Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source

Chris Vein: From SF to the White House

As reported on Twitter, Gov 2.0 Radio and FedScoop on Wednesday, former SF CIO Chris Vein has decamped for Washington, DC, where he is the new deputy CTO for innovation.

Gov tech pubs have been abuzz with the news.

More at InformationWeek.

On the Code for America blog, Jennifer Pahlka discusses how Vein was instrumental in supporting Civic Commons and CfA. “I’m happy to see Chris and his commitment to change join the other innovators in the White House, all of whom have inspired our work,” Pahlka writes.

The National Association of Communications Officers and Advisors also did a nice write-up on the promotion for its longtime member: “This is an outstanding appointment,” said NATOA Executive Director Steve Traylor. “And it’s an important recognition by the Obama Administration of the importance of local government efforts in technology and broadband innovation.”

Good luck to Chris in his new role!


Feds Release Cloud Computing Strategy

Marking the second major cloud computing white paper of the week, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has released a 39-page document outlining the federal government’s cloud computing strategy. Underlining the importance of the strategy, the paper leads with a figure highlighting a potential cloud spend of $20 billion, or a quarter of annual agency IT budgets.

The paper comes the same week as the NIST released a draft version of its cloud security and privacy guidelines.

According to Kundra, agencies that have the most potential spending on cloud computing include DHS, Treasury, DOD, VA, and DOT. Cloud policies and strategies from the federal government are increasingly important to municipalities such as San Francisco, because federal spending often drives private-sector terms of use, security, and standard service level agreements in ways that benefit other government entities. The new paper cites a GSA “infrastructure as a service” contract that includes 12 vendors cleared to provide cloud storage, virtual machines and web hosting for federal agencies.

For government entities looking at adoption of cloud solutions, the strategy paper includes a valuable breakdown of federal agency roles in cloud standards and responsibilities, as well as an extensive index of resources.


Twitter to Take Roost Next to Civic Center?

SF Mayor Ed Lee was on KQED’s Forum program this morning, and one of his main topics was the negotations to keep Twitter in San Francisco. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom was a big Twitter booster, and more than 50 City officials and agencies actively use the micro-blogging service. Mayor Lee and two supervisors have sponsored legislation offering tax breaks for the Mid-Market area in an effort to bring in Twitter as an anchor tenant. The company is looking to move from SoMa due to its growth. City supervisors have yet to vote on the tax proposal.

“It was well worth the effort we made to keep these folks here,” Lee told Forum’s Michael Krasny.

Lee hopes that Twitter will become an anchor tenant in the massive SF Mart building between 9th and 10th, pictured above, just a block from City Hall and surrounded by municipal offices. I recently wrote about the Mid-Market’s transformation over the last decade.


NIST Takes On Cloud Security

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released two draft documents on cloud computing, and is taking comments by e-mail through the end of this month.

The documents include a definition of cloud, which NIST researchers say has five core features: on-demand self-service; broad network access; resource pooling; rapid elasticity; and measured service. NIST classified three types of cloud: infrastructure as a service; platform as a service; and software as a service, and four models: public, private, hybrid and community.

NIST’s guidelines on public cloud security and privacy are meaty and well-researched, presenting many of the challenges of public cloud for government agencies as well as planning mitigations.


The Subtle Art of Hashtagging

One of the more difficult things to learn on Twitter is effective use of hashtags (check out this ReadWriteWeb article on the birth of the Twitter hashtag). Hashtags on Twitter today create hyperlinks for searches of tagged term, such as #sf, #sfgov, and #opensf. Clicking the tagged tweet leads to searches for #sf, #sfgov, and #opensf, while people searching for SF, sfgov and opensf will find the tagged terms and those same terms without tags.

Hashtags are frequently overused, used needlessly, and added to all proper nouns in a Twitter message, rendering them nearly unreadable. Conversely, they are often not used when they would be helpful for expanding the reach of a tweet or adding additional context.

The important thing to consider is using tags is the search result desired. In the picture above, a search for “OpenSF” turns up three successive posts, two to a blog link from OpenSF, another a tweet I sent using the hashtagged “#opensf.” A search for “#opensf” would turn up the tagged tweet alone. Because the tweets to the blog post include the name of the blog, there is no need to use the tag #opensf in the tweet. However, adding #opengov and #gov20 at the end of the tweet means it now ends up in searches for “opengov” or “gov20” and in the results when people click those tags in others’ tweets. 

In the same way, I often use the #gov20 tag at the end of a tweet that includes “Gov 2.0,” so that the post comes up in searches for both “gov20” and “Gov 2.0”.

