Can Challenge.Gov Empower A Nation?

On September 7, 2010, US Federal CIO Vivek Kundra (Office of Management and Budget) joined with Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Bev Godwin (Director, Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement, U.S. General Services Administration) to announce the launch of Challenge.gov at the Gov2.0 Summit.

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A Conversation With IT Leaders On Workplace Technology Empowerment

I spoke to the IT leadership team at a major automotive manufacturer last week on the topic of empowerment. The group consisted of the CIO, security and compliance professionals, business strategy, HR representatives, and other IT managers in charge of mobility, social computing, innovation, and application development initiatives. At Forrester, we talk about empowerment in terms of the rising imbalance between enabling technology tools we have in our personal lives and those we have in the workplace. Think mobile, social, cloud, and consumer video tools. Our data indicates that almost 51% of information workers now believe they have better technology at home than they have at work. And 37% are using these personal tools get real work done.

At least anecdotally, the gap between consumer technology change and IT’s ability to assimilate those technologies into the workplace looks to be widening. A recent report recently highlighted this gap, explaining that in one government agency, it takes 18 to 24 months to roll out a single new IT system, while it took only 24 months to invent the iPhone. 
 
Clearly IT budgets will never keep up with private investments in technology innovation. But it’s not all about money. What else is causing the impedance mismatch between personal/home and workplace technologies? A few comments from my audience highlight the complexities our corporate IT departments face in this age of empowerment:
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Twitter Not Going Mainstream? Correct, It Already IS Mainstream!

I read Henry Blodget's Business Insider article, "Here's Twitter's Big Problem: It's Not Going Mainstream," and it made me reflect on how we define the word "mainstream," because by any definition I can think of that matters, Twitter is already mainstream.

Henry's article isn't incorrect in its assessment of Twitter's challenges for growth.  The microblog does tend to appeal more to those in tech circles than others, and it has a relatively high barrier to entry because it works best after you've dedicated time to find, follow and list the people you care to track.  But it is the way Henry equates traffic and users to mainstream that makes me think we might need a different yardstick by which to measure mainstream.

According to the article, Twitter has 145 million users worldwide, but Twitter.com only welcomes slightly less than 29 million unique users each month.  On this basis, it might seem to be more niche than mainstream, but if 29 million is not mainstream, then neither is:

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Google Vs. Facebook And How Marketers Win (Or Lose) In 2011

Google has said nothing about its rumored social networking offering, but it may be that the company has just revealed its secret weapon to take on Facebook.  The new Priority Inbox feature in Gmail hints at social media’s next great battleground: Relevance!

Facebook itself inadvertently demonstrated the value of relevance and what is most wrong with the current Facebook user experience.  The Facebook Places announcement event two weeks ago was the geeky event you’d expect, but there was an unexpected moment of clarity and beauty in the midst of the typical discussion of APIs, partners and functionality.  Facebook VP Chris Cox told a story set in the future that defines the true promise that social networking has yet to fulfill:

“In 20 years our children will go to Ocean Beach and their phone will tell them this is the place their parents had their first kiss, and here’s the picture they took afterward, and here’s what their friends had to say.”

It’s a great story, isn’t it?  But today’s Facebook experience offers no chance this experience could actually occur.  Instead, here’s what would happen based on the current Facebook functionality:  Those kids will visit that beach and their parents’ precious story will be nowhere to be found on the Ocean Beach Places page.  That wonderful 20-year-old status update and picture will be buried under 500 pages of less meaningful messages such as “Don’t buy a hot dog from the snack bar,” “Here’s a picture of some hot babes I took here,” and “Beach kegger party this Saturday night, dudes!” 

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