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Avatars, Blogs and Wikis: How Web 2.0 is Transforming Government Bureaucracies
Andrew Krzmarzick Senior Project Coordinator Graduate School, USDA
Mobile: (202) 821‐6288 Andrew_Krzmarzick@grad.usda.gov http://generationshift.blogspot.com
Public Manager and ASPA 2008 INAUGURAL CONFERENCE “Transforming Bureaucratic Cultures: Challenges and Solutions for Public Management Practitioners”
July 28‐29, 2008 Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, Baltimore, MD
© 2008 Graduate School, USDA
“Web 2.0 is a trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to facilitate creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web‐based communities and hosted services, such as social‐networking sites, wikis, blogs and folksonomies. The term became notable after the first O‐Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end‐users use webs.”
“The first decade of e‐government was about moving services online and creating a single‐window access where citizens could visit one Web portal to file their taxes, renew a
driver’s license or review their Social Security account. It’s no longer sufficient to simply provide one‐ stop shopping for government services. Single‐window services constitute one‐way information flows to the citizen.
With the new, function‐rich infrastructure of Web 2.0, government no longer needs to work on its own to provide public value.
The Web provides a mechanism for collaboration between any combination of public agencies, the private sector, community groups and citizens…thereby providing greater value and lower cost to the customers of
government, and more engagement for the owners of government: the public.”
Excerpt from an interview with Anthony Williams Co‐author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (Portfolio, 2007)2
Found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2 Found at http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Expert‐Voices/Web‐20‐Reinventing‐Democracy/
Wikis and Webcasts and iPods, Oh My! Tools to Train the New Learner, Resource Guide, Page 2 © 2008 Graduate School, USDA
Army Secretary: We're Falling Behind Online
Excerpts from an article by David Axe, July 17, 2008 Senior Army leaders have fallen behind the breakneck development of cheap digital communications including cell phones, digital cameras and Web 2.0 Internet sites such as blogs and Facebook, Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a trade conference on July 10. That helps explain how "just one man in a cave that's hooked up to the Internet has been able to out‐communicate the greatest communications society in the history of the world ‐‐ the United States," Geren said, according to Inside Defense. "It's a challenge not only at home, it's a challenge in recruiting, it's a challenge internationally, because effective communication brings people over to our side and ineffective communication allows the enemy to pull people to their side," Geren continued. He said the Army brass needs to catch up ‐‐ fast. But how exactly? At the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, a tiny office of Web‐savvy mavericks is creating Army‐ specific Web 2.0 tools (blogs, forums, social networks) for soldiers. At the Army's graduate school in Kansas, blogging is a new addition to the curriculum. And just recently the Army launched its own "blogger's roundtable" program to arrange press conference for online journalists. For the full article, please go to: http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/07/army‐secretary.html
U.S. Air Force Lets Web 2.0 Flourish Behind Walls
Excerpt from an article by Stephen Lawson, July 17, 2008 (IDG News Service) The U.S. Air Force is using Web 2.0 technologies to better support its missions despite wariness about security, a civilian technology official of the service said last week. The new techniques, including blogs, wikis and personal profiles, are coming out of an initiative by Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN), a resource provided on the Department of Defense (DOD) intranet. They're helping service members and civilian employees find the information they need more quickly and are now being shared with members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines… For example, an Air Force security specialist recently was ordered to build an armory in Baghdad, so he went to the Security Forces Community of Practice message board and asked how to do this. An officer at a base in the U.S. had recently built one, so he posted the official instructions to the board along with tips from his own experience, Adkins said. For the full article, please go to: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/071708‐us‐air‐force‐lets‐ web.html?fsrc=rss‐security
Wikis and Webcasts and iPods, Oh My! Tools to Train the New Learner, Resource Guide, Page 3 © 2008 Graduate School, USDA
Creating a BLOG in 5 Steps or Less
Pick a Blog Platform: • www.blogger.com • www.typepad.com • www.wordpress.com
Create an Account: • • • • Email address Password Display name Accept terms
Name Your Blog • Blog title • Blog address (URL) • Template selection
Produce Content • Professional activities • Area of expertise Publish Post!
Wikis and Webcasts and iPods, Oh My! Tools to Train the New Learner, Resource Guide, Page 4 © 2008 Graduate School, USDA
10 Steps to Create an Organizational Blog3
Define your vision/audience: Different situations call for different measures. You could use a corporate blog as: a) an educational tool, b) a feedback loop, c) conversation starters (for the blogosphere as well as other media), d) a focus group, and/or e) a crisis management tool.
