Thursday, December 17, 2009

Enterprise Architecture Key to Avoiding Cloud Computing Cloud Sprawl – AFCEA Federal Cloud Computing Environment Forum

Attendance at today's Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Bethesda Chapter Breakfast Series entitled "Federal Cloud Computing Environments – Modernizing IT Systems" was very heavy, as viewed from the Blackstone Technology Group sponsored table. The panel discussion and DC Federal IT community networking conversation revolved around the push to promote and adopt cloud computing as part of the Obama administration’s effort to modernize the government’s information technology systems, and to help reduce the $75 billion annual budget for Federal IT in the process.

The event panelists held an informative and rigorous discussion about how cloud computing is enabling IT professionals (government and industry) to rethink the packaging, delivery and operation of government services, and is changing the landscape of government IT infrastructure management and streamlining system, network and storage management. Panelists included Casey Coleman (Moderator - Chief Information Officer, General Services Administration), Chris Kemp (CIO, NASA Ames Research Center), Alfred Rivera (Director - Computing Services Directorate, Defense Information Systems Agency or DISA), Keith Trippie (Executive Director - Enterprise System Development Office (ESDO), Office of the CIO, Department of Homeland Security), and Peter Tseronis (Associate CIO, Department of Energy).

Quite a bit of conversation centered on the precept that Enterprise Architecture is absolutely critical for Cloud Computing success. EA helps translate OMB’s IT Investment guidance and Component mission business models into an operational language that more effectively guides IT retooling to support cloud computing concepts such as self-provisioning, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and shared SOA services. Whether a Cloud Computing program and infrastructure is implemented to provision infrastructure for laboratory scientists (e.g. NASA’s Nebula Program), or for enabling rapid self-provisioning of elastic, scalable, and virtual services to front-line Warfighters (e.g. DISA’s Rapid Access Computing Environment, or “RACE” Program); the business and socialization challenges are similar.

According to the panelists, many Federal programs aren’t yet able to operationalize their Enterprise Architecture, by executing coordinated, efficient IT procurements informed by an enterprise-wide, standards-based, comprehensive and easily understood business case. “This is Enterprise Architecture’s time”…and EA is key to avoiding cloud proliferation, sprawl or otherwise redundant IT governance and investments (and finding ways to leverage existing, underutilized infrastructure investments as GFE in new cloud-computing acquisition strategies).

While most discussion centered on the “brutal standardization” required for cloud-based IT Infrastructure Management and Services, additional conversation developed concerning more customer-centric and application-oriented objectives, i.e. "Software as a Service" or SaaS. In particular, the DHS ESDO is embarking on a major initiative to fulfill DHS objectives for delivering customer-centric applications and information services on demand, governed by the Department's rapidly evolving Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Enterprise Architecture and Homeland Security Information-Sharing initiatives (Federal EA SOA ESB governance initiatives that Blackstone Technology Group is helping to drive across the Department.)

Conversation also addressed issues relating to Security Certification & Accreditation (C&A) challenges – particularly the rapidly-growing tension between “consumerism of IT” (i.e. user expectations that government services offer commercial features and public data) and information or application sensitivity. Currently mandated security processes and controls aren’t necessarily compatible with the “elastic” properties of cloud implementation, i.e. the on-demand utilization or release of IT resources through dynamic infrastructure configuration. Also, perceived risks far more often stand in the way of cloud-computing security policies, vs. actual risks – this therefore requires much more effort on the part of “translators” bridging the gap between business and technology, i.e. the Enterprise Architects.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DC and Northern Virginia Internet Marketing and New Media Workshop Announced by KME

Important DC and Northern Virginia Regional Business and Marketing Networking Announcement:
by KME Internet Marketing

Learn Integrated Online Marketing/Advertising, Branding, Web Design, SEO, Social Media, Analytics and Internet Video - in Northern Virginia, DC metro area.

As 2009 draws to a close, it’s become very apparent that 2010 will continue to be an extremely challenging year for businesses seeking new customers, and new ways to market and advertise their brand and services. As well, the ability of Northern Virginia and DC-area professionals to effectively learn and leverage new Online Marketing and Internet New Media/Web 2.0 skills is hampered by the current lack of expert yet cost-effective, local and hands-on Internet Marketing/SEO training. Add to this the dizzying proliferation of Social Media publishing and analytic tools, the rapid change in the search engine technologies and video media industries, and the quickly-growing competition for eyeballs and click-throughs from the web – it’s about time for some local solutions.

Local Internet Marketing and Media Workshops

KME Internet Marketing (KME) in the DC metro area is holding the first of an upcoming series of professional Internet Marketing and Media Workshops on January 29th, 2010 – from 9AM to 2PM, at Trivision Studios in Chantilly, VA.

KME Internet Marketing is the region’s industry leader in providing cost-effective yet engineering-grade solutions for online marketing, social media optimization and analytics-driven Internet marketing management. Trivision Studios is a full service global creative design, branding and media production group, operating a 12,000 square foot, state-of-the-art studio facility complete with staging, lights, cameras, two-story loading dock, meeting space, media room, and omnimedia edit suites.

Melanie AlnwickOur special guest Workshop lead is Melanie Alnwick, an instantly-recognizable local DC TV anchor, reporter and journalist. Melanie will be providing significant insider-knowledge and guidance regarding attracting broadcast media attention to your business and story, preparing for interviews, producing and submitting highly-effective video for broadcast or online business purposes.

What You Get

This packed 5 hour hands-on Internet Marketing and Media workshop will deliver a package of information and guidance you can immediately use, including:

  • Online Branding and Creative Design
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Website Reporting (Google Analytics)
  • Digital Asset Management, Optimization and Distribution (RSS) – for Advertising and Marketing
  • Pay-per-Click (PPC) Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Local and Regional
  • Social Media Optimization and Reputation Management – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube
  • Online Web Video Production and Optimization
  • Harnessing and attracting Broadcast Media Exposure

There simply doesn’t exist a more comprehensive, experts-led, cost effective or personally-tailored workshop event in this area for business owners, marketing and communications managers, journalists, new SEO/SEM professionals or other technology and new media practitioners. Don’t bother with online, out of state webinars or academies, online or offline degrees costing thousands of dollars from questionable sources, community-center seminars by industry amateurs, or other less-than-professional sources for a rapid, intense and ultimately valuable infusion of truly local Internet Marketing and New Media knowledge.

  • Where should I post my advertisements online?
  • What are the short and long term priorities for better search result rankings, for my website?
  • What are the keys to successful PPC investments?
  • Is my marketing budget being spent wisely, integrated and balanced across relevant channels?
  • How can I make sure my brand supports my marketing goals?
  • How do I use reports and analytics to support my marketing objectives?
  • How much time should I spend on Social Media, and why? Can or should I do this myself?
  • Can my web designer deliver SEO services?
  • What should I do to get free, effective exposure for my business in the press or news?
  • What should be in my marketing videos?

We’ll explore these questions and collaborate in the workshop sessions to arrive at the best answers for you and your business in the Northern Virginia, DC or Suburban Maryland region. You’ll get some immediate answers, some strategies to follow and resources to help.

Who Will Benefit the Most?

  • Local and regional business owners whose websites haven't demonstrated success in drawing highly targeted traffic for more sales
  • Affiliate marketers who want to increase conversion rates by getting their product pages to come up higher in search results
  • Webmasters, graphic designers or photo/video experts who want to offer their employer or clients more comprehensive services – not just website building, creative design or basic media products
  • Bloggers, writers and journalists who need their content distributed and ranked high in search engine results
  • Anyone who wants to make a career change – to work in-house as an SEO/SEM specialist or begin SEO consulting by learning the latest SEO techniques
  • Marketers, Advertisers, Communications and PR professionals in a highly competitive industry who are under pressure to increase their brand’s visibility to reach the correct audience, while keeping costs under control

Take charge of your business marketing and advertising budget, get involved in the Web 2.0/Social Media evolution, promote and protect your brand on the Internet!

For more information about the KME Internet Marketing and Media workshop, including upcoming dates, times, location and registration, visit KME Internet Marketing – SEO Training and Education.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Data.gov CONOPS released - Public Input and Public Social Media-driven Information Sharing Welcome!

Data.gov is a fairly recent Federal initiative with respect to data and information sharing and transparency; i.e. encouraging and facilitating the exposure (by all Government agencies) of verifiable, raw government data/geodata and data tools/visualization techniques to the public. Data can be accessed and downloaded in many formats, for any purpose - including datasets in XML, CSV, Text, KML, KMZ, or ESRI Shapefile formats.

