Thursday, January 31, 2008

Social Media Minute: Schneier MIA from TSA and More

Two items from today's topic slushpile:
  • GovBlogging at the TSA: Saw in Wired's Threat Level this morning that the Transportation Security Agency now has a blog: Evolution of Security. (The story has since been picked up at BoingBoing.)

    Taking a quick look:

    - Platform: I was surprised to see that they're using Blogger (presumably, too many foreign ownership issues with LiveJournal). Since the blog is hosted on TSA servers, they won't have the full set of Blogger widgets and features (this is the problem I'm facing), though if it meets their needs, that's fine.

    - Comments: They're moderating comments (see their comment policy), though allowing anonymous comments. I don't see anonymous comments lasting too long (unless they're hoping to encourage participation from TSA whistleblowers -- shyeah), in which case the installed Blogger user base and Google account and OpenID support for commenters is nice.

    - Naming Names: I'm not thrilled by the lack of full names on their Meet Our Bloggers page (and they seem to be missing some folks) -- at the very least, there should be the editor's full name (presumable this Neil guy -- he seems most active).

    After the fake FEMA press conference debacle, this type of government transparency is kind of important.

    - Hey, Where'd Bruce Schneier Go? Well, this is new. I'm positive they had a link to security guru Bruce Schneier's blog in the sidebar (among others), but it's not there anymore. I was about to give them a brownie point for that -- I wonder when and why they removed it.

    As to the impact of the blog as a whole? Openness and dialog are great, but the true test of the matter is the ability to redress problems and affect change. Just as with a corporate blog, you can only apologize so many times without actually fixing things before it hollows out your message.

  • Social Media in Ethnic Conflicts: Christian Science Monitor talks about the impact of cellphones and the Internet on the coverage of the ethnic conflict in Kenya.

    A lot of the unalloyed social media utopians only look at the positive benefits of social communication, and I think many still think that the Internet has a self-correcting bias towards objective truths.

    I think that's crap -- when all we had was word-of-mouth, there was plenty of room for rumor, hysteria, panic, and mob madness. Social media doesn't change that, and we shouldn't forget the ability of media, both citizen and old-school, to inflame passions, spread misinformation, disinformation and propaganda, and be manipulated by interested groups.

    Plus, any given online community normally faces issues with drama, trolls, and flamewars -- throw in factors like ethnic discord and a possibility (or even propensity) for violence, and you can see how online behaviors can influence offline behaviors (and vice versa).


Neil said...

In the surge of traffic to our blog yesterday, we had some template trouble so we reverted to an earlier version without the links to Bruce Schneier, etc. We'll get his (and a few other) links back up today.

And I'll add my profile to the "Meet Our Bloggers" page!

Joelogon said...

Neil -- thanks for the info and your response. I see that you've already restored the blogroll links.

I do think that stating the contributing bloggers' names (and headshots) thing is important -- it would go a long way to prove to viewers that you're all real people.

Besides, assuming they are real people doing real blogging, people will find out who they are (I figured out who you are, for example), so the government might as well get ahead of the curve and embrace the openness.

Good luck with the blog.

-- Joe

Anonymous said...

"I'm not thrilled by the lack of full names on their Meet Our Bloggers page (and they seem to be missing some folks) -- at the very least, there should be the editor's full name (presumable this Neil guy -- he seems most active)."

Hi, I'm Chance, and I am one of the bloggers on the Evolution of Security blog. My last name is Williams. I'm not really comfortable giving much more than that online, I hope you'll understand. I also hope to become more active in the days and weeks coming up, so I hope to see your comments on my posts as well.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and P.S., I just looked and saw the Schneier on Security link is still there, may we have our brownie point back?

Joelogon said...

Chance -- Thanks for responding. I understand your reluctance about the name thing, though since one of the purposes of the blog is to show the human face of TSA, I hope that you or other bloggers will be able to show a little bit of yourselves.

Since I'm more interested in the phenomenon of gov and corp blogging, and not specifically transportation security issues, I don't know how often I'll be commenting in your blog, but I'll keep an eye on it.

And feel free to have all the brownie points you like.