Would you pay for Facebook? – GovLoop.com

Read the full post with comments here. Originally posted 10/3/12 at 4:54 pm.

Facebook has announced that it is starting a trial service that allows personal posts to be more visible…by paying $7.

Read the full article here on the Wall Street Journal online. (Also see within the article a link to the Facebook release.)

This service has been available for pages for a few months now, but it’s new to personal accounts. I’m thinking now we might formally begin to separate “classic” social media, whereby you connect with friends and other actual humans, and “commercial” social media where you connect with businesses. Where would government fit in?

What do you think? Is there ever a circumstance in which you’d pay for social media that has so far been free?

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Code for America-Will it help you? – GovLoop.com

Read the full post with comments here. Originally posted 9/28/12 at 11:18 am.

Feeling suffocated by 24/7 productivity expectations? Hungry for a technological edge to make your life easier and your community better? Code for America Commons is a great resource for discovering community-driven civic applications for open government.

Think of it as a resource to discover who is using what, how it works, how successful it is, and how you can integrate it into your best practices.  You can look for applications and solutions by city or government agency, and you can even directly browse the apps themselves, which are neatly arranged by software type, license, and application function. It functions like a wiki—so add your two cents and share with the community the solutions you’ve found, too.

It really is as simple as that. The only thing left is for you to explore! They have a very clean site that is easily navigable (though they are still tweaking the site as it is in beta mode).

How will you leverage Code for America to find solutions in your community?

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Will QR codes everywhere lead to a tourist boom for Gibraltar? – GovLoop.com

Read the full post with all comments here. Originally posted 9/19/12 at 3:51 pm

A colleague who knows of my love of properly used QR codes just sent me this article about the city of Gibraltar. They will be placing QR codes at tourist attractions around the city that link to Wikipedia pages about that location.

Volunteers will be writing articles in several languages about important locations around the city, and officials are considering offering free WiFi for those concerned about roaming costs.

Read the full story here on the BBC web site.

What do you think of this idea? How can Gibraltar’s local government leverage success to benefit city residents?

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The individual approach to social media – GovLoop.com

Read the full post with comments here. Originally posted 9/13/12 at 12:26 pm

Jack Hernandez, Red Boot Media’s Graphic Designer, shared some of his thoughts on designing a social media strategy for a client recently. We weren’t sure if it was his years of work with local government or his partnership with Red Boot Media that helped him craft this advice, but we thought it would be great to share either way!


Each client has a unique approach to social media and how they can use it, not just for the sake of social media but to benefit from it realistically. Here is how I approached a client recently when he asked me how relevant using social media would be for his business. His publicity manager had neglected to utilize Facebook effectively and because of that, he got the impression that Facebook had gone the way of Myspace.

Clients who aren’t social media savvy can easily be misled by others who don’t know quite what they’re doing themselves. My client asked me if Twitter was “good.” At that point I resolved to come up with a list of questions and suggestions that help him consider how Social Media would benefit him and which tools he would specifically find useful.

It’s not enough to come up with a basic list of questions and answers. The question “Who is your audience?” may be important, but it’s vague, and without pointing it out, a client may not realize who can potentially be his/her audience. Explain your suggestions and questions based on your client’s specific goals and product. Don’t be generic.

What do you personally hope to achieve through social media?
Ask yourself this without worrying about the limitations of technology and current social media capabilities. More than likely, there is a solution that will enable you to meet (and excel) those goals. Do you need a Facebook app that is effectively your web site? Do you want to link videos and open up a YouTube account? Really…anything is possible.

Who is your target audience(s)?
Your site is catered to a very niche clientele. Your Facebook page broadens the audience in that it makes your product more visible to others who are on Facebook, not just your friends but friends of those friends. People in the industry who start off on your official site also are drawn to your Facebook page for updates and developments. Through social media, you can update your audience with real-time developments and post images for visual impact. Twitter is a great if you intend to make very frequent real-time updates such as attending a conference or describing your activities throughout a big event.

Maximizing the social media coverage and broadening the target audience:
You have different sub-companies for each of your products. But you may consider having your Facebook business page represent all your products in general. The space available for your main graphic is large enough for to design something snazzy that will incorporate all your logos and a slogan. This will allow you to direct all your site visitors (from all your sites) to a central social media page where you can make more frequent updates.

Differentiating between your personal page and the business page:
It’s up to you to update your posts on the business page. If posts on your personal page highlight you receiving awards or going to conventions should be posting first on the business page, including images. From your business page, you can share your posts on your personal page, and potentially draw more “fans” to your business page.

Updating and maintaining:
In order to keep your Facebook page active, you need to be active. A few posts a week is a good way to update people and keep your product in their minds. More posts and gallery images if you’re attending a conference or receiving recognition for your achievements. Remember to reply to comments and questions that people post on your page. Social media is a dialogue!

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The local government CIO – We serve the people who serve the people

Read the full post with all comments here. Originally posted 7/20/12 at 12:30 pm.

In my continuing quest to ensure that local governments are recognized for the services they provide to the public, I bring you the first of several profiles of local government CIOs. With limited budgets, constraints from the county and state and under the unending watch of citizens, local technology departments are tasked with providing consistently reliable and ever improving services to help the public.

This week, the National Association of Counties wrapped up their 77th annual conference in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. I attended all of the Technology Summit meetings early in the conference and had the chance to chat with several county CIOs. One of our first speakers was Bill Schrier, former Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle (yes, city) and now the new Deputy Director at the Center for Digital Government, part of e.Republic. I talked to him about his time as a public employee in Seattle’s IT department and how they assisted the overall public mission of the city.