In posts from the San Francisco City Attorney Twitter account, I often tag tweets with #sf at the end, so that even if I’ve included “San Francisco” or “S.F.” in the tweet, they turn up in searches for “SF.” However, there is little reason to tag SF within a sentence, as it turns up in “SF” searches without a tag. In fact, by tagging a noun in the middle of a sentence, I undermine the tweet’s message, either by making it more difficult to read, or by giving my reader a hyperlink to click that takes them away from my message before finishing it. If I want the tweet to turn up in searches for “SFand when people click the “#sf” in others’ tweets, I’ll add the tag to the end of the tweet.

Another important consideration in using hashtags to customize a search for an event or issue advocacy (such as our use of #opensf to share news relevant to this blog’s community) is to ensure that the tag is not already in use. Avoid tags that are already in wide and consistent use for other topics.

If you’re looking to integrate your tweet into searches for a broad topic, research which tags are most popular and where you would get the most impact. This is why I use #SF and not #sfo for City Attorney tweets. While some regions use airport codes as unifying tags, here, SF is the dominant term, while “#SFO” is mostly automated job postings and airport check-ins from Foursquare.

Finally, consider that when you tag a tweet, you’re piping it into search, and if you’re repeating a tweet, you might not need to tag it. The #gov20 and #opengov tags are pretty popular these days, some I often omit the tags in RTs to keep the search stream from getting more cluttered.

Any questions or comments about using hashtags? Have additional hashtag resources or tips and tricks that would be helpful to the OpenSF community? Let us know!

Public Participation

Can BetterMeans Mean Better Government?

Working in the public sector can be challenging, especially during those times when the strict hierarchy of government dictates priorities, timelines and tasks. Unfortunately, without rejiggering the machinations of government, this top down approach will not change anytime soon. Of course, that hasn’t stopped all of us in the Government 2.0 movement from hoping and dreaming that we can begin to change the lumbering institutions at the local level all the way up to the federal. As this blog can attest, that change has begun, but incrementally. So maybe we do need to think beyond web technologies and open data to question the social structures which make change in government so difficult.

Look no further than BetterMeans, a radical open enterprise governance model masquerading as a slick new project management tool.

Citing Web 2.0 examples of collaborative decision making such as Wikipedia and open source software, BetterMeans, itself an “Open Enterprise” project, aims to let other organizations “use the same decision-making rules, and self-organizing principles behind open source to run your project.” Make no mistake, this software aims to fundamentally change how we work in groups and, in the process, so much more:

To change our world, we need a new agreement of how we work together. How we make decisions. How we decide on who gets to work on what. And who gets paid what.

Now that’s change we can believe in.

The software itself is a neat mix of project management and social capital platform that opens up the doors to the decision-making process for a given project or set of projects. Users contribute ideas to the projects which hold their interest in an open and transparent way. Users themselves are ranked by others that have worked with them on previous projects so that everyone is kept accountable. This collaborative approach then helps the group rank options for how to proceed based on the experience and insight of the entire group instead of relying solely on direction from management. Definitely check out the video above, you’ll see how well thought out this platform really is.

So, getting back to government. What is our tolerance for really incorporating the ideas of every member of a team? What would happen if our departments were more democratic in sourcing ideas and setting priorities? Or what if our elected officials were required to balance their agendas alongside those of rank and file public employees, or the general public at large? It might be pie in the sky, but I’m guessing that we’d garner more than a few great ideas, while engaging and inspiring a whole swath of disinterested civil servants. Just a thought.

Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

OpenSF Relaunch; ‘Third Thursdays SF’

We’re excited about a fresh new look for OpenSF, a team blog dedicated to innovation, collaboration and transparency in San Francisco government. OpenSF was originally launched by Jay Nath, director of innovation in the City’s Department of Technology, and his team members were the primary contributors. For about a year, I’ve been writing regularly for OpenSF, highlighting social media projects by the City Attorney’s Office and sharing news from the San Francisco Gov 2.0 community and from other City departments.

Today, we’re got a great new look thanks to the volunteer efforts of GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell, we’ve got an OpenSF Twitter account, and were adding new contributers from the City family. OpenSF is an informal place to share about our projects and thoughts and to dialog with San Francisco residents and the global Gov 2.0, Open Government and Open Data communities.

We’re also excited to announce a new monthly networking event for anyone interested in topics of tech and good governance. Called ‘Third Thursdays,’ the meetup is also supported by CityCampSF, Gov 2.0 Radio and GovFresh. You can join Third Thursdays on Facebook here, and find out about the latest events. Also, click here to hear Jay and I discuss OpenSF, Third Thursday and more on Gov 2.0 Radio.

Thanks for reading, and welcome to the new OpenSF!

Photo: Brett Husbands of Firmstep at Daly’s Dive (Buck Tavern), the venue for Third Thursdays SF.