject in question have been replaced with [Name], and corresponding agencies replaced with [Agency]. Other text which might identify the author or other individuals too closely has been replaced with words in brackets. Every effort was made to keep the redactions to a minimum.



The challenges we face today - from saving our planet to ending poverty - are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.
-President Barack Obama

From the Memorandum: Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.


Topics may include:

Attachments (1)

Comments (90)


  1. 1 - Feb 19, 2009 12:36:

    BLS and the Census Bureau are sponsoring a conference on Computer Assisted Survey Information Collection for government surveys (FedCASIC) March 17-19, 2009 in DC. [They have] a great program on topics such as web surveys, security, using paradata and metadata, and multimode data collection. In addition, Fred Conrad from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan will give [the] keynote presentation on "Envisioning the Survey Interview of the Future." The conference emphasizes discussion and sharing [the] experiences with government surveys.

    FedCASIC is open to government employees and contractors working on related government survey projects. Please contact [Name] for more information.


    1. 1.1 - Feb 20, 2009 01:52:

      Will any of your conference program be available online or just in person?


      1. 1.1.1 - Feb 27, 2009 01:38:

        It is mostly in person. It's an informal conference, and the sessions devote a lot of time to discussion. A few presentations will be available after the conference, but most of the interaction will be in person. If you're interested in seeing them, let [Name] know.

        [Name hasn't] actually thought about making the presentations themselves available online, but I can look into that for some of the sessions (like maybe the keynote speaker) next year.


  2. 2 - Feb 19, 2009 06:17:

    In the area of public-private collaboration, the Government should assess whether the Government or the private sector, including nonprofits, are best positioned to provide collaboration area or social networking sites for collaborations. In some cases there may be a compellling case for the Government to create such a space, but in other areas there may be a more compelling case for the Government to either be an active participant in a collaborative community OR the Government may make grants to the private sector to seed the collaboration community. I'm aware of actual implementations using both models. NCI's caBIG is an excelllent example of government hosted collaboration at work. Foodshield.org is an excellent example of a young community being created through agencys' grant-making authority.


    1. 2.1 - Mar 06, 2009 05:15:

      I almost missed this. Medpedia was launched late last month. It appears to use a model where professionals can edit by establishing a professional profile. Regular users can suggest changes and create or join communities of interest. Organizations can also use the site to create professional networks, among other things.

      Interestingly it was launched through a partnership between Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkley and UniversityofMichigan. No government involvement.

      http://www.medpedia.com/

      Of course, it begs the question, what government's role should be in this kind of effort, if any.

      Commentary: Medpedia's Potential


  3. 3 - Feb 23, 2009 10:05:

    The efforts at EPA for collaboration include the Public blog, Greenversations at http://blog.epa.gov, several collab projects over the past few years, and the New Media tools being added to [its] Pubic Website at www.epa.gov, includng the mobile version at m.epa.gov/. [Name] is our Web Manager and [Name] is lead on the http://recovery.gov team at EPA www.epa.gov/recovery. Internally, we are beginning to use Wordpress and WikiMedia, on an open system LAMP server, to learn about and grow organizations and teams to utilize collaborative tools which will provide the basis for our full scale entry into this important arena.


  4. 4 - Feb 24, 2009 08:58:

    I agree wth [Name] - I think it often makes sense for the gov't to be a participant and resource in collaborative space but not necessarily be the one creating them. Depending on the conversation, people may be a lot less willing to share in a gov't created space than one created by a trusted 3rd party.

    EPA created Radonleaders.org in conjunction with private sector/nonprofits to provide a collaboration space around radon.

    Dep't of State ran a site called exchangeconnect (or something like that) that was a public diplomacy collaboration space with non-profits, private sector, etc.

    After work, [Name runs] GovLoop.com, an unofficial social network collaboration space for those working in and around gov't.

    A number of groups and associations work on inter-governmental communications from NAPA, Parternship for Public Service, ACT/IAC, Young Government Leaders, Federally Employed Women, etc.

    There are some good exchange/evaluation of collaborative technologies on places like Webmanagers Forum and listserv.


    1. 4.1 - Feb 24, 2009 04:04:

      [Name], and all: I believe the GovLoop (open and monitored) / MAX OpenGov (restricted and managed) model is exactly what is needed in the area of Collaboration. We (many of the volunteers in and outside .gov) have been exploring and cultivating this type of mixed networking for a couple of years now and it has been very successful.

      GovLoop (and many others) uses the Ning.com framework, which provides the Network Owner ([Name] @ GovLoop) top level Admin Ownership, and provides Group Owners ([Name] @ OpenGov @ GovLoop) Group level Admin for the Group only. I have created, and participated in a couple dozen Ning Networks, and it is an excellent CMS (some call these Content Management Systems) platform.

      Ning is not the only one, however. I recently started looking into Drupal, which is just about to release Version 7. Drupal and its variants provides a great deal of flexibility to how the CMS platform is configured, and can plug and play different functions, like forums, wikis, blogs, etc., but is less user friendly than Wordpress or Ning.

      Back to the Public/Restricted Collaboration model, monitored and proactive collaboration tools ALL need cultivating, monitoring and constant care, in order to bloom and bear fruit. I believe that the reason most Collaboration tools and efforts fail or fall short, is that they are not vested with sufficient resources to bring them online, and to keep them going. Networking and Collaboration require marketing, which some people call preaching, nagging, posting, twittering, commenting - in short, beating the bushes daily to use creative ways of communicating in order to get attention for the prohect. More on this later, as it is time to pack up and get ready for the CNN/Facebook Live Blog covering the Address to Congress tonight...


      1. 4.1.1 - Feb 24, 2009 04:23:

        Concur, [Name] - you need both. GovLoop and MAX Federal Community have been the T-shirt and buttoned-down oxford cloth blouse in my closet for the past nine months! I wear 'em both. Each serves a necessary purpose that the other cannot.

        On the subject of cultivation, I think it's more than marketing; it's constant inputs of friendly energy that draw people in. And that energy has to be tailored to the culture of the online environment. On GovLoop, I observe that an updraft has been created by group owners such as yourself and the recruitment of volunteers who do weekly interviews with members and welcome new joiners. On MAX, it may be more about posting "sticky" content, linking pages to facilitate navigation by curious newbies, and enticing people to go look.


        1. 4.1.1.1 - Feb 24, 2009 09:07:

          The best solution for a collaborative online venue would be a single Ning or Drupal type platform within .gov with both a secure internal area and a public monitored area, with all participants registered and vetted. Like Ning, users may establish groups, blogs, or other collaborative objects to address different tracks, data calls, forum issues, etc. and all aspects to be vigorously supported by technical, organizational and content management staff.


          1. 4.1.1.1.1 - Feb 24, 2009 09:30:

            [Name], great idea. We've been looking into the ability to do exactly as you've indicated. We're in the middle of reviewing existing tools to see what's going to be possible to allow ad-hoc social networks (with positive identity) within the government. Some networking is already possible in the MAX Community here within the Wiki and we're looking at making improvements here as well as using Ning- and Facebook-like interactions in the future. You should bring your ideas to the fore by joining us in our weekly collaboration meetings run by [Name].


            1. 4.1.1.1.1.1 - Feb 25, 2009 10:09:

              Great. When is the weekly meeting and how do I connect?


            2. 4.1.1.1.1.2 - Mar 02, 2009 06:54:

              If you haven't already looked into it, one tool that's gotten a lot of play to do just that for the high side in the Intel community is the A-Space tool, which is built on the Jive platform, which a number of simple custom Apps running on top of it. The apps bring in various intel data feeds and analytic tools. Currently, DoD is looking to do the same thing for both the SIPRNet and Unclass networks. The Jive product seems to be very usable, and really does the social networking piece well while allowing easy mashup potential.


            3. 4.1.1.1.1.3 - Mar 06, 2009 03:17:

              I have the same question: when and where are the weekly meetings and how do I participate?


              1. 4.1.1.1.1.3.1 - Mar 06, 2009 04:26:

                The next meeting is March 11, 2009 and you can join the Collaboration Workgroup and access the meeting on the Collaboration Workgroup page here in the MAX Community. BTW, thanks for joining the OpenGov21: Enabling Collaboration Group in GovLoop...


          2. 4.1.1.1.2 - Mar 09, 2009 01:50:

            I can envision many uses for this kind of platform to support an open and collaborative acquisition environment. I'm actually just starting to sketch out some acq process changes that would be "collaboration friendly". And then there area always FAR issues to work through...


      2. 4.1.2 - Mar 02, 2009 04:40:

        Who is behind the GovLoop effort? Is there a particular office or organization responsible for making sure the site owner stays current/involved? Sorry, its my first time hearing about it so I'm trying to catch-up.


        1. 4.1.2.1 - Mar 04, 2009 10:38:

          Hi [Name] - GovLoop is a project [Name runs] outside of work for fun. Basically the community moderates and runs it. It's kind of a follow-up to Young Government Leaders, a group of over 2,000 young feds sharing ideas and best practices. [Name] thought why don't we do it online and open it up to all ages, S/L/I, and see what happens.


          1. 4.1.2.1.1 - Mar 04, 2009 02:05:

            Its pretty amazing the amount of penetration that Govloop has already received. At TransparencyCamp this past weekend, many of the participants just "assumed" everyone knew about this - those that didn't were working to quickly get up to speed.


          2. 4.1.2.1.2 - Mar 06, 2009 03:25:

            GovLoop is an amazing example of the organic growth and ownership that occurs when you provide a platform under the right conditions. Myriad groups have been formed and discussions initiated on GovLoop, e.g. [Name] co-initiated Government 2.0 Club, an informal organization focused on convening the tribe of technologists and thinkers focused on applying social technologies to the governments worldwide, which, by the way, is the largest Group on GovLoop by >2x -- an indication that the interest in the topic of Government 2.0 is very high.

            Likewise, we're all here on MAX... :)


  5. 5 - Feb 25, 2009 10:33:

    [Name] - Check into the Web Managers Forum website. They only allow in government employees and vet everyone before hand. It's built on yourmembership.com social network software.

    [Name] - You're correct. You can build social networks on both Drupal and Joomla (both open-source). May be a good option. Radonleaders.org (sponsored by EPA) is built on Drupal.
    Personally - I'm a big fan of having both formal and informal networks. Kind of like I have both LinkedIn and Facebook but use them for different things. I think it's tough to limit to only 1 site for all .gov's as they have different goals and the big bang approach (force everyone onto one thing) sounds good in principle, but is hard to pull off. For example, A-Space is valuable in that is for the Intel community and is limited at that. OMB Max serves a different function. LinkedIn groups, GovLoop, etc are all pieces to the puzzle. It's a Swiss Army knife to use depending on the situation.