2. Designate an editor or chief blogger: Who is it that you want to guide the process, monitor and control content and ensure the consistent communication of your vision to the target audience? 3. Create an internal team to support the project: Strategically, this is THE most important aspect of organizational blogging, because selecting an internal team is as important as establishing a connection with your target audience. 4. Define your content categories: Once your vision is clear, begin to create the buckets of content for populating the blog – what topics will you address? Is there an order in which these topics need to be presented? 5. Enlist contributors and plan posts: Before you start blogging, generate a list of possible blog contributors from within your organization to address the content categories. 6. Create a blog calendar: Your blog is built for a specific purpose, so a calendar of posts is essential. The calendar can also be built around the different categories/tags you've envisioned and that way you'll have a steady flow of posts. 7. Define your template/layout: A blog template has to be in consonance with your organization’s mission. 8. Stick to the content categories: "Laser like focus" is an essential prerequisite for any blog, more so for an organizational blog. Once you define the categories or tags, NEVER veer away from them and start creating content on a regular basis and keep increasing the frequency. 9. Veer towards content that provides value: Crafting 5 posts a week from 10 categories, means you'll be veering towards content that has increasingly provided more value for your audience. If your blog is an educational tool, then start focusing on posts that encompass outline tutorials and keep augmenting the value. Maybe, start enhancing your tutorials in multi‐media to add to the text based posts. 10. Measure progress: Once you start your blog it's always good to invest in an analytics software that can help you track, plan and measure the growth of your blog. This in addition to the feed stats measurement tools. The first few months of blog growth can be measured by the following four stats: 1. Technorati ranking, 2. Alexa ranking, 3. Comments, 4. # Subscribed to your feed, etc...
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Blogs Transforming Government
This blog is written by EPA employees (and occasional guests) about the things they bring to their jobs every day. The opinions and comments expressed in Greenversations are those of the authors alone and do not reflect an Agency policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy of the contents of the blog.
http://www.tsa.gov/blog/ This blog is sponsored by the
Transportation Security Administration to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.
You can find all active government blogs at this address:
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4 Blogs Worth Reading4
Adapted from Federal Computer Week, May 12, 2008
1. Department of Health and Human Services blog
Found at: secretarysblog.hhs.gov
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was the first head of an agency to write a public blog, which started Aug. 13, 2007, after HHS set up a pandemic flu blog in advance of a conference on preparedness. Leavitt’s blog covers a wide variety of issues, including health information technology. Leavitt regularly updates his blog, which is remarkable for the head of a major department, and discusses HHS and general health issues. The blog also fosters further discussions.
2. Congressional Budget Office Director’s Blog
Found at: cboblog.cbo.gov
Peter Orszag, the Congressional Budget Office’s director, discusses the office’s duties, including how the office does its work and what types of analysts it has. Although the CBO blog does not accept comments — some might argue that it can’t be a blog unless it accepts comments — Orszag is often frank when he writes about issues that range from the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to life expectancy differentials.
Found at: blogs.state.gov
DipNote, the State Department’s public blog, started in September 2007 and offers a different take on U.S. foreign policy information. Readers can discuss foreign policy issues with senior State Department officials. DipNote entries discuss foreign policy issues, and a variety of State employees contribute to the blog. The site encourages conversations about the issues, including ones within the agency. Last year, DipNote was the venue for a conversation about whether Foreign Service Officers should be assigned to Iraq. Someone’s post spurred an engaging discussion.
4. Navy Department CIO blog
Found at: www.doncio.navy.mil/Blog.aspx Robert Carey, the Navy’s chief information officer, is the first federal CIO to regularly write a publicly posted blog. Carey entered the blogosphere in January and writes about a variety of CIO issues, ranging from information technology workforce issues to security and information sharing. As one of the most thoughtful CIOs, Carey often addresses issues that most CIOs face. The blog recently started posting comments publicly after initially having a review process for comments. Comments are often as valuable as a post.
