Government 2.0

Not everyone was ga-ga over SSA's baby name mobile app

Not everyone was cooing over the Social Security Administration’s new Baby Name Playroom mobile application to help families select their newborn’s name.

The SSA announced the new application on June 14 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It allows users to sort through more than 45,000 names culled from SSA’s files, including the 1,000 most popular names each year since 1880. It also lists, trivia and a “surprise me” button, as well as links to applying for a baby’s Social Security number, children’s benefits and other financial and health tips.

But several readers wanted to throw out the SSA app with the bathwater, based on comments they submitted to Federal Computer Week.

“Is this REALLY what we want the Social Security Administration to be working on? A free app for baby names?! No wonder why people are getting fed up with government spending,” was one of the examples published on June 21.

“Leave the cute toys for the private sector to develop,” asked Steve, another commenter.

SSA officials were not immediately available, so I asked Gwynne Kostin, director of mobile for the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, if the readers had a point.

She noted that along with the baby names, the mobile app provides useful information about its programs, including how to get a SSA for a baby.

“That is certainly part of the SSA’s mission,” Kostin said, and using mobile technology to deliver the information is very cost effective for some populations.

As for letting the private sector develop more mobile applications with government data, Kostin said to bring it on. The White House’s and Health and Human Services Department’s Health Data Initiative are just two examples where federal agencies are releasing thousands of new databases to the public to be used by private developers.

“The government’s release of data is leading to more innovation,” she said.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM6 comments

Facebook hires Lockhart; DISA now on Facebook, Twitter

Facebook has hired former President Bill Clinton’s Press Secretary Joe Lockhart as its vice president of global communications heading up corporate, policy and international communications, starting July 15.

The appointment was first reported in a June 14 article by AllThingsD.

Lockhart is the founding partner and managing director of the Glover Park Group. He will report to Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy.

Lockhart, who lives in Washington, D.C., is expected to move to Palo Alto, Calif., for the position, AllThingsD reported.

In related news, the Defense Information Systems Agency announced it has joined Facebook and Twitter.

The agency had attracted about 1,700 Facebook fans and 295 Twitter followers as of June 15.

“Welcome to the new official DISA feed,” read the agency’s first tweet, posted June 12. “Follow & message us to connect with DISA and learn the latest DISA & DODIT news/info.”

However, users may have trouble finding DISA’s new Twitter account, @USDISA.

Searches for “DISA” and “Defense Information Systems Agency” on the Twitter website were ineffective in locating the DISA feed June 15. So DISA might need to do some serious tweeting to get the word out.

Follow Alice Lipowicz on Twitter at @AliceLipowicz.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jun 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM1 comments

Tweeting tornado warnings a good idea despite limitations, bloggers say

During the recent tornado outbreaks in Minnesota, Illinois and Massachusetts, Twitter became notable as a tool for spreading government agency and news media warnings of impending storms and twisters. But Twitter’s limitations as a warning system for tornadoes also are being examined.

Andrew Freedman, writer for the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog, wrote in a blog entry June 6 that he was glued to his Twitter feed watching severe thunderstorms developing from Massachusetts to northern Maine the week before.

“It was through Twitter that I found out every tornado warning from almost the moment it was issued, not [from] a television station, radio network, [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration's] Weather Radio, or any other news source,” Freedman wrote.

In many cases, Twitter messages beat the TV anchors and weather forecasters by several minutes, “which can mean the difference between life and death when a tornado is involved,” he added.

Freedman is a self-described “weather geek” who was adept in finding up-to-the-minute amateur Twitpics and location information about the tornadoes. But not everyone is so devoted and skilled.

For many people, Twitter updates about tornadoes can present confusion as well as life-or-death information, Chad Catacchio, blogger for Crisis Commons, wrote in a blog entry June 3. Crisis Commons is an organization that brings together emergency managers and technology volunteers. Social media can be helpful because they can be accessed on mobile devices while electricity is out. Twitter and other media can help spread a message more rapidly and widely, but also can occasionally distort the message.

Although the advantages of sharing disaster warnings on Twitter generally outweigh the negatives, tornadoes are a bit trickier. It is common for multiple “Take Shelter Now!” tweets to be distributed widely when a tornado warning goes into effect, Catacchio wrote.

Because tornados are extremely localized, affecting small areas and being capable of shifting direction very rapidly, the tornado warning messages on Twitter run the risk of spreading unspecific information too broadly, sharing information with unaffected people, and eventually degrading the quality of the warnings, he wrote. “Constantly telling people to ‘take shelter’ may desensitize them to the warnings, especially if they turn out to be false alarms,” he said.

Even so, Catacchio concluded it is better to be safe than sorry. “We are inclined to suggest that with tornadoes, when in doubt, tweet it out,” Catacchio wrote.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jun 07, 2011 at 10:01 AM0 comments

WT Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.