The best of the federal blogosphere

A Virtual Window on Rover Research
Sept. 1, 2010

NASA’s Caledonia Heron reports on a mixed-reality event the agency staged as part of a research program to evaluate technologies for possible use in manned missions to other planets.

The Desert Research and Technology Studies team — or Desert RATS, as its known — has been conducting tests in the Arizona Black Rock volcanic field. Earlier this month, team members provided a live feed of some tests to the virtual community of Second Life.

“Second Life residents are telepresent as they work together and communicate about the design, analysis and performance of space technology and events,” Heron writes at NASA's “Testing for Human Space Exploration” blog. “This feeling of telepresence creates a collaborative bond that fosters engagement, conversation, feedback and learning.”

The Second Life group is a mix of scientists and educators interested in NASA’s work, Heron said.

Thoughts on the Innovation Recession
Utah's Chief Technology Officer
July 20, 2010

Are we in the midst of a technology innovation recession? Utah’s Chief Technology Officer Dave Fletcher recently spent time looking for new technologies that Utah might want to adopt. He searched for opportunities that the state could pursue in a year or so and longer-range ideas that might not happen until years from now. He’s not having much luck on either front.

“This year is particularly challenging because I have not yet seen many, if any, examples of what it is that we want to create that will elevate and expand our digital community,” Fletcher writes. “Most of what I see is…more of the same, the latest government experiment with Second Life, some new online services, more use of social media. Nothing wrong with any of these, except that we can stop pretending that they're innovative.”

It’s not as if Utah is risk-averse. The state went big into server virtualization five years ago when it consolidated 37 data centers into two. It's also been ahead of the pack in adopting cloud computing and has been using those services for years. Fletcher suspects that the next round of e-government innovation will need to be more transformational.

“For e-gov to reach its zenith, it will need to force a more serious restructuring of government at a larger level that extends across tiers of government,” he writes.

The Evolution of Public Engagement
Forest Service
Aug. 25, 2010

Forest Service officials plan to keep a dialogue going with the public as they continue work on a planning rule that will help guide management of public lands.

Earlier this year, the service received more than 300 comments on its blog for the planning rule, supplementing the 26,000 written comments received in response to its notice of intent in December 2009.

Officials are not seeking any more comments until the proposed rule is published later this year. However, they are interested in getting input on how they should engage the public in a discussion after the proposed rule is available. They also have created a planning rule e-mail list to keep people informed about opportunities to participate.

“We are committed to keeping planning rule development open, transparent and participatory,” Forest Service officials write.

Twitter: Not Just a Monologue
Aug. 31, 2010

Federal officials who sign up on Twitter as a way to share information with the public are missing out on half the benefits.

Twitter is also a valuable tool for finding out what other people are saying, writes Michelle Samplin-Salgado, new media strategist at

“We make sure that we spend part of our time on Twitter listening to the conversation and learning from the people and organizations that we are following,” she writes. “In particular, we pay close attention to accounts with tweets relevant to HIV/AIDS and new media.”

Samplin-Salgado also encourages agencies to engage in dialogue with some Twitter followers, either through direct messages or “@” mentions. Such interactions, even if limited, are “conducive to building trust and relationships with target audiences,” she writes.

About the Author

John Stein Monroe, a former editor-in-chief of FCW, is the custom editorial director for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group.

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