Midshipman Withington brought up the first Danger Room article suggesting that the DoD may take drastic steps to shut down access to social software services, but I wanted to touch on the details in the second, updated Danger Room post on the subject.
As a reminder, the debate is the full spectrum of access options for DoD employees. It isn’t just whether DoD networks should be used to post information, but whether DoD networks should have access to read social networks. To understand the scope of the problem, it needs to be noted that anyone on an external internet network can use Twitter to update nonsense like this:
On duty @ the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center. All is currently (relatively) quiet. Honor 2 be back w/ my fellow Navy colleagues
Thank you very much Commander Mark Kirk, Navy Reserve. BTW, who is Mark Kirk? I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
Mark Kirk represents the 10th Congressional District of Illinois located in the suburbs north of Chicago.
Now in his fifth term, Congressman Kirk is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is co-chairman of the moderate GOP Tuesday Group and the bipartisan House US-China Working Group.
In Congress, Congressman Kirk works to advance a suburban agenda that is pro-defense, pro-personal responsibility, pro-environment, and pro-science. He wrote a number of provisions which became law, including funding for commuter rail, improving veteran’s health care, ensuring military voting, and boosting aviation security.
Kirk, who holds the rank of Commander, is a Naval Reserve intelligence officer and has served during conflicts with Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia. He recently became the first member of Congress to serve in an imminent danger zone since 1942 when he deployed as a reservist to Afghanistan in December. The U.S. Navy named Kirk ‘Intelligence Officer of the Year’ in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo.
If the DoD sees this as a software problem, then the DoD is helpless and hopeless in the next information war. This is 100% a human problem, and is specific to policy and lack of decisive leadership when it comes to social software.
If I was contributing advice to the DoD, I would come down like this. What is the functional purpose of social software to the work of folks inside the DoD and the Navy? Until that question can be answered with an acceptable use policy for an organization, actions like those of Commander Kirk should be expected to be the rule even if they represent the exception today.
The tools should be evaluated individually as part of this process, because for most organizations, even popular tools like Facebook and Twitter may not have a functional purpose while a bandwidth hog like YouTube may have an important functional purpose for the average employee. The reality is, in many government organizations, Facebook and Twitter offer almost no business function whatsoever to the typical employee. For example, I do not see how any soldier, sailor, or airman whose job function isn’t specific to public information disclosure of some kind can find the use of Twitter or Facebook useful to their work.
If you disagree with my take on Twitter, leave a 140 character work related comment that somehow generates a response that improves the quality of your work in a way that doesn’t give any detailed identifying information.
In my professional experience, tool analysis is usually the missing aspect of the social software acceptable use policy. Twitter may be great for the public affairs employee, but for the 99.9% of other employees it offers no value at all for any time spent using the tool while on the clock. Another example is how public affairs blogs tend to be so boring, so as a general rule blogs are not very productive for public affairs purposes. With that said, a blog post by a respectable doctor discussing details of H1N1 can be useful to any of several thousands of employees in any organization, so access to blogs by employees is often much more useful than access to Twitter by employees.
It is a very simple concept. Once an organization knows which tools are productive for workers, and which tools aren’t, the resulting acceptable use policy of the organization often assists employees towards understanding not only why they are and are not allowed to use specific tools, but what makes the specific tools that are allowed useful and productive and thus justifies the stated policy. Like I said, very simple concepts…