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An Army of Many: Social Media and the Armed Forces

blog_army_socialmedia Social media is a powerful tool that often allows users to spread ideas and help make the world a better place. But what about the medium’s power to affect national (or personal) security? The US Department of the Army recently released a handbook that provides helpful hints and warnings about the dangers of social media to employees and soldiers. The 39 page document aims to reach the newcomers to social media as well as the tech-savvy .

From the operational security standpoint, this sort of guide makes perfect sense. When a 19 year old soldier has grown up with the internet and has been sharing facets if his or her life online for over a decade, it becomes important to set slight boundaries on what information should and should not be shared during wartime. The guide focuses on helping users of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogging software be better aware of the data that they are putting online; as this information may compromise things like unit location and personal safety while deployed.

Some tips from the document include:

  • Be careful with geotagging pictures on Flickr or Picassa
  • Do not reveal sensitive personal information about yourself on social networking profiles
  • Talk to your family and make sure that they also follow good operational security online
  • Do not violate copyright or trademark

The US Army is not forbidding free speech, nor is it prohibiting its soldiers from using social media to connect with their friends and family across the globe. Rather – the Department of the Army is educating against accidental information leakage (like GPS coordinates or personal information) and making sure everyone is keeping up with good operational security practices.

To read the entire document go go –


What do you think of the US Army 2011 Social media guidelines?

The 7th Annual State of the Net Conference – A look at social media

I had the opportunity to attend the 2011 iteration of the State of the Net Conference hosted by the advisory committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus.  The event was focused on the political and social ramifications of the technological changes amongst Americans. The panels and speakers discussed privacy/security, telecommunications regulation, intellectual property and innovation in the US and abroad. The conference venue was located very close to Capitol Hill, and there was obligatory mention of legislation, the new congress, and the slow-moving nature of our current government bureaucracy.

Many of the speakers and and panels were aimed toward senior-level government agency officials or legislative staffers, as opposed to members of the private sector. However, I was most excited for a panel looking at social media within the context of audience engagement and democratization of the internet. The breakout was titled The State of the Social Net: A Catalyst for Civil & Political Revolution or a Hyped Distraction and featured

  • Jerry Berman, Internet Education Foundation [bio]
  • Alex Howard, Correspondent, Government 2.0, O’Reilly Media [bio]
  • Andrew Keen, Author & Host "Keen On" at TechCrunch.tv [bio]
  • Lee Rainie, (moderator) Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project [bio]
  • Clay Shirky, Technology Consultant & Author [bio]

Much of the presentation was spent taking about the new Pew Internet Research Center study (about which the Bivings Report did a longer post) and the formal and informal online (and offline) groups that members of the US population are a part of. The facts were placed in context of social media participation, particularly with regard to using online groups to facilitate in-person actions like volunteering or political rallying. Everything was placed in the context of remarks about American democracy made by philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville in the nineteenth century. Most of the panelists agreed that the internet was, in fact, helping make the world a better place and that the social network sphere was allowing users from all over the world to interact and share ideas with greater ease than ever before. However, Andrew Keen vehemently disagreed and noted that our nation’s “rampant individualism’ was to blame for the country not resembling a democracy the likes of which were described by de Tocqueville.
Overall, the panels were well put together and informative. Other speakers covered everything from net-neutrality to DHS regulation and enforcement of copyriht law.

Are you interested in seeing the twitter conversations and statistics from the 7th Annual State of the Net Conference? Check out our SLURP140 created for the event.

FedTalks 2010 Conference – A Look Inside

fedtalks2010Bringing together members of the government  as well as representatives from the technology and communications industries, this past Tuesday’s FedTalks 2010 conference in Washington D.C. was a success both on-line and offline.

If you didn’t catch our live tweeting the event from @bivings, check out the latest instance of Slurp140 we created specifically for Fedtalks 2010!

Speaking to the challenges of communicating in a large hierarchal organization, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark pointed out that "People in the rank and file in any organization know how to get things done… What they need is a way to get that information to the boss."  How should one do that? Craig somewhat joking suggested that the answer was to look for the ‘Alpha Dilberts’ or those "who have risen to important positions and reminding them why they are there." 

Addressing the scale of digitalizing health records, Capt. Michael Weiner informed us that the DOD has over 70 terabytes of non-image data with over 140,000 new records being added every day.

Have you ever downloaded a computer virus? If so, don’t beat yourself up too much, as we learned that even one of Symantec’s V.P’s was phished, and nearly feel victim to a message from a friend’s Facebook account.

Open-source development can pay some incredible dividends, as Peter Corbett informed us that when given the opportunity, soldiers in the U.S. Army responded to an application development contest by creating 53 apps in 75 days. One of which tracked and instantly shared the location of recently exploded IED’s in Iraq.

