Every few weeks I visit a few of the federal government technology websites like Government Computer News or Federal Computer Week to see what's hot in the federal government. Occasionally, the trends seem to be contradictory - like this past week.
Take the popular topic of using social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) in government. One recent article was entitled: Security Issues May Lead DoD to ban use of social media.
The next article seemed to offer another view: (Department of) State puts social networking to diplomatic use. Here's a quote from that one:
"Want to know where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right now? A section of the State Department's Web site has details about where she is in the world (not surprisingly, she's often out of the country), where she has been recently and where she's off to next -- all highlighted on a Google map for easy viewing. At the time of this writing, she was traveling in India and Thailand, having just gotten back from Canada, Egypt and Iraq."
Here we go again. Is this a movie rerun? This seems like a repeat of the debate from two years ago. Remember this article: DOD asked to reevaluate social networking sites ban.
So why do I highlight this debate now? I certainly won't end the opposing views - and both sides have excellent arguments for and against the use of social networking in government. (I wrote a piece on this topic eighteen months ago at CSO Magazine - if you'd like to read more.)
No, I see another trend developing with social media. I started thinking about this much more after a lunch discussion session at SecureWorld Houston in February. I am seeing companies and governments doing large (120 or even 180-degree) swings on this topic. I can't name names, but many of the execs I have been talking with used to be wide open to social networking and now ban the use. Others banned Facebook and other social media sites or even engaging "non-work-related friends," but they are now wide open and encourage this use. Each side has war stories as to why they changed. The good, bad and ugly justifications are actually pretty simplistic. Over time, I expect to see this situation level off, but it hasn't happened yet.
So what am I predicting? We will continue to be deluged by positive and negative stories regarding social networking at work. There will be some very embarrassing situations revealed, as well as some excellent case studies showing why we need to expand the use of Facebook and Twitter at work.
Who is right? You tell me.
What are your thoughts?