DorobekInsider

Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for May 21st, 2009

DorobekInsider: Data.gov goes live

leave a comment »

Very quickly, federal CIO Vivek Kundra has managed to get Data.gov up — it launched today.

20090521 datagov
I have just started looking at it, but… here is what they say about it themselves…

Welcome to Data.gov

The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

How to use Data.gov
Data.gov includes a searchable data catalog that includes access to data in two ways: through the “raw” data catalog and using tools. Please note that by accessing datasets or tools offered on Data.gov, you agree to the Data Policy, which you should read before accessing any dataset or tool. If there are additional datasets that you would like to see included on this site, please suggest more datasets here. For more information on how to use Data.gov, view our tutorial.

DorobekInsider: 1105 Media cuts pay 20 percent — temporarily

leave a comment »

Everybody knows it has been an extraordinarily difficult time for media, and it has been particularly hard for print media. Just last week, when I was out in Tucson, AZ, the state’s oldest paper, the Citizen, closed its doors. Our industry — my industry for these years — is just struggling across the board.

That has been true for the publications that cover the government market as well. (My former colleagues over at 1105 Government Information Group, the publisher of Federal Computer Week, Government Computer News,et al, and the FOSE trade show, et al, regularly ping me for over-covering their challenges and not sharing the wealth. More on that later.)

Last week, 1105 Media cut salaries 20 percent for all employees making $45,000 or more for the summer — June, July and August. 1105 CEO Neal Vitale made the announcement last week in a memo that was not sent out across the organization but was instead read to staff by 1105 Government Information Group President Anne Armstrong. Vitale then followed up with a conference call — well, a one-way conference call.

Here are the specifics as I know them:
* A 20 percent pay cut for all employees making more than $45,000 across 1105 Media — not just the 1105 Government Information Group
* Vitale stressed that 1105 is not in risk of folding or having cash flow problems, according to people at the meeting including 1105 Government Information Group Editorial Director DavidRapp, who I spoke to last night. What Vitale told the staff is that, under the agreement with 1105’s lenders, the company must make a certain return on investment — a certain percentage. They are simply not at that percentage. To use my words, not his — 1105 is making money. It’s just not making enough money to meet the “covenants” with the lenders. (Somehow they always refer to these things as covenants, as if Moses chiseled them into stone or something like that.) Vitale specifically pointed to 1105’s Redmond group and The Data Warehousing Institute (known as TDWI), which have been particularly hard hit by a sharp decrease in most conferences. (Companies have cut business travel unless absolutely necessary, and it has left the conference market reeling.)
* In addition to the temporary pay cut, employees will also not be allowed to accrue vacation time during that period.
* Employees were, however, given 10 days off to use before the end of the year.

Needless to say, morale among the people I spoke to over the last few days is just horrible. And, of course employees vent at Vitale and Armstrong. Almost all of the people I heard from were angry that Vitale’s conference call was one way — there was no ability to ask questions. My sense is that they didn’t e-mail the message to everybody because — guess what — I or somebody like me would probably get my hands on it and post it. (IMHO, so what, but…) Furthermore, in those conference call settings, people often don’t ask questions… and what really can management say anyway. There are no promises. There are no guarantees.

To be fair, 1105 is not alone in this. This touches every part of the country; it touches every part of the media. Even the DC market has not been immune. The Washington Post is struggling.WJLA-TV here in DC recently laid off some high profile people and cut pay by 3.9 percent. In the business-to-business trade press, IDG — publisher of venerable publications such as CIO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Network World, CSO, IT World and Industry Standard — recently cut 8 percent of its staff and instituted a 10 percent pay cut, including Computerworld/InfoWorld editorial director Don Tennant, who is almost a legend in the IT publication world. (Folio.com)

So, good friends at 1105, I hope that provides some context.

This is a media-wide issue. Entrepreneur and software engineer Marc Andreessen was on PBS’s Charlie Rose program in February and his take was that the media — and specifically newspapers — are simply between business models. The old model — this amazing industrial age process of putting out a publication and distributing it far and wide… and make no mistake, it is a remarkable model. That model simply has to change. We don’t know what that new model will be yet. We’re trying. But there are some harsh realities — more people are getting their information online, yet most of the money for publications comes from print. In many ways, news has become a commodity. The Christian Science Monitor recently posted a column by Robert G.Picard headlined Why journalists deserve low pay: The demise of the news business can be halted, but only if journalists commit to creating real value for consumers and become more involved in setting the course of their companies.

We journalists have to ask some tough questions — are we adding value to people’s lives? As regular readers know, I’m fascinated by Web 2.0 and I think there is a wonderful opportunity to make more information available to more people, but so-called citizen journalism does have its limits. Citizen journalism will never be able to do a piece such as the remarkable work in Fortune detailing the Bernie Maddoff case … citizen journalism won’t be able to spend the months coming up with reports like the WP’s simply remarkable series detailing the issues for vets at Walter Reed. And then there are wars — like Iraq, like Afganistan. It takes unique skills. It takes time. And yes, it takes money.