Recently the Data.gov CONOPS was released by the Federal CIO Council, together with OMB, along with a very interesting method and means to encourage public dialogue and input. To help stakeholders "join the dialogue", per se, the "http://www.datagov.ideascale.com" site was developed - essentially a blog with social media hooks (i.e. facebook, twitter, RSS).

I went ahead and submitted an idea recently (to be moderated); as follows - be sure to review and submit your own, and/or comment on mine!

"The Data.gov CONOPS provides a great deal of information regarding the governance and advisory support made available by “POCs” and “Data Stewards” and other roles engaged in populating and supporting data on the site. The CONOPS also describes how Personally-Identifiable Information (PII) is protected, both for submitters and those engaged in the governance process. As well, some existing community forums are referenced as other places to find answers, along with various other “communities” that evolve around dataset contexts.

What would be very useful, however, (and that doesn’t seem yet to be addressed) would be a means whereby direct dialogue could be established between the public and actual SMEs or communities of SMEs, associated with particular datasets. Obviously, protection of privacy and security concerns are to be considered, as are policies including those protecting the government and its citizens against undue influence during procurement processes. However, a method whereby authorized, verifiable government SMEs voluntarily participate, in a moderated, monitored and metered basis, in public dialogue…either scheduled, or on request.

For example, a search on a subject yields several dataset options; yet it would be very worthwhile to have a quick, efficient and timely chat with someone intimately familiar with the information to assist in further research or utilization of the data. Likewise, instead of searching by subject or organization taxonomies, a search by expertise may yield a contact (or perhaps an anonymized background/description of expertise) and appropriate contact method for online, publically-exposed dialogue (one-time, or ongoing). In fact, a search for “expert”, “expertise”, “email” or “contacts” on the current data.gov yields no results at this time.

Many government employees (and perhaps authorized contractors) may in fact be happy to share wisdom and experience in a protected, equitable and productive manner – and perhaps some government roles would include this kind and style of participation as a basis of performance measurement (and as a basis of highlighting the great work of individuals)."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Strong Identity Management and Two Factor Web Authentication in Healthcare

Here's a very good article concerning the various types of strong identity management, multifactor and two-factor authentication solutions that are necessary for healthcare system and process identity enforcement - recently written by John D. Halamka MD, a self-described Healthcare CIO.

Strong Identity Management

In this article, Dr. Halamka states that he's had a wide range of experience with many of these token-based and tokenless two-factor authentication methods, including security tokens, smart cards, biometrics, certificates, soft tokens, and cell phone-based approaches.

His summarized findings include:


Security Tokens
- many challenges and prohibitive expenses.
Smart cards - a good consideration, though requires installation of many readers.
Biometrics - great results, but still requires major technology upgrade for existing PC/LAN infrastructure (this is especially challenging in government and healthcare institutions with extremely diverse and aged personal computer and networking systems)
Certificates - "managing certificates for 20,000 users is painful".
Soft tokens - similar challenges for support, maintaining new software across all desktops.

The article focuses in on seemingly the most effective and efficient solution currently available:

Cell phone based approaches - popular, easy to support, and very low cost. Companies such as Anakam Inc. offer tools and technology to implement strong identify management in cell phones via text messaging, voice delivery of a PIN, or voice biometric verification. Per the Anakam website, their products achieve full compliance with NIST Level 3, are scalable to millions of users, cost less than hard tokens or smart codes, are installable in the enterprise without added client hardware/software, and are easy to use (all you have to do is answer a phone call or read a text message).

Probably the clearest two factor authentication choice to make is between token-based identity management solutions and tokenless authentication. Here's some reasons why token-based 2 factor authentication isn't necessarily as effective as tokenless user authentication (such as that provided by Anakam).

User authentication tokens and other similar devices do not effectively protect against emerging threats, such as man-in-the-middle attacks - since they don't utilize "out-of-band" authentication (i.e. a separate channel for the second factor of authentication). User adoption is a very large obstacle to token-based authentication; an extra device to carry that's vulnerable to many forms of damage and theft simply isn't acceptable. Additionally, significant overhead is required by IT department to provision, manage as an asset, and control the token devices, along with training users in proper use and protection.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Washington DC Business Coaching; Control Your Brand and Reputation, Even When You’re Not Around

In his October 2009 Newsletter, James Bowles, Washington DC’s leading Executive Business Coach and career transition consultant, outlines the facets of your personal “brand” and reputation – that stand to scrutiny when you’re not around. What do people say about you when you aren't around? Or more importantly, what does your boss, current (or future) client, or other key stakeholders and partners say about you when you aren't around? For example, in a compensation review meeting (when promotions to key positions are being discussed) or simply when your work and additional opportunities to hire (or fire) you are being considered?



The things that people say about you when you are not around is usually called your reputation. A better way to think about it is that it's your personal "brand" – and this is one of the biggest factors in your ultimate success on the job, with clients and around your community. Here's the good news: for the most part, YOU completely control it! Here’s the challenge – to control it appropriately, you may need some essential business coaching, to learn some essential facets of personal brand marketing, reputation management and talent management (a.k.a. “human resource management”).

Three things make up your brand – your skills (i.e. what you know), your experience (i.e. what you’ve done well), and your attitude (i.e. how you act). These are the things that others remember and discuss when the conversation becomes about you, without you. However, having a great brand may not be enough by itself – like any developing brand, marketing yourself is required. Key stakeholders need to know your skills, experiences, and attitudes…so check around. Who needs to know, who do you need to influence? It's wise to make your brand known to everyone, but it's crucial to know who will be making the decisions you care about. Also, it's important to know who influences the decision makers.

Once you know them make a list - then determine the following:

  • Have they heard of you?
  • Do they know you?
  • Have they seen your work?
  • Have they been positively impacted by your work?
  • Do they know what you want to do?


Work through this list, thinking of how you can have an impact on the decision makers. Turn the answer to these questions to “yes, absolutely!”. Find ways to work on projects that they care about, or be on teams that work on their projects. The key thing here is that the relationship needs to be give-and-take. Do something positive for them to establish your brand, and maybe they will respond by helping you down the road. Quite literally, the most powerful force for successful career change and accomplishment for executives and business leaders is active personal marketing and partnership with stakeholders to obtain feedback, reflect, and act upon it.

This sort of internal “reputation brand marketing and management” is essential in your career, especially if you’re seeking a career change or in fact re-entering the workforce from a layoff, as a Mom returning to work, or establishing new independent career goals. If in fact your career change results, like so many of these do actually do, in reliance on decision makers and stakeholders you don’t actually know (for example future clients or employers learning about you on the Internet), your personal brand and reputation management actions require a degree of Internet Information Marketing and Management skills (and some social media coaching). This is to ensure you come across the way you desire when people search for you, or your services, on the Internet, in social media channels, or through business and information directories.

For more information regarding DC Business Coaching, Executive Leadership Training, and HR Talent Management, contact James Bowles, Washington DC Executive Coach and HR Consulting. For more information regarding Personal Online Marketing and Reputation Management, contact KME Internet Marketing.

Continue reading about “The Word on the Street (About You)”...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Social Media Simulation and Training Environments, by an Internet Media Coach

All well-known systems engineering methodologies and enterprise system development programs leverage testing environments. Testing environments can be built and operated for very different purposes, ranging from prototyping and simulation, to pre-production load testing and usability or “Section 508 Accessibility” checks. Specialized SOA testing frameworks are sometimes required, for difficult infrastructure integration challenges. Most major systems that get deployed to large numbers of users also feature a training environment. This working copy of the “real” or “production” environment affords the user and company a lot of protection against mistakes, mis-operation of system functions, and basically allows you to test-drive a system, but reset and try again if something doesn’t work right or mistakes are made. Play around, learn and mess up - no harm, no foul, and the system assets, data and reputation of you, the system owner and others are all protected.

That’s one very difficult challenge to learning social media, for commercial or government employees. It’s nearly impossible to learn how to use social media tools and techniques in an environment that forgives all missteps, can be wholly reset and leaves no incriminating traces of your mistakes or potentially embarrassing, compromising communication skills after you’re done. The best way to learn how to post to Flickr, to learn the nuances of Twitter and engage in the myriad of online dialogue environments is to actually do it “in production”, as they say, which comes along with a lot of actual or perceived personal and organizational risk. That’s the reason most social media programs and users representing significant companies or governments are usually associated with the “Public Relations” or “Internet Marketing and Social Media” department – these folks are trained and expected to know how to engage in public dialogue, within the bounds of legal, regulatory and policy controls (when available).

