U.S. Navy releases new Social Media Handbook

“Re-verify our range to target… one tweet only”
Captain Marko Ramius

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy publicly released its new social media handbook. The updated guide, embedded, below provides sailors with a guide secure use of Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the networked world.

“The rapid growth of social media platforms and technologies have flattened and democratized the communications environment in ways we are just beginning to comprehend,” says D. J. Moynihan, Navy chief of information, in the introduction. “Social media is an effective channel to communicate relevant, aligned and targeted information to the stakeholders that we want to reach, including some we have had a hard time reaching before. As with the advent of other communication technologies – phone, fax, websites – we must exercise caution to use these tools safely and effectively, and we must educate our Soldiers and families to do the same.”

This handbook should make for good weekend reading. As I thought about what it means to have more sailors online, I couldn’t help but recall an apt mock WWII propaganda poster by Brian Lane Winfield Moore: “Loose tweets sink fleets.”

WWIII Propaganda: Loose Tweets Sink Fleets

Steady as she goes, gentleman. You don’t have to sit in a crow’s nest to see the need to take care with the new media platforms.

UPDATED: The L.A. Times called the Navy’s new social media policy “required reading for political campaigners.” Craig Howie compared these new rules of engagement for a virtually enhanced battlefield to the campaign front. The metaphor is probably inevitable in this heated election season, and given the advice in the handbook, useful.

USA.gov launches new iPhone app on its 10th Anniversary

This October marks the 10th anniversary of USA.gov, the nation’s search engine for government. And, as it turns out, now there’s an app for that. Nope, it’s not Apps.gov of even Apps.USA.gov. The General Services Administration quietly added a new USA.gov iPhone app to iTunes a few days ago. Why is it important? When American look for government information, they use search engines. While most of them go to Google and Bing, now they have another option when they fire up a smartphone.

The new app integrates access to a useful government dataset for citizens: a product recall database. The same access is available through a Product Recall app online, for Android or on mobile devices at Recalls.gov. That also means that citizens don’t have to have a smartphone to access public data, a issue for accessibility and the digital divide. For those inclined, the app also provides mobile search for local, state and federal websites, including predictive search.

The new USA.gov app is beautifully designed, lightweight and didn’t crash on me after ten minutes of searching and browsing. The integration of a “tap to call” feature with the iPhone on the home screen also preserves a handy “Gov 1.0” feature as well: 1 800 FED INFO.

As the app description in iTunes notes, the app makes public data like birth, marriage and death records freely available to all citizens (provided that they have an iOS device with an Internet connection). Search.USA.gov provides similar access on both mobile and desktop users, for folks who prefer a Web browser to an app. Information about schools, passport and visas, tax codes, government jobs and Social Security benefits is also available.

The addition of the USA.gov to iTunes ends a quiet but important lag in getting a free government app onto the world’s largest mobile application platform. When Apps.USA.gov launched, Apple apps were conspicuously absent. Months later, the legal difficulties between the feds and Cupertino appear to resolved.

As a result, parents can search the FDA database to see which toys have been recalled. While it’s true that analysts can (and no doubt will) point to the USA.gov app as the latest example of “shiny app syndrome,” making a better interface for open data is a win for everyone.

Slideshow: Fedtalks 2010

The slideshow above is a selection of pictures from today’s Fedtalks in Washington. (Look for more high quality photography soon from the event organizers). If you can’t see the Flash slideshow, you can view my full Fedtalks 2010 set on Flickr.

GSA launches Apps.gov NOW to offer Feds new citizen engagement tools

Will a platform for citizen engagement help federal government employees reach their open government goals?

Today at Fedtalks in Washington, the General Services Administration’s director of citizen engagement, Gwynne Kostin, talked about its new open government platform, Apps.gov NOW. Apps.gov NOW launched in August but the Gov 2.0 community hasn’t heard much about it until this morning.

The new platform, available at citizen.apps.gov, allows federal employees to choose from technologies that enables them to create blogs, challenge tools, wikis or forums. Kostin talked about how employees can then upload a banner, add plug-ins or traffic reporting, and import data feeds. It’s essentially turnkey technology, with the regulatory compliance backhaul simplified for usage. 508 compliance for disability is particularly relevant to many feds.

“We cleared away a lot of the issues with policy,” said Kostin. “We expect this tool to be especially important to small agencies or for projects that need to get market fast.”

Pattern Recognition and Spimewatch: Visions of Open Cities of the Future

If you had five minutes to talk about the future, what would you say?

Last month, I had the privilege of presenting at two Ignite sessions, Ignite NYC at the Web 2.0 Expo and Ignite D.C. later in the week. If you’re not familiar, Ignites are 5 minute-long talks where presenters share subject they’re passionate about, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. If you’re not used to that rhythm, it can be tricky.

