Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Why developers cannot afford to ignore design

15 Jun

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We developers sometimes take design for granted. And let’s be honest: who doesn’t hate taking things for granted.

Some say we will never truly appreciate the importance of design until we have been trained in the essence of design and beauty. Well, I say BS to that. I want to break us our of this box and clear away the cobwebs from our code-oriented minds.

Development, by its very nature, reflects the knowledge base of the person in charge. And the skills required to develop such a knowledge base can leave us in the dark about design. Developers often sweep design under the rug in order to be able to learn the intricacies of PHP and MySQL.

But as someone who has been writing code for 13 years, I can tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, many of the world’s greatest developers have an excellent grasp of UI and UX and of what their users want. The best way to get a handle on it is to figure out what you want in a UI.

People in business say to start with what you know, and this works equally well in design. The best designers aren’t the ones who know a thousand fonts (although that helps), but rather who know exactly what will “feel” best on the page.

To get started, simply go to a website that you feel “would be better if” and write down all of your ideas. Before you know it, you will be debugging design patterns and UIs.

This is just a start. But after doing it a few times, you’ll start to understand why these factors are so important. You might even discover that you have these questions about more websites than you had imagined. Below are a few critical reasons why design is important, courtesy of two great competitors.

Google Video: the case for strategic design

Google has been known to solve problems by throwing development resources at them for months. It analyzed data patterns in order to improve the UI of its Google Video project. This was absolutely detrimental to the functioning of the product, as evidenced by its canceling of the service. Let’s look back at Google Video to see why it didn’t work.

It started out simple enough, with that minimal design that Google is so famous for. Even the search wasn’t too bad, with the classic Google row streaming down the page.

This changed when Google found that people hated those early horizontal rows. It restructured the page to try to make it more enjoyable. In fact, it took a page from YouTube’s book by adding links to related videos on the side.

This is a key problem of developers who aren’t sensitive to design: copying or borrowing elements from other successful products. “If it worked for them, it will work for us” is one of the most dangerous attitudes to have in web design. There were hundreds of Digg clones over the years, but only one stands out: Reddit. There were hundreds of YouTube clones over the years, but only one stands out: Vimeo.

Products gain acceptance not by ripping off other services, but by innovating on the user experience through interesting design and UI. These small innovations are exactly where Google Video lost users. Google assumed that people would stay if it removed every feature except what was similar to proven products. In fact, users did not stay, and the only real use anyone had for the product was the one thing that Google truly innovated on: allowing bigger and longer videos.

So, what does this product teach us about design? It teaches us that innovating carelessly is just as bad as not innovating at all, and that going minimal for the sake of minimalism is not always the right approach. Google would have been better off not developing products like these at all, because it has left us questioning its judgment.

With all of its failures—Buzz, Wave, Google Video, etc.—we begin to question its understanding of these spaces. We know that Google understand advertising and search (it pretty much owns these markets), but that doesn’t keep us from questioning its overall understanding of design. This erodes Google’s image. It’s detrimental to a company that is trying to take over the world, or even one that’s just trying to put food on the table. Focusing on design and not changing for the sake of change would have helped. Let this be a lesson to developers everywhere.

Yahoo: the case against overdesign

Yahoo may be a household name, but it could have permeated the Internet even more than it has. Going to a party that offers everything is sometimes as unsettling as going to one that offers nothing. People think that they like choice, but sometimes they just want someone else to decide for them. Apple has made more money than God by exploiting this business principle. But web designers overlook it all too often.

Yahoo’s home page shows hundreds of things to do, to click on and to consume. You can customize it to display your favorite sources; and as we all know, you’re welcome to make it your “first and last stop on the web.” This has led it to become a top property online (perhaps because it was first to market), but this has also kept it from dominating the competition.

Why did the competitors win? To put it simply, because they didn’t add anything extra. Google didn’t try any BS in the beginning. It cut out the fat, leaving only the lean, delicious search box that we know today. And despite Google’s problems in other spaces, it still dominates search.

People often say that Yahoo offers a much broader service—weather, news, film times, horoscopes, etc.—and that Google did only one thing in the beginning. But this is exactly why Google dominated. There is something to be said for having a million different products and revenue streams, but it can still be awfully detrimental to the brand’s image.

