DHS discovers the challenge of creating a collaborative social network

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The GAO (Government Accountability Office) has held up the deployment of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) critical (non-classified) information sharing system.  The unlucky group that must deal with the herculean task of launching a collaborative social network of law enforcement, state, local federal and tribal agency members must answer some tough questions before continuing.  That group is the Homeland Security Information Network Advisory Committee (HSINAC). 

Some of the things these poor guys must respond to include:  

-Conduct an immediate manpower survey for an outreach effort which is basically the sales and marketing effort of the Next Generation social network they are attempting to build

-Create a fully articulated business strategy with management controls (their words not mine.)

Large scale information sharing is what social networking is all about.   Creating a critical mass and going viral is one of the phases of any successful launch.  Having a "well articulated business plan" and "management controls" in place *before* launch is not going to help.

Twitter, or even Tipd which is in the process of trying to create social site for finance.   All were launched with significantly less than the $150 million that DHS is going to spend on their critical information portal.   

Look at MySpace, FaceBook, Slashdot, Craigslist, Digg, Reddit,

Here is what DHS should do to create an effective information sharing portal.

1.    Use open standards of course. No proprietary software that has to be deployed to each desktop or department.  

2.    Immediately take the information resources they have available now and publish them.  Lot's of great tools for that.

3.    Create a social bookmarking capability such as Digg or Reddit so that the important information can float to the top and discussions can occur.  (Reddit's code is free and open source)

4.    Faciliate the social aspect. Create a Twitter like functionality so first responders can follow each other and link to each other's resources.  

5.    Provide a feed reader capability (or just let everyone use Google Reader) so the end users can follow the stuff they determine is important.

You know that this could be deployed in a matter of days, maybe weeks since it is a government project.  Certainly within the $3 million budget that DHS has for maintaining the failed system already deployed through next September.  The only thing that may take significant investment is the credentialing system needed to keep the bad guys off the network.  

No social network has ever succeeded through central planning, outreach efforts, and management controls. Every successful new information sharing network has just happened, usually explosively.  Unless the DHS can come to grips with that the Homeland Security Information Network-Next Generation is doomed to fail.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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