The video of my talk at Ignite D.C. is embedded below:

The presentation and associated links is embedded below:

Curious about the title for my talks? As fellow science fiction fans know, the title for these Ignite talks is an homage to two author: William Gibson, and Bruce Sterling. Gibson, sometimes called the “noir prophet” of cyberpunk, coined the term cyberspace and wrote “Pattern Recognition,” an enjoyable yarn about the future-present. Sterling, also an notable cyberpunk author, maintains the excellent Wired blog “Beyond the Beyond,” which has an entire category called “Spimewatch.”

US CTO pitches open government, innovation and health IT to Silicon Valley

What is the federal chief technology officer up to out in Silicon Valley? From afar, however, it’s looks like federal CTO Aneesh Chopra is stirring up awareness about open government and entrepreneurship in the venture capital community in California. He’s also traveling with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CTO Todd Park to add his compatriot’s considerable enthusiasm for innovation in healthcare information technology (HIT). Chopra’s slides follow:

Following is a quick rundown of the websites and initiatives Chopra referenced in the presentation:

For a classic dispatch written by a great tech journalist, Wade Roush, make sure to read his interview with Aneesh Chopra on entrepreneurship, health IT, open government and “data as a policy lever.”

During the event, I picked up some tweets coming out of a “D.C.-to-Silicon Valley” event and curated them using the Storify tool. It proved to be a bit unstable – apps in beta are fun! – but you’ll find a “living version” of the story embedded in the post below.


HHS CTO announces HealthData.gov, explains Blue Button and next steps for Health2Challenge

Have you met Todd Park? He’s the first CTO of Health and Human Services Department of the United States. Earlier this week, he announced the upcoming launch of HealthData.gov, a new website that will publish open government health data. If you’re unfamiliar with Park, I interviewed him at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo:

Park and I talked about his open government work at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he’s been trying to make community health information as useful as weather data. We also spoke about the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge, a series of code-a-thons and team competitions to build apps based upon community health data. “Games are a non-trivial information dissemination approach” that can drive actionable behavior, said Park at HealthCamp, referring to many of the entries that use game mechanics to socialize the data. The developer challenge culminated this week during the fourth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

The nation now can see more about what the tech community has come up since this spring, when the question of whether there’s a healthcare app for that was answered the first time. “Social value and economic value can go hand in hand,” he said to a health IT summit in San Francisco. Below, Park talks about the Veterans Administration’s new “Blue Button,” which provides access to downloadable personal health data.

In the video, Park outlines the agency’s plan to offer military veterans and Medicare recipients the ability to download their own health records using a digital “blue button” on MyMedicare.gov and MyHealthyVet. Fried reported on veterans getting downloadable health info at CNET.com. Park, VA CTO Peter Levin and federal CTO Aneesh Chopra blogged about the Blue Button at WhiteHouse.gov:

Veterans who log onto My HealtheVet at http://www.myhealth.va.gov and click the Blue Button can save or print information from their own health records. Using a similar Blue Button, Medicare beneficiaries who are registered users of http://www.mymedicare.gov can log onto a secure site where they can save or print their Medicare claims and self-entered personal information. Data from of each site can be used to create portable medical histories that will facilitate dialog with Veterans’ and beneficiaries’ health care providers, caregivers, and other trusted individuals or entities.

This new option will help Veterans and Medicare beneficiaries save their information on individual computers and portable storage devices or print that information in hard copy. Having ready access to personal health information from Medicare claims can help beneficiaries understand their medical history and partner more effectively with providers. With the advent of the Blue Button feature, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to view their claims and self-entered information—and be able to export that data onto their own computer. The information is downloaded as an “ASCII text file,” the easiest and simplest electronic text format. This file is also easy to read by the individual; it looks like an organized report.

More than 60,000 people have already downloaded their PHRs. As those technically savvy writers emphasize, however, this will create thousands of opportunities to have that sensitive data leak. They stressed the importance of using encryption and password protection to protect the records. For those watching the development of health IT, the future that the 3 CTOs hint about near the end of the post will be of particular interest:

Soon, Blue Button users may be able to augment the downloaded information that is housed on their computers—or that they transferred to a commercial personal health record or other health application—through automated connections to, and downloads from, major pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS; lab systems such as Quest and LabCorp; and an increasing number of inpatient and outpatient electronic medical records systems.

Keep an eye out for how that develops.

Below, Park kicks off the Healthcamp SF Bay event.


Here are his slides from the event:

Below, he summarizes his Healthcamp session.