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making a federal case of it

April 12, 2006

So, one of the weird things about where I work is that people from all over ask us to speak on a variety of technology topics. I guess that’s not really all that weird. What’s weird is the “who.” In this case it is the Federal Reserve. And it’s me who’s gonna do the talking. April 27th in Philadelphia, I’ll be keynoting the second day of their WEDGE technology conference.

They’re curious about “new technologies” and how they can help them increase the usability of their sites. I kinda shrugged at that (I struggled to figure out how on earth AJAX is relevant to the Fed), and focused a bit more on things that focus on communication, internal and external.

Anyway. Here’s the outline I put together. I’ll PDF my slides after the talk and post them up here.

The rate of adoption of new and existing technologies and strategies on the web has hit a tipping point in the last 18 months, and the behaviors and expectations of users continue to change quicker than most observers can track. To be honest, there’s far more going on than any one organization can or should be attenuating to. In the coming months, the Federal Reserve should observe, discuss and adopt those technologies that best suit its efforts to 1) increase the ease with which users interact with their systems, 2) increase the ability of the Fed to communicate directly with its audiences and 3) enable the Fed to efficiently communicate internally to best serve the needs of those audiences.

Increasing User Satisfaction
With the launch of Google Maps in 2005, interaction designers were put on notice that combinations of existing technologies (manipulation of the DOM using Javascript and XML) allowed the creation of much richer interfaces than the vast majority of sites at the time employed. AJAX had arrived, and since that time, stateless interactions and rich internet applications have been bringing stable “desktop application” style capabilities to the web. The transformation of “solved” problems like maps and web email has pointed towards new means for the Fed to decrease user frustration, increase utility and provide better online experiences for their audiences.

Communicating with Audiences
What does it mean that blogs are competing with traditional media to shape perceptions of businesses, institutions and the government? What are the implications when those seats of power seek not only to observe and understand their position amongst bloggers, but open up and allow their own members and employees to speak out on the web? We’ll discuss the importance of understanding the Fed’s position in the larger cosmology of the internet, and help communicate the danger and opportunity inherent in communicating directly with the blogosphere. Beyond blogs, we’ll explore the impact of syndication (via RSS and atom) on how people are shaping their experience on the web, and what that means to the Fed as it seeks to increase both its audience and the value of its messaging. Finally, we’ll take a look at tags and social media, and examine how they shape communication well after the Fed has released it’s messages to their initial audience.

Communicating Internally
Stop not talking to yourselves. Enterprise email’s promised boon of instant and direct communication has rung hollow, and the realm of internal communication between individuals and teams is being re-examined as new technologies emerge. Wikis are supplementing (and in some cases, replacing) traditional intranets and internal as systems for knowledge sharing and consensus shaping. We’ll discuss the potentially transformational impact of the wiki on an institution as big as the Federal Reserve, and what steps can be taken to introduce such a revolutionary tool to a conservative infrastructure.

Categories: appearances
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