Google also chose to pursue multiple products and revenue streams, but it didn’t go about it by shoving them in our faces. The relative elegance with which it went about it is perhaps the reason those products were more welcome by users and less confusing.

Granted, appealing to people who aren’t web savvy has its merits, too. But mastering a niche is better than starting out grand. Take the overall valuations and stock prices of the two companies: one started out big and has since contracted, while the other started in a niche (for developers, designers and web-savvy users) and has since grown to become the most reputable company in the US. If that isn’t a case against overdesign, I don’t know what is.

In sum

A lot has been said about Google and Yahoo here, and the lessons to be learned are notable. Developers by nature lock themselves into boxes (or IDEs), and getting out of them can be hard. The point is that we should recognize the importance of design going forward and focus on bringing authentic user experiences to the forefront of our products.

In this Web 2.0 world and beyond, these are some of the most important considerations in developing brand equity, understanding users and cultivating an aesthetic. If we leave everything up to trained designers, then we will be missing out on some valuable UI insight. Graphic design and user experience will never decrease in importance, nor will development. But unless we bridge the gap, we may never find the authentic experience that arises from balancing the two.

Written exclusively for Webdesigner Depot by C Dain Miller. He is a freelance journalist and developer. Follow him on Twitter @_dain.

What are your thoughts on design? Has it gotten enough attention in the last few years? How important will design be as the world becomes more web-centric?

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How the Mac App Store Changes Everything

06 Jan

The Mac App Store has arrived and with it comes access to more than 1,000 different free and paid apps. While nearly identical in design to the iTunes App Store for iOS apps, the Mac App Store represents a big shift in Mac application discovery and development.

We’ve already done a walkthrough of the new store. What follows is our analysis of the overall store experience after spending the past few hours exploring the store, downloading applications, comparing the release to initial expectations and ruminating on how it will change the developer ecosystem.

If you’ve yet to experience the Mac App Store, you’ll need to upgrade your Mac OS X software to version 10.6.6. Once you do, you’ll find the Mac App Store waiting for you in your dock. We encourage you to check it out for yourself and add your thoughts on the new store in the comments section below.

A Meaty Experience

The Mac App Store is packed with more than 1,000 applications out of the gate. This vast collection of applications spans 21 different categories, and Apple has done an amazing job ensuring that the store feels boundless — in the sense that there are more apps than you could ever dream of — and is full of must-own applications. That is: there’s not a lot of fluff here (yet, anyways).

New, just-for-Mac apps like Angry Birds [App Store link] and Twitter [App Store link] are here. So too, are standbys from Apple (iLife) and the Omni Group, along side lightweight fare such as Caffeine [App Store link] and StuffIt Expander [App Store link]. Even Mashable [App Store link] has its own Mac app.

Apple has also wisely replicated its iTunes App Store “Top Charts,” “New and Noteworthy,” “What’s Hot,” and “Staff Favorites” lists in the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store home screen features these curated app catalogs, making quick app perusal and discovery a breeze.

Grab-and-Go Appeal

Most retail and convenience stores stock small or inexpensive products near the register to appeal to customers waiting in line. This strategy creates a grab-and-go atmosphere where customers spend less time thinking about whether they actually need these products and instead make last-minute impulse buys.

Apple mastered the grab-and-go idea with the iTunes App Store and it’s done it again with the Mac App Store. It’s the ultimate model for impulse, grab-and-go shopping where consumers can forget about busting out their credit cards and stop fretting over whether an app is a wise investment.

The frictionless marketplace gives developers direct access to window shopping Mac users who, with just a click or two, can download their apps. It works because consumers have developed a blind faith (misguided or not) in Apple’s ability to create a marketplace of vetted applications. Gone are the days when Mac owners need to trouble themselves with going out of their way to search for apps; now the apps come to them. And while the strict application review process may trouble some developers, Apple’s seal of approval could mean the difference between an app that is relegated to obscurity and one that gets noticed.

Evernote, for instance, is already a top performer among free apps. Existing Evernote users likely knew of, and already downloaded, the Mac version for their desktops. The application’s prominence in the store, however, will likely introduce a whole new audience to the startup’s note-taking and productivity platform. Today, Evernote [App Store link] is seeing an 1800% increase in Mac registrations over a normal day, according to a representation for the company. For a nearly three year-old startup, this kind of exposure could prove instrumental in expanding its user base faster and converting free users into more engaged, paid users.

