JVWR: MuniGov 2.0, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life

Michelle Garder, Pam Broviak, Bill Greeves and I have just published a paper in the Journal of Virtual World Research. Here is the abstract and link to the pdf file:

The virtual world Second Life allows social interactions among avatars  – online representations of real-life people – and is slowly adopted in the public sector as a tool for innovative ways to interact with citizens, interorganizational collaboration, education and recruitment (Wyld 2008). Governments are setting up online embassies, voting simulations, interactive learning simulations and virtual conferences. While there are  very prominent and elaborate examples on the federal and state level of government, we have seen only a handful of applications on the local level. One of these local examples is  MuniGov2.0  – a collaboration of municipal government professionals who regularly  meet in Second Life. The goal of the group is  to  support each others geographically  distributed implementation attempts to incorporate new technologies in the public sector. Interviews with the founding members and core group show clear mission-specific needs  that Second Life collaboration can support, but that there are also technological and behavioral challenges involved using this highly interactive environment. The article will highlight the challenges, how they were met, lessons learned, future directions of the  project and ends with recommendations for the use of Second Life in local government.

Full reference:

Mergel, I., Gardner, M., Broviak, P., Greeves, B. (2011): MuniGov20, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life, in: Journal of Virtual World Research, Volume 4, Number 2: Goverment & Military.

Keywords: Virtual worlds, Second Life, online collaboration, local government, Gov 2.0, Web   2.0




Navy recommends LinkedIn for employees







I came across this SlideShare presentation today via FedScoop and think it is worth sharing: The Navy recommends to use LinkedIn (I assume as opposed to Facebook) as a way to tell the story of the Navy in an online environment where professionals share information. They recognize that many thousands of professionals use LinkedIn as a place for their up-to-date online resumes. Moreover, Navy employees can join groups to discuss topics of interest, to learn from each other for professional development purposes or even search for new jobs.

A disclaimer reminds Navy employees to keep privacy and OPSEC in mind when interacting online.

Here is the full presentation:



OpenGovRD: Towards an “Open Public Administration Commons”

Day 2 of the OpenGovRD workshop started with a session to collect open-ended research questions that the academics in the room can tackle. We reviewed our initial wish-list of what research on Open Government should look like. Some of the keywords people in the room used to describe OG research included: interdisciplinary, rigorous, robust, actionable, fundable and most of all FUN (that was my favorite keyword). I believe fun will be a result of a research agenda that will include researchers from different disciplines, but also includes a constant feedback cycle between academics and practitioners.

I would like to push even further – not just showcasing research findings, but constantly including practitioners into the research process and not only as subjects (i.e., interview partners), but as equal partners who guide the research, evaluate its feasibility and to keep the research grounded and unbiased. The findings need to be actionable right away and not after a 2-3 year publishing cycle in academic journals that are “hiding” the results for exclusive access in University libraries.

Obviously, an OG research agenda needs to be fundable. The group highlighted that there is no digital government program at NSF anymore, so that new funding sources need to be discovered and we probably need to work closely with directorates or programs at NSF to identify the right venues for proposal submissions.

The practitioners and academics in the room mentioned one gap over and over again: We don’t know what we know! There are several platforms out there that are collecting, harvesting and displaying some of the research and reports that are available on specific subtopics, but there is not one place that helps to compile everything we already know. I suggested to create an “Open Public Administration Commons“. This place can serve as a networking platform that provides the opportunity to connect to ongoing research projects, give direct feedback not only to the final results, but on an ongoing basis while the discovery is happening, to test ideas in early stages, but foremost to provide a channel that helps to push findings directly to government so that public managers can act on the findings and find a guide on how to tackle current and urgent problems. Many agencies face similar or at least comparable problems and while it is helpful to understand that there are best practices cases out there, it is much more important to actually make the social connections between government officials to share insights on the day-to-day “How To” questions that are coming up while people are trying to solve problems. I would like to take the platform idea a step further and make this platform a place for those of us who are teaching OG-related topics to find up-to-date case studies that can be used in classrooms. We can educate cohorts of MPA or IS students that already know about the newest developments when they enter their first jobs.

