Bobby Caudill

January 28, 2011

As I sit watching the snow I’m reminded……..

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Over the past few years, I’ve been privileged with numerous opportunities to share my thoughts on the topic of Telework. And way back when, it seemed that the supporters of Telework for government were few and far between. Of course, there were the trail blazers, (I recall speaking on panels with such thought leaders and executors as Danette Campbell from PTO and Andy Krzmarzick from USDA. It’s been amazing to collaborate with such talent!) but by and large, back then, the idea of allowing, much less encouraging, government employees to work from home with some regularity was really a bit of a stretch.

So, with the snow and ensuing local panic over the past couple days, I’m reminded of the December 2010 signing of the Telework Act and it’s importance. Of course, it’s really easy to recognize that working from home is a benefit on days when there is bad weather, but, let’s not forget about the other benefits; work/life balance for government employees, the impact on green initiatives (less energy, elimination of paper, etc.) and the ability to reduce the cost of government to name a few.

I am just a wee bit proud of the impact that many Adobe technologies have had on enabling this landmark shift. From providing the free software that powers recognizable and trusted user experiences (PDF, Reader, Flash) to the enterprise and desktop solutions that deliver web collaboration (Adobe Connect) and digital document processes (LiveCycle, Acrobat, Creative Suites), Adobe has been helping government streamline communications and reduce the cost of business processes for years. As the promise of Telework comes to fruition, Adobe will continue to seek ways to help government and it’s employees to work better and more efficiently.

Of course, the events of the past couple days here in Washington have shown that there is still a ways to go, but, when compared to where things were just a short couple years ago, its very easy to see that significant, forward progress is being made! Maybe by next winter, there will be enough government employees empowered to work from home that “snow days” will be a thing of the past!

8:04 PM Permalink
November 12, 2010

A Better Approach to Sharing?

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If you are responsible in any way for sharing information, whether within government or to the public, appropriately classifying information is always a challenge. There’s a full spectrum of possibilities between full, open disclosure and compartmentalized “need to know”. Especially post 9/11, most US agencies have worked hard to establish guidelines and best practices to allow access to the right information to the right people at the right time. To that end, many agencies have created what in the private sector would be called, proprietary classification schemes. Like any proprietary approach, it works very well within a certain scope, but, it breaks down quickly when confronted with a similar, but, alternative approach. The consequences of such a breakdown can vary from something as simple as an embarrassing situation to a life-threatening scenario.

So, as of November 11th, an Executive Order was signed named “Controlled Unclassified Information” (CUI) that is focused on solving this dilemma across the entire federal government. Assigned by the President, NARA will act as the Executive Agent for this Order, driving a process intended to rationalize the various approaches already in place across the agencies.

Standardization, what a good thing! Not only does this Executive Order pave the wave for a common taxonomy that can be explained, understood, used and defended by everyone, it also sets the stage for the ability to apply automation. As digital information has become the norm, replacing paper as the means to create, store and share, the need for better control mechanisms has never been greater. We see evidence of this in the news all the time. Leaks, whether intentional or not, have become more pervasive. However, without a standard approach to classifying information, leveraging technology to help mitigate the risks has been a challenge.

Imagine if you will, the ability to integrate enforceable, digital policies directly into information in a standard fashion that would be recognized government wide. Such policies would give the government the ability to dynamically control who can see information, how long the information is visible, what people can do with it, etc. Wouldn’t it be useful to have policies automatically assigned to documents to minimize the risks of information traveling to the wrong places?

I am quite encouraged to see policy standards such as CUI come about. What are your thoughts?

To learn about technology from Adobe to help, please take a moment and visit this link.

5:14 PM Permalink
November 10, 2010

Digital Signatures Made Easy

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Perhaps you are aware of the National eID cards that have been issued to the majority of Belgium’s 10 million citizens. With the genesis of the idea going back to 2001, citizen’s have been using their eID cards to help with tax filings, job searches, social services, permits, licenses and other government provided services.

More recently, the Flemish E-Government and ICT-Management Unit launched the digital signature platform of Flanders. Leveraging the existing eID infrastructure, users of the platform now have the ability to easily apply digital signatures to PDF documents. By simply sending an e-mail with a document attached (most common formats are accepted), the platform converts it and returns to the user a ready-to-sign PDF document.

