Thursday, October 23, 2008

US State Department and Web 2.0 - Take 2

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about the State Department’s use of Web 2.0, giving them an overall grade of "A" for their wide array of blogs, wikis, social network sites, podcasts, and a YouTube channel.

Let’s make it an A+.

Between that post and now, I had the chance to engage in a discussion on Web 2.0 with about a dozen personnel at State, mostly affiliated with the Youth Programs Division. The meeting revealed that they are engaged in even more social media endeavors. Below are two more examples:

Second Life: Although not operating their own SL island, State has partnered with the University of Southern California to host a live jazz concert, an awards ceremony for a diplomacy and video game competition (there were more attendees in SL than in person!) and an “Education Without Borders” forum that included participants from 14 countries just last week. What makes me excited about State’s forays into SL and other Web 2.0 applications is the fact that they are engaging an international audience. Recommendations: Don’t be the best kept secret! Share these successes more broadly with other agencies. For instance, why not collaborate with an agency like USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Peace Corps or USAID to diversify the reach of these efforts. If they have programs that are even tangentially related to yours, explore partnerships that enhance and expand your influence.

ExchangesConnect: Two weeks ago, State launched a global forum called ExchangesConnect to promote collaboration and relationships among youth around the world. As you may know, State coordinates several exchange programs that bring our young global neighbors to the United States. We also send our students to other countries to facilitate cultural understanding. These programs are valuable, but what happens when the students return to their homes from the host country? What if they could continue to communicate with their new friends? That’s the essence of ExchangesConnect. Already at over 300 participants in just a few days, it’s worth watching the development of this community as it has implications beyond State. Recommendations: I remember writing a pen pal in Albuquerque when I lived in Nebraska back in fourth grade (the mid-80s) – I thought it sounded like an exotic place. Could this kind of community be useful to the Department of Education and its efforts to promote their intercultural curriculum efforts? What about collaborating with both ED and the Smithsonian to share ideas about bringing the world to the fingertips of our students - and all US citizens. Imagine having not just one, but 40 pen pals from places like Albania, Afghanistan and Angola using ExchangesConnect. Cool for kids and adults!

In addition to these two Web 2.0 activities, State is planning something big for election night…and I am not sure if I can talk about it yet. Recommendation: Stay attuned to State. They are quietly leading among Federal agencies in leveraging Web 2.0 and social media for the sake of diplomacy and international dialogue.


Municipalist said...

A+? I say not exactly. My blog focuses on public sector Web 2.0 efforts, and I have regularly looked in on the State Department blog DipNote, with much disappointment. From one of our recent posts: "We want the thing to be better. We want it to be quicker. When the world is blowing up someplace, why does it take days and days for DipNote to weigh in? Where is Condoleeza Rice? Where is the energy, where is any evidence of a major commitment here to something other than a very, very careful, at times self-flattering operation?"

Stacking up a list of new projects is Web 2.0 projects is great. Kudos to them. But if they cannot get blogging right, I wonder about the quality of any of them.



Andrew Krzmarzick said...

Hi Municipalist,

I'm familiar with your a matter of fact, I cite it in my Web 2.0 presentation. You'll also see that I have a link to you here in my blogroll.

If we're making a comparison of overall use of Web 2.0 by State versus other agencies, they score very high.

If we establish a concrete set of criteria for each tool, then measure them against a common standard, then I think you're right - they would score a bit lower. Like youu, I had some immediate concerns about their blog as well.

Other than EPA, what agencies would you give high marks in terms of their use of Web 2.0 tools? In your opinion, any currently worthy of an A or A+?

Thanks for your comment.

DipNote Bloggers said...

Hi Andrew Krzmarzick and Municipalist -- You both have excellent recommendations and we hear you. We're constantly searching for new ways to make DipNote more effective and responsive. Check back from time to time and let us know how we're doing.

Doc Think said...

State is DOING alot of web 2.0-y things. But they are lacking a strategy. It's not some game where you get points for trying things out. The real question is WHY? Why have a blog without any focus. It's too noisy. WHY do second life? Cuz its kewl? How does it help state fulfill its mission.

I imagine that most of the DOS efforts will fall by the wayside. It will be too hard for them to keep it up. Like Just a Govy--it's alot easier to start a blog than it is to keep it going. It's easier to build an Island than it is to invest in reasons for people to come to it. It's easier to "be on" facebook than it is to make it meaningful.

Yeah, tons of points to State for tryin sht out, but at the end of the day it needs to be connected to the mission of the org.