Are you mad as hell about social media access?

Some GovLoop users are

For a real picture of the tenuous acceptance of social media in agencies, consider this post on GovLoop from Benjamn Strong, director of marketing and public relations of the Coast Guard's automated mutual assistance vessel rescue system.

"I'm mad as hell and throwing down the gauntlet," Strong wrote Aug. 30. "I received a tweet from a co-worker that our federal agency is now blocking among multiple other social tools." is a free service that converts long Web site addresses into short ones. It's useful for Twitter, which severely limits total message length, and other social media situations where a long URL would be cumbersome.

Strong continued to detail other ways in which agencies block or limit the usefulness of social media tools: "Here is a short list of things I can't access at work. Flickr (to UPLOAD photos), Twitter, Facebook, Hootsuite  (which the White House uses!), LinkedIn, and more are added every day. I can, however, access eBay and apparently some of my colleagues can access porn!"

Strong offered this assessment: "Have you noticed most of the hype and innovation in the new media/Gov 2.0 arena comes from industry -- not the [Senior Executive Service] or C-suite level in government?" he wrote. "That's because we suck at Gov 2.0!"

The post drew a rapid stream of responses, mostly supporting Strong. Dan Taylor, program manager at the Coast Guard's Logistics Information Management System, said that had been restored.

"It would be wonderful if someone who was responsible for blocking it for a few days would take a few minutes to reply to this comment thread to explain what happened," he wrote. "I've heard from IT professionals in our organization who will do 'scream tests' with applications. They'll turn stuff off and see who screams. We should expect better."

The blocking could also have been inadvertent, he said.

Another user shared a slide deck for discussing social media with agency managers.

What has your experience been? Does your agency block useful tools? Are you subject to "scream tests"? Are there tools you could use but are not allowed to? Or are you able to use social media as freely as you need to? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 maria m

My social media access is not limited, but I will say that not everyone needs social media in order to do their job. Sorry...don't know why we can't simply admit that. My office's bandwidth is constantly sucked away by people watching Youtube videos...absolutely not necessary for work. Flickr, oh, I know...if employees couldn't share their photos online,chaos would ensue. Facebook...pleez! Most FB posts are personal not work related. There are many legitimate ways that social media can be used to market and collaborate but really, this is about keeping people happy 'cause they can't live without their electronic connections.

Tue, Sep 7, 2010 RayW

Interesting comment reading. Reason for social media - to share your abilities and work. Hmm....looking for a new job on the current job's time? Telling what your organization is doing based on your skill sets as a brag factor?

Social media is a fun thing, or so I am told as I clean up the family computer that is allowed to do that activity. In the work environment, I really can not see it as much more than a big loop hole for 'others', be them Arabic, Chinese, Eastern Europe, Asia, Israeli, or other big business/criminal organization, to see what you are doing. Yes Yes I know, there are security settings. Right. Considering that certain foreign powers have already penetrated our wonderful CAC login system, do you truly believe that a trivial software security setting will stop them?

I guess if you want to know what a group is doing that may benefit you and them to collaborate on something, the old web page is out, have to look at blogs and tweets and twitters and facebooks and myspaces and hoots and linkeds, and flickrs and who knows what else, all with a unique format to see what is going on. How long does it take to go through all the permutations that could be used? Or does the gov arbitrarily decide which one will get mega rich and pick their service as the sole source? Then you have to find the person that turned off the service app you need so you can blip them with a question about it or see a comment he made. Hmmm.....Maybe that is not a bad idea for some folks, most support groups have gone to a 'no phone call from you' mode, use email or web form only. This is another way to hide from the angry masses by say social media only, find us.

This missive was written on my lunch half hour while I eat my homemade burritos made with garden veggies and left over roast beef, only a few bits on the government internet were inconvenienced at the taxpayers' expense since the computer has to be on in case an important work stopping download has to be pushed to it.

Tue, Sep 7, 2010

At the Social Security Administration there are IT specialist whose sole purpose is to limit employees' access to Inet social media, even some gov sponsored sites...but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry.

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 A Network Admin

The "scream test" is all we really have available. As a government agency network admin, I am mandated to support only legitimate government business applications. Customers are not honest on usage surveys, because they fear the surveys will be used for disciplinary purposes. So with bandwidth is limited by budget, we can only maintain QOS by limiting access-- and see who complains.

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 A Network Administrator

The "scream test" is the only reliable way to find out if a service is being used for legitimate purposes. Our legal mandate is to support only government business-- nothing else. Budget realities prohibit more bandwidth. Internal customers are not honest on surveys, because they fear the surveys will be used for disciplinary purposes. So all we have is trial-and-error.

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