DoD and Social Networking


The other day Linked In prompted me to connect with a colleague from three jobs ago that I’d lost contact with. I thought that was pretty cool and was a nice demonstration of Linked In’s power as “curator” of my network.

With Facebook opening up I recently signed up to give it a try too. Sort of filling the space between myspace and Xing / Linked In, its networks and groups seem a bit more likely to generate serendipitous connections. I’ll wait and see if that pans out.

The DoD and military services could benefit from both the curatorial and serendipitous aspects of social networking inside their walled gardens. I’ve been telling my colleagues in government for some time that they should look to bring something like linked in inside the firewall to encourage and support the development and sustainment of professional networks. (oh, and they should get over the whole “I can’t link to anyone outside of government” thing – professional networks always span organizations). Over a twenty plus year career a military service member or government employee will work with hundreds of people; some directly and some more peripherally, it would be valuable to explicitly maintain the most important of those hard won connections both for traditional career related reasons and to support extended communities of practice.

It may turn out to be unnecessary though. As of this writing the U.S. Air Force network has over 14,000 members, the U.S. Navy over 17,000 and the U.S. Army over 50,000 members. Defense Intelligence Agency, DARPA, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and Defense Information Systems Agency also all have networks that require a valid email address for membership (the DISA network currently has 195 members). I realize that these numbers are small relative to the sizes of these organizations but they are growing fast (especially among the younger members).

At this point I doubt much of the “business” of these organizations happens in these Facebook networks; they are most likely just a side effect of youth culture meeting the workplace; but it isn’t hard to imagine valuable connections being made in these networks and their importance will probably grow with maturity.

Of course, they could perhaps be more valuable if they were developed and facilitated inside the organization. Inside the firewall there would be additional ways to generate and prompt serendipitous connections (graphing email distributions for example) or tie the network to meaningful real time command and control systems.

If you read this and you have a Facebook account send a poke or say hello.


  1. Julie Pearson - August 4, 2007 @ 11:37 am

    Facebook is all kids. I must have surfed 70 profiles, not one was over 25. All of them were class of 2007, 2008, 2009. Cmon. What value does facebook have for any professional? NONE!

    If you think facebook is for professionals, you have been reading too many of the bloggers who were offered stock options to start the rumor that a place where 30 million college students are doing jellow shots is going to help your career.

  2. Jim S - August 4, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    @Julie – If you started surfing at a 24 year old’s profile and kept clicking on “view friends” I have little doubt that you found all 24 year olds.

    My point really has very little to do with Facebook as tool for professonals though. The point I was trying to make was that tools like LinkedIn and Facebook make a template for things that government could do internally (not unlike how they’ve used the model of wikipedia to do intellipedia and others) to improve their ability to facilitate long-lived networks.

  3. Richard Baldwin - August 30, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    Funny, seems like one of those kids was offered a billion dollars.

    I’ve been in the DoD software engineering business for 20+ years and maintained a healthy professional network with the commercial and DoD markets to be successful. The first DoD Java project in 96 we heavily tapped into Sun. These social network technologies would have made things a lot easier then telephone and email.

    The hardest part with the DoD is stopping them from turning off these technologies for fear of information leaks. I think more people die from ignorance of information then information being leaked. Train people to be responsible and they will make better calls then Big Brother.

    Time to kill the rant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *