Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unlikely Allies? Flickr and the Library of Congress

Check out this article regarding the Library of Congress and its use of Flickr, the online photo sharing website. Excerpt below:

When the Library of Congress began looking for ways to publicize its historical photos collections last year, it found an unlikely partner in Flickr, which created a project called "The Commons" (, where the library — and now several other institutions — have posted their public photography archives.

Six months into the project, the library has been able to update 500 photo records with new information provided by Flickr users — everything from names of people and places in photographs to specific airplane models shown in photos, says Helena Zinkham, acting chief of the Prints and Photographs Division.

The library began with two major collections: 1,500 black-and-white photos taken from 1910 to 1920 by George Grantham Bain's New York-based Bain News Service and 1,600 color shots from the Farm Service Administration/Office of War Information that were taken in the 1940s. It has since added 900 additional photos from the Bain collection.

The photos were chosen for their popularity with library visitors and the fact that they had no copyright restrictions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Transforming Bureaucratic Cultures" Conference

Today I am posting from The Public Manager and American Society for Public Administration (ASPA)'s conference in Baltimore, MD - dubbed "Transforming Bureaucratic Cultures: Challenges and Solutions for Public Management Practitioners." The conference has featured six tracks: performance, accountability, human capital, technology, communication and governance. Thought leaders from across government, industry, and academia have gathered to explore the emerging trends that are shaping the public sector. Perhap this event will become an annual forum that generates an agenda with tangible action items that lead to true transformation.

About 30-35 participants attended a workshop that I delivered yesterday entitled "Avatars and Blogs and Wikis: How Web 2.0 is Transforming Government." If you're coming here from there, welcome! Here are a copy of the slides for your review. We defined Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, podcasting, social virtual networking sites, YouTube and Second Life. I provided several examples of government agencies (Federal, state and local) that are using these tools and participants shared experiences from their agencies. Discussion of each tool culminated in a real-time demonstration (in 5 steps/5 minutes or less!) of the ease with which an agency may implement these Web 2.0 technologies to exchange knowledge with their constituents and one another.

I would encourage you to participate in the discussion forum on GovLoop related to Web 2.0 and government. (I still need to contribute to the conversation myself!)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Military and Web 2.0: Falling Behind and Thriving?

In two separate articles last week, our Armed Forces received a mixed review on their use of Web 2.0 tools:

The first article, Army Secretary: We're Falling Behind, declares:

"Senior Army leaders have fallen behind the breakneck development of cheap digital communications including cell phones, digital cameras and Web 2.0 Internet sites such as blogs and Facebook, Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a trade conference on July 10. That helps explain how "just one man in a cave that's hooked up to the Internet has been able to out-communicate the greatest communications society in the history of the world -- the United States," Geren said, according to Inside Defense."

The second article, U.S. Air Force Lets Web 2.0 Flourish Behind Walls, applauds the Air Force:

The U.S. Air Force is using Web 2.0 technologies to better support its missions despite wariness about security, a civilian technology official of the service said last week. The new techniques, including blogs, wikis and personal profiles, are coming out of an initiative by Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN), a resource provided on the Department of Defense (DOD) intranet. They're helping service members and civilian employees find the information they need more quickly and are now being shared with members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines…

I also recently read an article in which the Intelligence Community has created something akin to YouTube for spies. I will blog more about government use of YouTube soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Overcoming an Unexpected Challenge: Telework and Knowledge Transfer Across Generations

I am a telework advocate.

In fact, I am a full-time teleworker that happens to be developing a 3-hour training workshop that motivates Federal managers to give their employees the chance to work remotely (and to telework themselves!).

As I have been preparing this course, I have delved into the diverse issues that prevent managers from implementing telework with their teams. You know the psychological barriers: distrust, information security concerns, perceived favoritism and the potential for reduced productivity. I hope the workshop is able to address these issues successfully and embolden managers to take the plunge into the world of telework.

There is one issue that I had not considered: the connection between telework and knowledge transfer. Last week, I was talking with an employee from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an agency that has taken the lead in implementing telework among Federal agencies since many tasks lend themselves to offsite accomplishment.

This young professional indicated that many of the more seasoned public servants at USPTO are taking advantage of the opportunity to telework. According to him, the agency's telework policy requires an employee to have a certain level of tenure (5 years?) before s/he may be considered for telework.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Apparently, a dynamic has developed where the knowledgeable, long-term personnel are not present in the office consistently as a result of telework schedules. Their experience and expertise is greatly needed and sorely missed. The younger or less experienced employees could benefit from the insight of their time-tested colleagues...but are finding it hard to connect with them due to the distance created by telework.