Much is being written and discussed online currently regarding the state of Government 2.0, and how we’re quickly reaching an impasse where the ability to become a social media practitioner is simply neither supported nor available to employees working behind government firewalls and Internet usage policies. Social media simply isn’t very social or usable at all, to those for whom it would most benefit. As well, the public forum is missing out on a lot of really good insight and dialogue, because so many employers and employees simply can’t afford the risk, or don’t have the capability to learn, understand and test the risks, that come with posting material online.

I’ve written before on the need for “social media governance automation” – social media governance (and Internet media governance in general) is already a hot topic, as a style of content management and workflow decision-making. Before allowing employees to post a blog entry, tweeting or sending a photo through a series of RSS pipes, most larger organizations can certainly set up and enforce all kinds of content management procedures and controls to protect loss of sensitive information or damage to reputation and credibility. But there’s typically no standard method of enabling any and all employees to test this out…and by doing so, understanding better the risks to the organization and exposing the actual talents and capabilities of the employees. Harnessing the latent power of employee social media participation can’t be done, without an effective social media simulation and training environment.

Plenty of companies and consultants are available to provide “social media 101” training, and there’s no end to the social media tips and techniques available through self-style Social Media Evangelists. However, what’s a small business owner, a government employee looking to self-educate or a professional seeking to change careers to do, when faced with the task of learning social media but not having it impact their job, organization, personal or family reputation? I see all the time examples of “learning by doing”, from the very tentative “LinkedIn lurkers” and “Twitter Testers” (who’ve posted a profile, but don’t participate much) – to the “Facebook Flamers” and “Blogging Blowhards” who’ve simply crashed the party and left a trail of privacy exposure and digital embarrassment in their wake (to be forever indexed online).

We can’t all get it right the first time, and as business owners, managers or others entrusted with corporate or government information management and protection, we simply can’t just let everyone under our management or guidance loose to “play” with social media – without a reasonable degree of guidance, coaching, reputation management, training and possibly, social media simulation. It’s not much different than raising your own children – we shouldn’t let them open email accounts, use search engines and social media sites, and in general use the Internet at all (whether via computer, cellphone or gaming console), without methodical and consistent parental guidance in such things as Internet Safety, online etiquette and computer/digital asset protection. My own children are on the Internet, but walled off, anonymized and protected against the typical dangers of online activity – to the degree they’ve proven they need it, and to the degree I think our family and friends need it.

Establishing social media simulation and “real-world” training is achievable, but not yet widely available or possible across all social media tools. Some applications, like Facebook, are already evolving their ability to manage test accounts for developers. Some social media tools, like Twitter and Wordpress, currently allow a large degree of anonymity for user accounts, and no explicit policy for “test accounts” - though like most social media sites, you remain bound by user policies and simple good sense which include removing accounts when you’re done and no longer using them. On the other hand, most social media policies and terms of service are inherently vague and require practical experience to interpret – for example, Wordpress says that your blog should not be “named in a manner that misleads your readers into thinking that you are another person or company”. “Misleads” is the key term – I may create a Blog named “Green Flies”, but most rational folks wouldn’t come to the conclusion I’m actually the Human Fly, or work for “Green Flies Inc.” – so anonymity is preserved, with no explicit misleading going on. Basically, no harm - no foul.

You can effectively set up and manage simulation environment tools and processes, while making sure risks are minimized and participant activities remain clearly within the proper bounds (from the very loose to the legally explicit) of personal, professional, corporate or third-party policies. Since there do not exist common standards, practices or tools for end-user social media simulation and testing, it will be necessary to leverage knowledgeable Internet media consultants or firms (like those I work with) to help manage risks, apply common sense and practical experience, and basically provide the right set of “training wheels”.

What’s key to know, is that there are methods to get online, test and “try before you buy” in the social media environment…working with a new breed of trainers I’ll term “Internet Media Coaches”. An Internet Media Coach is similar to the rapidly developing profile of “Social Media Coaches” – but adds the experience in traditional Information and Content Management, Digital Asset Protection, and Computer Security and Privacy to the base knowledge of Public Discourse and Collaboration using social media tools.

Contact me for more information regarding hiring an Internet Media Coach, or setting up a Social Media Simulation and Training program or framework.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Loudoun County HyperLocal News Online – What’s Next in Loudoun Social Media and Blogs in Suburban Washington DC

Quite a lot of news, analysis and conferencing has been going on lately about the challenges of the traditional news community, both online and in print. The advances of “citizen journalism” catalyzed by Internet social media tools like Twitter and real-time search are contributing to far-reaching outcomes - from the demise of long-lived newspapers like Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News and the shuttering of the Washington Post’s hyperlocal LoudounExtra.com experiment, to interesting conversations at the recent Blogworld Expo and DC Twitter Conference regarding both opportunities and competitive animosities between journalists and bloggers competing for online “eyeballs”.

When we first moved to Loudoun County in the late 90’s, comprehensive local news was an afterthought to the large newspapers and regional broadcast media, and seemed mostly relegated to the entrenched local papers like Leesburg Today and the Loudoun Times. Of course, the citizen and business population was quite lower, too. Actual or “near real time” news was only gained via local radio and special TV reports, perhaps a radio-shack emergency band scanner, and the growing proliferation of neighborhood online chat, discussion and email groups. Very few non-personal blogs existed, but picking up the phone was still useful to contact local authorities and reporters.

Today, our “situational awareness” of local and regional events is multi-channel and immediate, and can be filtered to precise interests, sources or level of abstraction. This past Friday night, for example, large explosions permeated our neighborhood – a bit odd for this time of year, but immediately provoking both memories of a deadly natural gas explosion in 1998 and our latent, persistent homeland-security uneasiness. Finding out what was happening was pretty efficient – a few searches on Twitter, a look at the local events calendars, a call or two to the neighbors…a homecoming football game fireworks display was the culprit. “Traditional media” coverage was to be found the next day, in game reviews and search engine results…but event-to-analysis lag was at least 12 hours.

Where then, and why, should we be going to find the best “hyperlocal” news as a Loudoun County resident? Is “hyperlocal” truly relevant, particularly in this area of interstitial communities, long-ranging commuters and multi-county politic, economic and government service dependencies? Can traditional publishers of general interest news and the journalists they support coexist with or ultimately become the “Internet Media” Geoff Livingston alluded to in his prognostications for the future of social media?

Read more - at Gateway to Loudoun County

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homeland Security Information Sharing and Social Media

Experimenting a bit with Pipes, Twitter, RSS feeds to LinkedIn, etc....follow a nicely "curated" Internet Media collection of Homeland Security/DHS information and tweeting at @dhsinfosharing - and find it under news in the similarly-named Homeland Security Information Sharing and Social Media LinkedIn group.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

#smo2009 Northern Virginia Social Media - Potomac Tech Wire Social Media 2009 Business and Government Roundtable

At this morning's Potomac Tech Wire "Social Media Outlook" Breakfast Round Table (follow tweets on #SMO2009), well-known presenters Rohit Bhargava, Adam Lehman, Geoff Livingston, Jake Maas, and Moderator Paul Sherman (Editor, Potomac Tech Wire gave the packed event some great insight and feedback regarding how social media's being used in the business community (and a bit of government social media) - along with their prognostications for the future of players and contexts.


What seems like one of the big winners among comments for businesses to address, is the need to much more proactively - and with an ever-present eye towards search engine optimization (SEO) - "engage the middle" of the online press and content producers. Essentially, those blogerati and twitterati among the social media elite are most likely to consume and propagate your corporate perspectives, announcements or points-of-view if these messages are in fact conveyed as a trusted social media source. In other words, become first an engaged, trused social media community member, and this will drive your ability to convince leading social media publishers to participate in and promote your discussion. Consistent, useful tweeting and content publishing within social media protocol begets great re-tweets from those who matter in your particular online ecosystem. Your contribution of material through social media channels will also work well if it represents not only your corporate POV, but also a bit of "content curation" - i.e. hand-picked selection and enrichment of material and online sources pertaining to your topic or niche. Become a social search engine for your communities; this should not only help build your communities and community presence, but this activity across social media channels is naturally search-engine optimized in terms of time, relevance, connections.


Some of the prognostications included advice for businesses to monitor developments in mobile, location-based social media along with new input methods, the automated intersection of social media channels into "Internet Media" engines, the proliferation of buyer-side capabilities for social media ad placement and publisher adspace inventory management, and the increasing focus on "multi-channel integration" of messaging across both traditional and new social media. Products like Google Wave and Posterous were pointed out as great representatives of developments such as these.


This being predominantly a business-oriented crowd, a few audience surveys revealed things we understand in the DC business community, but perhaps those outside don't - for example, very few in the audience used iPhones, most had Blackberrys, and therefore the point was made that much opportunity awaits those who tap this underserved mobile application market. Also, it's apparent that the well-established and financed platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will likely be around for some time to come, so it's imperative that businesses invest some time and energy into establishing their strategy for using these channels.