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Creating a WIKI in 5 Steps or Less
Step 1: Pick a Wiki Platform: • www.pbwiki.com • www.wetpaint.com • www.wikispaces.com Create an Account: • • • • Step 3:
Name Email address Password Wiki Name
Setup Your Wiki • Public or Private? • Invite Key • Terms of Service
Produce Content • Collaborators unite! Edit and Post
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Wikis Transforming Government
A project of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Intelligence Community Enterprise Services (ICES), Intellipedia is an online system for collaborative data sharing used by personnel with appropriate clearances from 16 agencies. It’s not open to the public.
Allows users to edit an article on each page about pending legislation so that experts and people "in the know" can make information available to the general public.
Explores new ways of speeding the flow of information, knowledge and news about one of the world's greatest natural resources. It relies on the experience and knowledge of a network of citizens, including scientists, hunters, policymakers, environmentalists, anglers, lakeside property owners, boaters, business operators and others who care about the Great Lakes region.
Wikis and Webcasts and iPods, Oh My! Tools to Train the New Learner, Resource Guide, Page 9 © 2008 Graduate School, USDA
By Justin Rood email@example.com January 11, 2006 – Excerpts from the Article Less than two hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast 0n Aug. 29, for example, volunteers had set up a "wiki" ‐‐ an open, collaborative online tool ‐‐ to be a central repository for information to help survivors find aid and volunteers to provide it. As officials struggled to straighten out their bureaucratic hierarchies, the Hurricane Katrina Help Wiki (www.katrinahelp.info) quickly became a more comprehensive source of information than any government outlet, helping tens of thousands of people use dozens of largely uncoordinated public and private efforts to save themselves and their pets, find food and shelter, and locate loved ones. Thousands contributed information updated postings and made corrections. The handful of organizers were facilitators, not directors. They couldn't order people to participate or point to a White House directive for authority. They had little control over the site or its contributors. Yet the result was stunning. Such self‐organizing collaborations ‐‐ "swarms," as they've come to be called ‐‐ are in some cases more effective, efficient and resilient than other organizations, researchers have found. Responsibility is shared, participants feel more invested and oversight is spread to the edges of the group instead of hoarded at the top. Still, their success is something of a mystery. "The system works, but sometimes you can't really explain why it works and how it works," says Eric Bonabeau, a Cambridge, Mass.‐based researcher and consultant to the public and private sectors, who has studied the phenomenon. "Its behavior is the result of myriad interactions." Bonabeau has co‐authored two books on the subject, Intelligence Collective (Hermès Sciences, Paris, 1994) and Swarm Intelligence (Oxford University Press, 1999). For the system to work in government and business, managers must let go, he says, and few executives (in government, especially) are willing to embrace a solution they can neither completely control nor explain, even for intractable problems. "Managers would rather live with a problem they can't solve than with a solution they don't understand," Bonabeau says. A government executive's aversion to the swarm approach might be as prudent as it is conservative. Throwing a group of people into a room and telling them to solve a problem holds little appeal to someone who might have to testify before Congress if the effort fails. On the flip side, removing "ownership" is part of what might make swarms work, particularly interagency collaborations such as Brennan's center. "Ownership implies hierarchy implies authority, which implies command over resources," says former CIA analyst Pherson. "Most of that doesn't work for [information‐sharing]."
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Creating a Podcast in 5 Steps or Less
Step 1: Pick a Podcasting Platform: • www.podomatic.com • www.talkshoe.com • www.wildvoice.com Create an Account: • • • • Step 3: User Name Password Email Phone/Pin
Create Your Call • Title • Public or Unlisted? • Recording? Start/Record Call Edit and Post
Step 4: Step 5:
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Podcasts Transforming Government
www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/ NASAcast is a collection of audio or video content, including modules entitled This Week @NASA, NASA Moments, Shuttle and Station, Solar System, Universe, Earth and Student Opportunities.
www.pentagonchannel.mil/podcast.aspx The Pentagon Channel broadcasts military news and information for the 2.6 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces through programming including news briefings, interviews with top Defense officials, and short stories about the work of our military.