As a result of the steep learning curve associated with some positions, coupled with this disconnect, my friend suggested that there are some retention issues with new hires. Take a look at this article which substantiates this claim. Here's an excerpt:

"...from the beginning of fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006, USPTO hired 3,672 patent examiners. However, the patent examination workforce only increased by 1,644 because 1,643 patent examiners left the agency and 385 patent examiners were either transferred or promoted out of the position of patent examiner. Approximately 70% of the patent examiners who left the agency had been at USPTO for less than 5 years, and nearly 33% had been at the agency for less than 1 year."

The article also provides some informationa about their telework program:

"In fiscal year 2006, approximately 20% of patent examiners participated in the agency's telework program, which allows patent examiners to conduct some or all of their work away from their official duty station 1 or more days a week. In addition, when USPTO began a "hoteling" program in fiscal year 2006, approximately 10% of patent examiners participated in the program, which allows some patent examiners to work from an alternative location."

These percentages of teleworkers would not seem to be a problem, depending on the number of days that people are teleworking. Yet my source may be on to something.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying that this challenge is insurmountable. To the contrary, I am hoping to advocate for some solutions (and elicit your ideas!). Also, I am not picking on USPTO. I think this issue may be arising in other agencies and serves as a case study to address what could be a common concern. In fact, I may incorporate this scenario into the course so that managers can create some positive responses.

Below are my initial thoughts:

1. Coach/Mentor Program: Maybe USPTO has a coaching or mentoring program already. If so, this program could be adapted to ensure that new employees are interacting with their well-weathered senior examiners. If not, it would be a great place to start.

2. Survey of New Hires: One obvious and easy way to learn about the needs of new hires is to conduct a survey to find out what they would require to learn the job more rapidly. A quick and efficient way of conducting a survey is to use an online tool like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. Results are compiled automatically so there's no need for number crunching. Make it short and sweet to increase the number of respondents.

3. Web 2.0 Tools: Why not create a wiki or a blog where senior patent examiners can share tricks of the trade in one location? How about creating a series of podcasts, videos or web-based tutorials that new hires can download to their iPods, MP3 players or phones in order to listen while commuting to work? What about creating a Facebook page where employees can create a sense of community and feel connected to one another despite the distance imposed by telework?

Telework and knowledge transfer need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, one might contend that these unexpected challenges are causing all of us to stretch and explore new ways of working together. Telework is and should become more prevalent for a number of reasons. The knowledge of a previous generation will always be passed to the next. We just need to be creative in discovering how to overcome the obstacles to successful communication in a web-based world that affords the advantage of arrangements like telework.

Monday, July 14, 2008

GovLoop! The Feds are Connecting!

So I was browsing around at The Collaboration Project, another great Web 2.0 experiment of government, when I saw this little logo that intrigued me:

With 282 members and rising, it's the brand new, little-known "premiere social network connecting the government community." I am hoping that by posting a link here, I can lend my energy to expand its reach.

If you are coming here from there, please enjoy the information that I am compiling in my little corner of the web.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Social Virtual Networking - The Business Case

Many managers are skeptical, if not resistant to the use of social networks like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and the like. The article below says it makes good business sense:

An excerpt:

"As the CEO of a technology company with a workforce mostly under 40, I also questioned whether I should ignore it, prohibit it or encourage it. Eventually, I concluded that I need to encourage it, even embrace it. Tools are emerging that enable businesses to leverage social networks for online training and learning -- giving companies a compelling way to bring social networks into the workplace fold."

Or as the Borg (no, I am not a Trekkie) says:

"Resistance is futile."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Survey Says: Gen Y Wants Web 2.0 Tools!!!

An article in NextGov today indicates that: "A recently released survey shows that Generation Y prefers to connect with government online in an interactive manner similar to the way they seek out news and other information."

The article concludes with the following observation:

"IT specialists say the survey's findings are further evidence of government's need to provide more 2.0-style interactive tools online. Web 2.0 refers to the evolution of the Internet from a browse-and-download format to a two-way, collaborative conversation."

You can find the actual survey results here.

By the way, I just reviewed the MeriTalk website and will provide a more thorough review in the next few days...they are onto something over there. I provided a link to the website in the right column here under "Studying the Shift."