Monthly Archives: February 2012

Women’s History Month & My Top Gun Dreams

As a kid, I dreamed of attending the Air Force Academy, learning to fly, and traveling the world as a fighter pilot. But somewhere along the way, I was told I couldn’t be a fighter pilot because I didn’t have 20/20 vision. Whether this was correct, I don’t know, and my life took a very different course. If I had gone into the Air Force, however, I may have become one among the growing number of women Veterans served by Akoya’s client, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, which takes on greater significance every year with the growing number of women Veterans. Some have served overseas. Some have retired from active duty. Some have deployed while in the Guard or Reserve, and all are taking their place in history as Veterans with a capital V. Some may not realize it—women don’t always identify themselves as Veterans—but they signed up and did their part, just like the men. While the definition of Veteran hasn’t changed, the population has. Today’s Veterans are younger and increasingly female, with different health care needs.

Our Akoya team works with some remarkable female Veterans every day: a Marine Corps Veteran and exceptional orator who hollers “Ooh Rah!” with such power it can make you shake; a Navy Nurse Corps Captain, now retired, who taught leadership development to dozens of Navy Reserve Officers; a Desert Storm Veteran who challenges us to “amp up the passion” in our communications work to reach women Veterans. These leaders all play a role in VA’s ongoing culture change to enhance care and improve services to the growing women Veterans population.

Last year I learned of a quote from an NPR story, one in a series celebrating women Veterans during Women’s History Month. “Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom. That our resolve was just as great as the brave men who stood among us. … That the tears fell just as hard for those we left behind us.” These words are carved into the ceiling of the Women’s Memorial, the only major national memorial dedicated to women in the military. It serves as the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from VA headquarters.

I think about this quote and wonder about the path not taken. Would I have had what it takes to be an Air Force pilot? Would I have felt worthy to call myself a U.S. Armed Forces Veteran? “Veteran” signifies honor, courage, and sacrifice on behalf of the nation, and VA is working hard to ensure that female soldiers, and the public, associate it with their service.

Better Lighting Decisions Means Savings for Cities

Municipalities across the country are looking for every possible way to deliver essential services more economically. That’s why interest in LED streetlights is running so strong. Yet, as products proliferate in the marketplace, how can city managers make informed choices about LED technologies? The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s  Municipal Solid State Street Lighting Consortium and the Clinton Climate Initiative, developed a powerful new tool to help managers perform the complex cost-benefit analyses needed for sound decision-making. Akoya’s challenge: to promote the new tool and provide easily accessible instructions on its use. Our answer: a quick-view instructional video series, designed to help cities start using – and benefiting from – the tool as soon as it was released. To download the tool or view the videos, see www.ssl.energy.gov/financial-tool.html.

 

Laying Bets on Google+

The social media scene, ruled for years now by Facebook, has recently welcomed a newcomer.  Still less than a year old, Google+ has already made a big splash. It brings with it elements of Twitter and LinkedIn but seems very much to be challenging Facebook’s audience for domination, providing a casual network where friends talk, share photos and links, and otherwise stay connected.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Google+ can defeat Facebook . Do people have enough time left over in their online lives to allow both platforms to thrive?

I had been a long time avoider of the social media scene out of a preference for privacy and an attempt to keep my social circle securely in the physical world.  I’d used LinkedIn regularly for my professional networking, but that was it.  However, out of curiosity, I managed to wrangle myself an invitation to Google+ a couple weeks after it became available.

Here is what I discovered.

The biggest difference between the users of Facebook and Google+ can be illustrated by looking at the most popular personalities on each site. Whereas Facebook is ruled by the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Google+ was at least initially dominated by people like Kevin Rose (co-founder of Digg), Markus Persson (creator of Minecraft), and Felicia Day (writer/actor and geek gamer girl). Part of the reason Google+ seems to appeal more to techies and geeks than the average digital socialite is because of its initially limited release. For a good while, the only way to get in was to either luck out and get an invite from Google, or have a friend already on the inside send you an invite. Of course, this kind of “members only” approach generated a lot of buzz for Google+ early on…people want what they can’t have more than what they can. But the only ones who actually put the effort in to get in were the ones who consider themselves technophiles.

Google+ initially drew a lot of attention for its Circles, methods of organizing your contacts into groups that you could then target your posts to, ensuring that only close friends get to see those wild party pictures and humorous non-sequitur posts while family might have exclusive rights on updates about the kids or other personal issues.  It didn’t take long for Facebook to adopt a similar method of grouping, which at the very least indicates that Facebook considers Google+ to be a serious contender.

On the other side of this coin, Google+ has also altered its platform in several ways to mimic Facebook.  For example, Google+ seemed only lukewarm about the idea of accommodating pages for companies or organizations in its early months, suggesting that it might be considered in the future.  Then suddenly, it was there.

In a competition with Google+,  Facebook is clearly going to have the advantage of its established user base.  But Google+ has recently found an advantage of its own: its search engine. One proposed strategy for exploiting it would put Google+ profiles high up next to standard Google search results wherever applicable.  In other words, there is nothing stopping Google from giving its social network first dibs on screen real estate.  This approach seems to already be effective; the same day that this strategy was suggested, Lady Gaga suddenly registered a Google+ account.

Regardless of which network wins out, or even if both find a way to coexist, the real winners are the users who have seen considerable innovation not just from Google, but also from Facebook in response to Google’s entry into the social networking field.  With Google+ in the mix, Facebook has a real reason to improve its platform in a timely fashion.  Both platforms should only get better and more inventive moving forward.