Plus, while it may be anecdotal, the mere structure of the store — glossy photos, user reviews, top charts etc. — inspired me to purchase apps that I was previously aware of but too trigger-shy to purchase (Zipline and Pixelmator, for instance).

Yet Another App Store

The Mac App Store houses applications for Mac owners to use locally on their desktops. The iTunes App Store houses applications for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Apple makes that distinction relatively clear — it’s punctuated by a standalone store outside of iTunes, but its existence does complicate things a bit.

The less tech savvy user may be confused as to the difference between the apps they can find in the iTunes App Store and those they can find in the new Mac App Store. Many applications available are Mac duplicates with heftier price tags than their iOS counterparts, which only adds to the confusion.

When many Mac users update their OS software to 10.6.6, they many not understand why there’s an extra icon in their dock and why they’d want to purchase an application that resembles one they already own.

Apple makes it a priority to release hardware and software designed for the average Jane/Joe. While the Mac App Store product itself meets those standards, the way it was rolled out as a separate product may not.

Mac Ecosystem Evolution

A marketplace that can foster impulse purchases and downloads is a marketplace that will change the entire ecosystem around Mac applications. Mac users, on average, will buy more apps; developers will get exponentially higher exposure and revenues; and Apple’s line of iMacs and Mac Books will become even more appealing to computer purchasers.

As the ecosystem evolves, however, not every veteran Mac developer will appreciate the changes that are being force-fed to them. Developers will have much less control, may need to cave to Apple’s requests during the review process, will sacrifice 30% of revenue for placement and will not be allowed to charge for app upgrades. And, there’s still the outstanding question of how volume pricing will be handled.

Apple’s new Mac App Store could also drive the average market price for Mac applications downward, because price point will largely factor into total downloads and, by association, whether or not apps make the top charts and get featured more prominently. We’ve already seen that race to the bottom occur with iOS applications, where the average price of apps is around $4 (less if you include games).

For better or worse, things are changing. Realmac, makers of Mac apps like LittleSnapper [App Store link] (which I recommend), penned a post yesterday on some of the side effects of the Mac App Store it anticipates post launch. The software maker argues that apps will become more single purpose, upgrade pricing will never be a reality and apps will cheaper on average.

On the whole, however, Realmac concludes, “We think that the Mac App Store is likely to jump-start the already lively Mac developer community, and that developers would be crazy to either remain inflexible on the App Store or forego it altogether.”

It’s a conclusion that seems sound based on my initial experience with Mac App Store.

More Mac App Store Coverage from Mashable:

- Apple Launches Mac App Store With More Than 1,000 Apps
- The Mac App Store: A Walkthrough [GALLERY]
- HOW TO: Fix “Error 100″ in the Mac App Store
- The Mac App Store: The Good, the Bad & the Unknown [Announcement Coverage]

Image courtesy of Realmac Software

Reviews: Angry Birds, App Store, Evernote, LittleSnapper, Mashable, Pixelmator, Twitter

More About: apple, developers, mac, mac app store, mac os x, realmac, software

For more Apple coverage:


Facebook, Twitter and The Two Branches of Social Media [OP-ED]

11 Oct

Two Directions Sign

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

There’s no disputing that Facebook is the poster child for social networking. It is the platform for building social connections online and keeping up to date with what’s happening in your social circle. It is one of the two most important platforms in social media.

The other one is Twitter. However, if you try to describe Twitter as a “social network” to anyone who works at the company, they’ll quickly correct you. Internally and externally, Twitter describes itself as an “information network.”

What exactly is the difference? And is there one?

People have used the terms “social media” and “social network” almost interchangeably over the years. It’s inaccurate to say that they’re the same thing, though. In fact, I argue that social networking is a branch of social media, and can itself be further broken down into two distinct branches — the social network and the information network.

It’s with this distinction that I attempt to explain the relationship between Facebook and Twitter, and why I believe they are not destined for a clash of the titans. Instead, they represent two different sides of the same coin.

The Difference Between Facebook and Twitter

It’s easy to see why most people think Facebook and Twitter are essentially the same. The core of their experiences focuses around profiles, relationships and a newsfeed. But if you dig a bit deeper, you realize that people use each platform for different purposes.