All in all, a really good and current perspective, from de-facto DC and Northern Virginia social media leaders, on the state of the social media industry and its role in corporate life. Thanks to the retweeters in the crowd and on stage, including @kellyolson, @timharv, @tsuder, @GeoffLiving, @rohitbhargava, @loudoun, @lindahagopian, @fairfax_county and @blackstonetech.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Should Our Business Tweet in the Cloud? Social Twittering for Business

The jury’s still out for most businesses on whether or not significant effort is made in “tweeting” information via Twitter.com – but the evidence is IN regarding whether or not to simply sign up and prepare to do so.

Your company’s online popularity, reputation and ultimately success is derived from two core things – what you say, and what others say about you. Let’s address these communication elements as “attributed source information” (ASI). “Attributed” from the perspective that there is in fact a known source (though it may be an anonymous ID), “source” from the perspective that it’s the very first sincere representation of the communication or concept actually published online, and “information” in that it’s not just some data or graphic fragments, it’s actually a message or concept with enough context to drive interest.

If it’s non-attributed, non-source or just bits n’ pieces (i.e. not “information”), there’s not much you can do about it as “evidence” – but, just like any good lawyer or PR consultant, you can shape, evolve, dispute, share or otherwise react to the material to meet any of your agendas.

Back to Twitter (or any other social media channel), it’s a simple prospect – the more ASI you post about yourself, the more you’re likely to get posted about you. It’s common practice these days, and basic SEO “block and tackling”, to post as many “billboards” about your company as possible around reputable Internet sites and directories, with short marketing messages and direct backlinks. In fact, most businesses should take every opportunity to create a standard billboard, profile or directory entry among all popular social platforms that allow it – this also helps preserve and protect the core “brand”. Therefore, most companies should establish an “unprotected” (i.e. publicly viewable) Twitter ID, create a basic profile, and establish a minimally-acceptable, germane and objective list of followers and regular corporate news updates (ASI). Re-tweets and requests to follow, and engage with you online, will be a typical “community-managed” affair, and be likely kept to a minimum with few “incidents”. This is truly no different than online press releases, many of which these days include and syndicate the press release ASI across multiple social media channels, including Twitter.

Some may see this sort of bland, generic Twitter land-grab as contrary to the “spirit” of the medium, and therefore a “poser” action – but Twitter use is ubiquitous enough now in the business and marketing community where this may no longer be the majority vocal opinion. It simply must be done, and is expected. All professional Internet Marketing and Social Media Consultants should recommend this.

Beyond this generic use of Twitter is where the potholes are. If your company is prepared to engage, across multiple agendas and subjects, with the online community that WILL develop as you post additional ASI – then you’ll need to develop your policies and procedures for Twitter, as a part of your broader “public discourse” strategy and risk-management framework. These include addressing what you post (i.e. who the authors will be, the backlink strategy, the recurrence and subject-area focus, the degree of personalization, etc.), and how you proactively and/or reactively deal with ASI that others post, in response to your own. Apply some method to the madness.

Otherwise, don’t count on a lot of ROI from your Twitter account, though there are simple benefits from just being at the game. Also don’t be too worried that your Twitter presence, albeit somewhat passive and conformist, will create any significant PR issues. Don’t be surprised, though, if your competitors end up driving and shaping the online conversation (and collecting the customers) with their own risk-managed ASI, in your absence.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Corporate Blogging Framework - Where to Start?

There's been a lot published and dissected over the value and methods for successful corporate blogging, and the intersections between corporate and employee use of social media. What's not been discussed much is the application of Systems Engineering Methodology, within the Information Management Architecture Domain, to implementation of corporate blogging. Being that a corporate blogging program is essentially part of a corporation's "Information-Sharing Line of Business", integrated with and supported by other corporate operational domains (like Marketing & Communications, IT Operations, and Organizational Change Management), it's therefore an IT program -and IT programs are best managed through standardized IT Investment and Systems Engineering Lifecycle methods.

To start, therefore, a corporate blogging program, a framework should be established for program planning, resource scheduling and alignment. This framework will help generate a program CONOPS (concept of operations), solution architecture, program plan and performance measurement indicators. These program artifacts, as any IT Project Manager worth their salt understands, are essential to establishing early buy-in, investment approval, compliance and risk mitigation.

Blogging does introduce 2 very important elements in particular to your Marketing & Communications (Marcom) efforts. First, it’s a new (or another) online content management and distribution platform for corporate information. It needs to be integrated into your overall Information Management infrastructure. Secondly, and most importantly, it’s a new forum for online conversation between your corporation, its employees and/or representatives, and the public. The blog speaks directly to individuals, and they to you – and this conversation needs to reflect the right balance of personable though moderated and useful dialogue.

Here are some facets to consider, in suggested priority order, when establishing your corporate blogging framework - there are many more details and methods to consider (both standard and contextual to a particular company) once the framework matures; these are only initial guidelines.

Governance

1. Executive commitment and approval – share the idea and collect feedback regarding corporate blogging from key executives and corporate legal, policy, public relations and marketing. Simply raising and discussing the initiative, along with some basic education (not everyone understands blogging or microblogging) and examples, will go a long way towards buy-in, integration with other Marcom activities, and a successful governance framework (i.e. who approves what).

2. Champion/Evangelist – establish the “Corporate Blogger Champion/Evangelist” – a well-coordinate program will require some ongoing, insistent initiative by someone who’s ready to answer questions about blogging and social media, and coach others through the learning processes. This person will also take the lead regarding translation of blogging needs and processes to IT requirements, own the ROI – i.e. setting up and reporting tracking metrics, observing the readership trends, adjusting the blog content, process or template, etc.

3. Create a basic, sample decision-making process. Start with the example that a corporate officer/employee announces they will be speaking at an upcoming industry event. Start backwards with the decision-making:

• Who “presses the button” to publish the blog entry?
• Who reviews, edits and approves the final content?
• Who reviews and approves the draft submission?
• Does the employee need approval to create the draft content?

Note that you may end up with several decision workflows, depending on what kind of blog entry it is. At the end of the day, well-balanced blog content will probably be a mix of “corporate” managed content, “employee” direct submissions, “syndicated” content (i.e. brought in or copied from somewhere else) and user/reader submissions. The blogging framework may in fact become multiple blogs – but try to start with just one. There’s a lot of trial and error along the way – and there WILL be some slip-ups in what gets published and how; simply be prepared to deal with this as a course of business.

Note also that your overall "Content Management" workflow may end up with blog entries authored and published internally, and via some kind of content management or "social media governance" process, get published externally (i.e. to your Internet-hosted blog).

Employee Communications and Awareness

1. Share the initiative with employees and trusted advisors – start an internal conversation, perhaps a volunteer working group. What do they think?

2. Survey/canvass your employees – are they already active in social media? Do you have any “employee blogging stars” already, with personal online brands? (Check yourself – “Google” employee names and your corporate name – is anyone already an accomplished blogger?) From the reverse perspective – are there reputation management concerns to address, i.e. an erstwhile professional blogger is less constrained with Facebook postings?

Authors

1. “Authorship” is a tricky subject – some great corporate blogs are written by corporate executives, others are wholly supplied by direct employee submissions. Some are simply automatic syndications of content published elsewhere. As the blog matures, it’s likely many authors will be attributed. Start simply for now – establish the “corporate” persona (i.e. “this entry published by –your company-”), and who will actually “be” this persona initially. Should the blog be immediately successful, it’s important to be ready to “reveal” the person behind the persona.

2. For your core authors, determine how they’ll be attributed. (a) Do they want to be personally identified, or anonymized? (b) We recommend only first names for authors who are essentially unknown publically; if the author is already a well-known, public figure online, already associated with your company – then use the whole name. No other PII (personally-identifiable information); no sense in creating new opportunities for spam or online security problems. (c) Use anonymity/corporate persona really only for authorship of posts that truly aren’t suited for personable dialogue – like press releases or announcements.

Topics

1. What to post about? The corporate blog really shouldn’t be just another advertising, marketing or PR vehicle – it’s an opportunity for more personable and honest dialogue. You seek to share information with your readers that you really want and appreciate their input about. (Of course, the ROI is enhanced by inclusion of marketing messages and advertising techniques; to be further discussed). Think about both your SEO keywords AND major sections of your website – what are the top 5 keywords or “tags” you’d use to categorize the blog entries? For example, “zzz”, “xxx”, “xxx News”, “zzz people”, “zzz events” – where “zzz” is your corporate name, and “xxx” is your topical keyword.

