AFCEA Solutions Series Blazes New E-Trails

February 15, 2008

Wikis, discussion groups, streaming video and podcasts are all part of AFCEA’s Solution Series inaugural event. The first of four conferences focuses on information sharing and takes place March 12-13 at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington, D.C. Already the excitement has begun and the Web 2.0 technologies are in place to allow technology professionals to converse about information sharing—and the use of these new capabilities will not end with the opening of the conference.

The Solution Series is the latest addition to AFCEA’s pool of professional development opportunities. Four events have been scheduled to take place during 2008, each addressing specific areas of interest to information technology professionals in the military, government and industry. Following the March event will be the June 26-27 conference on identity management. The September 9-10 event brings together experts to discuss information assurance topics. Cyberspace and cyberwarfare are in the spotlight for the final segment of the series scheduled for December 10-11, 2008.

Each event features individual speakers as well as several concurrent tracks of panel sessions that examine distinct areas of interest. For example, information sharing track topics include services-based environments, networking and collaboration, security, and cultural and policy implications of data sharing. 

Although all of the events take place in Washington, D.C., information professionals worldwide have the opportunity to participate in them in a number of ways via the Web. To initiate conversation about the series topics, AFCEA has established a Google Group site. This repository for ongoing discussion enables not only Solutions’ attendees but also experts from around the world to contribute insights. The site is now open for participation, and everyone registering for an event will be prompted to sign up for the collaboration site. AFCEA chose to use Google as its platform for the group site because it is accessible from the .mil domain.

But the group site is only one way for information professionals to share and gain knowledge. AFCEA also has a wiki site dedicated to the Solutions Series topics. Related articles are available and, in part, this site is a cyber exhibition area where technical solutions to the series’ issues can be posted. As with all wiki sites, anyone can contribute material and edit posted items.

As one way to get a sneak peek into the issues that will be discussed at the events, AFCEA is broadcasting a webinar featuring topic experts prior to each conference. The first webinar, which explored information sharing, took place on February 12, and is available now as a podcast on the Solutions Series and SIGNAL Magazine Web sites.

Although AFCEA is expecting a huge turnout at each event, the association is aware that it is simply not possible for everyone who can benefit from the information-sharing opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. To address this issue, AFCEA, in cooperation with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), will be streaming the audio and video of event speakers in real time. Tapping into this free service will enable anyone to listen and view these sessions via the Web.

On Wednesday, Ambassador Thomas E. McNamara, program manager, information sharing environment, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will speak at 8:20 a.m. EST, and Jeff Jonas, IBM distinguished engineer and chief scientist, Entity Analytic Solutions, IBM Software Group, will deliver the plenary speech at 1 p.m. EST. Thursday’s line-up features Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr., USAF, director, DISA, who is scheduled to speak at 8:15 a.m. EST, and Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been invited to present his views at 1:00 p.m. EST.

In addition to real-time video of the plenary addresses, sessions in the four concurrent tracks will be recorded and published online as podcasts shortly after the events. This service enables attendees to gather the information they missed while in a different panel session and allows anyone who was unable to attend the event to tap into the expertise so they can contribute to the discussion groups or wikis.

One of the key discriminators of this event is the expanded opportunity for participants—both on- and off-site—to contribute to conference discussions. Members of the on-site audience, as well as those watching from their computers from anywhere in the world, will be able to submit their questions via e-mail using a cell phone, computer or personal digital assistant. And as planned, at least half of each panel session’s time will be designated as a question-and-answer period, so conference attendees will be able to submit their questions to panelists in the same way. Comments and questions also will be forwarded to the Google Group automatically, so if a question is not addressed during a session, audience members still may see input on their inquiry on the discussion group site.

Information and registration for the March Solution Series event is available online.