A Face in the Crowd

GovFreshGovFresh is a great new web service which aggregates live feeds of official news from U.S. Government Twitter accounts, YouTube channels, RSS feeds, Facebook pages, Flickr photostreams and more, all in one place. It is one of a new class of interactive Government 2.0 services, portals, and tools – many of them just launching in 2009 – which have the potential of revolutionizing the way citizens get and share information about their government.  (I mention several others below.)

At a time when the Iranian people are battling to keep their access open to Twitter, Facebook, and even phone lines in order to mobilize their anti-dictatorial protests, it is heartening that individuals in the United States and many other corners of the world find their governments increasingly willing to share information widely.

Luke Fretwell is GovFresh’s founder, and he’s becoming a welcome new voice in the debates around government technology policy. Luke recently wrote a blog post arguing “Why Gov 2.0 means the U.S. Government must centralize its Web operations.” A heated debate arose in the comments, including my own strenuous disagreement, and yet I became a fast admirer of Luke, his entrepreneurial energy, and the site’s information value.

GovFresh has been running a great series of profile-interviews in its blog section of leading individuals in the “Gov 2.0″ movement, and today I was the chosen subject. The article has the unfortunately exaggerated title (in my case): “Gov 2.0 Hero Lewis Shepherd.”  Here’s an excerpt:

What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception?

Can’t tell you because we’re building it in the lab right now, ha! Seriously, the killer app may be something big and powerful, from an enterprise perspective, though I’d put the odds on something less obvious, but more pervasive. Here’s what I mean. I think often about the roots of the original Progressive movement at the dawn of the 20th Century, and their advocacy of direct-vote referendums, championed by Hiram Johnson and the like. Those give the people a direct say over particular issues, but the downside is that “the people” don’t always exercise informed judgment, and popular opinion can be manipulated and swayed by malevolent interests. So I’m looking to Gov 2.0 capabilities that maintain the representative aspect (the elected official, exercising his or her judgment) while incorporating real-time, structured, unfiltered but managed visualizations of popular opinion and advice. I’m intrigued by new services along these lines like www.you2gov.com, www.govfresh.com, www.govtwit.com, and the like, but I’m also a big proponent of semantic computing – called Web 3.0 by some – and that should lead the worlds of crowdsourcing, prediction markets, and open government data movements to unfold in dramatic, previously unexpected ways. We’re working on cool stuff like that.

At the end of the full interview, I observed that “You can’t watch what’s gone on with social software use in Egypt’s Facebook Revolution, our own 2008 campaign, or Iran’s election protests, without feeling that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson would have been prolific twitterers with awesome blogs.”

In the spirit of empowering the people, instead of lauding one person, I’d like to thank GovFresh for the Hero honor but share the title with those I have worked with in the past few years, and with everyone else around the world engaged in the Gov 2.0 movement – whether they realize that’s what they’re doing or not.

Share this post on Twitter

Email this post to a friend

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Swap Panetta and Blair: A Modest Proposal

First, a quick story from when I was working in government.

Not long after the initial establishment of a “Director of National Intelligence,” the DNI CIO held an inaugural “DNI Information Sharing Conference” in Denver in the summer of 2006. I was asked to sit on a panel about “Innovation across the Intelligence Community,” representing the Defense Intelligence Agency and sharing the stage with two counterparts, from the CIA and NSA.  Our panel chair was Mr. CJ Chapla, then the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the old Intelink Management Office, redubbed “Intelligence Community Enterprise Services,” an office now under the Office of the DNI (ODNI). CJ asked the three of us to describe briefly the goals and projects we were each working on, and in seriatim that’s what we did for 90 minutes or so.

When it was time for questions, the very first audience-member asked: “It seems that each of you are independently working on, and paying for, very similar kinds of technology projects. It would make sense to combine or rationalize the work, so why are you continuing to do it independently?” Continue reading

Some say Obama has already chosen Cyber Czar

I’ll wade into the breach again, of analyzing (and trying to anticipate) some national-security appointments for the new Obama Administration.  Today I must admit that I’m taken with the latest reportage from the U.K. Spectator – a quite conservative publication not usually known for its closeness to the Obama inner circle.

Continue reading

Latest NASA Launch: Viral Marketing

Fact: Aviation Week has a piece today (“Funding Biggest ISS Obstacle“) outlining the budgetary woes of the International Space Station program, noting that the five partnering national space agencies which jointly operate the ISS “say they are eager to use the facility as a stepping stone for lunar and Martian exploration, but they first must find a way to sustain operations beyond the present partnership agreement….The main question mark about extending operations is related to funding and not technical issues. No road map or timetable for prolonging the ISS lifetime can be established until these financial issues have been resolved.”

Analysis: I’m a fan of space research and travel, and I’d like to see more funding and attention go into the American space effort, and with it more American ability to collaborate on international space ventures.