2. Align with industry news – while the blogging initiative may eventually result in many threads of dialogue across many topics – start first with your primary marketing agenda, and in particular, items that are timely in the industry. The very best corporate blog entries match targeted keywords with current industry events or news – people exploring popular media-generated news and events should also “run across” your related information.

Content

1. Regardless of the actual subject matter, the blog “content” can take many forms. Simple text, links, external or embedded attachments, photos, videos, scripts/widgets, flash movies, rich internet applications (RIAs). Most search engines can index most of this content, in terms of the text embedded within – but straight HTML text is probably the most important content from an SEO perspective. Focus first on getting the blog text, tags and titles correct, and perhaps some limited use of photos/illustrations. Remember a blog enables syndication of its information to many other websites, mobile devices, readers and applications – always consider how easy it is for others to “consume”, read and re-purpose your content through RSS.

2. Other content can be added as (A) part of the overall blog design (it is a website, after all), and (B) as reusable digital assets are identified within your company, that you’d like to leverage into the blog. The most important point is that the search engines and readers see a constant stream of new, unique, interesting, timely, relevant headlines with basic supporting information and specific keywords, that effectively directs further action (i.e. “read more”, “contact us”, “discuss this”, “support this”, etc.).


Blog Platform/Channels

1. The best objective for a blog platform, is to use an internal, corporate-hosted software product – many content management products (like Sharepoint and Drupal) offer this (though you’ll need to get the components necessary for external publishing “through the firewall” to your external, Internet-hosted website). Wordpress is a free, popular product, on the other end of the spectrum, and can be customized to match your website’s branding, look and feel. (Note – for very sophisticated, highly customized and high traffic blogs, you’ll probably need to spend some money – but the blog initiative budget should be considered as part of your overall Marketing and IT budget).

2. If you’re not ready to devote the time and resources to install/implement an internal blog platform, Internet-hosted blogging services can be leveraged – though you’ll need to consider how to protect these "digital assets" hosted outside your company. There are no guarantees that anything posted on 3rd-party services like wordpress.com or blogger.com will be maintained or protected to your standards – at the very least, blog content should be created and protected internally, before published externally. In fact, such services are known to simply disappear quickly into a larger corporation's acquisition strategy. Take a look at the popular platforms like Wordpress, Blogger, Typepad, Blogsmith - there are pros and cons for each (While I'm a big Wordpress fan, the Blogger capability for FTP'ing content to other websites is really why this blog is hosted by Google).

It’s also important, when using a hosted service, to set up the publishing and links in a manner that generates maximum SEO and Conversion value – by proper linkages back to your website, through syndication of the content back to your site (via RSS widgets or RSS to HTML converters), and by basic copywriting techniques. For example, the external blog “catches” readers with some information, but to get more, and also to subscribe for monthly updates, readers are linked back to your website contact page/subscription process.

3. If you’re really not ready to implement an actual, corporate-branded blog – consider starting to blog in existing forums – i.e., an employee is a member of a LinkedIn group, and posts regular “discussion items”, responds to industry blogs and discussion, etc. It’s a good entry vehicle to testing the “art of public discourse”, choosing and testing keywords, etc.

4. If you do create a blog, whether internally or externally hosted, be prepared for some design/configuration activity, with some knowledge of HTML/RSS required – it is a website, after all, and there are most definitely useful guidelines available for properly designing and optimizing blogs vs. more traditional sites.

After considering these guidelines, you'll likely be ready to construct the Information Management Framework, composed of the Systems Engineering artifacts indicated above, that will enable your Corporate Blogging Framework. Or maybe you're just ready to start blogging!

Stay with this blog for more information about Corporate Blogging Frameworks, or contact me directly for specific help.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

SOA Infrastructure Testing Framework - Flexible, Scalable by Blackstone Technology Group

Here's a great posting by Sara over at Blackstone Technology Group's SOA and Integration Practice, regarding a "flexible, scalable SOA infrastructure testing framework" she and others developed on their Homeland Security Information-Sharing program.

She relates "We’ve implemented a highly-efficient and data-driven framework to test an enterprise-scale, highly available SOA infrastructure environment. In the same amount of time that it took to previously build a single test scenario, we were able to develop the initial framework implementation that can quickly support multiple scenarios that include any permutation of components and transports."

In other words, look to new SOA-driven testing frameworks and approaches like these, to most thoroughly and efficiently test new SOA/ESB infrastructure deployments. The "old ways" won't work.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Initiating a Corporate Social Media Presence – Unleash Your Inner Star Power

Social Media’s a scary animal, especially for companies or organizations that are accountable to stakeholders, policy, law or any other governing entity that exists to mitigate risk. Also, social media is an online collaboration channel and tools domain that’s most appropriately and effectively utilized by humans, i.e. individual personalities (preferably employees) – vs. corporate personas or third-party services. So how does a company begin to use social media, break into and contribute to the online dialogue, and avoid reputation issues while maintaining appropriate accountability?

Find, identify, nurture, coach and ultimately unleash your employee social media stars – they’ll be the face of the company, the purveyors of online dialogue, and will most likely do a great job at it. Why and how?

First of all, the social media platforms and tools are the dominion of the Internet-literate, the digerati, typically those more inclined and interested to communicate online at least as often as they relate offline (or by phone). It’s usually easier to find and identify folks like this, than it is to train them – since most open source social media skills can only be learned “in production”, i.e. without a “training” environment and IDs – most people who easily navigate social media have already learned how to use these tools on their own, with their own personas or via external interests. They’ve already taken some risks, exhibited some courage, and learned some lessons. Hire or identify a “Social Media Evangelist”, one like this with proven and public credentials, to help guide your strategy and tactics. Then canvass your employees, survey the web, find employees who are active social media users already. These are the seed candidates, the American Idol “you’re going to Hollywood!” group.

Next, filter and weed – not all users of social media use it well, or use it in a manner consistent with your corporate culture, public presence, company policies or communication styles, etc. Some may be “power users” – but really don’t write well enough to represent the professionalism of your company, notwithstanding general acceptance of all kinds of online slang and abbreviations. Some don’t typically consider the “bigger picture” or context-specific etiquette when posting, for example where the post might end up – and how it might be interpreted. After multiple rounds of syndication, digging, mixxing, friendstering, tarpiping, etc., posts might too often get blurry between business and pleasure, thereby losing effectiveness of intention (and probably becoming just a bunch of noise). Those who really do represent and focus on their interests or agenda using well-formed language and current, accurate references – with obvious intentions and open agenda – are the targets for your external “Digerati” (i.e. your “Social Media Liaisons”, or “Corporate Communications Liaisons”).

Now you’ve crowd-sourced the “experts”, it’s time to initiate them, molding their expertise according to your company’s interests – while not unnecessarily diluting interesting personalities. This means a structured program of personal brand coaching, training and perhaps apprenticeship in the finer arts of public relations, communications and Internet Marketing 2.0 – as delivered via Social Media channels and aligned to your company’s traditional web presence. (Your company should have developed a “Policy on Public Discourse”, or something like it, governing communications by employees in public and on the Internet - we've implemented this at Blackstone Technology Group). Since there are not yet very effective or available tools for automating social media governance, demonstrations and internal discussion with the Social Media Liaison, as postings are made, work best (i.e. learn by example) – and then a review and commenting process of postings by the “trainees”, as they start to participate. While the social media landscape is always changing, and new tools and methods are popping up all the time, the foundations of successful public discourse on the Internet don’t really change:

Be real, be yourself, be wise to current policies and public relations objectives of your company and context, don’t spam or be negative, don’t miss opportunities to appropriately use marketing keywords, and by all means give back to the communities you participate in.

Success in this process yields the right number and distribution (i.e. across various topic areas or corporate functions) of employee social media “stars”, who most effectively represent the very positive, engaged and personal attractiveness of your company and their personal brand on the Internet. Not only will the company prosper through social media use, but employees will also find their voice and opinion more readily exposed, thereby promoting a lot of pride in their contributions to their company, their fellow employees and their individual careers.

If you’d like more information on this subject, just drop me a (social) line. I’ve been experimenting with this process from both the employee and employer perspectives – it certainly does take a lot of in-person guidance and coaching to learn to effectively use social media without harming your personal reputation, career or corporate/stakeholder interests.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Government Social Media Reputation Management in the Cloud

During this morning’s IAC breakfast, discussing “Transparency, Collaboration and Web 2.0”, a panelist made a very interesting point. While the US Federal Government’s use of Internet social media services and cloud-based information-sharing applications is well underway, albeit at the very earliest of stages (mainly due to significant policy, privacy, security and simple “newness” issues), by far one of the major risks lies with accountability.