President Obama knows how to reboot a laptop and install a Firefox plug-in.

By far, the biggest buzz-word of the conference was "data". Whether it be the MilWikipedia utilized by the DOD to share data and expertise amongst solders, or data.gov- the current administration’s initiative to engage the American people in applications data use. Representatives from NASA talked about the sheer volume of data that is created every day across the government bureaucratic space – and the need to make that data secure while still allowing employees to access it as they see fit. Both the private and public sector focused on the notion of "scalability" – or creating a system for a large government agency that can also be used for a small agency, or even an inter-governmental task force.

Below is one of the graphs generated by SLURP140 during the conference. Comparing the spikes in traffic to the agenda, the panels that generated the most discussion were the Open Government Keynote by Andrew McLaughlin, U.S. Deputy CTO and  the conversation between Craig Newmark & Christopher Doroberk of Federal News Radio. In a close second were two of the afternoon panels featuring a presentation by Peter Corbett of IStrategy Labs on Crowd-Sourcing and Government Innovation and a discussion between Rep. Jim Moran (VA-8th) and Fred Humphries, V.P. of Government Affairs for Microsoft on how technology in Congress.
SLURP 140- FedTalks 2010
Overall, the volume on conversation on Twitter remained steady throughout the day, and finished with a total of  2,681 tweets by 873 people.

Data Visualization in the Developing World: How One Company is Helping Change the face of Online Maps

On September 22nd, I attended a meetup hosted by DC Media Makers featuring DevelopmentSeed – a firm specializing in open source data visualization and map development.  Over the course of the last several years, this company has created custom maps detailing election fraud and corruption in Afghanistan as well as the post-Earthquake aid work going on in Haiti by 47 different non-profits. They used data provided by various government agencies and NGOs in order to create zoom-able, customizable, and searchable maps that really told a story about events happening overseas.

Many times when web development companies create maps for their clients, the do so using flash. However, open source software has recently lent itself perfectly to creating customizable maps (a la google maps) on drupal frameworks. We love designing with Drupal here at the Bivings Group, and definitely understand and support the ability for data to be transferred into non-flash maps that tell stories and show information in unique and creative ways.

Below is the Afghanistan 2009 election fraud map.


The below is the HaitiAidMap data for the city of Port Au Prince – broken down by project.


The employees at DevelopmentSeed also created another open source product – MapBox – which is their contribution to enhance further collaboration and creation of maps to tell stories across the globe. In more technical terms MapBox is “a suite of open source tools and services for creating and using custom maps in the cloud.” According to Ian Cairns for DevelopmentSeed, this project will soon be looking for Beta Testers, so if maps and open source information development is interesting to you, feel free to click on the link above and sign up to test this software suite.

If you’re interested in other open source mapping and information gathering projects, check out http://www.openstreetmap.org/

Gov 2.0 Summit 2010 – A Twitter Recap

Among many new developments, last week’s Gov 2.0 Summit here in Washington, DC  served as a perfect platform with  to use our new and improved SLURP140 tool, which tracked the influence, activity, and topics discussed on Twitter throughout the duration of the the conference. This two-day seminar sponsored by O'Reilly Media brought together decision makers from the public and private sectors to discuss the notions of open government and the power of the internet in citizens' lives.
Through the use of SLURP140 (powered by ImpactWatch), The Bivings Report was able to track the hourly usage and cumulative twitter traffic of the conference. Likewise, we identified the most active users as Douglas Black (@dlblack), Alex Howard (@digiphile), the Government 2.0 Correspondent for O'Reilly Radar, and Nahum Gershon (@nahumg).

Overall, we tracked 9,064 specific tweets by 2,498 people.

Below is some of the analysis that we were able to draw from the Gov 2.0 Summit using SLURP140:

 twitter usage
If you missed the conference are interested in seeing some PowerPoint presentations from the movers and shakers in Government 2.0 arena-  Click this link to find your favorite panelists and watch them present.
From an informal survey of other event attendees, the presentations by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski “Reimagining FCC.gov for the 21st Century Consumer,”  the Sunlight Foundation Executive Director Ellen Miller’s “Open Government Scorecard” and General Keith Alexander of the National Security Agencies’ presentation on “U:.S. Cybersecurity Policy, Strategy and U.S. Cybercom,” all received high praise and a lot of twitter traffic from everyone we spoke too. 

For an overview of all the other articles written about the conference, check out the “News and Coverage” section of the Gov 2.0 summit.

To see all of the taped presentations and speeches on the Gov 2.0 Summit, check out gov2events.blip.tv or their YouTube Channel.

If you're interested in seeing pictures from the event – the Flickr gallery can be found here.