Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yeah. Me Too.

Mike Mahaffie's Facebook profileYes. I too am now on FaceBook. I don't know if it was social pressure, my normal curiosity, or simply inevitable; but there I am.

I appear to have joined at a time of rapid growth in the use of FaceBook. It may have something to do with the recent success of the Obama campaign on several social networks. Politicians and other community leaders are signing up to increase communications.

Even the Washington Post's technology editors have been sucked-in to the point where, if nothing else, they are mocking the latest meme making the FaceBook rounds: 25 Random Things About Me.

I see increased use of any communications tool generally as a good thing, but there are stresses that come with this upsurge. In Maryland, for example, access to FaceBook by state legislators has been blocked, according to another story on the Washington Post web site (Plug Pulled on Md. Legislature's Facebook, MySpace for Fear of Viruses). That has sparked some discontent among the legislators:

"It's like blocking cellphones," said Del. Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery), a software engineer, who uses his Facebook page to update constituents about legislation he is sponsoring -- and share cute pictures of his daughter.

FaceBook is also blocked Delaware's state government network. It is among a group of sites (including twitter, another useful tool) classified as "extreme social networking" sites by our IT folks. I understand their caution, but I do think these sites can be used as valuable communications tools between elected officials and their constituents, between state workers and the people they serve, and among professionals within governments.

Part of my experimentation with both twitter and FaceBook (done now on my off time, at home, or using non-state communications devices) has been to explore their use in meeting the goals of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), an organization of state-level GIS coordinators across the US for which I serve as Communications Committee Chair.

So I will continue to explore. And if FaceBook, or twitter, or any other communications tool that comes along, might be useful in my professional life, and is allowed by the IT barons, then I will try to find a way to use it to the advantage of the people I work for and with.


Mark said...

It's interesting that Delaware's IT policies don't allow access to Facebook or Twitter from inside the state's network, and therefore prevent state employees from using them to help do their jobs.

I've written a lot about the role that social networking and microblogging sites can play in helping governments serve people better (

If you look not far to the south (DC), you'll find a completely different attitude about the role that social networks like Facebook and Twitter play in serving citizens.

Vivek Kundra, the Chief Technology Officer for the District (widely rumored to be going to a high-level IT position in the Obama Administration) has embraced social networking tools.

Not only is Kundra himself on both FB and Twitter, but so is his office.

He's incorporated social networking into a lot of the activities of his office, and written about it extensively on his blog (

Here's hoping that other IT policymakers follow his lead.

Mike Mahaffie said...

I should point out that the social networking controls were imposed by the previous administration. It is early yet, but it may be the case that the new folks might make a change.

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