Accountability in collaboration and information-sharing environments is typically achieved to some degree by association of metadata with the information packages being exchanged, or with the “containers” of online events and the trusted identities of those participating in the dialogue. With social media applications and contexts like Twitter or Facebook, however, there are far too many ways that the “information packages” (i.e. unmanaged conversation bites) get exposed, syndicated and shared – disassociated from what I’ll call the “accountability metadata”. Accountability metadata might be described as one part records management (provenance, chain-of-custody, attribution, etc. of the actual material), one part situational awareness (i.e. the UCORE model; who, what, when, where regarding the actual event context being discussed), and one part “trust in context”, or “reputation” (i.e. popularity index, authority index, security attributes, etc.), and one part semantic accuracy (i.e. the topics and language being used is consistent with the context of discussion within which it’s introduced, for example according to a NIEM namespace).

"S-CORE" for "Social Media Core Information"?

As an example, the tweet associated with this blog entry is in fact an “information package”, albeit made up of unstructured data (as far as I can manipulate). Within the Twitter universe, there is an association (or “assertion”) of accountability metadata with this Tweet, so long as you’re a member of the community and can view my profile data, link references and prevalent topical themes. My profile data is associated with an employer and other communities, which themselves provide additional accountability data. But what happens when the Blog Tweet is Twitterfed, gets Tarpiped into Identica, over to Friendfeed, into Facebook and finally its RSS feed repurposed as a discussion item on someone else’s blog widget?

The original metadata isn’t carried along, and therefore some degree of manual intervention may be required to respond to non-attributed, out-of-context or otherwise mis-purposed data. Google searches may return search results containing my tweet language in non-intended contexts, thereby possibly enabling alternative or even incorrect interpretation. A homeland security social media “tweet”, for example, from a first-responder regarding a health-related assessment may be determined by HHS as inaccurate and possibly dangerous as most obviously interpreted by the public. Enter “Online Reputation Management”.

Online reputation management is a significant industry in itself (many local Washington DC Internet Marketing companies provide it), focused on making sure search engine results aren’t creating or promoting a false or unwarranted image – of a person, company, or product – because of overwhelming yet unverified online information posted to the contrary. Back to the HHS example – the erroneous tweet works its way into Google search results via multiple channels (and perhaps aggregate or federated search results), and subsequently becomes “the truth” because it’s on the first page of results. HHS or some other responsible, validating entity must now engage reputation management techniques to deliver more, better or different information into many of the same social media channels, in addition to a couple of its own highly-authoritative channels, to counter the ultimately false search engine results.

This may be part of the reason that Data.gov is so far a producer only of raw data, vs. “information” – since information carries with it expectations and actually delivers a degree of unstructured accountability that’s very hard to define, manage and monitor on the Internet. Structured data is far easier to manage, since it typically isn’t shared via social media (at least with its structure intact), and structured metadata is easily embedded. Citizens can certainly help resolve semantic inconsistencies, can establish some level of “social trust” by using the data, and can prove usefulness (and therefore legitimacy) by creating popular applications – but citizens aren’t really accountable to the rest of the Federal Government’s constituency, and its reputation. Ultimately, organizations will look back to the Government for trust and accountability with respect to information packages (vs. data) they can use in legitimate business ventures involving social media.

However, the Federal Government’s foray into producing information packages for consumption by public social media will likely be constrained for some to come, until industry can come up with a generally accepted standard and technology examples to permanently associate “accountability metadata” to unstructured information payloads released in the wild. This might then be followed by an oversight agency or program that could automate perhaps some of the Federal Reputation Management tasks that would then be necessary – enabling many more useful, unstructured conversations in public social media, moderated by trusted Government sources. Perhaps from the cloud.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Probably Interesting Information

(Warning – hyper-theoretical stream of probably uninformed semi-consciousness to follow…)

In considering the possible types of information that might need to included in Enterprise Information-Sharing programs, while sifting through my TweetDeck, something’s become quite clear – most of our Government information-sharing exercises are all about “Signals”, “Data”, and “Information” that are already known (at some level) to be “required”, “useful”, or “possibly interesting” – judged as so by existing processes, policies, roles, business rules and perhaps knowledgebase ontologies.

I’d like to, however, receive and share more information from the government that’s “probably interesting”, but that hasn’t yet been confirmed as so by them, or me and my community.

This happens all the time in social media, where I’ve subscribed to or participate in an information-exchange forum based on a particular knowledge context (and within my own agenda), and routinely view information that’s been posted within this context for unintentional use….i.e. it “is” interesting to the poster, who, by virtue of their understanding of community context, assumes therefore that it’s “probably” interesting to others in the community. Not “possibly” (which if so, would be posted to a non-specific public forum), but “probably”. Destined for “unintended, though probable use”.

Over at data.gov, some “possibly interesting” information is being made available for further consumption and mashing – but some thought was already applied to determining its likely level of usefulness, constrained by security requirements, information-sharing policies and the role descriptions of the posters. Therefore, a lot of it isn’t interesting, or probably interesting, at all.

Now, if a mashup application had relatively unfettered access to a variety of government data sources, from which it developed a “knowledge map”, and could semantically compare this map to a map of my own personal knowledgebase (i.e. my blog, my articles, my social media conversations, things I like to read, favorite books, etc.), and then react (perhaps with some basic guidance from me) to contextual “information-sharing events” (i.e. the arrival or transformation of certain information) with intelligent alerts that some “probably interesting information” were available – now that would be something.

Kind-of like when my 5-year old arrives home from preschool, with loads of “probably interesting information” about other families, teachers, etc. Much better than gossip.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Information-Sharing with Cloud Semantic Ontologies

Quite a mouthful, the title of this post. However, this language is becoming more and more critical to the objective of cross-domain information-sharing, and is becoming more and more easy to actually use (by the public!) in building information search, discovery, fusion and correlation/analytical applications.

A while ago, I was introduced to the semantic wiki technologies and communities of Knoodl (knoodl.com), which is a mechanism for like-minded persons to collaborate on building semantic vocabularies, using open standards like RDF and OWL. Basically describing the terms and language of a topic area in a manner that can be expressed, via XML, for consumption by computer applications. So when a message arrives in your system with information labeled "SAR", or a query is sent forth with the same acronym, a test of this word against the machine-readable vocabulary can determine what the likely meaning really is - "suspicious activity report", "suspect action report", "search and rescue", "specific absorption rate", etc.

Knoodl (by Revelytix, Inc) truly enables bottom-up "crowd-sourcing" of vocabularies within specific domains, from agriculture to military and homeland security - and it's now available as a free, cloud-sourced (Amazon's EC2) application with hooks for automated applications to use. What's most helpful, is that this vocabulary-building environment allows business, mission and technologists to create great machine-readable ontologies/knowledgebases, without having to actually use programming languages or edit XML. The vocabularies created or uploaded are immediately accessible through a query standard called "SPARQL", with full support for Knoodl's role-based permission model.

More barriers are now pretty much gone for forward-thinking agencies to collaboratively describe their data and information, expose (the vocabulary) it in a manner that enables accurate representation and description within a domain context, and leverage a "Web 2.0" semantic technology platform for free in conjunction with the rapidly-growing number of data query and mashup technologies already under way (like data.gov). Some very forward-thinking technology vendors are already leveraging this technology into their "Operational Intelligence" cloud-based platforms, such as Vitria's M3O Web 2.0 BPM suite...and we all understand that business entity definition and business process identification/management is at the heart of most successful SOA implementations.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homeland Security Keeping You Safe with Social Media

Secretary Napolitano requested that this sidebar, from an article PARADE Magazine published about the department in the Sunday, May 24, 2009 issue titled “We Are Prepared and Resilient,” be sent to all employees. In it, she describes the department’s top priority: to “help keep the nation in a state of readiness and help assure the American people that we are prepared and resilient.” The sidebar is available on PARADE’s Web site at http://www.parade.com/news/2009/05/10-ways-homeland-security-is-keeping-you-safe.html. The full article is available at http://www.parade.com/news/2009/05/we-are-prepared-and-resilient.html.

TOP TEN WAYS HOMELAND SECURITY KEEPS YOU SAFE - within this list, are these two social media nuggets:

1) In a sign that they are keeping up with the times, DHS and FEMA now have their own Twitter pages. The agencies post important updates including travel alerts, security threats, weather warnings and other alerts.

2) The U.S. Coast Guard, whose expanding role in national security is vital to several DHS objectives, now uses videos on YouTube to prepare, train and communicate with its agents across the country.

So the question is raised - "what about social media governance, should it be required?"