It doesn’t get much easier than that! Yet another great example of eGovernment at work! To find out more, click here.

8:21 PM Permalink
June 25, 2010

A Slightly Different Twist

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I had the opportunity this week to visit and present at the Tennessee Digital Government Summit. I always enjoy these events because they tend to be up close and personal and this particular event was no exception! I was asked to share my thoughts about open government and the implications on state government.

When asked the question, “what does open government mean to you”, the general response from the audience was ‘open access to data’ so that citizens can ‘see where money is being spent’. With almost all state and local governments across the country being under severe budget crunches, being able to account for every dollar spent is increasingly critical. In addition, a few folks also expressed that once the citizens knew where the money was spent, the citizens could now in influence policy change. These are, of course, very good answers. Open access to data equals transparency and the ability to influence change equates to participation.

11:41 AM Permalink
May 14, 2010

The ‘Mom Test’

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I love it! I use this idea all the time to illustrate the target audience for many government services. If my mom can’t use “it”, perhaps the service is not quite “there” yet. I bring this up because during a session during last week’s Open Government & Innovation Conference held here in DC, I heard Steve Drucker from Fig Leaf Software say that the datasets currently on Data.gov fail the “mom test.” (see this GCN article for more quotes from the session) Of course, my brain immediately went to picturing Steve’s mom (well, actually, I visualized MY mom) sitting at her computer and clicking on various links on Data.gov and trying to make any sense of what she is seeing. It was a humorous visual, if nothing else! Of course, one might argue that Steve’s mom is not the target audience for Data.gov and I would agree with that. The question is, what open government service or website DOES target our collective moms??

I personally think Data.gov is a decent enough first step on the road to open government, but, I worry that it is being positioned as more than it really is. Like it or not, Data.gov services a very small fraction of the citizens of this country, albeit, a rather loud and vocal fraction. Data is only relevant to those trained in how to analyze and synthesize it into information. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in the hands of the untrained, raw data can very easily be misinterpreted!

So, sure, let’s take a quick breath and say, something akin to ‘Step 1 is now behind us’ and get prepared for the next phase; making open government services, tools and experiences available to citizens that turn raw data into something meaningful to people, information!

Get ready mom, answers to your questions are coming!

5:59 AM Permalink
May 13, 2010

Open vs. Choice

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I’ve written about this elusive word “open” in the past. My point was the word can mean many things depending on context and perspective. I think it has become a widely over used, misused word. That said, I was very happy this morning when Adobe took a shot at providing an explanation of what the word “open” means to the company. Even Adobe’s founders, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, weighed in with their thoughts on the topic. (Check it out here.)

Putting this into my own words, to Adobe, “open” equates to freedom of choice. It is a spirit that permeates the culture of the company as well as the technologies it creates. Adobe’s definition is not limited to “open source” or “open standards”, but actually supersedes and embraces these ideas into a bigger concept. Does Adobe take the steps to make every single one of its technologies available as open source or push every one of its protocols into the open standards arena? Of course not. However, many of its core technologies HAVE been offered as open source (Flex, AVM+), granted to open standards bodies (PDF is now ISO 32000) or, at the very least, openly published as specifications (SWF, FLV/F4V, RTMP, AMF) for others to use to create new and unforeseen solutions.

And of course, always remember Adobe’s continued commitment to support and participate in the development of open standards.

So, does it really HAVE to be “Open vs. Choice” or should it be “Open = Choice”? The beauty of this is, everyone gets to decide for themselves!

10:03 AM Permalink
April 12, 2010

Getting to where the people are

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Ok, let’s do a little experiment.

Let’s start with computing platforms. Everyone who uses a PC, raise your hand. Ok, what, maybe 70-80% of you? Next, Mac, get them hands up! Ok, another 10-15%. So the rest of you are using Linux or Unix maybe?

Alright, next question. How many are using IE as their primary browser? Safari? Firefox? Something else?

Moving on to mobile platforms. Same drill, get your hands up when I call out your baby! :-) Blackberry! iPhone! Andriod! Motorola! LG! Samsung! Nokia! Sony! TI! Who did I miss??