Together with my co-authors, I have written about the idea of an “Open Public Administration Commons” in a recently published article in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: “Towards Open Public Administration Scholarship” (email me if you want to read a copy of this article).

Related reading:

Schweik, C., Mergel, I., Sanford, J., Zhao, J. (2011): Toward Open Public Administration Scholarship, in: Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (J-PART), Minnowbrook III: A Special Issue, Special Issue Editors: Beth Gazley and David M. Van Slyke, Vol. 21, Supplement 1, January 2011, pp.i175-198.

Academic networking & social media

I recently presented my ideas on why academics should tweet and blog too at a symposium at Syracuse University called “Tenure Track Dream Team”. A little over 140 students who are currently on the job market attended the day – about 8-10 were actively using Twitter and 2-3 tweeted during the conference.

I focused my talk not so much on the technology (“You have to use it!”), instead I decided to think about what kind of networking ties academics need in early stages of their career and what usually drives human interaction. My advice for the students was to get out of their comfort zone: They need diverse network ties, so that they will hear about job opportunities (Granovetter’s research on weak & strong ties); they also need to maintain their local ties for future collaborations, but reach out into their global network, so that people are aware of their work and thereby bridge different parts of their network (Watt’s idea of creating small networks and reach across your local, dense ties).

I suggested to them that social networking services are a way to create, maintain and nurture their academic ties. I am using Twitter to understand who belongs to the network of people writing and talking about my research field. I tap into ongoing conversations and contribute when I have something to say. Twitter is a great resource to test and promote early findings or generally hear about hot and new topics. I also use it to understand how practitioners in my field talk about the issues. I started conversations and consequently was able to invite guest speakers to my classes. Moreover, Twitter is a great tool if you can’t attend a conference – someone will always tweet about what is going on or in which room the best presentations are going on.

In addition, I suggested to the students that blogs are a great way to bridge the 140 letters limitation of Twitter and point people to longer posts and links to publications. I suggested to think about individual blogs or content-area blogs that can be easily maintained by several people who are all working on similar topics. The latter lowers the individual publishing/writing pressure and the workload can easily be divided among several people.

RSS feeds as an integral part of blogs, but also all kind of other frequently updated parts on a website, are a great way for academics to sign up for table of content updates of their favorite journals.

We also had a good conversation about publishing cycles, open commons and publishing rights. Syracuse University has just started an “open commons” for working papers called “SURFACE” that shapes up to be a great vehicle to publish early results.

Here are my slides:

Update: Link to the video with my keynote address titled “Social Media for Prospective Faculty: Why Academics Should Blog and Tweet, Too!

Govt 2.0: From Tools to Policy to Convergence (crossposting)

Crossposted from Bill Greeves’ blog:

As I think back over the past two years, specifically with my involvement in the world of Government 2.0, I can’t help but think its adoption has coalesced into three phases. Nearly all of us have experienced some aspect of Phase I: Tools. What is Government 2.0? How does Twitter work? What good is Facebook? Phase I is very hands-on and experiential. It consists of learning the technologies that provide a foundation for Govt2.0 adoption. Many of the 2.0 movers and shakers might consider Phase I old news. But the truth is that when you look at government organizations as whole, particularly those of us at the local level, most are still in this phase – conducting experiments, discussing with peers, working on buy-in from our organizations, etc.

A small percentage of us have taken the next big step to Phase II: Policy. Phase II, which I highlighted in an entry a few months back, is focused on the larger, more extensive issue of the “how” of government 2.0. The effective policies cover such delicate topics as ownership, legal responsibilities, message consistency, etc. It answers sometimes difficult questions. Who will manage these tools? What can we tolerate in terms of two-way communication and feedback? Which tools will we deploy? The numbers of social media “policies” that address these issues continue to expand at a slow but steady rate.

This brings us to the relatively uncharted waters of Phase III: Convergence – a merger of these tools and concepts with our larger organizational strategy. How do we keep the momentum going? What’s next for us if we want to truly institutionalize the use of not just the tools but more importantly the concepts and the potential they represent, such as collaboration, open government and knowledge management? How do we take that next step to integrate these tools into our organizations’ larger communications or development strategy? These are all excellent questions. And no, I don’t know the answers…yet.

That’s where you come in! Together with Ines Mergel, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (and fellow MuniGover!), I’d like to request your participation in a very brief online survey to help us develop some empirical data on this very subject. Once we can get a snapshot of where we are today, we intend to develop some analysis on where the gaps are and how we can overcome them.

When completed, we plan to do a seminar to review and discuss the results with anyone interested. I expect that we’ll also be able to share some best practices and lessons learned from the experience that will likely also help you take your own organization to the next level of engagement and implementation.

So please, take a moment to answer these few simple questions – share your pain, share your success!


James Fowler on the Colbert Report

James Fowler talks about the strong influence of social networks and how they affect our lives:

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'James Fowler
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

It’s not all about Facebook…

The following graphic from Vinco’s blog shows the “World Map of Social Networks” and even though Facebook seems to be dominant, there are a lot of regions around the world where it’s not all about Facebook:

A Call for Papers on Twitter networks at the 2010 Sunbelt Social Networks Conference

At the 2010 International Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, to take place at Riva del Garda, Trento, Italy, from June 29 to July 4, 2010, we intend to organize a session on Twitter networks. We are looking for papers with empirical evidence using the social networking and micro-blogging service Twitter.com. Twitter has become one of the most prominent publishing channels of short messages during the last year and caught our attention as network researchers. We would like to initiate a session on how network researchers use the public conversations observed on Twitter and how they capture, analyze and interpret Twitter networks.

Potential contributors should also note that at the Sunbelt conferences series, final (written) papers are not requested to be submitted: just abstracts suffice. However, all submitted abstracts of the proposed papers will be reviewed by the INSNA organizers (and not by the session organizers), who may also decide on the format of the paper presentation (as lectures of 20 minutes or posters of 60 minutes). In any case, since we would like to coordinate the Twitter networks session, potential contributors in this session are free to contact us before the end of November 2009, as the deadline for submission of abstracts of contributed papers is December 1, 2009 now January 15, 2010. Nonetheless, the abstract submission should be done by the contributors themselves who should complete the Submission Form here. Since the name of the session “Twitter networks” is not listed in the Session field of this Form, applicants should insert it in the “New Session” field.

Session initiators:
Ines Mergel, Maxwell School at Syracuse University, NY
Moses Boudourides, Department of Mathematics, University of Patras, Greece
Lothar Krempel, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany
Marc Smith, Connected Action Consulting, Belmont, CA

DDoS targeted one Twitter user – related to Russia-Georgia conflict

DDoS target on Twitter

Originally uploaded by Ines Mergel.

Several sites report this morning, that the distributed denial of service attack on Twitter, potentially also on Facebook, YouTube, Google, Livejournal and other social networking services, was targeted towards only one user: an outspoken critic of the ongoing Russian-Georgian conflict.

Millions of users worldwide received emails with links to Twitter (Mashable, NYT, Guardian, etc.). The resulting heavy traffic brought the site down for most of the day and might have caused problems on Facebook due to additional traffic.

Expert relate this attack to the ongoing cyberwar between Russia and Georgia.

Marines: Immediate ban of Social Networking Services (- or not)

Marines: Immediate Ban of SNS

Originally uploaded by Ines Mergel.

The Marines are no longer able to access social networking services. The following graphic shows the official statement published online and in all capital letters:


At the same time, DoD and the U.S. Strategic Command are discussing weather they should restrict or ban social networking services ]. You can join the discussion on the Army Live blog (which will also be block for internal access in case the ban will come through) or on Twitter with @USArmy:

Read the full story on Wired.com by Noah Shachtman: Marines Ban Twitter, MySpace, Facebook

Here is the response of @thejointstaff (Adm. Mike Mullen):

Update (August 7, 2009): See NextGov article: “Marines and Social Nets: We Goofed” => Not sure what to believe… Marines seem still be allowed to use social media on their personal accounts. But they are reinforcing to ban “access to social Web sites on Defense networks to conserve bandwidth for operational requirements.”