    Happy to help however I can.

    -[Name]


    1. 5.1 - Mar 06, 2009 02:54:

      Hi everyone, I just got on MAX. I am glad to be here, but feeling a little late to the conversation, thus going back through this afternoon and replying as I see fit.

      [Name], I agree that formal and informal, internal and external networks are necessary and serve different purposes. It would be great, however, to have a single place that aggregates the conversations and discussions that are happening across the distributed web. So often there are parallel discussions going on unbeknownst to the participants. As an example of successful implementation of this model, some of the conference platforms, e.g. Social Collective, CrowdVine pull in-by tag and/or keywords-all of the conversations about a given conference/event that are going on across the distributed web so attendees can see, in a single newsfeed, all conference-related discussion. This may be a relevant approach for collaboration about government topics, programs and categories.

      This would also be a way to enable multiple levels of access. Government employees would have access to everything being discussed, while contractors would have a different level of access and citizens would have another level of access. The beauty of this "single, aggregated newsfeed model" (a la Faceboook newsfeed) is that it would not appear to any constituency that they were missing a piece of the discussion and yet they'd only have access at their level.


      1. 5.1.1 - Mar 06, 2009 03:34:

        I love this idea!


      2. 5.1.2 - Mar 09, 2009 09:39:

        Yes. I used to say to folks locked into one path or link in Web 1.0, that many links are better - "It's why it's called a Web." And the same is true with the growing number of tools and venues that we have today. I call it Network Gardening, so that we make sure that the information is available to most folks through their preferred method. And everybody has preferences.


  6. 6 - Feb 26, 2009 09:55:

    We use Drupal communities at [Agency] and have some hosted on our extranet at [URL] to allow [Agency] to engage with partners, alumni and others not outside the enterprise. Drupal takes a lot of dev work and unless implemented very consciously quickly becomes a collection of silos. In addition to our extranet, we have Drupal communities on our intranet.

    I like and have beenw working with State's model of using intelink.gov for interagency collaboration between development, defense, and diplomatic groups. I'm a big fan of intelink as a single information environment. They have every tool available you could ever want to use when collaborating, from the access control of Sharepoint for the risk adverse to the open, ease-of-use of Wordpress for those read to write. With intelink, a KM or web dev team member can piece together media wiki, Wordpress, and knowledge tree documents management and, with a dash of self-serve web publishing, have a nice little cms that integrates well with the larger community. The tools install on a click. Call it USGlink.gov instead of intelink.gov and you'd have a much wider audience and contributor base. DNI.gov has a great information sharing plan posted under the reports section of their website.

    More important than tools talk, I think, is a single information environment that increases the probablity that collaborative content will be retrievable within a wide range of contexts both through tagging and integrated search tools. Too many great websites and the information they contain are lost as a course of program lifecycles. This content could remain online and searchable if we (government and implementing partners) had a shared information space and committed, centralized hosting. This is the point where collaboration issues begin to bump on records management issues, which is a huge issue when we're talking about content beyond documents.

    Most importantly, we need policies that enable collaboration. We need to revisit the privacy policy that was written before the technology tools were around that we all use today and craft something that informs and protects. We need a data classification scheme that can be applied agency-wide (no more FOUO and SBU but one new category). And these data classification schemes should consider online platforms appropriate (intranet, interagency networks) for each data type so users can post with confidence. We need some user training in terms of expectations for professional behavior online and assistance with managing online identities. I think government should embed KM practioners within every group of 150 employees (the magic number for social networks) to help teams manage online communications and help resolve disputes that often fall through the cracks or become mythical "policies." A combination of an ombudsman, a technical attachee, and a communications specialist (writer/editor) with the technical background to help audiences (civilian-military) find common ground, common language, and common classification schemes, and manage expecations of users and management and security.

    Collaboration is a lot of work. And it is not an IT line item. It is a cultural change that requires consensus-building, training, and recognition of the diverse groups and communities that make the entire USG. We need to move mitigate the politics that arise when talking about owning the tools/platform and focuse on ways we can rebuild trust in government within the government.


    1. 6.1 - Mar 06, 2009 03:13:

      [Name], so many good points here. I agree with your assessment of Intelink as a good tool for cross-agency collaboration. We at [Agency] Emerging/New Media have started to use Intelink as an intra-agency collaboration tool about new media tools for public affairs. Any of these tools, however, are overwhelming and a bit intimidating when you first enter. One of the great things about Intelink is that they have a training arm ([Name] is a good resource for info on this): they will send real people to your office for a customized training session! Our next [Agency] cross-department Emerging/New Media meeting will be such a training session from the Intelink folks. Access to this kind of support will increase adoption rate of any collaboration tool. So many of us are Digital Immigrants (folks born before 1982) who instinctively learn by being show how, rather than learning by doing (more a behavior of Digital Natives--those born 1982 or more recently).


      1. 6.1.1 - Mar 06, 2009 04:01:

        I like the definition of digital native. People I work with think I am a digital native and I keep trying to tell them no, but more and more are coming! I feel like a bridge between two worlds.

        I agree the intelink interface isn't very friendly. But State has a great example of making online communities on intelink feel familiar to users (https://www.intelink.gov/communities/state). The link to their communities portal is well integrated with their intranet. I went there several times before I noticed I wasn't on the State intranet anymore.

        I love the fact that intelink offers training. We had one intelink persentation/seminar in [Agency] for the KM Reference group here. But I feel like we are just scratching the surface. It takes a lot of web development and change management work to get communities going, but its great to start with hosting and tool selection done and move on to the real work! I'd love to see a similar shared information environment (term taken from DNI's Information Sharing Strategy) that is available to a wider range of audiences, as appropriate, including program partners, ngos, etc. If the Gov offered a common hosting platform, self-service collaboration tools, it could largerly eliminate the website archiving problem and greatly focus internal training efforts. And more, so much potential!

        CIA, no matter how you feel about them personally, has done a lot to think through web/collaboration issues and published some very smart ideas on the subject, including social bookmarking as an expert locator system. I love it! Their website is down now, or else I'd include a link.


    2. 6.2 - Mar 10, 2009 05:40:

      Agreed! The Intellipedia/intelink model for collaboration within government is GREAT. The intelligence agencies have a common wikipedia, instant messaging, videos-storage-service, etc, available at most of the desktops, with no licensing restrictions on the tools. The tools are modular in the sense that pieces can be upgraded or replaced or new ones added without much affecting users in the agencies.

      We really need that kind of setup in the economic and statistical agencies I'm familiar with. For many years I've tried to get MediaWiki-type wikis at this agency for many years, so we could make our internal terminology more explicit and transparent. (Otherwise the language is often opaque, with hidden histories and variable meanings.) Also that kind of wiki is an ideal tool for sharing methodology, since it has nice math formatting (in LaTeX) and footnotes, and one can quickly make a category system for a bunch of pages together. It would make work fun and I'd quickly learn a lot. And we could then coauthor academic-type work more easily, both within the agency and across agencies.

      One thing we would benefit from a lot, which I don't see mentioned elsewhere in this stream, is a source code control system shared across government. Such a system stores source code or documents, and it knows who has permission to edit what over time, and makes recent and past versions available. If it were easy to share programming code across agencies, truly great stuff would happen. Many good things will become doable, quickly, once we can collaborate or copy from successes that way. Millions of dollars of duplicated work could be avoided, straightforwardly.

      With that in mind I'm drafting a proposal (for a conference presentation, in a separate context) that the statistical agencies have a common MediaWiki (or something close), and a common source control system, and other common tools on the Intellipedia model. If anyone wants to team up on specifying and proposing that, I'd love it. Please write to me, and I'll send you what I've got and let's see how to adapt the proposal to your interests. I'm hoping to have many authors, because there are huge gains from trade to be had here.


      1. 6.2.1 - Mar 10, 2009 10:29:

        [Name], I'm curious as to why the statistical agencies need a separate system (separate from Intelink, I mean). I'm not familiar with that kind of work, so I may be missing the reason. But I ask because I worry that creating a separate system will further split audiences. I agree with [Name] that we should have one network that every federal agency can access. I used to be the project lead on the Communities @ State program [Name] mentioned, and there are several benefits to hosting the sites on that network (vs. State's network). There are also some downsides (such as we can't leverage State's user authentication). One of the biggest benefits is that State has seamless access, as [Name] mentioned. It's not a pain to work in an interagency environment -- it seems no different than working in our own.

        I would love, love, love to see a network for all federal agencies where each person would have a "passthrough" from their agency's network (like State has: if I'm on OpenNet, I automatically get to Intelink without logging in). If I am not at an agency workstation (ie. at home, or on the road) I could log in remotely. The other side to this coin would be a shared suite of services and apps. Right now, for example, we can't use Drupal like USAID does because it's not approved for use on OpenNet. But if we had a space carved out on the federal network, and we could install/modify/run Drupal, it wouldn't matter that it's not approved for OpenNet -- we'd have an alternative. And that alternative wouldn't seem different to the end user.

        There are several benefits to this idea, including cost savings and time savings (reduced development costs). The biggest benefit I see is that we can easily include other agencies in our projects. Right now, for example, State can host a community blog on Intelink that is mostly for State. But when an issue comes up about border security, or provincial reconstruction in Afghanistan, [State] can pull people from DoD or DHS into the conversation, which is great. But then, when the Economic Section in Embassy Tokyo wants to share their data with the Commerce Dept, suddenly Intelink isn't so useful (yes, individual employees can request logins, but it's a) time intensive and a barrier to adoption and b) you can only work with known audiences, not potential but unknown ones.

        So, if we had a network (or...cloud!) where each agency could run the sites/apps/programs they need, it would make collaboration easy for people to attempt. I understand that the Federal Web Managers group had a hard time finding a common platform that everyone can access (for their online collaboration). This would solve such a problem.

        Of course, my next suggestion would be that one of the shared apps/services would be social networking-like functionality, where people could easily "group up" in communities of practice across agencies, and where we could use social bookmarking in a cross-agency capacity. So many possibilities. I think the key, though, is having the space in which to try these ideas, and I see that space as a shared federal network.


        1. 6.2.1.1 - Mar 11, 2009 06:24:

          Wow, had not anticipated this question. You're thinking even bigger. I too am trying to address this issue: "we can't use X like Y does because it's not approved for use on [our network]." This has been killing me for years. (It's not Drupal in my case; but I've spent years trying to get something we need approved on our net, and can't.)