On Facebook, you’re supposed to connect with close friends. Becoming friends with someone means he or she gets to see your content, but you also get to see his or her content in return. On Twitter, that’s not the case: you choose what information you want to receive, and you have no obligation to follow anybody. Facebook emphasizes profiles and people, while Twitter emphasizes the actual content (in its case, tweets).

The result is that the stream of information is simply different on both services. You’re more likely to talk about personal issues, happy birthday wishes, gossip about a changed Facebook relationship status, and postings about parties on your Facebook News Feed. On Twitter, you’re more likely to find links and news, and you’re more likely to follow brands, news sources and other entities outside of your social graph. In fact, Twitter tells me that one out of every four tweets includes a link to some form of content.

There’s also interesting data from a team of Korean researchers suggesting that information sharing is fundamentally different on Twitter when compared to social networks. Their conclusion was that Twitter has “characteristics of news media” rather than characteristics of a social network.

In other words, Facebook and Twitter are different once you look past their social media roots. Now it’s time to define the difference between a social network and an information network.

Social Networks vs. Information Networks

This may seem obvious, but social networks are about your social networks. Specifically, the focus is on your friends, colleagues and personal connections. They are about sharing personal or professional experiences together. They are about keeping in touch with friends rather than discovering news or content. Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, MySpace, hi5 and Orkut clearly fall under the “social networking” branch of social media.

The concept of an information network is a more recent phenomenon. Information networks are about leveraging different networks to distribute and consume information. While they may utilize an array social media tools in order to find, curate or deliver content, they focus less on what’s happening in your social graph and more on information you want. Twitter may be the best example of an information network, but YouTube (video), Flickr (photos) and Digg (news) are information networks as well.

Pretty much every social media platform has aspects of both types of networks, but they tend to fall into one category or the other. I contend that Foursquare is a social network because it utilizes Facebook’s friend model instead of Twitter’s follow model, but you might have a different opinion.

In fact, that may be the biggest differentiating point between social networks and information networks. For the most part, content on Flickr, YouTube or Twitter is public, while content on MySpace, Facebook or Bebo is private. A big reason for that is that the former services utilize the follow or subscription model, while the latter ones utilize the friend model.


I consider this article to be the start, not the end, of an exploration of how we define social media and the services that comprise it. We tend to group Facebook, Twitter and an array of other web tools into one giant pile, when in fact they’re vastly different tools with vastly different applications and uses.

Facebook, with its mutual friend connections and college-exclusive beginnings, is better suited for keeping in touch with friends. For most people, it is indeed a network of your social graph, all in one place. Twitter, on the other hand, is all about the stream of information coming from people and organizations all across the world. That’s why there’s room for both: they simply provide different functions.

If we are to take social media further and further change the world with social technologies, we need to better understand how we use these technologies. The first step is understanding how we as a society currently utilize social networks and information networks in our daily lives. There are many intricacies that underlie social and information networks, most of which we don’t yet understand.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Fun and Safe Social Networks for Children
- New Facebook Groups Designed to Change the Way You Use Facebook [VIDEO]
- “SNL” Spoofs Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg [VIDEO]
- HOW TO: Customize Your Background for the New Twitter
- Top 10 Twitter Tips for Bands, By Bands

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ryasick

Reviews: Bebo, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Hi5, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, YouTube, iStockphoto

More About: Column, facebook, Information Network, Information Networking, social media, social network, social networking, The Social Analyst, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:


How to Execute (Against) Your Resume

15 Oct

Anyone who has pried opinions out of me (or seen my eyes glaze over) knows that I admire simple, clear language and despise buzzwords and jargon. Well, at a recent New York event , the wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said one of the smartest and simplest things I have heard about incorporating emerging social tools into your life: “Execute against yourself.”

Sounds strange, right? But according to Gary and the people he was sharing the stage with, Julia Allison and Loren Feldman, you must first have a core business, purpose, or mission, and only then can you enhance that core using peripheral social tools for marketing and other purposes. As Gary puts it, “Content is King. But marketing is Queen, and she rules the house.”

Execute your resume

My personal “core” is using a scientific background to devise analytical approaches to strategic problems. But in the last six months or so I have developed a modest expertise with emerging social technologies that in principle can stand on its own. And so, logically, I have been thinking about how to display this newfound experience with social tools on my resume, given that I work largely in an area where those skills are peripheral but perhaps important to the main tasks. Are they computer skills? People skills? A relevant hobby?

