Social network just for feds to debut in late summer

FedSpace to be a secure social intranet for federal employees and contractors

The General Services Administration is preparing to launch the first phase of its FedSpace social media platform for federal agencies and contractors in late summer.

The secure intranet collaboration platform will be made available to federal employees and contractors, according to an updated project statement posted by GSA on the Web site. GSA’s Office of Citizen Services Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement is heading the initative.

“At this time, we expect to include executive branch employees and contractors in the initial release,” the statement said. “We plan to continue to review the needs of other federal employees to provide access to FedSpace."

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FedSpace is being touted as a “by-feds-for-feds” secure platform that would provide benefits similar to Facebook and MySpace commercial social media services. These include Web 2.0 technologies such as file sharing, wikis, shared workspaces and blogs.

FedSpace also will include a governmentwide federal employee directory, and will have space for user-generated content, news and links to resources of interest to the federal employee community.

“FedSpace will support information-sharing, communities of interest, and establishing and maintaining professional relationships,” the GSA statement said. “Teams and individuals will be better able to accomplish goals that might otherwise not be feasible.”

FedSpace is likely to be compared to GovLoop, a social networking service for government launched in May 2008 by volunteer Steve Ressler, then a federal employee.

Called the "Facebook for Government," GovLoop was acquired by federal contractor GovDelivery in September 2009, retaining Ressler as its chief executive.  The GovLoop site currently claims 25,000 government and private members.

A discussion on the GovLoop Web site, titled “FedSpace vs. GovLoop,” outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of having the two networks. “FedSpace will likely grow reasonably large relative to GovLoop because it will have official federal backing,” said one GovLoop member in a comment posted there.

“I do think, however, that the first generation of FedSpace community leaders are right here on GovLoop,” said another.

Ressler said today that the main difference between the networks is that GovLoop is informal and open, while FedSpace will operate behind a firewall. He doesn't see GSA's project as competition.

FedSpace “can take some of the discussions that start at GovLoop to the next level, which can't occur on GovLoop,” Ressler said. For example, FedSpace might be a place to share program Statements of Work, which would not be possible on GovLoop because such information is procurement-sensitive, he said.

While some federal agencies already have set up collaborative intranet platforms, FedSpace is designed to offer those tools governmentwide.

While it is termed a social media network, FedSpace is not intended for personal activities or entertainment, the GSA statement added.

“FedSpace will be ‘social’ in terms of people interacting with other people through the use of social technologies and tools to enhance professional communication and relationships, not ‘social’ in terms of personal social networking,” the statement said. “FedSpace will provide netiquette guidelines to help people understand the kinds of behavior that contribute to a collaborative virtual workplace, as opposed to behavior more suited to personal activities.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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