          I thought it would be convenient for the related agencies I mentioned to team up. However it's even better if we are in some sense on the same platform as all agencies, or all .gov.

          You mentioned some wins if they're all on the same platform: Joint internal blog across a widespread community of practice. Join social networking / bulletin-boarding for communities of practice across widespread agencies. Also, presumably, source code becomes sharable across more agencies. You make a good case here.

          Here are some challenges that cross my mind:

          • I thought intelink was highly secured for national security reasons. I take it you think of it as a platform in which I could be given access, but not to secret stuff. Well, if that's a possibility, I'm all for it. I only suggested replicating the system separately because it was literally dangerous to give outsiders access to it, and therefore for safety reasons other agencies should be separated away. I have no special knowledge on that. The Intellipedia platform is pretty much what I'm looking for (plus source control and statistical software)
          • Some of the tools we want/need aren't what you'd want/need. Example: I mentioned footnotes and math formatting, for example - those don't need to be constraints on your dept's choice of wiki. Example 2: Across the statistical agencies we might want universal access to a basic platform that lets one run R programs. (R is a open-source statistical language, and it would be nicely professional to make that available on day one when a new staffer gets a computer.) It sounds like you might access to a platform with Japanese characters and auto-translation. There's not much problem in us both having access to all this, except that the UI might be overwhelming in offering us a huge suite. Some software, also, is licensed to you but not to me. I suppose we could be offered different subsets of the super-suite easily enough. Well, that sounds fine.
          • There's also a political/managerial problem. Our agency has confidential and pre-release data. Partly for this reason they constrain very much what we can run. If the path of a huge .gov-wide platform offers our staff lots of capability, (even, say, to instant-message with friends at another agency) it may appear to be a threat to some managers here, and they'll dream up reasons to cut off access to services of this platform. The reasons need not be authentic - getting stuff permitted can be a nightmare here. Whereas if the platform were clearly focused on work-related I thought it would be more easily allowed and we could get going.

          Anyway, so far I don't have any actual objection to intelink or some other common back end. I have no objection to being on exactly the same platform as all .gov for these services. If it's easier to run a separate platform, as I had thought, I could live with a separate platform.


          1. 6.2.1.1.1 - Mar 12, 2009 11:40:

            Intelink runs on secret and top secret networks. Intelink-U runs on DNI's unclassified network, DNI-U. The secret and unclassified versions aren't really integrated. Connecting to the secret network SPIRNET that hosts Intelink-S requires use of a comptuer that is hard-wired to the secret network. In [Agency] although staff have secure clearance they have very limited access to secured networks. This is a big problem for us and makes intelink-U is our most available option. Organizations can sign MOUs with DNI for pass-through access to DNI-U. Currently, [Agency] has access through their OpenNet (State network) connection and State has a signed MOU with DNI. Not sure how well that would work for your organization.

            Once you can connect to DNI-U, you have access to intelink to consume content. But posting content requires login. Intelink has a passport registration process that enables single sign-on for all tools (blog, docs, galleries, Sharepoint sites, etc.) Password-protection is assigned to user profiles. Intelink's membership management process is one of my favorite things about their service. They don't require .gov email accounts for registration, which allows us to engage a wider [Agency] audience than MAX does.

            I know people in this forum have mentioned Drupal as a good open-source community software for a shared collaboration platform. But my problem with Drupal has been membership management. It just doesn't scale well easily. And it requires a lot of admin leg work to do so. I'm not sure how my clients can fold community management within their existing staff structures or budgets. I think communities need some type of central management, which is how we at [Agency] are trying to do it. But Drupal is really testing my capacity limits and creating community stovepipes.

            Perhaps a shared network (cloud) could help connect communities. In this scenario, Drupal maintenance would be shared accross organizations. But membership management processes are going to have to be addressed up-front and scaled in a way that gives end users control but limited options. People of all ages don't just come to the table knowing how to use collaboration tools. Wikis in particular have a high learning curve. So, whatever is rolled out (I hope its in the form of a collaboration cloud for the USG) they need to be rolled-out in a way that minmized learning time. That's another reason I like intelink's model. They have Wordpress blogs, which are the easiest things to use.


            1. 6.2.1.1.1.1 - Mar 15, 2009 06:25:

              Good to learn this. Okay, Intelink is a network with a login procedure that is often automated, and many tools are already there, available, once the user is authenticated. Some content is visible to a particular user but much is not. I have a couple thought on the issues you raised.

              Regarding Drupal: A person I knew thought it was ideal for just about everything. Outside work, I hired him to make a little site so as to learn it. But the math-feature didn't work with the wiki-feature for some opaque reason, and I had trouble understanding it overall. So we stopped--which doesn't mean he was wrong; I just wasn't very educated. Later, I went to a wiki conference and met many developers. There were a blizzard of features and designs and things are evolving. The developers do not seem to compete against one another -- there's apparently a lot of blue sky for all of them.

              So, when I was on a team here evaluating tools issues, we figured it was okay to have multiple wiki softwares or source control systems or whatever. The idea of having exactly one of each has caused a lot of fighting in a zero-sum game. Good stuff that should have happened, didn't. To succeed, it is necessary that the tool be usable as judged by the people who have to use it, and especially the activated subject matter experts who have to really run with it, make it work, invent new stuff on it, evangelize it to others, and teach people how to use it. "Usable" is sort of a minimum; it should be fun, really. It should not be too buggy, either. It should have enough of the features the subject matter experts think they need that they are willing to use it. To succeed, it is also necessary that these tools meet some basic rules (e.g. particular web standards) so they interoperate somewhat and modules can be replaced or the data transferred or new plug-in pieces made so they work well with the other tools. (I've only barely used WordPress which you mentioned; but it found to rate high on all these criteria. Our team saw a captivating demo of the Intelink/intellipedia tools, and we learned from them. They picked good tools.)

              Yes, the shared network can help a lot. As you say it spreads the maintenance cost (and the need for expertise, also, can be satisfied from outside the local organization). Another virtue is that it may not be necessary to strictly standardize on tools; there can be more than one of various types. Cooperation with the group doesn't need to mean that you and I have to use Drupal specifically, if we agree on another such framework. Presumably people will congregate into clusters around tools they like, and some which don't gather users will eventually not be worth supporting any more.

              Re communities needing central management -- At the wiki conference they had standardized already on an idea that I'd barely heard of -- the wiki 'gardener' who has the job of looking through the site periodically and cleaning it up, usually with the permission of the other people whose work it is necessary to edit. The gardener is not a high ranking person, ideally, but a friendly coordinating person with an agreeable sense of order and harmony.

              But to me those things come AFTER, and are secondary to, the feeling that someone is running with the ball and getting something done. My mental model is that productive communities usually form from below. People grab on because it's useful or cool. Yes, some management and maintenance are required, but some kind of vivid life is required first. I'm having trouble with this thought that wikis have a learning curve . . . . well, they are artiifcial and new, but shouldn't be so hard to learn. I've evaluated several, and criticized two of them for their user interface difficulties/frustrations/bugs, and loved two others which worked quickly and well. If I had full access to one of the ones I like, it would take off pretty fast in the work group. I'd show people how it would serve their needs, not with arguments but by actually serving their needs, and showing how others could get meet their own objectives with it. I've used a couple which are easy and natural, like the one supporting wikipedia. It's a dream of mine, to use it in a workgroup. What did you find that suggests the learning curve is steep?


              1. 6.2.1.1.1.1.1 - Mar 16, 2009 09:42:

                When I've demo'ed Media Wiki on intelink my clients' get a look of terror in their eyes when they realize that they would need to learn wiki markup. A good WYSIWYG editor is essential. I know intelink is working on getting one, but I haven't seen it yet. Wiki markup is a big obstacle to use. Another is just the concept of building pages and links. Some people get the concept quickly, others don't. Another is the concept of tagging and categorizing content. People often skip this step or else tag or categorize by organizational structures instead of topics. Thinking of content topically is a big change for people working in a bureaucracy. What products did you use that you found to be particularly usable?


                1. 6.2.1.1.1.1.1.1 - Mar 19, 2009 09:41:

                  I wrote a long reply, clicked Post, the text disappeared, and I got a message saying "comment text is empty." I've lost my reply. Oof! Well, rewriting it now:

                  The team I referred to didn't rate products. We observed and talked with people and identified a problem, which I would describe this way: Usability wasn't treated as a serious requirement at our agency. General satisfaction with the tools was therefore lower, and effective use was lower, than one might expect. So we didn't agree on a specific "usable" tool set, but we knew that we and many people were happy with the widely used tools like WordPress, MediaWiki, subversion -- partly because these are open sourced so people can configure them flexibly.
                  Let's define usable this way: given a set of tasks and a tool and a person to do the tasks, the tool is usable in context if the person is happy to use the tool to do the tasks.

                  I'll buy that some people in a demo find wiki markup frightful. But it would be costly to let that make the decision. I've used MediaWiki for years, thousands of hours, for various projects on various sites. I had to learn some things. But it's very nice to use, reliable, and debugged. Ten years ago I made a searchable online glossaries for economics in general on the web, at econterms.com, with 1300 terms. I've moved its contents away from software I wrote, to MediaWiki.

                  It's been clear for many years now that if my agency had an internal wikipedia so that interested people could mutually clarify and share our definitions, abbreviations, and processes, we'd save lots of time and frustration and reduce hassle, and that MediaWiki is very nicely designed for this. Separately, I was on a team that put a chapter of our handbook of methods (with equations) onto a mediawiki, and agreed it was a good system for online collaboration to discuss such things. It displays stored content in a satisfyingly elegant and professional way.For those of us who need these things, it can format math markup, handles hyperlinks nicely, has footnotes, and has a simple category system.

                  People can edit without WYSIWYG. Most users of word processors before 1990 did, and most wiki users do now. If somebody finds that it looks awful in a demo, or that hyperlinks are obscure, well, that's somebody who doesn't think wiki-like, hasn't used them while the technology exploded over the past ten years, and isn't going to be a quick adopter of any wiki software. That person's gestalt response shouldn't be decisive, because the tool is meant to be useful for people who will use it. Somebody else has to be the champion, and usability should partly be defined in terms of whether such leaders can get something good done in the near run. I'm trying to collaborate with people who already write computer programs. In the long run, sure, WYSIWYG editors are coming.