For a full list of government podcasts, go to: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/Podcasts.shtml or http://freegovinfo.info/node/174
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More Agencies Turn to Podcasts to Get Message Out5
By COURTNEY MABEUS April 22, 2008
Don’t have time to catch the morning weather forecast? Depending on where you live, the National Weather Service might have a solution. Get your weather to go in the form of a podcast. People living in the Baltimore‐Washington region can already do that. The Weather Service’s Baltimore‐ Washington regional office in Sterling, Va., started making daily forecasts available about a year ago as a way to experiment with the technology, said Steve Listemaa, an information technology officer in the regional office. “It’s an easier way to get our information out there,” he said. So far, only three Weather Service offices — Sterling; El Paso, Texas; and Anchorage, Alaska — appear to be making weather podcasts available, but those examples are indicative of various agencies’ efforts to explore how they can adapt podcast technology to disseminate information about services or events. Podcasts are digital audio or video files that are uploaded to the Internet and then can be downloaded to a playback device, like Apple’s iPod or Microsoft’s Zune. Just about anyone with a way to digitally record audio or video can upload the files to the Internet via Apple’s iTunes or other podcasting Web sites at little to no cost. One of the first agencies to move into podcasting was the Defense Department. It began offering audio downloads of programs on the Pentagon Channel — http://www.pentagonchannel.mil — in spring 2005. The channel offers news and documentaries, among other programs. Since then, more than 7.1 million podcasts have been downloaded, said Michael Winnaker, a marketing coordinator for the channel. Brian Natwick, general manager of the Pentagon Channel, said he got the idea during a trip to Afghanistan in 2005 with the military. As he boarded an aircraft, he noticed about 80 percent of the soldiers on board had whipped out their iPods. “It just kind of hit me that this is another distribution technique that we have to add to our model,” Natwick said. The podcasts are an easy and inexpensive way to reach deployed troops, Natwick said. “We’re pushing voting right now,” Natwick said. “Overseas voting is really important to us.” There are about a dozen Pentagon Channel video and audio programs available as podcasts. Among the most popular are daily news roundups and “RECON,” a monthly documentary series on topics such as operations and military history.
Found at http://federaltimes.com/index.php?S=3492381
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This month’s series is about preparing for war at the Joint Readiness Training Center. Also popular is “Fit for Duty,” a half‐hour exercise program that offers resistance and strength training and pilates. The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will launch its first podcast this week and is planning two series: One is targeted to consumers; and another, with information about safety inspections, is meant to reach plant owners, managers and employees. “Different people receive information in different ways,” FSIS spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said. “It’s kind of a no‐hassle approach to getting information out there.” The Federal Aviation Administration is also exploring podcasts as a way to communicate with air traffic controllers, FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relies on podcasts to reach some public health professionals and health care providers with updates about vaccination issues and news such as E. coli outbreaks, said Fred Smith, a senior technologist with CDC’s Division of e‐Health Marketing. He also has discussed the idea of cooperating with the State Department to provide podcasts targeted at overseas travelers. “The idea is to get this set up [so] that if there is a pandemic flu,” the government can more easily deliver vital information, Smith said. The Coast Guard’s District 13 headquartered in Seattle is eyeing podcasting as a possible recruiting tool. The office started to offer video podcasts on its Web site in January and has purchased helmet cameras for boat crew members to wear during missions and catch some of the action for later upload, said Paul Roszkowski, an assistant public affairs officer who helped coordinate the project. “What it allows them to do is to show a recruit, or a possible recruit, the different aspects of the job,” Roszkowski said. “It’s new ground for the government.”
Wikis and Webcasts and iPods, Oh My! Tools to Train the New Learner, Resource Guide, Page 14 © 2008 Graduate School, USDA
Social Virtual Networking in 5 Steps or Less
Step 1: Pick a Place to Connect: • • • • www.facebook.com www.govloop.com www.myspace.com www.linkedin.com
Create an Account: • • • • • Full Name Email Password Gender Birthday
Step 3: Step 4: Step 5:
Confirm Your Email Address
Set Up Your Web Page
Edit and Post
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Social Virtual Networking Transforming Government
http://www.facebook.com/pages/National‐ Highway‐Institute/21222272418?ref=ts Launched two months ago, only 19 fans can be found. It includes some information about NHI such as a link back to the agency, its Report Card, training offerings and a promotional presentation.
http://groups.myspace.com/centralintelligence Currently, stands at 93 members with Forum Topics that range from “Intelligence Questions” ff “ st ll ”
http://www.govloop.com/ After just one month, there are 450 members and growing. The website offers discussion forums, blog posts, event announcement and many more ways for public servants to connect with one another and engage in knowledge sharing.