With traditional media gatekeepers becoming decreasingly influential, it seems like everyone who is tech savvy is laying the groundwork for online personal and business branding. And I have heard more than once that “Google is the new resume.” You are your search results as far as anyone is concerned. So, someone could reasonably argue that the resume as we know it is dead. Resume, R.I.P.

Execute against your resume

But I say, long live the resume. Because simply saying that “Google is the new resume” is not entirely true. And here I disagree with authorities like author Brian Solis. Traditional careers like doctor, lawyer, scientist, architect, and so forth are not going anywhere. Even as social software tools become pervasive in society, people in such careers will simply figure out how to best add them (or not) into their work to add value. They will not entirely restructure how they carry out their lives; they will use them to enhance their existing lives. In Gary Vaynerchuk’s terminology, they will “execute against themselves.”

Hip to be elite

My strong suspicion is that people who travel in elite circles (went to Yale, had a Fulbright, worked at McKinsey) will not rely on event attendance and microblogging to sell themselves. At the same time, this does not mean that they cannot leverage social tools for their advantage. To the contrary, I predict that hip digital immigrants will gradually develop more powerful online presences than digital natives once they maximize the effect of combining old-school strengths with new media strategies.

So, if you are a handsome chef, a starving artist, a club promoter, or a professional blogger – maybe resumes are dead and you can rely on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and other sites to entirely promote your brand. But to the rest of the world, I say: long live the resume.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow studying Social Software for Security (S3) at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government. Email: markd [at]

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Posted in Web 2.0


Create a Wow Technology Conference With Word-of-Mouth Marketing

01 Oct

This is a guest post written by Jennifer Leggio, who writes about enterprise trends around social media, including security, privacy and reputation issues, for ZDNet.

You’re a thought leader in your industry. You want to convene other thought leaders in one place to share ideas with each other and with those hungry to learn. Perhaps you want to showcase some technology. And you want to make some money. Your vision unfolds as a conference, to which you can attract vendors, sponsors, media and attendees. Then you think about the huge events you have attended during your career – Black Hat, DEMO, Interop – and you think there is no way you can create such an event without the backing of a major corporation or media outlet. Wrong.

The era of Web 2.0 has created a freedom for entrepreneurs that never before existed – though that freedom is not without its risk. That said, all you need to get your conference idea off the ground is a nest egg investment, a good “hub” location, a strong network that you can tap for sponsors, speakers and attendees, and the power of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) – which is exactly what it sounds like. And, while unconferences such as BarCamp, PodCamp and WordCamp are impressive, I’m talking about a bona fide technology conference.

Don’t believe me? Look at Defcon as a historic example. The U.S.’ largest hacker con is said to have launched in 1993 out of a BBS that its founders and initial attendees were a part of and grew to more than 8,000 people this year. Defcon is an institution in the security community, and while its sister conference Black Hat is now owned by CMP and also provides Defcon a bit of a captive audience, thousands make the trip to Las Vegas for the hacker con alone.

WOMM is said to have a more credible feel than other more saturated marketing attempts, and what’s great for conference founders is that you can carry the passion that made you launch the event in the first place with that word-of-mouth. Below are three examples of conferences borne of a small idea that have grown successful via WOMM. While all three are somewhat regional, all have attracted a nationwide audience and speaker roster:

Gnomedex – Though more business than technology focused, Gnomedex is an example of how someone with a strong personal brand grew a conference out of primarily WOMM. According to founder Chris Pirillo, his entire marketing model is based on WOMM. “If something I do doesn’t catch on WOMM, I consider it a failure,” he said. For example, Pirillo said that in 2001, Gnomedex was marketed through his Lockergnome mailing list, which still has more than 100,000 subscribers. As social media presence grew, i.e. legitimized blogs and the birth of podcasting, so did Gnomedex’s WOMM vehicles. According to Pirillo, “2005 was our breakthrough year – largely being embraced by an ad-hoc community of bloggers.”

Twiistup – In doing some crowdsourcing, Twiistup came back as the most prominent answer when I asked which conferences have the best WOMM. Twiistup, founded by Mike Macadaan, markets itself as an “alternative” to traditional networking events. On a small scale, it rivals DEMO in that it features several startups selected to debut their products to an audience of media, technologists, venture capitalists and potential angel investors. What it has going beyond DEMO is its more “Webby” feel and almost cocktail party atmosphere.

