July 9, 2007 by jimstogdill
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.