These uses of "social media" (it's not really a "conversation", but just another kind of alert/notification or simple content-sharing) don't really require the kind of governance I've espoused in earlier posts - it's where individual government representatives are using social media and representing themselves (i.e. uniquely individual personas, rather than a whole department/agency/office), where governance is more necessary - if you've got many individuals publishing information, from the same department or agency, there should be some automated controls over protection of sensitive or private information, proper attribution, record distribution management (i.e. keeping track of what's shared as a matter of government record), release of unverified or possibly conflicting information, and possibly definitions/use of acronyms. However, it shouldn't go overboard - just enough to help and encourage both the government and the public experience a comfortable trust in the dialogue that ensues.

While commercial entities are more advanced than most public service agencies in leveraging social media for public dialogue (it's hard to find major IT consulting and information management shops, for example here at Blackstone Technology Group (@blackstonetech), who aren't already "twittering" both from a corporate perspective and by individual employees) - some degree of automated social media governance (for both inbound and outbound information-sharing) may likely open the floodgates to full realization of the value of this media by governments.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Protecting Your Legacy Personal Digital Assets

Heard a great segment today on NPR's "All Tech Considered" - when you die, what happens to your Internet-hosted digital assets? For example your Facebook wall, your Twitter account, your gmail emails...Most providers of these services have policies from their perspective, and essentially won't turn over any information without proper legal intervention, but have you personally prepared for this? Who specifically do you want managing your domain names, your social IDs, reading your emails, changing your passwords?

It turns out this is quite a quickly-developing "sticky wicket" - mainly because of the diversity of digital assets you may have, the different reasons or causes you only know for maintaining them, and the different circles of friends or business partners who collaborate with you, through one or another online identity. "Legacy Locker" was the first business out of the gate mentioned to be dealing with this, and they are "a safe, secure repository for your digital property that lets you grant access to online assets for friends and loved ones in the event of death or disability."

This sounds like a great idea - but with many more variations of service, capabilities and legal policy to follow. For example, if you own a business and die, how are your customers automatically alerted to this, and to the fact that the IDs/passwords you've maintained for their digital assets are now "unmanaged" or otherwise exposed to loss or possible theft? I think we'll be discussing maintenance of personal digital assets and identities much more very quickly, as social media quickly drives up the value of these objects.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

IBM Impact SEO – Internet Marketing Guidance from a Global Content Network

A very timely and interesting element of a set of marketing principles delivered to IBM business partners at this week’s IBM Impact 2009 conference included this recommendation listed as #1 – attend to your SEO (Search Engine Marketing), and definitely be social about it.

While this isn’t obviously news to most larger companies, and perhaps smaller, who are already rapidly finding Internet marketing as a very cost-effective and valuable outlay of advertising budget, it is interesting to see one of the world's largest marketing engines as IBM promoting SEO to all of their partners. This promotion of online marketing tactics is primarily geared to helping build and extend their own sales channels, but IBM is explicitly noting that Internet Marketing and SEO is an absolute essential activity with clear and significant ROI for everyone.

Although the advice and guidance provided was basic (and promoted services that could be purchased from a key marketing partner), the message was clear. Search engine marketing and optimization, including not only your business website but your social media channels and syndicated content, is an absolute necessity for businesses to thrive in these difficult economic conditions. (It's very important also for Public Service organizations, to help ensure essential and new online services are also easy to find using search engines, in multiple languages.) The subtle messaging to business partners was also clear, at least to those who understand Internet Marketing – by improving and optimizing your site, as an IBM technology and/or service provider, IBM itself benefits from the additional page juice now flowing in more expertly from business websites and hyperlinks, along with broader exposure of IBM syndicated content. This basically results in a "tide that lifts all boats", at least those boats floating in the same stew of keywords and topical phrases.

IBM’s “content network” and search engine presence stands to grow exponentially through providing this sort of advice, especially for keywords, terms and topics which may not include specific IBM products or services, but may require them for implementation. If you're not currently "linked in" to a content network like this – explore outbound links to key suppliers or value-added resellers that not only benefits them, but benefits you in the long run.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Program Technical Management Office Situational Awareness – COP and UDOP

Most large IT Investments in Federal and State governments require a Program Management Office (PMO) function to help the buyer (i.e. the Government) manage the IT planning and implementation activities from cost, schedule and compliance perspectives. PMO’s are most often the domain of project managers and cost-management specialists, “running the numbers” according to contract language, quality and risk management protocol, “Earned Value Metrics” and other compliance or oversight controls.

More and more frequently, however, the PMO is tasked with understanding, advising and managing spending or compliance concerning very technical facets of the program, ranging from strategic Enterprise Architecture and SOA alignment, to more tactical preparation or review of technical standards, models and engineering methods. In essence, the PMO’s responsibilities begin to overlap more frequently with and require close coordination with programs domains historically more organizationally-distinct – i.e. the “Enterprise Architecture” group, the “Budget and Acquisition” group, “Centers of Excellence”, etc. More formal mechanisms and structures are required to define the PMO’s “Technology Monitoring & Management” role, and integrate these “PTMO’s” (Program Technical Management Office, or "IT PMO") governance processes with those at the enterprise level.

By establishing a “Program Technical Management Office” structure, Situational Awareness (SA) with respect to the IT investment is more easily achieved. By SA, I mean the same set of real-time, continuous factors and outcomes that are defined in Wikipedia as “the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.” In an IT investment environment more and more driven by opportunities for leverage and reuse, SOA-aligned collaboration and information-sharing, and “open source” or “Web 2.0” capabilities, the “environmental” elements that shape the success or failure of an IT investment require SA attention by a PMO, or PTMO. A PTMO might be charged with understanding and managing:


  • The availability of data, information and information access methods elsewhere in the Enterprise, that can be leveraged for the new program;
  • The pending completion of an Enterprise or Domain regulation or standard regarding an IT component or method – that should be considered in planning and technology acquisition or testing;
  • The status of IT investments elsewhere in the department or business community that overlap the program at any layer of the program or technical architecture, and might be reused; or
  • The status of 3rd-party software or services from a release perspective, or from an availability perspective, made so by regulation, MOU, SLA or legal agreement at the agency or broader community level.


The “top down” view of all the IT Investment-related factors influencing a program’s acquisition and success is a view that most CIOs already know to build, through a combination of relationships, “dashboard” tools and reports, and system operations views. Their “Common Operating Picture” (COP), if you will. It’s a view “Common” to those involved in high-level decision-making, IT investment review, and enterprise strategic planning.

Situational Awareness of an IT Investment, however, isn’t fully accomplished by the top-down view, especially in a new world of SOA-driven Web 2.0-enabled capabilities. The bottom-up, user-defined view (or “UDOP”: User-defined Operating Picture) is a critical contributor to the program leadership’s decision-making.

For example, there may be subject-matter experts who independently, or collaboratively, analyze and correlate information critical to the evaluation of an IT component, and that should be easily surfaced and discoverable by the PTMO. The PTMO may actually solicit point evaluations, tests or “mashups” of data from stakeholders that, while not part of the “formal” acquisition or systems engineering lifecycle set of artifacts, is nevertheless an important information point or indicator of possible risk.

How are UDOP principles created, encouraged and leveraged by PMO’s, via PTMO’s? It starts with identification and use of internal collaboration capabilities, and exercise, as possible, of social media tools (i.e. tools that enable user-driven feedback, collaboration, and information management). Lots more discussion to go on this topic – the takeway is that Situational Awareness about an IT Investment is most thoroughly delivered via addition of “Technology” focus to a PMO, and approaching the collection, correlation and visualization of information regarding the program and investment from BOTH a COP and UDOP perspective.

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Automated Social Media Governance and Government 2.0

    With the proliferation of Internet-based tools and forums to share information, deliver announcements or warnings and create collaborative networks, it’s become apparent that “self-policing” strategies for controlling and managing the risks involved in delivering content through the corporate firewall can’t mitigate most risks. Most corporations and government agencies do indeed require, as terms of employment and various legislation, that care be taken and policies or procedures followed when engaging in online public discourse or otherwise moving content from the corporate-controlled environment to the public Internet. Over the past years, many good tools and governance frameworks have been developed as a routine matter of enabling Internet content posting, distribution and syndication – but these have mostly focused on automation, protection and monitoring procedures associated with corporate-managed content. “Corporate-managed content” is defined as information products or artifacts that are specifically governed and managed by a combination of corporate policy, processes and information management systems.