There are so many things that citizen journalism can do — and is doing. It isn’t just repurposing. But too often we journalists have put all sorts of value in areas that people just don’t care about. My classic case is journalistic objectivity. When it comes right down to it, people not only don’t value our so called objectivity — they just don’t believe us. What they want from us is to be fair. And yet our profession puts all sorts of value — I would argue some are downright arrogant about it — in something that our users not only don’t value, but quite frankly, they don’t believe.

So… there are still many choices and decisions ahead.

More on this to come, I’m sure.

Written by cdorobek

May 21, 2009 at 10:36 AM

DorobekInsider: The Obama transparency initiative, part II — seeking your ideas

leave a comment »

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy today posted what amounts to phase two of the Obama administration’s transparency initiative — essentially asking you for your ideas.

The White House is creating a new Web site — WhiteHouse.gov/open (the site wasn’t up when I checked late this morning) — and the Obama administration is looking for your comments and ideas around the following questions:

* What government information should be more readily available on-line or more easily searched? How might the operations of government be made more transparent and accountable?
* How might federal advisory committees, rulemaking, or electronic rulemaking be better used to improve decisionmaking?
* What alternative models exist to improve the quality of decisionmaking and increase opportunities for citizen participation?
* What are the limitations to transparency? What strategies might be employed to adopt greater use of Web 2.0 in agencies?
* What policy impediments to innovation in government currently exist?
* What changes in training or hiring of personnel would enhance innovation?
* What performance measures are necessary to determine the effectiveness of open government policies?

My DorobekInsider post on transparency from earlier this week can be found here.

Here is the full text as posted in the Federal Register this morning:

OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY Executive Office of the President;
Transparency and Open Government

SUMMARY: The President’s January 21, 2009, memorandum entitled, Transparency and Open Government, directed the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA), to develop a set of recommendations that will inform an Open Government Directive. This directive will be issued by OMB and will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement the principles set forth in the President’s memorandum.

Members of the public are invited to participate in the process of developing recommendations via email or the White House Web site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/open offering comments, ideas, and proposals about possible initiatives and about how to increase openness and transparency in government.

DATES: Comments must be received by June 19, 2009. ADDRESSES: Submit comments by one of the following methods: http://www.whitehouse.gov/open.
E-mail: opengov@ostp.gov.
Mail: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Attn: Open Government Recommendations, 725 17th Street, Washington, DC 20502.

Comments submitted in response to this notice could be made available to the public online or by alternative means. For this reason, please do not include in your comments information of a confidential nature, such as sensitive personal information or proprietary information. If you submit an e-mail comment, your e-mail address will be captured automatically and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Attn: Open Government, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20502.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In his January 21, 2009, Presidential Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, published in the Federal Register [74 FR 4685, January 26, 2009], the President outlined three principles for promoting a transparent and open government:

* Transparency promotes accountability and provides information to citizens about what their Government is doing;
* Participation enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions by tapping knowledge that is widely dispersed in society;
* and Collaboration harnesses innovative tools, methods, and systems to promote cooperation across all levels of Government and with the private sector.

The Presidential Memorandum requests recommendations to inform an OMB Directive that will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement the three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.

The purpose of this Federal Register notice is to solicit public participation in the development of those recommendations. There is a great deal of dispersed information among the nation’s citizens. With 21st century tools, the United States is in a unique position to take advantage of that dispersed information to inform the policymaking process. Our goal is to use the principles of open government to obtain fresh ideas about open government itself. Comments on open government may relate to government-wide or agency-specific policy, project ideas, and relevant examples.

Comments may address law, policy, technology, culture, and practice on issues such as:

* What government information should be more readily available on-line or more easily searched? How might the operations of government be made more transparent and accountable?
* How might federal advisory committees, rulemaking, or electronic rulemaking be better used to improve decisionmaking?
* What alternative models exist to improve the quality of decisionmaking and increase opportunities for citizen participation?
* What are the limitations to transparency? What strategies might be employed to adopt greater use of Web 2.0 in agencies?
* What policy impediments to innovation in government currently exist?
* What changes in training or hiring of personnel would enhance innovation?
* What performance measures are necessary to determine the effectiveness of open government policies?

This public process is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Written by cdorobek

May 21, 2009 at 9:52 AM

DorobekInsider: The ACT/IAC 30/20 year celebration

leave a comment »

The American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council celebrated 30- and 20-years, respectively, tonight.

Held at the atrium of the Ronald Regan building, some 500 people gathered to celebrate the concept that started decades ago — the idea of collaboration. ACT/IAC has more information here.

ACT/IAC leadership through the years

ACT/IAC leadership through the years

Earlier this week on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris , we spoke with the current executive director of ACT/IAC, Ken Allenhear that conversation here . We also spoke to Bob Woods , the founder of Topside Consulting, who was at the early beginnings of the these organizations. Hear that conversation here .

I have posted photos from the event. You can see the full slide-show of all the photos here.

The DorobekInsider the GTSI's Leslie Barry

The DorobekInsider the GTSI's Leslie Barry

DSCN0555

NASA Goddard CIO Linda Cureton and her husband and Ira Hobbs, the former Treasury Department CIO

See a slideshow of all the photos here.

Written by cdorobek

May 21, 2009 at 12:04 AM