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FCW Insider: Watching the Navy CIO blog

A few weeks ago, I posted about Robert Carey, the Navy Department CIO (and a Fed 100 winner) , who has become the first government CIO that I know of who hosts a public blog... and I have yet to be corrected.

At the time, I offered up a few critiques -- what can I say -- but in general, I am wholeheartedly impressed. And, in fact, I have received a few notes back from Navy folks and others who were also quite pleased to see Carey out there.

At that time, I had suggested blogs are unique, and therefore, they require unique formatting. They need to be recorded in time over time, my own personal druthers is that they be publicly available, and that they be publiclycommentable. Here is what I said then:

I really love the idea. My only recommendation is that if it is actually going to be a blog, it should be a blog. Blogs are unique. (And, to be honest, the formatting we use for the FCW Insider isn't quite right either.) A blog should be something that clearly runs over time with the most recent posts on the top and older ones down below. It looks like Carey's first "post" isn't so much a post as much as it is a message -- and they are very different. The implication with a blog, as Carey said, is that this is an open format. As Sun's Jonathan Schwartz, an avid blogger, said, the blog is the one place where he speaks to his customers, his employees, his shareholders, his board members, his competitors -- they are all on the same platform. And that is what makes it Web 2.0 -- the believe that all of us are smarter then each of us individually...

I'd also note that the Navy doesn't have a way for people to comment in a public way, and I think that is also an important component of blogs.

All of that being said, I give the Navy Department and Carey huge kudos for doing this. This may just be a introduction and that a true blog format will be posted later.

And, in fact, to the Navy's and Carey's credit, they have really taken steps to make the blog a real blog.
(I'm sure all these things were in the works, but... I'm going to take some credit anyway!) They still don't have commenting functions working, but they say that is coming.

I must say I was a bit surprised to find out that I am the first CIO to have a blog, according to Chris Dorobek of Federal Computer Week. Or that would be sort of, as he rightly pointed out in his January 25 FCW Insider column. By next month, my blog will have the look and feel of a “real” blog.

However, I am bound by departmental policy that specifically prohibits the automatic posting of information by those not explicitly authorized to do so on DON web sites. My staff is working to determine if there is an amicable solution. In the short term, we plan to accept and post public comments, but that will require a vetting process that we are hammering out.

This is the reality of working in the public sector.

This is not to say you cannot send me a comment now. In fact, I would love to hear from you. For now, you’ll just have to send comments via the web site manager.

As I explained to Chris, my intention with this blog is to open up a straightforward and public dialogue with DON personnel, and specifically the brave Sailors and Marines who are out on the front lines protecting this country, so that I can fully understand what their IT needs are. It is essential that they have what they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. So please do send me your comments about the blog posts or about topics you would like me to address in future posts.

And as for the podcasts now available on the new web site that Chris was unable to access, they are working. You just have to double-click the play button, but perhaps that’s a slight adjustment we need to make. If you experience any problems, please let us know. (By the way, look for our next podcast on enterprise mobility.)

I can't help but resist a comment about... comments: I sure hope that agencies are able to work through those issues. (And, frankly, my guess is that this is a DOD and/or Navy issue rather then a government-wide issue. After all, the State Department's Dipnote blog garners all sorts of comments.) Perhaps one solution is to have some kind of approval process before comments get posted.

I certainly understand the concern. If public comments were allowed, how long will it be before some agency is called to the Hill or exposed in some publication for allowing -- shock! -- anybody to post a public comment on a government Web site. In so many ways, we -- and I'm not talking about the Navy, DOD, or Carey, but just theproverbial general "we" -- we are all so terrified of... well, people. You can often see the terror in some people's eyes when they learn that anybody -- yes, anybody. You, me... anybody -- can make changes to Wikipedia entries. And I was reminded of a recent hearing, E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration, and Access. During that hearing, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, testified. Wales was specifically asked, and I'm paraphrasing here, but... he was asked, 'Can we really trust people to have that kind of access?' And Wales used what has become one of my favorite analogies: a restaurant. He noted that people go to a restaurant and, in fact, we arm them with knives and these vicious pointy instruments called forks. But, in fact, we don't put people in cages because we are afraid they will go after each other. We trust them. I'm not being Pollyanna about this, and nothing is absolute, of course, but... we need to trust people.

In a way, this blends in with Carey's most current post about the so-called Net Generation, otherwise known as the Millennial generation or those that are "born digital," meaning that they don't remember a time when... well, they weren't connected. (Frankly, isn't it hard for all of us to remember?)

The post is worth reading, but here is a snipit:

Our very future depends on this new generation of technology-enabled men and women to continue the great legacy of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. Our ability to understand them, embrace them and recruit them to not only follow in our footsteps but chart new and innovative paths, will ultimately drive our future success. In short, our Nation’s security depends on it.

Given their high expectations, this is a challenge. Since information and technology are embedded in this generation I ask, what are your thoughts about how we can best attract this group to work for the Department of the Navy?

My sense is that The Digitals want to be able to have influence, to be able to effect change, and... they want to be trusted. They already operate in a collaborative world. There are fewer lines between work and so-called play.

So, go Carey, go. He is a very welcome addition to the blogosphere.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Feb 21, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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