Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

NAME WITHHELD asks about Web 2.0 for Disaster Planning & Response

NAME WITHHELD asks about Web 2.0 for Disaster Planning & Response

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

I recently received an email request asking for help from a state emergency management professional who’s interested in Web 2.0. I didn’t discourage him from using the term “Web 2.0.” I thought that would just confuse him. Heck, just today I found out that “Web 3.0” has already been replaced by “Web Squared” by people who should know better

But seriously, if you’ve ever given a presentation about social media and social networking complete with examples you may remember the blank stares you got from some members of the audience — and often these are the people you most want to reach.

There’s a lot of interest out there, what with Twitter competing with CNN for news from Iran, but still it’s a challenge to get people up to speed quickly, as my correspondent attests.

Here’s the text of the email I received. I’ve altered parts of it to protect his identity:

Dear Dr. McDonald…

I recently attended a seminar on the topic of Web 2.0, which was taught by a twenty-something that knew all there was to know about the latest technology.Unfortunately, there was a disconnect between all this knowledge and my capacity to comprehend.I admit that I am a dinosaur, one step removed from being high-sulphur crude oil - an old fart, if you will.

In looking at available information on the Web, most notably your work, I see the potential for social networking as a government tool, both inside and outside the firewall (for communications within our agencies and for communication with customers and the public at large).I’m also starting my first season working with our state’s Emergency Management Division, which anticipates we’ll be hit by at least half a dozen named storms and hurricanes this year.After reading Big in Japan’s “For Recovery 2.0: Disaster Blog Lessons Learned”, I see even more potential in using Web 2.0.

My problem is that I missed the part between when Web 2.0 started and now.I can see what is out there today, and I’m coming to accept that EVERYTHING will be in Beta Test from this point forward (i.e., new technology will be released before the bugs are worked out of the old technology).What I haven’t yet come to understand is how to select a technology and how to know that it is appropriate for the intended use.If the answer is “hire a consultant”, by the time we get the RFP (Request for Proposal) published and have the bid examined, the product under consideration will be so far out of date that we might not be able to find hardware and software that will do what was requested (Refer to your article “Five Challenges Government Faces When Adopting Web 2.0”).

Can you point me to a Primer that will get me somewhat up to speed?What I’m finding online is already assuming more than I understand.


[name withheld by request]

This is what I sent back:

Dear [name withheld by request]:

It’s not about the technology, it’s about what you want to accomplish. I know that’s old hat but it’s true. Here are some ideas:

1. Join “GovLoop” and check out the different groups ( Start participating.

2. Check out Social Media Today’s “Social Media School” ( .

3. Scan through the list of my posts tagged “strategic planning” ( and “e-government” (

There’s great value on using social media yourself (join Facebook and Linkedin, for example, and start using them to connect with people you actually know) but using such tools in business or government benefits from planning. I don’t mean bone-crushing, mind-numbing, multi-month planning studies, I mean thinking through the who what where when and how about social networking and social media.

When you think about planning, think about:

1. Are you talking about disaster planning or disaster response?

2. Are you talking about internal collaboration or external collaboration?

3. Make sure you think about how and where traditional media, first responder communication, and use of social media and social networking relate to each other.

Hope this helps!

Let me know if you have any questions.


What would YOU have told [name withheld by request]?

Copyright © 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald

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