Friday, September 21, 2007

Less blogging, more project managing

It seems somehow ironic to me that now I'm officially all social media, all the time, I have *less* time for blogging and blog-surfing, and instead find myself up to my elbows in project charters and business cases and the other flotsam and jetsam of government business.

While we started out with grand ideas for our social media project, I'm quickly learning that just because I can dream it doesn't mean we can do it. Even enabling our RSS feeds has had some unique challenges that I never would have imagined.

All that said, here's the gist of what we're hoping to accomplish in the next year or so:

  • enable our RSS feeds and chose a few content streams to syndicate.
  • build a decent user interface and decide on how and what to offer on our Web site with regard to RSS subscription (because we're government, we can't be seen as endorsing, say, Bloglines over Google Reader.)
  • set up a series of Webinars - some educational, others consultative - with specific client groups.
  • produce half a dozen or so short, downloadable "podcasts" and make them available on our Web site, perhaps in up to three languages in addition to English and French.
  • produce one longer videocast, maybe three to five minutes long, and make it available for download from our Web site. (It was our first preference to be able to offer these in streaming media, but our IT support slammed that door in a hurry. "Streaming" is apparently a dirty word around here.)

We're also working on how to formalize the monitoring of social media in the same way we currently monitor other mainstream media, and working on at least one policy directive relating to social media, covering everything from employee blogging to corporate behaviour.

Over the longer term, we're looking at hosting a blog, and maybe even an online discussion forum on our Web site, but I've been told there are enough significant security, policy and infrastructure issues that it will be a long time before this part comes to fruition.

In the interim, though, a huge hat-tip to my colleagues over at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who have just launched their own blog. Very nicely done, too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Banning social media at work

Last week, PC World ran an article titled, "Don't Ban Facebook at Work, Researchers Advise." The researchers in question were from Britain's Trade Union Congress (TUC), which suggested that employee education and policies governing the use of Facebook and other social networking sites on company time would be a more productive response than banning them outright.

While it's unacceptable for employees to spend hours at work on such sites, it is OK and even beneficial to trust them to spend a few minutes using the sites, the TUC said. 'It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology.'

We're facing our own in-house struggles with the net nanny these days. Last month, just when we were on the threshold of launching our social media project, changes were made to the filters that permit Web access, and most employees with Internet access found that access to blogs had been cut off. It's not exactly easy to do a social media project when you can't get into the blogosphere! Worse, it's now six weeks later and only about a dozen of us have had our access restored while almost 200 are on a priority list to be reinstated... something which might not happen any time soon, as our security people apparently have some serious concerns about enabling access. Actually heard at one meeting: "But, did you know blogs have porn on them?"


In granting our unfettered access to blogland, though, the configuration of the net nanny means that the lucky few who have had our access to blogs restored have also been given access to Facebook. And we have been told, in no uncertain terms, that ALL access will be monitored, and ANY employee who accesses Facebook may be subject to disciplinary action.

I guess this means I'll have to wait until I get home to play Scrabulous with my Friends.

Friday, September 7, 2007


After an extended summer holiday from work-related blogging, I'm back. What better time than September, and after a prolonged absence, to reinvent oneself?

First of all, you might notice I've switched to the first person. I may occasionally slip back to the royal "we", but that's just many years of government peonship overriding my individualistic tendencies. While I'm still part of a team, I've given up on the idea that anybody else might be contributing to this blog any time in the near future. It's all me, all the time.

Me, I'm Danielle. I'm choosing to remain partly pseudonymous because I'm just not sure my organization is ready for me to out the lot of us just yet. And my organization will remain pseudonymous for now, too, as it allows me just a little bit more candor. I'm a communications strategist with a large Canadian federal government department, and as of last month I'm working full time on social media in a government communications context.

I'd like to reinvent this blog over the next little while, too. Rather than focusing on what the rest of the world is doing with social media, an increasingly crowded field, I'd like to share our experiences with you as we struggle as an organization to figure out the implications and applications of social media as they apply to government communications. We've moved out of the research phase of our social media experiment and over the next year we hope to implement a few concrete pilot projects to see how we can make the tools of social media work with and for us.

As always, anything written in this blog is my opinion alone and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer.

(Hat tip to Marc Snyder, who many weeks - it might have been months - ago encouraged me to be a little bit more forthcoming about the warm bodies behind the blog.)