                  I think regardless of the experience in a demonstration, most people can learn to use the basic editor pretty fast, if they try. It will help a lot if they see that the thing is useful and they can see their neighbor use it, and ask questions. If they use inappropriate category systems, that seems pretty harmless, because somebody else can pass through the same content and use topical categories. I didn't understand how the category syntax worked the first time, but someone showed it to me, and now it's quick for me to use. I think Web 2.0 tools have to be available before one can get a real tacit understanding of them. At this point it's just maddening if they're not available.

                  And---I have no objection to somebody using a different wiki software! Part of the benefit of a large scale platform is that some alternatives would be available, and the different wiki setups can hyperlink to one another, easily.


                  1. 6.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 - Apr 02, 2009 11:31:

                    Hi, I'm new to this forum, so forgive me if my post is redundant to something that's been said in the 1000+ posts already on here. After your discussion about who can and can't access Intelink, I wanted to add that I am pretty sure that anybody on a .mil or .gov computer has access to the Unclassified version without login. You can't make comments or create new content without an Intelink Passport account, but that is relatively easy to get.

                    To get an Intelink Passport account, simply visit https://www.intelink.gov/passport/Welcome and provide your .mil or .gov email address and whatever other information is required.

                    Once you have an account, you can get a ugov.gov email account and join the "experimental" government-wide ugov.gov Yammer group. There's a nice little wiki page with more info about how to get an email account at:
                    https://www.intelink.gov/wiki/Enterprise_email#Request_or_Create_a_uGov_...


                    1. 6.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 - Apr 02, 2009 11:37:

                      Hi [Name], welcome! That's not quite the case for everyone. [Agency], like [Agency], has seamless access to Intelink-U, so we can read sites without logging in. But most agencies *do not* have this kind of access. It's true that DNI will approve Passport accounts for anyone with .gov or .mil, but people without the seamless access cannot even get to Intelink to create their own Passport accounts -- they have to fax or email a form to the ICES folks to get a Remote Access or Passport account.

                      The system works well for people like you and me and [Name] (which is why we see the benefit!) but it's not easy for people from other agencies whose networks don't pass through their credentials to Intelink.

                      [Name]


                    2. 6.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.2 - Apr 02, 2009 01:05:

                      I just tried to get an account, but there was a rule that to get it, one must belong to, or support one of these communities: intelligence, defense, homeland security, law enforcement or diplomacy. The criteria were listed here: http://ra.intelink.gov/eligibilitycriteria.pdf. I wouldn't claim to meet the criteria, although I could imagine someone in one of the relevant agencies backing the effort in the future.

                      But it's an encouraging thought. It seems like we're just millimeters away, in techical terms. If people in my agency and its peers across government *could* be certified onto the unclassified intelink/ugov system, and could create wiki-spaces there with a few routine add-ons from the world at large, that would be IT. That would get us what I've been trying to get for the past five years. And it might cost almost nothing, just scaling up a system that already works. We're *that* close. Thanks for the boost!


              2. 6.2.1.1.1.1.2 - Apr 02, 2009 11:35:

                There is a new DoD/DISA-sponsored Drupal site at http://defstar.sraprod.com/ that is open to anybody in the .gov or .mil domains if you'd like to check it out. I think having non-DoD folks on there will also be useful to spread the word that collaboration is bigger than one agency's "enterprise."


        2. 6.2.1.2 - Apr 02, 2009 11:45:

          I think that if we try hard enough, we will find some way to integrate the authentication methods of various agencies in order to make collaboration and information sharing easier. One thing I've been looking at recently is the Federal PKI Steering Committee's Federal Bridge program. According to what I read, the program should make it easier for various Federal agencies to read and validate each others certificates/tokens. Granted, some agencies don't yet have PKI, but perhaps many don't see a reason to.

          I have to admit that I'm not PKI expert, but as a military officer, I'm issued a DoD Common Access Card (CAC) that has a built in PKI cert. We can digitally sign and encrypt emails to each other, and we use our CACs to access DoD-centric websites like Defense Knowledge Online, Defense Travel System, etc. I'm sure that DoS people have the same success with all their own agency websites and their own issued certificates. Why we can't use the Federal Bridge to integrated DoD's, DoS's, and everybody else's is beyond me. As far as I can tell the techonology is there, but the will is not.

          [Name] wrote a blog entry about [their] frustrations on Intellipedia at https://www.intelink.gov/blogs/mary.t.centner/2009/03/30/federal-bridge-or-federal-chasm/ if anybody would like to read and/or comment.


  7. 7 - Feb 27, 2009 10:40:

    Are policies getting in the way of implementing technological solutions such as blogs, wikis, and other collaborative technologies? If so, which policies are causing problems? How would you fix these?


    1. 7.1 - Feb 27, 2009 02:37:
      • Modernize the existing privacy policy to enable social working best practices to take root within government
      • Develop a government-wide data usage policy. This would mean no more SBU and FOUO classifications, but one new classification that covers both. We may need additional data classification systems to allow for clear guidance on when what can be posted where.
      • Identify secure or preferred networks for hosting and sharing data types for government. At least some space/network must include room for partners to engage with government. Not all networks can be locked inside government firewalls, although some may need to be
      • Identify ways collaborative technologies can streamline reporting requirements, not just add to the workload. Offer guidance/policies on how government can make this happen by revisiting reporting mechanisms
      • Address records management issues which are spiraling out of control for the whole of government. Collaborative technology is only going to add to this problem. What is a record? How do we keep it?

      1. 7.1.1 - Apr 01, 2009 02:55:

        I agree wholeheartedly with [Name] on the second point. This has been an issue for us recently, because here at [Agency] we have "SBU" and people often disagree on what that means and how to handle it. We have had several people want to use ugov.gov email when they are on the road (not everyone can access [Agency] email remotely) and the CIO here has said that ugov.gov isn't secure enough for SBU data, so we can't autoforward from [Agency] to ugov.gov. Yet DNI has just moved everyone over to ugov.gov as the default unclassified email system. If we all had the same definition of classifications, and the same rules on how to protect that information, we could stop duplicating our efforts and instead benefit from the work of our colleagues in other agencies.


    2. 7.2 - Mar 02, 2009 07:03:

      There are clearly some Information Assurance barriers for intra-agency cooperation. This will only grow larger when we include State and Local networks. For starters, in [Agency] we use a CaC card, but we want a site to be CaC card access only but also allow other Federal agencies to play, the details of how the Federal PIV card authenticates have still not been worked out and implemented.

      But in looking at the larger issue, my perception is that in [Agency], we have a "trusted network" category, which requires CAC cards to access, and a "potential enemy" category, which is everyone else. We really need to work out a "potential collaborators" category, perhaps a few variants of that even. This hurts our interactions with our industry partners, and is even worse when trying to work with our NATO allies. For instance, we should have a relatively easy method of allowing the UK Ministry of Defense folks into some level of authenticated network, which is different from a [Agency] only area. I think we all recognize that the [Country, Agency] should be treated different from say, [Country, Agency], for instance.

      This potential collaborators level of authentication could also be used for State and Local governments. Bottom line though, we shouldn't have to work this out agency by agency.


      1. 7.2.1 - Apr 01, 2009 02:58:

        [Name],

        Would a government extranet, with space for each agency to invite their external partners (both within and outside of government) into their areas, help solve the problem you've identified? This would assume everything on the network is unclassified.

        [Name]


        1. 7.2.1.1 - Apr 02, 2009 11:03:

          Hi [Name], I like the approach - that is that we create some kind of semi-trusted "potential collaborators" environment - almost another style DMZ that allows more types of participation. I think the problem with that approach might be that each agency has different external partners. So in [Agency] we have issues with bringing in industry partners that we don't currently have contracting relationships with. But we also would have different issues with our foreign partners.

          Specifically related to [project], we have conversations on various emerging technologies. For export control reasons, there are certain technologies we cannot discuss with foreign nationals. How, for instance, would we figure out who in [Agency] we could give access to [project]? As I understand it, your [Agency ID] card doesn't tell us whether you are a govt employee or contractor, or if you are a US Citizen vice a foreign national.


    3. 7.3 - Mar 03, 2009 11:03:

      This is a good question. I think you could also ask: are people's mind-sets are getting in the way? Sometimes it is difficult to energize employees to put information up on the web, and to ensure that it stays current. It may be even more of a challenge to inspire employees to use new technologies to share information.

      I think that when senior management uses the web and Web 2.0 to communicate and collaborate they inspire others to follow their example. For this reason, I applaud Casey Coleman's (of GSA) blog. I am also a big fan of NASA's collaborate page at: http://www.nasa.gov/collaborate/

      I've also sent information on prominent federal twitterers - from the list at http://twitter.pbwiki.com/USGovernment - to many in our agency. This was new information to many of them. It will be interesting to discover what sort of change management works best to energize people who don't use the web and who aren't aware of Web 2.0 tools to suddenly take heed of them, and use them.


    4. 7.4 - Mar 04, 2009 10:43:

      The trick is to treat each technology appropriate to the risk. Government is used to implementing multi-year, multi-million dollar projects with pretty strict requirements on security, architecture, investment review boards, and operations.

      I think the cultural and policy problem is to treat them as something different. The story is the TSA Administrator asked for a blog and CIO shop said it would take a year and a million dollars to go through the full system lifecycle process and normal rigor. He instead just went outside of IT and got the site up almost overnight on like a $50k budget. I've heard of similar encounters.

      If an agency wants to use collaborative tools, it should be really quick and affordable especially as most of them will not be dealing with sensitive information.


    5. 7.5 - Mar 06, 2009 05:45:

      As [Name] touched upon in her comment, "are people's mind-sets getting in the way?"....

      Yes, policies are most certainly getting in the way of collaboration, but to enable the collaboration that we envision, changes to the organizational policies that are the platform for our culture are paramount. I am not at all discounting the need for improvements to technology policies, just saying that the culture needs to change in order to maximize the value of collaborative technologies. Providing access to social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies will not make our agencies more collaborative.

      Creating policies that encourage and reward information sharing and participation uninhibited by title rank or level will create a climate for collaboration. This "mind shift" from hiding and holding information to sharing information is not a challenge unique to government agencies, it's a worldwide cultural shift. We - individuals, government agencies, associations, corporations - are products of the Boradcast Era, an age in which information = power. Today's social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies undermine this paradigm by leveling the information playing field. Information  power, information SHARING = power. We are now living in the Collaboration Era. Rethinking our agencies' communication policies and practices - intraagency, interagency, eith the public, with suppliers and contractors, etc. - is the first policy challenge that we need to address.

