Friday, June 20, 2008

Something about being near planes helps government organizations "get it."

A while back we discovered that the Transportation Safety Administration had started what appeared to be a public relations campaign that included -- believe it or not -- a blog. Evolution of Security has become quite an interactive (and frequently updated) place to get the inside scoop on the TSA and a variety of customer service issues.

It's pretty impressive, and continues to evolve.

Well, this morning we discovered that another government organization appears to understand The Relationship Economy -- the United States Air Force!

In DoD approves new social networking Web site, the Air Force Times reports,

A new social networking Web site has been approved by Pentagon officials to help service members and their families and friends stay in touch. The network is secure, password-protected and requires little bandwidth. Last year, when officials blocked access to some popular social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube on Defense Department computers, they cited the need to guarantee bandwidth availability for mission-critical functions. Family members who qualify for the free sites include parents and siblings of single troops, as well as spouses, kids and other relatives of married members.
OK, well they almost get it . . .

I don't really buy the guarantee of bandwidth availability excuse, I think it's more like guarantee security, but notice the observation that this is for 1) service members, 2) their families, and 3) their friends, but only family signup information is identified. I suspect that's 'cause no one has figured out how to streamline the friend verification process on yet another social networking site unless they are going to allow the upload or import of an address book from somewhere else.

I think that in concept this is a great idea, but the pattern reminds me of the walled garden social networks we already have -- MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, with lip service paid to simplicity while the reality remains a closed-off destination that serves as little more than a bulletin board with file-sharing.

The site explains that they are accepting applications from Active-duty service men or women interested in a website for their family, and immediate family members of active-duty service men or women who are interested in applying for a website on their behalf, and that they reserve the right to discontinue the hosting of any website determined to be set up by a person who is NOT a member of the Armed Forces. Their mission is to provide safe, interactive websites for deployed military heroes to stay connected with their families, funded by the generous sponsorships of the American public.

Bravo, but I wonder what happens after the service member is no longer deployed, and whether all that cool stuff that took hours to upload and arrange can be exported upon departure from the military.

I think not.

My intention was not to do a review, but since that's essentially what just happened, I'll give it 3.5 stars. I question the logic of limiting communications to family, as the service members that I know have many non-military friends. It's commendable that we are trying to combine security with accessibility, but the limitations are too reminiscent of the visiting room at a state prison.

What do you think?

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