Continue reading

Research and Intelligence … Research for Intelligence

I’ll be at Penn State University for the next couple of days, at the Research in American conference.  This particular conference, with the theme “Connecting Technology Thought Leaders with Government Officials,” is sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, focusing on their Science and Technology area. 

Here’s the agenda for the conference, which has an excellent lineup of technologists presenting their approaches and progress. 

ODNI turned to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) to host and run the conference.  Someone, somewhere in the chain, slipped up and invited me as the Keynote speaker for Tuesday – I’m planning to do the thing with no slides and to speak (in part) about the emerging possibilities of revolutionary research in a post Web 2.0 world.

For some sobering background information,  check out a recent tour of the research-funding horizon by Amy Ellis Nutt in the New Jersey Star-Ledger (“As research funds stagnate, science in state of crisis“).  Here’s a taste:

Once the world’s gold standard, American scientific enterprise is in free fall. Short of government funds and strapped for cash, researchers across the country are abandoning promising avenues of scientific investigation and, increasingly, the profession of science itself.” – Amy Ellis Nutt, The Star-Ledger

Do you share that pessimism?  Think it’s overstated?

I’ll give an update about the conference tomorrow.

Email this post to a friend

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

How to Find Research: Here, There, Everywhere

FACT: The Washington Post today has a story in the Business section (“Intelligence Agency Joins U-Md. Research Center“) about the relationship between IARPA and the University of Maryland, the location of the planned new IARPA headquarters. 

ANALYSIS: UMd has a set of valuable relationships with the public- and private-sector national security community, and the IARPA startup is just the latest agency to benefit.   Proximity is key, for research and bureaucracy.  In Maryland’s case, IARPA Director Lisa Porter told an IEEE interviewer last month that “It’s nice not to be sitting right next to one particular agency. It’s also nice to be near a university because we’re sending a message that we want to bring in nontraditional partners: academia, industry. It sends a nice message that we’re embracing the broad community to help us solve these challenging problems.”

I lament sometimes that Charlottesville (home to my undergraduate alma mater) is a good two hours away from DC, as even that distance puts a frustrating limit on the amount of joint work that winds up being done with Virginia faculty and students. 

Continue reading

Pentagon’s New Program for Innovation, in Context

FACT: According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the Pentagon has announced “the selection of six university professors who will form the first class of the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows Program. The professors will receive grants of up to $600,000 per year for up to five years to engage in basic research — essentially a bet by the Pentagon that they will make a discovery that proves vital to maintaining the superiority of the U.S. military.”

ANALYSIS: This new program is an innovation from DoD’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), and since tomorrow I’ll be at Ft. McNair for a two-day conference sponsored by DDR&E on Strategic Communications, I’ll congratulate John Young and his staff for the good idea.

But the Post article falls short in two ways: one immediate (it leaves out key information about next year’s program and the upcoming deadline!) and one longer-term (it ignores the overall context of federal support for R&D).  I’ll fill in the blanks below.

Continue reading

Google’s Argument to Enterprise IT: “Trust Us”

FACT:  Yesterday, Google’s Dave Girouard, VP of enterprise sales, gave a keynote speech on “The Evolution of Cloud Computing” at FOSE, a Washington trade-show focusing on federal government and military IT customers.  According to a Washington Post reporter’s blog account afterwards:

[Girouard said] “Google will have to do things differently” to work with defense and intelligence agencies, where data security and privacy are held to the tightest standards. But he argued that having information spread across hundreds of different servers is actually more secure than housing data on a few servers at a specific location. “Security is now more virtual than physical,” he said.

ANALYSIS:  The Google salesman (Girouard is VP of enterprise sales) was speaking at FOSE on the same day I made an April Fools blogpost featuring a lame “Cloud Computing” joke (see it here, come back when you stop laughing).  

This year I’m at FOSE as neither buyer nor speaker; the past couple of years I spoke at FOSE, as a DIA official, and I always enjoy walking the exhibit floor, plus I was curious about Girouard’s take on Google’s current move into the federal space.

To be honest I’ve met him before when he was with Virage and he’s a fine fellow, a good salesman.

The rhetoric of his main pitch, though, seems to be battling uphill, and I’m not sure he gets a nuanced distinction.

Continue reading

Media Says, IBM is Good for Government. Ah, Strike That….

FACT:  Federal Times, which was first to break the story, is reporting this afternoon that “IBM has been indefinitely suspended from doing business with federal agencies, according to a General Services Administration Web site.”

ANALYSIS: People accuse me of being too cynical.

I admit, I am something of the opposite of the great line from This is Spinal Tap, when the David St. Hubbins character says, in the random interview clips at the end of the movie, “I believe virtually everything I read, … and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human, than someone who doesn’t believe anything.”

I do have trouble believing things I hear and read from most mainstream sources at first blush. 

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,241 other followers

%d bloggers like this: