Conference Blogging – DoD

Today I’ve been following John Scott’s stream of posts from the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco and it reminded me of a topic I meant to write about a few weeks ago after I attended the DISA conference.

There were two primary topics that came up over and over again at the conference: open source and cultural change within the agency. This post is a reflection on culture.

The last conference I attended on the west coast was the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Summit at the same venue where the OSBC is going on now. At that conference, every session had at least the first three rows full of real time bloggers. But that wasn’t the only form of wired audience participation. Countless iChat participants discussed the session topics in real time, pictures appeared on flickr almost immediatly, videos of sessions ended up on youtube, and a variety of wiki’s, chat boards, and etc. sprung up for real or near real time discussions.

In contrast, at the DISA conference I rarely saw a laptop anywhere at the venue, and amazingly, no wi-fi connectivity was available anywhere in the facility. My only internet connectivity outside of my hotel room came (slowly) through my Cingular edge cell phone and bluetooth. Can you imagine AT&T sponsoring a conference and offering no wireless in the building?

I’m not surprised really that few people in the industry blog. There is the natural orientation toward secrecy that comes from the nature of the work; but there are more practical reasons. No government employee can blog without running amok of the PAO and, at this particular conference, every single attendee was required to sign an NDA to obtain admission. Unfortunately I wasn’t offered a copy to keep but I’m pretty confident this post doesn’t violate it.

DISA, if you want to spur cultural change start seeking more transparent discussion of the major issues within the organization, and even better, start an exchange program. Send 10% of your employees on targeted one year sabbaticals to work on the west coast. Put them in startups, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, whereever. Just send them out there. DC isn’t the place for it.


  1. Steve Field - May 23, 2007 @ 4:39 pm


    Love your thinking. I am sure DISA does not. I can only imagine WiFi and laptops at a military conference. The OPSEC police would go bananas.

  2. Jim S - May 23, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

    Steve, I’m sure you are right; it stresses them out to even think it. I was really amazed though to have to sign an NDA to get in. But cultural change and high level direction shouldn’t be OPSEC sensitive.

    The thing is that the kinds of changes the leadership at DISA is trying to push through could really be helped by more “conversation.” I keep imagining Lt. Gen. Croom blogging his way through his own version of a DISA “Internet Tidal Wave” memo – ala Bill Gates but done on a blog with lots of opportunity for employees of the agency and other stakeholders to participate in the conversation.

    There are some military leaders blogging (Gen Cartright for example) but they do it firewalled on a command network / portal where none of the rest of the contractor community can read it. I doubt if anyone comments.

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