General responsibilities and day-to-day operations

With a staff of 200, Seattle’s Department of Information Technology is generally tasked mainly with infrastructure support for the entire city. They run data centers, telephone networks, public safety and radio networks, web sites services, TV channels, and help desk services. Many larger departments have their own IT units that do applications, such as permitting systems and records management systems. The city has approximately 11,000 employees, including approximately 250 additional IT professionals distributed among other departments.

A major IT responsibility is overall coordination for the entire city. With several individual IT departments, Schrier was responsible for setting policies that would cross departmental boundaries, such as standards for desktop computers and database management system requirements. In governance mode, Schrier served as an advisor and reviewed vendor contracts, made recommendations about technology investments to the mayor, city council and individual department heads. Schrier ultimately reported to the mayor.

Some of the largest city departments, such as the police department, relied on Schrier’s IT staff to install computers in police vehicles, however they used their own infrastructure staff to run servers and desktop software support. Schrier explained that this system is fairly typical in many of the larger cities in the country. Most smaller cities and counties have more consolidated IT systems, which he believes might be the better way to go for service and support. Individual department applications would still be handed separately, such as a park reservation systems or a water management system. With more and more applications and data storage heading towards cloud providers, consolidation will become a more effective and efficient option for many governments in the near future.

Schrier described a local government IT department as a customer service shop with income and expenses just like a small business, or, with a budget of $50 million in his case, a medium sized business. They buy servers, operate 24/7 data centers, and charge hourly rates for support staff services. Project management oversight, such as moving to VoIP for telephone service or updating the city’s 10,000 desktops with the latest Windows software are also IT department responsibilities.

Schrier and the IT department also contribute to the city’s economic development by encouraging tech businesses to move to Seattle. With Microsoft headquartered nearby and approximately 7,000 Microsoft employees residing in the city itself, Seattle is one of the county’s major tech centers. Schrier had meetings with the tech startup community to facilitate interaction between tech companies and the city government, and he would also would guest lecture at the University of Washington and other educational institutions.

Networking with other local CIOs and staying current on best practices in other local governments across the country allows Schrier and others to share and gather information from trusted professionals. From “What permitting software system do you use?” to vendor insights and discussions about the cloud and cyber security, networking about networking benefits local governments as a whole.

Schrier’s personal interest in public safety lead him to be instrumental in the creation of a nationwide 4G public safety network, now known as FirstNet. Earlier this year, Congress authorized $7 billion in funding for the new network that will dramatically improve first responder services. I will be writing about FirstNet in a future dedicated piece.

Ultimate goals for the public sector

“We serve the people who serve the constituents of the city of Seattle.”

As with every other local government function, taking care of constituents and citizens is the ultimate goal of IT. Governments offer services that cannot be found elsewhere: public safety, police, fire, and safe water. The purpose of IT is to make sure all of the technology that is used by the departments and functions of government is as efficient and effective as possible.


Not unlike other industries, changes and updates in technology, budget constraints, and dealing with different departments that want to do the same thing but on their own create challenges for local government IT professionals. It is unwise to have five departments use five different business intelligence systems when one customizable city-wide system might be more cost effective and efficient.

Measuring return on IT investment can be difficult to illustrate. In a budget challenged environment, investing more in technology can lead to better service delivery, however when competing for funding, showing the public the dollar benefit of switching software providers or a large investment in new desktop computers can be challenging. What’s the dollar benefit of a new police computer dispatch system? Will police vehicles arrive faster? Will crimes be solved more expeditiously? Maybe implementing a new workflow system for the water department will allow technicians to work better and save time in the field, a measureable benefit, but how do you demonstrate the ROI of moving from Windows XP to Windows 7?

Though the benefits can sometimes be hard to explain to public officials, it can be even more difficult to explain to the public. Because local government is the level of government closest to the people, local public IT employees have a different kind of contact with citizens than IT professionals at the state or federal level. Their decisions are felt at a much more personal level. Who responds when you can 911? Not the FBI. Who keeps the water flowing cleanly? Not the Coast Guard. Do you complain to your congressional representative when your local park isn’t clean? IT professionals provide the background technical support to local public services that benefit everyone.

Of course, doing more with less every year is another hurdle. When Schrier started as CTO he had a budget of $59 million; when he left 8 ½ years later, he had a reduced budget of $49 million, with most of the cuts occurring in the last five years.

Center for Digital Government

Schrier had worked with the Center for Digital Government for several years, attending events with other CIOs and sharing experiences. He hosted Center events in Seattle, such as a “wireless roadshow” about the latest developments in wireless networking, and an editorial roundtable where local officials talked about the technology challenges they faced. Seattle won “Best of the Web” competitive awards three times under his direction and was named as the number two digital city, right behind Honolulu, Hawai’i, by the Center.

The Center for Digital Government is part of eRepublic. It is a national research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government. Through its diverse and dynamic programs and services, the Center provides public and private sector leaders with decision support, knowledge, and opportunities to help them effectively incorporate new technologies in the 21st century.*

Schrier was interested in the opportunity to work with the Center while still being active in the IT field and connecting with city, county and state CIOs. He has been blogging for several years and enjoys writing about public IT issues. You can find a link to his blog below.


Schrier has a BA in physics and math and taught high school before earning his MPA mid-career from the University of Washington. He was already working in IT at the city of Seattle at that point and later served as CTO for 8 ½ years. After almost 30 years of public service to the city, Schrier retired in late June of 2012.

Interesting links

Bill Schrier’s blog – http://www.digitalcommunities.com/blogs/city-cio/

Center for Digital Government – http://www.centerdigitalgov.com

City of Seattle Department of Information Technology – http://www.seattle.gov/doit/

*Information from the Center for Digital Government’s web site.

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