Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Musings


Like many Americans, I tried to keep today, Memorial Day 2009, focused on those who have served (and continue to serve) in our armed forces. Whatever your political leanings, I think we can all agree that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those brave men and women to put their lives (and their family's livelihoods) on the line everyday.

So, what does this have to do with technology, Open Source, and social media? Given that I'm helping create a new initiative (Forge.mil) to enable those building technology for our troops do so in a more efficient manner, I think there is a strong connection. It should go without saying that our armed forces deserve the absolute best technology to help accomplish their mission and keep them safe.

I'm heartened by the fact that technologies and methodologies that we in the consumer space take for granted are now starting to be accepted in the Department of Defense as the most expedient way to help build out the tech that our warfighters need. The whole concept of cross-department collaboration (especially using Open Source development models) enabled by Forge.mil is a pretty large departure from the traditional 'silo-ed' approach of doing things. I can attest to the fact that while progress has been made, we need to continue to push those with leadership roles to really embrace this effort to give those who serve us the best capabilities, in the shortest amount of time, and at the most efficient price point.

I struggle most days with figuring out how to bring things like Social Media and Open Source methodologies into the DoD and the community I'm helping to build in the development space. Thankfully, there are several initiatives being worked on within the department today, including A-Space ('Facebook for Intel Analysts'), and other social site experiments like Synchronicity @ DISA (for use by folks inside of the Defense Information Systems Agency). I believe there is good momentum in this space that will hopefully continue forward.

While all of these efforts are currently 'internal public' within the department, at least they are starting down the path of opening up the lines of communication and collaboration within a very traditional organization. At some point, we are going to have to get to a critical mass or tipping point where these tools are the accepted norm, and aren't feared. I also believe we are going to need a bit of a 'renaissance' from government contractors who need to start thinking not just in terms of money/contracts, but also about truly serving those who work hard every day to serve and protect us. Learning to successfully adapt to the new ways of building software and systems would be a great first step!

Personally, I'm honored and humbled every single day that I get to help (albeit in a very small way) give our service members the technology they need to accomplish their mission. Words cannot truly express how grateful I am for all that they do!