Carriers, ready? Go! AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint!

So, can anyone tell me the point of this exercise? And noooo, it was most certainly not about proving that any one platform or device is better than any other! In fact, my point is simple. People have a huge variety of choices when it comes to how they access information and if you are a government agency, like it or not, you’re faced with the reality of having to deal with this.

Unlike commercial concerns who can make the decision to target particular segments with their services, government does not have that luxury. Government cannot ignore a particular segment of the population simply because they choose one mobile phone over another.

4:39 PM Permalink
April 2, 2010

Adobe’s best kept secret

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In a company that has a relatively large portfolio of products and capabilities, it’s quite easy for many people to hone in on one or two products and ignore the rest. Adobe is one such company. I’ve always been very happy to be affiliated with Adobe, if for no other reason, it’s one of the few companies I’ve ever worked for that even my mom knows of! :-)

But, like my mom who associates Adobe only with ‘that software that let’s me read stuff I download from the Internet’, many people have gaps in their knowledge of what the company offers.

One example is in the realm of security. There are quite a few misconceptions out there about how to manage and control digital information. Rather than steal their thunder, I’m going to point you to a recently recorded discussion between John Landwehr (Director of Security Solutions & Strategy) and John B. Harris (a member of John’s team). In this short 8 minute video, John and John talk about a number of capabilities including digital signatures and Digital Rights Management.

View the session here.

Take 8 minutes and enjoy!

I encourage you to think about creative ways these capabilities could be leveraged to help drive open government. I look forward to your comments and ideas!

10:17 AM Permalink
March 26, 2010

Who said web conferencing is not rocket science??

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Sorry, but who can resist the cliche when you think of NASA? Bad jokes aside, I would love to call your attention to my latest discovery in my quest to highlight open government at work. A group of scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute (NAI) came together to participate and collaborate in an event called the “Workshop Without Walls”.

The article offers some great insights from the participants and the organizers.

What I found to be most interesting is the comment from George Cody, co-organizer of the event, that he “actually came to be unaware of the conference as being at multiple venues.” Especially when considering ways to encourage and foster participation and collaboration, leveraging an “enabling technology” that fades into the background is ideal!

To often, collaboration technologies themselves become the center of attention, more often than not, in a “less than positive” way. Here are a couple things to consider:

  • Collaboration is for and about people – technology simply enables the experience
  • Becoming a participant should not require a great deal of effort
  • Eliminate burdensome downloads or installs, it should leverage tools they already have
  • It should work the way people work, it should not require training to use
  • It should go to where the people are, device, network, and platform independent

Knocking down these typical technology barriers can and will have a significant impact on the adoption and success of your program or event.

7:16 AM Permalink
March 23, 2010

I’ll bet you have an opinion on using PDF for Open Government

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So, unless you live completely off the grid (which, of course, means you won’t be reading this), I’m willing to bet at some point in time you’ve interacted with the government via a PDF. There, I said it.

PDF files are everywhere, I don’t really need to beat that drum. However, there is a drum that probably DOES need just a little beating regarding the usefulness of some existing PDF files to various consumers of government information. Mind you, I did NOT say the usefulness of PDF, that this standard is useful should not be in question. What should be in question is the way some people CREATE PDF files and for what purpose!

Based on a “long” 6 years of working for Adobe, I feel safe in saying that the ISO32000 standard (better known as PDF) is one of the more misunderstood formats in use on the web today. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear or read a comment that is simply wrong.

So, one might ask, how is it that such a widely used format can become so misunderstood at the same time? Of course, there are many contributing factors, but few more apparent than the ability for anyone to create a PDF and post it without regard to any best practices or an understanding of how that PDF can or may be used. Self-publishing, as great as it is, can and has created a whole new set of problems! But, I digress…..

The reason I’m writing this post today is to appeal to those who create and consume government information/data to join a discussion to help identify and articulate a set of best practices for using PDF. I started the discussion with the recognizable concern of making information available to people and machines.

If you have any interest in this topic, please join me on Govloop and participate in this discussion: http://tinyurl.com/y8w3zja

I’m looking forward to a productive and spirited conversation!

6:16 AM Permalink