      Here's one quick example of what this type of shift can look like. When [Agency] started our [Project] back in 2007, we started by listening to the conversations already in process. Milbloggers were talking about issues that were critical and interesting to DoD. Soon, we joined the conversation and started participating in and commenting on dialogues on the military blogs. Once we developed relationships with the bloggers, we asked them what we could do to help them tell the important stories that tell. Their answer: grant us access. As uncredentialed journalists, bloggers are not allowed, let alone invited, to press briefings. This need for new communications was the genesis of the [Project] through which we engage in the conversation.

      [Name] wrote about another idea about an organizational policy shift last week while at TransparencyCamp: what if community relations - whether with citizens, suppliers, or other groups - were a horizontal component of everyone's role rather than a vertical function within public affairs? Collaboration between program managers and their constituents can catalyze innovation.

      Policy reform needs to start with revamping systems to encourage and reward collaboration. Reforming technology policy without organizational policy will get people using social media tools and technologies for broadcast purposes, thus, not only defeating the unique purpose and capabilities of these tools, but also undermining the entire concept of collaboration.


      1. 7.5.1 - Mar 10, 2009 10:25:

        To phrase the topic question another way, could it be that lack of policy is getting in the way of implementing solutions? We know that many agencies have been creating strategies for public affairs, social media, and collaborative technologies prior to established guidance. This seems to have worked pretty well so far, but why not direct the energy, focus it, and reward it when it's effective? This sort of a comprehensive policy has been conspicuously absent as we've been developing new ways of collaborating and approaching information sharing, and I think Maxine's suggestion to create "policies that encourage and reward information sharing and participation" is a great one. I'm really looking forward to this directive, in part because I'm hoping it will help to establish a policy that encourages a balance of "good bureaucracy" with collaboration.


    6. 7.6 - Mar 09, 2009 11:13:

      One key is to help agencies understand that collaboration is not the same as communication. In many agencies, all employee communication is vetted by the communications office. But this is an outdated model; a federal employee blogging or using Twitter on behalf of his agency isn't creating a press release or an official memo. We need to better understand that even though blogging is a form of written communications, it isn't the same as an official agency communication. It is, instead, part of a collaborative conversation with the agency constituents. It needs to be viewed that way. Policy needs to be in place to allow employee blogging (including comments from the public) without this outdated fear that the agency will "look bad" or "endorse something inappropriate."


      1. 7.6.1 - Mar 10, 2009 09:57:

        Yes, just as social media tools & Web 2.0 technologies increase our choices for communications, so must policy expand to include various shades of gray. "Official" and everything else may no longer be sufficient.

        I also see the other side of this: we need to participate in the conversations, both in official and more ad hoc capacities, but we can no longer control the messages.


    7. 7.7 - Mar 10, 2009 12:09:

      Interesting phrasing of the question... whether policies are getting in the way of implementing technological solutions.It sort of pits policy and technology in different competing camps -- which is one of the perceptual issues. Technology that is not in synch with policy is presented as a solution.

      Sometimes this juxtaposition of technology vs policy clouds the issue and creates even more resistance to implementing facilitating technology.

      Policies with regards to privacy, handling sensitive information, sharing information between agencies, etc. are not getting in the way of implementing "technological solutions." They may, however, be serving as obstacles to collaboration and information sharing -- even without facilitating technology.

      This is not to say that there are not impediments to deploying technology. These impediments, however, often technological themselves, e.g. the difficulty of having to administer a range of platforms, familiarity with a particular software family and resistance to change, concern about whether a centralized web-based architecture will be robust enough to handle decentralized global demand, etc.

      To a certain extent, people who would be expected to use the blogs, wikis and other technologies don't know how to explain what they would hope to accomplish in ways that would make these technologies truly facilitative. Even here within this forum and in similar discussions on Govloop.com the discussion is being held primarily among technological experts with minimal input from the "users".

      Without adequate input from the "users" it has been difficult to incorporate facilitative technologies effectively. In addition, in the past the costs have been prohibitive and the time it has taken to actually deploy the technology has diminished the enthusiasm. Now, however, it is possible to deploy web-based technologies quickly at relatively little cost. This has changed the dynamic significantly. Now, if the technological resistance (rather than perceived policy obstacles) can be overcome, it is possible to create an enviornment conducive to collaboration. In such an environment, users will define their own ways of using the technology, particularly given their familiarity with it from its ubiquity outside the government sector.


    8. 7.8 - Mar 10, 2009 07:56:

      One very simple thing that needs to be changed is the policy regarding Cookies. This policy is severely limiting the ability to make a personalized, convenient environment for both public access to government resources as well as staff access. Currently, users must sign in, they have no other options for tracking preferences between visits. This then requires additional registration and information. We have resources where we only want to provide continuity and ease of access. OMB should rescind M-03-22 (and amendments). Technology has passed this by and this drastically limits government options.

      A second limitation is the requirement for accounts on federal systems to have passwords changed on a frequent basis (every 60 days). This has caused users to cease using federal collaborative tools and move these collaborations to other, non-federal sites (yahoo groups for example) to get around the password issue. Again, for Level 1 access, working with the public community, there should be a different policy in place that permits long term passwords.


      1. 7.8.1 - Mar 10, 2009 08:18:

        I've also heard anecdotal evidence that the compexities of government password policies have prevented candidates from applying for federal jobs! Not to mention collaboration issues. The usability of accont management is so often overlooked and always secondary to security. It's another example where security identifies a risk and has an ineffective risk response at the sacrifice of the utlity of the government service. The government's response is usually, "oh well, it's a security issue." End of discussion.


    9. 7.9 - May 11, 2009 10:36:

      Re: "How would you fix these?" Offer services to .gov sites from a high authoritative location like OMB, or a White House CTO/CIO's office, or GSA. Avoid getting caught up in a game of taking "requirements" from every last agency.At my agency, top officials have invented high priority requirements, unrelated to the user purpose, in order to block the use of a tool here. That's prevented valuable progress. One doesn't want a big feature list as much as one wants to move quickly and flexibly and cheaply and in a way that meets web standards. Then the feature list partly takes care of itself in a decentralized way as capable people add what they want and fix the bugs that people notice in their local context.

      Usability is extremely important, and isn't a feature on a list, so it can get ignored at key moments. (When I was in the software business we referred to a "feature list mentality" because some people had it bad, like an illness, while others thought about the more important thing--how you'd use the software.) People talk about cultural change as if it's really hard, but it gets easier if the tool is easy to use and gets a good reputation. If the new tools are easy for some set of users, and they like the tools, they'll sell them, and the cultural change becomes doable and thinkable. The youngest or most specifically capable people can take the lead and train some of the others pretty fast. That moves the ball. Not everyone will love it -- so be it. The people who need those tools then suffer less from the absence of the tools which are standard outside for government. They feel empowered and can be more cheerful and effective.

      How do you pick usable tools? Choose tools that people outside of government think are enjoyable, useful, and flexible. Don't try to prevent their use by inventing other requirements, rather, use them and adapt them. There is an alternative of *testing* usability but this can turn into a big project and slow the work down. In government we are so very far behind the best practices that unfortunately we don't get to invent them (which I would like to do) but we can at least copy them.


    10. 7.10 - Mar 23, 2009 11:37:

      I came across a very interesting blog post on intelinkand wanted to share with the audience here as it relates to creating a policy environment that enables collaboration and information sharing.

      "Over the last decade or more we've architected ourselves into IP network and governance stovepipes across the fabric of USG organizations and these islands of IT capability conspire to thwart the best intentions of even the most enlightened senior leaders and mid-tier supervisors who might otherwise be inclined to open their ... start building a culture of horizontal, community-of-interest-based sharing and collaboration. Part of the problem is the onerous regulatory environment that Congress has created — essentially driving federal program planning, budgeting, systems architecture, systems engineering and technology acquisition processes into organizationally-bounded vertical structures. From stovepiped CIO and Senior Acquisition Executive (SAE) structures come stovepiped IP-based systems. No surprise."

      As for next steps, how about... "acquisition reform and taking a critical look at Clinger-Cohen (ITMRA) and the various OMB Circulars that drive these onerous, bureaucratic and "born-stovepiped" technology procurement models. Regulatory reform and acquisition reform are essential first steps to promoting information-sharing."


  8. 8 - Feb 27, 2009 10:48:

    How does your agency identify opportunities for collaboration on your programs? How is that implemented? Are there success stories you can share?


    1. 8.1 - Mar 10, 2009 12:22:

      The more agencies see that they are working on different aspects of a common issue the more the opportunities for collaboration become apparent. The State Department's collaboration with DHS, the FBI, DEA and the Intell community with regards to visa matters is well documented and has developed significantly over the past 40 years. Growing from data dumps into a bare bones, limited access lookout system, to one where data from multiple agencies is consolidated in the Consular Consolidated Database, hosted on a State Department platform for use by consular officers, and then mirrored on the Intelink-U (former OSIS) platform for interagency access. The State Department is moving forward with its partner agencies to further develop this successful interagency system that both enhances security and benefits the public through increased efficiency and online accessiblity.


  9. 9 - Feb 27, 2009 10:50:

    My job in the [Agency] is to bring public-sector leaders together to share information, knowledge, and experience in leveraging best-practices to improve services to citizens. We work to foster open communication and collaboration among governments and facilitate the flow of information and ideas among public sector leaders and communities, from international CIOs, to the U.S. federal establishment, to state and local officials.

    I was really thrilled when I heard [Name] say (at the web content managers webinar) that state and local officials could be involved in this process from the start as long as they have a dot.gov address. One of the biggest sources of conflict between the feds and state and locals is that state and local governments are left out of important decision-making processes on things that affect them. They feel they are an after thought, brought in at the end of the process if at all. So when I heard I sent the information out to my state and local contacts widely letting them know if they have a dot.gov address they could begin working with us now. I am lnow earning now that there seems to be a glitch in the max system that keeps them out because there isn't a category for them in the drop down menu. I am wondering if there might be some way we could fix the glitch that would allow participation from the get go. Is it possible to put another category on the drop down menu for these folks or could they be instructed to sign-in as part of a federal agency already on the list?