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Washington Unveils MySpace Page and Facebook Group6
November 8, 2007, News Report
Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed launched today an agency MySpace page and Washington State Elections Facebook group. Both are part of an effort using social media to engage all of Washington's citizens. "Today people don't get their information from just one source. They might listen to the radio on their way to work, grab a newspaper at the office, watch the evening news, and logon to Facebook at night. We must adapt to their changing needs," emphasized Reed. Currently, the MySpace page offers viewers information about the upcoming November General Election and Washington elections. Throughout the calendar year, the page will be updated to feature the various programs and responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary of State. Visitors to the page can make comments and submit questions directly to the agency. A calendar of public meetings, important dates to remember and events are also listed on the site. MySpace.com is the third most popular Web site in the United States and has on a few occasions topped out as the nation's number one most popular Web site. Facebook users are invited to join the Washington State Elections Facebook group. Users who sign up as group members are sent reminders of important deadlines and dates to remember. Members of the group will receive up‐to‐the minute information about current hot topics in Washington State's Elections. Facebook.com has the largest number of registered users among college‐focused sites, with more than 42 million active members worldwide. "As social media, or web 2.0, continues to grow it's important to recognize its impact on the people we serve," said Reed. "Government is here for the people and finding new ways to reach out to the citizens it serves is crucial to transparency and trust." Earlier this year, Secretary Reed launched a series of MySpace and e‐mail vote reminders for the State Primary in August and the State General Election in November. In addition to information available on MySpace and Facebook, the office has also started to utilize video through YouTube, including video offering viewers an inside look at Washington Elections.
Found at http://www.govtech.com/gt/174341
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YouTube in 5 Steps or Less
Step 1: Step 2:
Go to the Website: • www.youtube.com Create an Account: • • • • • • • • • Email Password Username Location Postal Code Date of Birth Gender Verify Word Agree to Terms
Step 3: Step 4:
Produce or Pick a Video
Upload the Video • • • • • • • Title Description Video Category Tags Broadcast Options Date and Map Options Sharing Options
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YouTube Transforming Government
www.youtube.com/Californiagovernment Check out California’s official YouTube channel, where they have public service announcements, messages from Governor Schwarzenegger, and videos from the Department
Go to www.YouTube.com and search on “Smokey Bear” to see PSAs throughout the years!
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U.S. Agencies Set Up YouTube for Spies7
Shaun Waterman, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor, March 19, 2008
WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) ‐‐ U.S. intelligence agencies have set up a series of secure Web sites on which analysts and other officials can post and view videos ‐‐ a YouTube for spies. The initiative, dubbed iVideo, is part of an effort by U.S. intelligence chiefs to equip their staffs with Web 2.0 tools and other standard accoutrements of a 21st century workplace. It was discussed by the two CIA officials who shepherded it to fruition at a recent technology conference, reported by Federal Computer Week. The magazine's reporting was independently confirmed to UPI by U.S. intelligence officials authorized to speak to the media. According to the officials, Sean Dennehy and Don Burke, three sites exist at different classification levels: top secret, mainly used by intelligence agency staff; secret, also available to many Defense and State Department officials; and sensitive but unclassified, which is open to state, local and federal government employees and law enforcement officials more generally. The iVideo sites are one of a series of innovations, like the widely reported Intellipedia ‐‐ a user‐created and edited encyclopedia along the lines of the Web's Wikipedia ‐‐ being pushed to encourage more collaboration and creative thinking among staffs of the sprawling and occasionally fractious collection of agencies that insiders call the U.S. intelligence community. Others include a photo‐sharing application similar to Flickr, a tool for bookmarking Web pages that is similar to del.icio.us, and instant messaging and blogging software. "Just like on the real Web, if you want to upload photos, you tend to go to Flickr. If you want to upload videos, you go to YouTube," Don Burke told FCW. "It's the same thing on the intelligence community networks now." The officials said the iVideo sites already have hundreds of postings. "It's been pretty remarkable how people have gravitated to it, and it shows that there actually was a need for this capability," said Dennehy. "This is kind of grass‐roots adoption."
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Second Life Transforming Government
The State of Missouri recruits information technology professionals through Second Life. Their presence on Second Life gives potential employees the opportunity to explore available positions and get information about the surrounding area (in real life!). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has an island (called Meteora) in Second Life’s SciLands where they have a weather map, conduct meetings, engage in Tsunami simulations and offer a hurricane rides. It looks like they have established a second island called Okeanos where visitors can launch a trip to the ocean floor!