    The availability and use of Internet-based “Web 2.0” tools (when used with collaborative intent termed “Social Media”) from inside corporate and agency firewalls are exposing additional types of information and styles of communication that don’t fall neatly into the corporate-managed information bucket. These social media information types and communication styles are proving quite difficult to manage from many perspectives, including legal compliance, risk management, security, personal or corporate reputation management and overall productivity and return-on-investment (ROI).

    Newer communication styles – such as those that result in creation of unmediated copies or renditions of original content - include things like “microblogging” (i.e. “Twitter”) and self-syndication, i.e. publishing content to sites like EzineArticles, Digg or public blogs, and enabling subscription to RSS feeds. These communication styles are used expressly for the purpose of enabling public propagation and information-sharing, for reasons ranging from actual corporate or agency public service mission, to marketing or simple relationship and reputation-building.

    Newer information types (to be considered from a corporate information management perspective) include RSS-formatted messages, micromedia (i.e. small, highly-portable, low-bandwidth and standardized image or video files), tags and attributions, social media press releases, backlinks, comments and pingbacks – these are the currency of social media, and that which provides permanent, public evidence of collaboration.

    Within the so-called “Enterprise 2.0” or especially "Government 2.0" context, these communication styles and information types aren’t so problematic – employee to employee socialization using corporate-managed Web 2.0 style tools is a low-risk, high-return activity, so long as it’s managed and monitored effectively. Many organizations have grown to understand and leverage information management tools to help control risk, productivity and costs associated with creating, publishing and sharing information internally. Systems that provide web content management, records management, business process and services registry/repository management, document management and various flavors of logging/auditing capabilities are well known and broadly-implemented. However, when these social media activities and content surface for public consumption on the Internet, unmanaged by corporate information management systems and associated with explicit or implicit attributes reflecting ownership, participation, intent, decisions, or opinion – the corporation or agency’s risk profile can rise dramatically, and asymmetrically.

    Consider this use case. A government agency wishes to post a photograph and description of a road closure on the Internet, making sure that the information not only appears on local “traditional” media Internet channels and the agency’s own website and subscription channels, but also in local “user-generated” community websites, blogs, and discussion forums, as well as larger 3rd-party user-generated media sites that allow localization through keywords or other metadata. Basically, the news needs to get out to both the “pull” environments (i.e. online traditional media), and the “push” environments (i.e. online social dialogue environments). What’s the process?

    A specific agency individual may be locally-empowered and trained to follow a procedure where, once the content is approved and loaded to the agency website with an associated press release, to further distribute the content through social media channels such as twitter, local community blogs and discussion groups, flickr and youtube. This activity, by this individual, can not only take a while, and miss important notification channels or groups, but also raises a number of questions regarding records management and government accountability:

    1. What keywords are used, to be sure that search engines find the information most efficiently?
    2. Are ALL policies, regulations and guidelines being taken into account, that may or may not be directly enforced by the “home” agency, but by other Federal oversight groups?
    3. Can the individual express opinion, either in the text copy or keywords?
      Are different social media channels and tools leveraged for different types of alerts like these, in different situations? To reach different audiences?
    4. Is there a standard and agreement by 3rd-party site owners that enables some degree of “authorized attribution” to the notice – i.e. this notice, and only in its issued form, is in fact “official”?
    5. How are records maintained of these postings and 3rd-party site updates? What about responses, are they monitored and associated with the postings, across multiple social media channels?

    What’s the process for correcting misinformation, or “fat-fingering”?

    The list of questions and concerns can quickly become very long, and range from the very abstract and strategic to very precise and tactical.

    Therefore, the concept of “Automated Social Media Governance” is raised. During the process of creating, staging, publishing, distributing and monitoring digital content released to the Internet via Social Media channels, there exist many opportunities to (A) automate these new information lifecycle processes, (B) automatically enforce social media information management policies and (C) automatically monitor and respond to associated social media events.

    It is important to note here the distinction between “digital content” and “digital assets” – in this paper we’re not focusing on digital content that’s expressly generated and monitored for revenue-generation purposes, and that has explicit monetary value (for example, widgets, photos or documents for sale). Rather, we’re focusing on digital content that by itself has no explicit value, but simply is an outcome of the corporation or agency’s communication or collaboration mission with the public. Digital Asset Socialization requires automated social media governance, but also requires additional governance and techniques associated with intellectual property protection, financial management and transactions, and cost recovery objectives.

    Automating information lifecycle processes isn’t a new concept – but automating the business processes and 3rd-party tool utilization required to leverage social media, in a manner that integrates with internal SOA/ESB, Content and Records Management capabilities, is. Consider the creation of a blog-style comment with keywords and trackback url(s) within a corporate content management system. The creation of this information package can be appropriately recorded and approved with existing tools. The actual auto-selection and approval of 3rd-party destinations, “scrub” of content and keywords for appropriateness or policy, creation of a standardized “information exchange package” and release of information with appropriate attribution and security enforcement from the official source of record to the “open source” Internet community is a new concept. This concept isn’t yet built into typical enterprise web content management and publishing systems, and is usually always a mishmash of personal or office initiative, conflicting, ambiguous or casually-interpreted policies, and redundant, overlapping activities with no strategic plan. The ability to automatically track, monitor and perhaps respond to misuse, reuse or other manual or automatic reactions to the content that’s been posted isn’t part of typical enterprise web content management systems, either.

    Should social media governance be automated, and to what extent? There’s one broad camp of opinion that espouses social media should be largely unfettered by heavy-handed policies and restrictive, burdensome data management processes (though obviously required in most secure government contexts) – it interferes with creativity, natural human interaction and the original intent of “social” Internet tools. Then there’s the very risk-adverse, highly-accountable camp of realists who by mission, job function or legislation must consider very closely the impacts of allowing unregulated information-sharing to cross corporate or agency boundaries of control. Regardless of the side of the control spectrum, there’s no doubt that some degree of social media governance automation can be helpful for risk mitigation, productivity or value optimization reasons. Simply including social media posts in the web content management workflow is probably a good idea, if only to record the outbound communication and targets, as well as preserve things like photos and videos in the format they were released for chain-of-custody and legal discovery purposes.

    Blackstone Technology Group is currently helping many commercial and government clients navigate the Social Media environment, whether from a governance, policy and investment perspective, or from an information management and process automation perspective. This topic is raised now in nearly every discussion where user-driven collaboration and communication results in production of digital content that’s currently not managed or monitored by corporate systems, processes or policies. Blackstone can provide the expertise your company or agency needs to understand information sharing and management concepts associated with the use of Social Media and Web 2.0 tools, including implementation, governance, opportunities and risks. Blackstone can help you automate all the various facets of Government 2.0, Social Media Governance and Information Management, whether for purposes of publishing or collecting information through social media channels.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Government 2.0 Coming Up

    From the tweetdeck: RSS to @blackstone’s microblog pings from #gov20camp 3/27/2009 complete w/tarpiped flickrs, tumblr’d friendsters, LinkedIn group comments and delicious GovLoop tags – maybe Ustream, Youtube or Podcast, too. Or just read our blog, or my blog. Socialize - it's the new granite.

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    Nonprofit Funding and Marketing with Social Media

    The outlook for continuation of difficult economic situations around the world certainly doesn't bode well for nonprofit organizations looking for new donors. What's interesting and provides some hope, however, is the confluence of new social media open source tools and mashups, the awareness of these new information sharing and collaboration sources on the Internet across multiple generations, and the transition in intent to use these tools from last year's political campaigns to the new Obama administration.

    One experiment underway that deserves close watch is a Loudoun-based nonprofit organization called "paws4people(TM)". In the midst of a full-on social media and internet marketing campaign, that I'm helping to coordinate, this assistance dog foundation is poised to demonstrate maximum utilization of any and all social media capabilities available - in the face of rapidly deteriorating donor funding. They're calling the campaign their "2009 Nonprofit Charity Stimulus Plan" - and it's off to a great start.

    The campaign is divided into three "digital asset domains". First is the paws4people Assistance Dog Foundation and activities of the charity itself, with great blogs, tweets, tarpiped social photos and tail-wagging commentary by the still-in-college founder. Second is the core fundraising machine called "charityraffles.org", leveraging Internet online raffles offering cash prizes for donors, along with the philanthropic benefits and write-off. Third is the really interesting part - where the fundraising machine can actually be leveraged and used by other nonprofits to supplement their own income stream - thereby benefiting ALL nonprofits that participate, in addition to paws4people. Called "NPOFundingSolutions", this cooperative social funding opportunity that pays nonprofits for raffle ticket sale referrals will test the usefulness, reach and efficacy of social media and search marketing/branding techniques to shore up the donor base where none may have existed before.

    More to come on the strategy and outcomes of this local bellweather initiative; keep an eye on this new social-media, search-engine driven recipe for hope.