  10. 10 - Mar 01, 2009 04:41:

    There is an enormous amount of overlapping content across government Web sites. The ability of government Web managers and content creators to systematically organize and pull together this disparate information by themselves is nearly impossible. I suggest that the feasiblity of a government-wide, user-generated tagging system be investigated. If this could be successfully implemented, the following benefits would accrue:

    1. Citizens could assist with the massive job of cataloging and organizing government information
    2. Relevant content could be pulled in across Departments and "mashed" together into ad-hoc, topic-based sites
    3. RSS feeds could be created from the tags and widgets built and placed on relevant government and non-government sites
    4. By analyzing activity across topics, policy makers could see (partially) the relative priorities of the public
    5. Individuals could pull together related content from government, private sector and non-profit sites
    6. Similar initiatives across local and state government could be incorporated to give citizens a comprehensive view of government programs, information and services

    1. 10.1 - Mar 02, 2009 04:05:

      I love the idea of a government-wide, user-generated tagging system. The Library of Congress Flickr site is a great example of how well that can work: http://www.flickr.com/groups/library_of_congress/


    2. 10.2 - Mar 04, 2009 11:04:

      I like this idea too. How about using an existing system, such as Delicious, to allow citizens to tag our sites? I'm sure that Delicious has an API that would allow government sites to draw off relevant pages and tags.


      1. 10.2.1 - Mar 09, 2009 03:49:

        Nothing is stopping del.icio.us users from tagging government content. Government Web sites can promote the process, though, by adding a social bookmarking widget (see http://www.addthis.com/). Also, see this Wired article (http://blog.wired.com/business/2008/12/with-layoffs-wh.html) for some recent developments on the LOC/Flickr project.


        1. 10.2.1.1 - Mar 09, 2009 04:08:

          [Name] - the Flickr project is a great example, thanks for sharing.

          [Name] - you are 100% correct and doing a better job of facilitating and encouraging content is part of this process (and required if it is to work properly). Another part is developing mechanisms by which users can access tagged information. As far as I know, there is no way in Delicious to seach for pages tagged for "cancer" that are limited to .gov sites (maybe we could work with Delicious to do this- even better). It is similar to the idea of federated search but with people, rather than algorithms, responsible for the organization of information. This could also be used for things like offering related pages to people visiting a given page (and if there was a voting system in place, the system would improve over time).


          1. 10.2.1.1.1 - Mar 09, 2009 04:20:

            That's why I think a single information environment is key for the government when it comes to sorting information and breaking stovepipes.The only place I've heard a single information environment described is in DNI's Information Sharing Strategy: http://www.dni.gov/reports/IC_Information_Sharing_Strategy.pdf. Its like saying a government-wide intranet, but its more open than that. If the government had a shared information environment for internal/external audiences, it would be easier to take advantage of feeds, bookmarks, etc. as described in the old (2005) but relevant paper "How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other" https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol49no3/html_files/Intelligence_Networking_6.htm


  11. 11 - Mar 04, 2009 11:26:

    Candi Harrison on March 3 in her post, "It's Time for Governance"

    So what do I propose? It's pretty simple, really.

    1. Create a governmentwide Web Policy Council, comprised (at least) of the Director of Communications at the White House (or his/her designees which could/should include the Director of New Media), the Director of E-Government and Information Technology at OMB, the Chief Performance Officer at OMB (and that might be someone who holds one of these other titles), the Director of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, and the Chief Technology Officer (again, those duties may be subsumed by one of these other officials).
    The Director of the Office of Citizen Services at GSA (or his/her designee) and the Co-Chairs of the Federal Web Managers Council should be participants in all policy discussions, so they can bring practical issues to light and carry back the thinking of the Web Policy Council to the web manager community. If there were a Director of Communications Policy at OMB (I so wish and believe there should be), that officer also should sit on this Council.
    Each of these policy managers has a strong stake in the efficiency and effectiveness of government websites. In addition, it will be important for each of these players to coordinate his/her requests of government web managers with the others. The Policy Council presents the opportunity to establish priorities.

    2. Sanction the Federal Web Managers Councilas the implementation coordinating body for web policies. They already are empowered to develop and distribute guidance and directions on implementing OMB policies and to identify and publicize best practices. They just need public (re)endorsement. Further, the Federal Web Managers Council can raise issues to the Policy Council that need higher level guidance and/or support or coordination.

    3. Take care of outstanding business. The Web Policy Council should do 3 things, right off:

    • Prepare a memo from the Director of OMB to all Agency Heads, informing them that web management policy and strategy will now be directed by this Web Policy Council and will apply to all agencies; that agency websites are to be viewed and used as public service centers, focusing on using the best available technologies to deliver services - especially "top tasks" - as efficiently and effectively as possible; and that they are to review and assign appropriate resources - including web managers with appropriate KSAs - to managing government websites. This memo also should sanction the Federal Web Managers Council.
    • Act on the White Papers prepared by the Federal Web Managers Council.
    • Develop and publicize strategic goals for web management for the coming year(s) to guide the Federal Web Managers Council and government web managers in all agencies. Everyone - top to bottom - must have the same vision and path, to accomplish all that must be accomplished.

    It's time to fill this void. We need a strong governmentwide, top-to-bottom governance system for managing government websites as the critical citizen service products they are.

    ...and [Barry's] comments on her post today:

    I have been struggling with the 'First-Best' step for the response to the January 21st Open Gov Directive, and in my sleepless spinning early on March 1st, I came up with something similar from the Infrastructure [perspective] side of the Web Management Team.
    I would add to your observations and directives, as follows:
    Observations: Web Technologists (Infrastructure), while concerned with the nuts and bolts of the New Media (Web 2.0), and to some extent are not involved in the day to day development and management of the venue, are critical partners to Content Managers. The technology and nuances of the tools available are constantly changing, tweaking, re-inventing themselves, and as such are always in need of constant monitoring and coordination. Collaboration with Content on a regular basis, even at the philosophical and strategic level provides the richest medium for progress. As a technologist, I have found myself more and more becoming involved in the evangelistic acceptance of Interactive Media as a way to transform the fabric of government.
    Recommendations:
    Under "3. Take Care of outstanding business.", in the OMB Memo, request that all agencies...
    a. Prepare a brief 'current configuration of web resources' or State of the Agency Web. (Major Web assets, including synopsis of domains, locations, uses of Web 2.0 services, organization and governance, server technology, etc.)
    b. Request staff level POC's (Content and Infrastructure) for interface with the Web Policy Council (Federal Web Governance), to represent the Agency on this body. These staffers would comprise the Federal Web Governance body and provide liaison for the member agencies.
    c. Submit a Roster of suitable staff (Content and Infrastructure) from the Agency to be available for Details to OMB (or managing Federal Agency) in order to work on development of the Federal Web Governance policies, or projects designed to provide operating guidance and policy to the different aspects involved in carrying out the Open Gov Directive, as outlined in the January 21st Open Gov Directive. These details would be for staff from any location in the Agency (DC or regional offices) for a period of 60-90 days. This would not only provide the Federal Web group with valuable input from experienced Federal Web Staff, it would also provide the connection and collaboration to carry the fruit back to the Agency.Barry Everett 8:24 AM


    1. 11.1 - Mar 12, 2009 03:56:

      [Name] and all - GSA today posted a draft of its policy document for new media. You can find it in the e-government community - here's the link IT Policy and New Media. [They] are looking forward to gathering comments, suggestions and more from the collective brain here in MAX!


  12. 12 - Mar 06, 2009 08:26:

    I don't see this discussed here, so I thought I'd mention it briefly and give you POCs to get more information. Back in late 2005 to 2006, [Name] did some work in HHS with the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) setting up learning networks between Federal health care researchers to connect and collaborate with various population groups in the country (part of the whole "Translating Research into Practice" effort). One of these was the Medicaid Medical Directors' Learning Network. [Name] set up a blog-based Content Management System using a LAMP stack, WordPress blogging software, with a number of plugins including the Semiologic CMS Plugin suite (http://www.semiologic.com/software). The goal of the learning network was to connect all the Medicaid Medical Directors in each state (there is usually only one per state, although some didn't have any at that time) to one another and to the relevant research that AHRQ and others were producing. This site included a "Member map" (a hyperlinked US Map) that had pictures, and contact information for every Medical Director in the network. The blog-based approach highlights the recent events, F2F learning network meetings and recent research, but each post is then "bucketed" based on its tages, so that it is easily accessible later. To get around all the policy barriers with hosting this on a government location (still in place back then - same ones as we're encountering today), the decision was made to leave it on the contractor's site in a password protected area. This allowed for good discussion and knowledge sharing.

    [Name] stayed involved in this project for a good bit into 2006, but [is] no longer connected to it. That said, I just checked, and its still going strong over three years later, using the same blog-based approach [Name] initially created (there are already 4 posts this week in fact). [Name] at AHRQ was the program manager for this at the time ([Email]), and would be a good POC to contact if you are looking into the use of blogs for knowledge sharing. And really, when looking at a combination of the free cost of the software, extremely good usability and flexibility to construct the site in whatever way makes the best sense, blog-based CMS systems really should be looked at as a method of collaboration between Federal, state and local officials. [Name] was the POC at [Company] who did the day to day operations ([Email]).


  13. 13 - Mar 10, 2009 06:09:

    THE BUZZ: Web 2.0, collaboration, social networking

    THE REALITY: As far as I can tell, most people use e-mail (LotusNotes where I'm at), quite a few use PowerPoint, and some use Excel.

    THE PROBLEM: Great portion of the buzz comes from policy level. It is meant to address the outward facing information outlets that "take federal data" and make it available to those we serve, i.e. that taxpayers, both individual and corporate. That's what politicians are concerned with when talking policy. They leave the nitty-gritty of producing the data to the managers, i.e. bureaucrats.

    "In the weeds", where the Government product or service production happens, i.e. in the cubicle, is where any change actually happens or is doomed. We talk about Web 2.0, or even Web 3.0, while people are allowed to disseminate information and manage projects by using e-mail as the vehicle!

    THE SOLUTION: We need an aggressive transformation of work habits. We need to force people to use collaboration tools when they are available and superior to e-mail. If they are not available, make them available fast. (I believe watching the first one minute and twenty five seconds of this 2 minute and 50 second video Google Docs in Plain English should be mandatory viewing for all people with a government domain e-mail. Never mind the particular solution to he problem, i.e. Google Docs, just the basic concept. Do not allow people to proliferate copies for each recipient. Provide a safe place with automatic versioning. If you have it, MAKE PEOPLE USE IT. If you don't have it, get it!)

    We cannot afford the disconnect between the two levels of business operations, i.e. internal information production and dissemination of information to the public. The culture must change. However, we cannot rely on the good will of the public servants and wait until they all learn that we cannot operate the old ways on the inside to achieve the new-way service to the people on the outside. (And that goes for managers too. :)

    Google has not become so tremendously successful beacause bunch of policy people talked to one another. Google let the users build their solutions by listening to them and interacting with them on individual basis for as long as it was feasible. They still listen, although they cannot respond to users individually. But, users know that Google hasn't lost the touch. Users build the solutions and Google gives them away for free. They make money on advertising and Enterprise solutions. That is why I tell our people all the time: Googlefy it! Let the users build your systems.