CDC Island on Second Life has several kiosks and “billboards” with useful information. They even have robot that will take your questions and suggestions for improvements to the island!
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U.S. Government Presence Grows in Second Life8
Agencies use virtual reality environment for education, outreach
By Cheryl Pellerin, USINFO Staff Writer, May 2007
Washington – Since early 2007, more than 6 million virtual residents of the online world called Second Life have had new neighbors – a handful of U.S. government agencies that are exploring possibilities for education, collaboration and outreach in the popular real‐time multiverse. Agencies that have facilities of varying complexity and interaction in Second Life include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, the National Institutes of Health and its National Library of Medicine (NLM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation and many other U.S. agencies also have representatives in this virtual world who attend regular “in‐world” meetings of government representatives to discuss Second Life and how best to work with its features. With virtual residents from more than 100 real‐life countries, Second Life is a good place to reach people with a range of messages – about health, science, disaster preparedness, education, current issues and more. “Second Life provides a new medium, a new ability to communicate with citizens and customers,” said NOAA information technology specialist Eric Hackathorn during a May 4 interview at the NOAA facility in Second Life. In Second Life, Hackathorn said, “people have the ability to communicate directly with NOAA in a two‐way conversation ... behind the corporate firewall. To me, it’s the price of doing business in the 21st century.” LIVING SECOND LIFE Second Life opened in 2003, created by Linden Lab, a San Francisco‐based company founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale, to create a new form of shared experience. Its residents own and build the world’s digital infrastructure, including homes, vehicles, nightclubs, stores, landscapes, clothing, games, islands, schools, companies, government organizations, libraries and more. Anyone can sign up for a free membership by registering with Second Life and creating an avatar – a member’s persona in the virtual world. This virtual world, says Linden Lab, teems with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. It even has an economy based on Linden dollars – about 265 Lindens to the U.S. dollar. Millions of Linden dollars change hands every month for resident‐created goods and services, and can be bought and sold on LindeX, Second Life's official Linden dollar exchange.
Found at http://www.america.gov/st/washfile‐english/2007/May/20070508163536lcnirellep0.2645075.html
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VIRTUAL GOVERNMENT Of all the U.S. government agencies in Second Life, NOAA has the most complex facility so far. On its own island, called Meteora, visitors can experience a hurricane on the wing of a research aircraft, rise through the atmosphere clinging to a weather balloon, stand on a beach during a tsunami, or ride underwater on a NOAA submersible. NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory developed the site by holding a competition among Second Life design companies and letting Second Life residents help choose the winner. “Right now we have an island that has a smattering of NOAA’s research,” Hackathorn said, “but NOAA does so much more. Incorporating those activities will take a heck of a lot more land. Ultimately, I’d like to see a NOAA continent.” Not far from Meteora is Health Info Island, a medical library and virtual hospital initially funded with a $40,000 National Library of Medicine (NLM) grant to a group called Library Alliance in Illinois to provide consumer health information services in virtual worlds. There are three buildings on the island, said NLM technical information specialist Laura Bartlett, a consumer health library, a medical library and a health and wellness center. Over time, the project will provide training programs, outreach to virtual medical communities, consumer health resources and one‐on‐one support to Second Life residents. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH Another NLM division, the Office of Outreach and Special Populations in the Division of Specialized Information Services, is exploring Second Life as a way to improve access to high‐quality, accurate health information in underserved and special populations. “Second Life and many [similar] tools are becoming very popular,” said Victor Cid, senior computer scientist in the Office of Outreach and Special Populations, “and we believe it is very important to start exploring these tools as means to disseminate information, reach people and collaborate.” Some government agencies, like CDC, have basic facilities so far that offer two‐dimensional information and little interactivity. Others, like the Department of Homeland Security, do not yet have permanent spaces in Second Life but are making use of the digital world. Jean‐Paul Boucher is a contractor with SRA International Inc., a company doing several Second Life projects for government agencies. His avatar wears a shirt with a Homeland Security logo. Homeland Security, he said, “is holding a virtual conference the first week in June in the auditorium on NOAA’s island for first responders and academics from around the United States.” Such collaboration, Boucher added, is one of the great values of Second Life. “It’s a tremendously powerful tool set that eliminates the time and space boundaries that normally hold people back from collaborating with each other,” he said. “We see that as another primary focus for the government.”
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