SOURCE Conference – SOURCE Conference is the parent of security conferences in Boston and Barcelona. It launched via SOURCE Boston in March of this year as the first security conference to combine application security practices with the business of security. Due to my background in security, I’ve worked with the SOURCE team and I saw firsthand how the event grew from zero to a few hundred participants in its inaugural event, through 90 percent WOMM methods, making significant use of social networks such as Twitter. Founder Stacy Thayer did not have the personal brand power of Pirillo when she launched SOURCE, but what she does have is an impressive network of contacts in the security industry that she leveraged to build an advisory board and bring in impressive speakers – both making the WOMM that much easier.

You’re a thought leader in your industry. You want to start a conference. What’s stopping you?

[Disclosure: Jennifer Leggio does pro-bono communications work with SOURCE Conference]

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Posted in Uncategorized


Government 2.0: Where’s the Urgency?

01 Oct

This is part of an ongoing series about government 2.0 written by Dr. Mark Drapeau. To view previous posts in the series click here.

Recently I had the chance to attend an event called “Government 2.0 and Beyond… Harnessing Collective Intelligence,” which was hosted by the Department of Defense’s Information Resources Management College (IRMC). It had all the makings of a public relations boon: High-profile speakers like David Weinberger (who blogged from the event), corporate sponsorship, media coverage, and a new auditorium to show off. Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, was even there. But what I didn’t see among the people in the room was urgency.

Much lip service was given to welcoming new technologies, openness, information sharing, transparency, and collaboration. But there was no talk of a strategy, a plan, or a roadmap. Frankly, there was no talk of anything concrete in the way of actual progress towards Government 2.0, as the title of the event would lead one to believe. And while I am certain that DOD Deputy CIO David Wennergren was genuine when he spoke about the future of command and control being a more agile system of “focus and converge,” I am also certain that people in my workplace have Dell laptops so old they have time for a power nap during boot up.

This is particularly embarrassing given that one of the speakers, Bruce Klein talked in detail about Cisco Connect, their “next-generation workforce environment” that includes an encyclopedia, feeds, blogs, chat, and virtual meetings. No one discussed why the Department of Defense didn’t have this capability, and no one asked. More embarrassing still, Cisco Connect is very similar in principle to something the government already has – the Intelligence Community-built INTELINK, that I have used and written about before; the word “INTELINK” was never uttered out loud.

As the event was winding down, I heard a line not unfamiliar to me at this point, about everyone in the room being an “agent of change” that had to help. I became a bit frustrated with this and Tweeted the following:

While it’s probably inappropriate to “benchmark our enemies” in a Mashable post, I think it’s safe to say that terrorist and criminal organizations don’t need pep talks in wood-paneled conference rooms to adopt new technologies and gain a competitive edge. In the battle of bloviating versus trial-and-error, who wins?

One of the panelists, the co-author of Wikinomics, Anthony Williams, quipped that “The Ontario Government blocked Facebook, so everyone moved to MySpace. It’s a futile exercise.” Many people in the audience snickered. I don’t know about them, but I still can’t access MySpace or YouTube from my work computer. This is not a complicated multinational treaty negotiation. If everyone is so aware of the problem, why can’t we just… fix it?

To be fair, the government has non-trivial security issues when it comes to information systems – they must function alone and with each other properly, cannot be infiltrated by outsiders, and they must provide trustworthy information (imagine hacking not to plant a computer virus, but rather false intelligence or misleading geographic coordinates). The big takeaway that federal officials had from DEFCON 16 in Las Vegas was that social software has created a “perfect storm” for hackers – lots of new software, largely untested security loopholes, and a changing definition of privacy in society. As part of my Social Software for Security (S3) research project at the National Defense University I am working with government “information assurance” professionals to determine which social technologies are {always, sometimes, never} safe to use with DOD systems.

Unfortunately, all of this is likely discouraging young people – digital natives, or the Gartner-dubbed “Generation V” – from choosing honorable work in public service as a profession, and it is encouraging bright people already in Washington, DC to move on to greener pastures. It may be appropriate that a group named “Foreigner” wrote the song I quoted at the beginning of this article, because from my standpoint “urgency” as it concerns adoption of social technology tools into the defense establishment is thus far largely a foreign concept.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University in Washington, DC. These views are his own and not the official policy or position of any part of the U.S. Government.

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