    1. 13.1 - Mar 10, 2009 12:00:

      Hi [Name], you make a terrific point about the reality in transforming the daily habits of the bulk of the workforce. I think your google docs idea points to a more generalized solution: We need to put these new tools in the hands of the workforce without requiring that dollars be sent to the IT staff, or requiring that they get the IT staff's approval. In looking at what has happened in industry, web 2.0 tools of all stripes became dominant because it didn't require specialized knowledge to use or additional dollars spent prior to admission. I would say we build on your google docs approach and say that we should make a suite of tools, including blogs, social networking tools and so forth, available and easily accessible for the workforce. Whether this involves going to commercial sites or not is a detail that needs to be worked, but the goal should be to put the power of these tools into the hands of those who would most benefit. As others have suggested, there are obviously training and enculturation costs here, as well as reflections on how the process need to change, but the end result would be worth it.


      1. 13.1.1 - Mar 11, 2009 06:04:

        There IS life out there! Hello [Name] ... thanks for responding. :)

        What if I told you that the people already have the tools, but don't know it because nobody tells them? What if I told you that instead of simply putting the launchpad for an integrated suite of collaboration tools on everybody's desktop the management reverses its decision saying we have to have training first? I said no. Some people need it and they will get it. Allow for self-identification. First put it on their desktop and tell them: You have three temporary choices. A) Ignore it. B) Close it. C) Start using it and if you need help contact [Name].

        It's as if a browser was not "pushed" by the IT people onto the computer desktops because of the management's fear people wouldn't know what to do with it. In the meantime anybody at any level from secretaries to PhD scientists are free to use the tools, and do so, if I tell them and install the launchpad on their computer manually, which takes about 5 minutes. Many fortunes have been made and lost in the corporate world while we have not been able to throw the people in our Agency the life-safer they need. But we will keep chanting Web 2.0! Collaboration! Transparency! Change! Workgroups for this and that part of it all.

        How many CEOs of Companies would put up with having bought the tools to increase productivity to remain competitive and then not putting them on people's desktops and allowing people finding reasons for delaying the inevitable? The Company would go under because it cannot simply tax the customers, but has to at least snooker them into giving up their money for a product or service perceived by them as valuable. Oh, I know. "It is not that simple, [Name] ....". Yahdy-dahdy-dahdy-dah.

        One customer of mine wrote yesterday: " I've been so pleased to be able to reach all of the documents, notes, etc., from home this weekend by using the [Agency] Portal - I'm a believer!! I left my flash drive at work, but I was able to go into the portal and get everything I needed! Yeah!! Have a good one!"

        My response was this: "Excellent! Now imagine that you and all your collaborators could reach the discussion points included in this e-mail from the Workspace as well, without having to switch between the two environments. The beauty of that approach is that you have the Tasks manager, Announcements manager, Calendar and Library to use along your discussion to create a much better integrated and richer information flows. :) THIS IS THE REAL-WORLD, TODAY'S WEB 2.0 I have been trying to implement it for a long time." The point is that the user still uses e-mail to "discuss" issues with the other project leaders. The discussion is scatterd among a bunch of hard-to-find e-mails, because some people use the "Reply To All With History" functions, some people skip the "History" part, etc. (I wish we could use Gmail if we insist on using e-mail as the primary communication means.) In a collaboration Workspace Discussion board a Forum is created, a Topic started, and all of the topical discussion is tracked in a thread for everybody to see from any computer in the universe that is connected to the Internet, at any time. Today the user saw the magic of all three collaborators looking at the same thing via a web conference, being able to work on the same document by sharing the mouse and the keyboard with each other. She had fun. How can you beat that?

        Let's just do it!


  14. 14 - Mar 10, 2009 06:48:

    A few points:

    Tools v. Standards:

    I see a few of these discussions turning to which tools we should use. I really hope the memo doesn't specify a tool at all. Instead, I'd like to see it encourage standards for things like RSS - if you publish something, you must make your news available in an open format, and you must provide a web service (insert web service standard here) to provide access to your data. Agencies can select tools that work in their environments and support these standards.

    Collaborative communities:

    I'm leery of one place to go to collaborate on everything. Are scientists working with astronomical data sets going to be in the same conversation space as people working on affordable housing? I'd rather see multiple services, clustered around topic. (So NOAA, NSF, NASA, and similar agencies might be a cluster where they have common data and common participant/audiences). Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Encourage smaller communities to flourish, and encourage them to connect to each other.

    Barriers to Collaboration - Help with FISMA!

    What I see as the most significant barrier to collaboration is FISMA, specifically, the guidance on identity and creating accounts. There's no granularity - it almost assumes tht every account is system level, not something simple like an account on a wiki or discussion forum. How can I give an account to one of our university or industry partners without having to do the entire identity vetting process? I'd like the memo to address a standard, simplified way to allow simplified identify & account management for collaborative accounts and space, or at least direct NIST to address this and come up with an SOP that supports collaborative accounts.

    Collaboration is Critical to our Success (public, intranet, extranet)

    Finally, I see collaboration as critical to the succes of our agency (and our government). We need to be innovative if we want to do amazing science. Our IT budgets are not going up, and we're not going to get significantly more resources than we already have. The secret of our success lies in getting our folks to talk to each other, share ideas, make connections, and solve problems. We have smart people who want to make a contribution. Studies have shown that many of our hardest science problem are solved by scientits in unrelated fields. So getting our folks to talk to each other enables solutions. I see collaboration at home just as important as collaboration with the public - you need to start locally, get people used to it, help them see the benefit, and work outwards.

    Accross the government, I think we'll see sites geared to the general public (like agency home pages) embrace web 2.0, and we'll see social intranets bringing employees together (what I'm working on right now at NASA), and the harder piece, which I think will take longer to scope and implement, is the extranet area - having a conistent way to work with our partners around the world and do our businss in a collaborative way. This is where we need the most help. (Just don't focus on it at the expense of the other two.)


  15. 15 - Mar 10, 2009 08:53:

    In mid-January the Government Contact Center Council began discussing what changes by the Obama administration would best help them improve engagement with citizens. The result was a bit surprising. As visible as technology issues are, the consensus is that there are four barriers to improving citizen engagement, none of which are technology. These barriers are:

    Lack of Intra-Agency Collaboration and Coordination
    Lack of Public Awareness of Government Points of Service
    Lack of Minimal Government-Wide Standards for Measuring Customer Satisfaction and Service Delivery Performance
    Lack of Timely Approvals to Collect Citizen Input

    The message is that increased citizen engagement must be supported by a strategy that considers and coordinates all types of interactions from media events and press releases to citizen inquiries and information requests. It must educate the public on how to get information while also allowing them to provide feedback about services and to have a meaningful and understandable measure for how government is performing.

    At the end of the day, any strategy to remove barriers will be supported by technology, but technology by itself won't be the strategy.

    A more complete discussion is in the white paper at: http://www.usaservices.gov/pdf_docs/RemovingBarrierstoCitizenEngagement-G3C-March2009.pdf


  16. 16 - Mar 10, 2009 02:40:

    Collaboration model vs Coordinated Model

    I'm going to draw on an experience of my from [Country] in the mid-[decade]. Within the Consular Section I was the Fraud Prevention Officer, and our primary problem was attempted abuse of the visa system by members of [Country] Organized Crime. In 1993 agreement between The Bureau of Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security and the FBI was put in place called the [Country] Business Investigation Initiative [Acronym]. Essentially, it was a coordinated system through when, when a consular section came across a suspicious visa application it would have the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs in the State Department task Diplomatic Security and the FBI to investigate and report back so that the consular officer would have additional information on which to base a decision. Despite the authority to make these taskings, little information was being delivered back to consular officers because the FBI would only investigate when there was clear evidence of organized crime involvement (and if there was such involvement they couldn't report back because it was Law Enforcement Sensitive). Diplomatic Security's focus was on apprehending people who had already entered the U.S. Since the people in question were outside the U.S., they could not devote the resources to investigate. The coordinated system of the [Acronym] was languishing because of differing priorities and lack of transparency in that each agency didn't understand the operations of the other. In [Country], we shifted the focus from a coordinated system to a collaborative system by sending out an informal email once a week to interested parties reported what we were seeing with regards to fraud, and the action we were proposing to take. We provided enough details for other agencies take the action that they thought appropriate according to their mandates and priorities. Soon, the participating agencies were talking to us about the various cases, soliciting information so that they could take action and providing information about cases of interest to them. The dynamic had shifted from a coordinated system to a collaborative one. And, we were able to take appropriate action on cases much more effectively.

    There is a continuum in place from coordinate to cooperate to collaborate. The more opaque, hierarchical systems tend to rely on coordination, managed by a coordinator placed on top of competing organizations to ensure that they work together.
    In a coordinated system, organizations are forced to change their agendas and objectives, giving up or taking on aspects of their portfolio, in order play nice under one roof with an erstwhile competitor for the same turf.
    In a cooperative system, there may not necessarily be a czar or supremo placed over the competing organization. Nevertheless, they choose to give up aspects of their portfolio, or take on additional responsibilities, in order to work together.
    In a collaborative system, organizations agree to share information, but not necessarily to give up any aspects of their portfolio unless they see that it is in their own interest to do so (e.g. I can see by the good job that that other organization is doing that there's no need for me to try to do this anymore, enabling me to shift resources elsewhere). This system tends to be self-organizing and relies on transparency.
    Transparency and collaboration must go hand in hand. Without an organization's sense that it knows what its partners are doing, the organization will attempt to start acting on its own again, and may stop collaborating with its erstwhile partner(s).


    1. 16.1 - Mar 10, 2009 06:05:

      Thanks for the lesson on coordination vs. cooperation and collaboration, [Name]. As with the Transparency discussion, I find your remarks give voice to the (minority) system view of these issues. The self-selecting participants in this discussion cannot help but think of technology like this virtual community as a collaboration, but I think the President had something more grand in mind. I work in the office responsible for our Department's Strategic Plan, so I'm accustomed to the Big Picture. To me, collaboration in this context (saving the planet, ending poverty, etc.) means joint design, strategies, activities and evaluation of programs. We will not achieve meaningful collaboration by creating agency level dialogues with traditional partners. Innovation might occur in ongoing policy discussions that are issue-based, not organization-based. OMB could chair a working group on each of a dozen major policy priorities of the Administration. Each group could meet virtually and physically on a regular basis to share research, proposals, news and reports with a broad array of stakeholders from both branches of the federal government and the major citizens's interest groups. For example, an employment group might include DOL, ED, DOJ, DHS, HHS, all the relevant oversight committees on Capitol Hill, and a dozen or so associations. All materials would of course be publicly accessible.


      1. 16.1.1 - Mar 10, 2009 07:47:

        [Name], thanks. It's great to join the discussion even with this forum. While the participants are primarily from the technical side, to some extent those with a focus on non-technical policy tend not to participate in discussions on process. I've sat in on a number of process-focussed fora where those responsibility for developing and deploying a facilitating architecture have tried desparately to get input from end users and met with apathy. The challenge is to bring more end users into the discussion and to be able to get a real sense of how real collaboration and transparency are helping us meet out strategic goals. While we discuss working collaboratively, we still often structure ourselves along the lines of a coordinated, hierarchical system.


        1. 16.1.1.1 - Mar 10, 2009 10:36:

          Indeed, we DO "structure ourslves along the lines of a coordinated, hierarchical system." We're products of hierarchical coordination, not collaboration. Information hoarding - not sharing - is our orientation, our default, if you will. Collaboration requires not just reinventing our systems, but rewiring our brains. This is no easy feat.

          To catalyze change in our orientation - in our gut reactions - from hoarding to sharing, the alternatives must appeal to our original/default incentive system. Simply put: collaboration policies, practices and technologies must help us to do our jobs better (more efficiently, more effectively) as defined by current/old rewards systems. People are reticent - heck, scared - to use a more efficient process if it will work them out of a job or make parts of their organization obsolete. Sure many civil servants are in government roles to serve our country, but we are still driven by human nature's survival of the fittest. If people are incented and rewarded to seek a shorter or clearer throughline, from start to finish, they will be more apt to do so.

          We need to turn our incentive structure on its ear to successfully create collaborative policies, adopt collaborative processes and utilize collaborative technologies. Collaboration, itself, may need almost as much rewarding as agencies' and programs' individual goals and objectives.

          The research and work being done under Linton Wells by Alenka Brown and others working on Human Interoperability at National Defense University is really at the heart of successful collaboration. Social media tools and technologies are hip and slick, but they are distractions from the core of the issue: collaboration is so difficult to implement and build policy around because it requires a 180-degree mindshift from "me" to "us." We may be singing Kumbaya, but we're still thinking "show me..."


          1. 16.1.1.1.1 - Mar 11, 2009 01:19:

            I agree. This may be a case where the policy should be first to create a context for collaboration before expecting that real collaboration will take place. Currently the policy often appears to be to expect collaboration within non-collaborative structures (e.g. expecting that organization will not work effectively together unless placed under a "coordinator"; prefering sender-centric communication tools like email rather than user-centric tools, etc.)

            Creating a context for collaboration (e.g. enforcing transparency, carrying out real work within collaborative discussions like this one, etc.) may lead to a shift in mindset where collaboration is seen as the norm, and hierarchical approaches are seen as less effective.

            Social media tools might help create the context, but their effective use as real collaborative tools will come after the mindset change.


  17. 17 - Mar 10, 2009 05:10:

    I'm not sure if this applies here, but when I began work at the Department of Labor in 1999, I was handed a copy of a "Partnership Handbook" that outlined the Interest Based Bargaining Agreement between management and the National Council of Field Labor Locals (NCFLL). This labor-management partnership appeared to be fairly effective. Has there been any talk of bringing it back?


  18. 18 - Mar 10, 2009 07:34:

    Did everyone see the CNN article on the SeaSteading Institute? Very interesting application of innovation and collaboration. Identify the problem or opportunity, then a community of interested parties come together to solve it. Scientists, engineers, etc.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/03/09/floating.cities.seasteading/index.html

    From what I can tell they are leveraging many channels, modes, and technologies for collaboration to try to solve a problem that to date has been unsolved: how do you build a city on the sea. It will be interesting to see if they are successful and what we could learn from them.

    http://www.seasteading.org/


  19. 19 - Mar 10, 2009 09:18:

    Train the Federal community on SEO concepts...set the standards of SEO acceptance?

    While there are pockets of the Federal web community who understand the importance of SEO there remain a significant portion of Federal websites who either do not undertand the importance or do not enough training in making sure their sites can be indexed by major search engines.


  20. 20 - Mar 10, 2009 11:12:

    Much of the discussion here has been focused on tools for collaboration and information sharing, but I believe that the real value of collaborative is when citizens, agencies, and institutions join in common endeavors to solve tangible problems- with all tools at hand. As a society, we need to be building much stonger bonds of community at scales where citizens feel ownership if we hope to create more effective action (for any issue). Joint exploration of disparate perspectives, needs, and policy options is a critical complement and component of public participation. Creation of many more collaborative spaces for finding common values, goals, and strategies should be a high priority across the board. This is indeed the big picture, and big vision, given by our new administration. There are wonderful tools, new ones nearly daily, that enable communication and access to information- but the most critical piece is that we use them to increase motivation and capacity for citizens to engage.


    1. 20.1 - Mar 10, 2009 11:35:

      Your comment really speaks to me, after having spent the entire day mulling over this devastating failure of government. ("It is unclear, because of overly strict confidentiality laws that cloak the case from needed scrutiny, whether individuals made mistakes in judgment or whether there were problems with the system – or both.")


    2. 20.2 - Mar 11, 2009 12:37:

      While keeping at arm's length during the bulk of the 2008 campaign, I found myself nearly overcome with emotion, on the night of November 4, witnessing the seeds of a personal transformation within each individual citizen, that each one can make a difference. That is what I saw then, and what now, in the light of the almost impossible task before us, I see even stronger. The Easy Button requires an incredible amount of dull, hard work, by thousands and even millions of us to provide the instant (sic) change that media has taught us to come to expect.

      I am amazed that the pundits actually expect the stock market to turn around within days of the passage of a single (small, although 100's of billions) step toward rebuilding a war torn economy. The same is going to be the case with the personal change required of each citizen to step up, not ignore the cry for help, and do something to help out. Our 'citizens' within our agencies will need the same re-tooling as the public.


    3. 20.3 - Mar 11, 2009 03:26:

      Hi [Name], excellent post. Citizens don't care about new technology toys any more than agencies do - the question is are we able to solve a critical problem. Citizens will engage if they see that their participation actually has an effect on the overall process. Agencies will consider adopting these new tools if we talk about their mission and the opportunities these tools provide in addressing their mission needs or solving a key problem.

      At the Sunlight Foundation breakfast this morning (follow-up to TransparencyCamp), Clay Johnson, Director of Sunlight Labs made a great comment about transparency. He likened transparency to gas in a car - nobody buys a car in order to get gas - they get gasoline in order to get to a destination. Transparency is the fuel that allows citizens and agencies to engage (through collaboration and participation) on addressing problems near and dear to their hearts.


    4. 20.4 - Apr 13, 2009 09:43:

      "Creation of many more collaborative spaces for finding common values, goals, and strategies should be a high priority across the board."

      I'm not sure that we need to create more collaborative spaces until we've figured out what we already have out there. Case in point: OMB MAX is obviously a vibrant community of people from across the government. I didn't hear about it until just a couple of weeks ago from a friend at Education. Until then, I had considered myself pretty leading edge when it came to collaboration. But apparently my knowledge was limited to DoD, intel community, and Internet-based social media options.

      Perhaps the first thing we need to do is create a place where everyone can post about every single collaborative tool they use -- or are developing -- so that we can find the overlap, work together, and minimize the stovepipes. Is there a wiki on OMB MAX? Or GovLoop, maybe? If not, perhaps we could use Intellipedia. Somebody has already started a list of DoD Web 2.0 tools... it could easily be expanded >> https://www.intelink.gov/wiki/Web_2.0_in_the_DoD


  21. 21 - Mar 11, 2009 12:07:

    Possible to launch a multi-agency central information resource in response to a disaster within 24 hours?

    Issues that have impact on the lives of our citizens quite often require coordination and information from multiple federal and local government agencies. This is especially true in disaster scenarios. How do you send a coordinated message? The current state of the government web is a distributed model without a consolidated view on a single subject matter. So, how do you get different agencies with separate information silos delivering information through a common channel? In a crisis situation, different agencies with many web sites could be publishing information that would be more beneficial if coordinated. Given that everyone has distinct sites using different platforms, it can be possible to consolidate and publish content to a single central web site. CMIS or Content Management Interoperability Services, was proposed as a draft standard in September 2008 and submitted to OASIS. Proposed by the largest ECM vendors (IBM, EMC, Microsoft) it has the potential to become the biggest thing to happen for the government web. It is a network protocol (based on REST and SOAP bindings) for content exchange between content repositories regardless of the CMS platform. This would make it simple for multiple agencies to publish content on their own sites in a disaster event and have it automatically be aggregated on a single web presence. This would also work perfectly for an initiative like Recovery.gov.

    What is beyond Recovery.gov? Recovery.gov should be a model for multi-agency coordination.

    The evolution of Recovery.gov should take CMIS-capable systems into consideration. An open source implementation already exists---Alfresco; integrated with Drupal even (which Recovery.gov runs on)

    Government agencies should be talking to technology vendors to ensure that our needs are met with the CMIS spec. We should be given proper funding and guidance to move to content management systems. Recovery.gov could be the driver and model for all of this.

    Unfortunately the deadline for posting comments on MAX has been reached. So, I will post more on CMIS and a proposed architecture for collaborative sites like Recovery.gov on government20.com.


    1. 21.1 - Mar 11, 2009 12:26:

      These conversations on MAX are just the first in a long, ongoing process to re-weave the fabric of Gov. I have noted your blog (government20.com), and invite you to join the discussions at GovLoop, as well, to continue to feed the beast, while OpenGov at OMB prepares for the next step here.


    2. 21.2 - Apr 13, 2009 06:44:

      If you want a purely government-oriented collaboration space, you can do that right now with Intelink (http://www.intelink.gov). Anybody in the government, from Federal to State to local, is eligible for an account.

      If you want to make it open to International Organizations and non-governmental organizations as well, there are programs like TISC and HarmonieWeb (http://www.harmonieweb.org/Documents/Getting%20Started%20in%20HARMONIEWeb.pdf) that you could leverage if you wanted to start collaborating tomorrow.

[END OF COMMENTS]