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FY-Eye: Two New Web Sites Worth Your Time

By Ed O'Keefe

The Eye has received several tips in recent days about new Web sites worth sharing with readers, so today we start a new occasional series called "Eyeful."

Today's two sites align nicely with the goals of expanding the accountability and interactivity of the federal bureaucracy.

The State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has launched the first social-networking site owned and operated by the U.S. government, called ExchangesConnect. It’s a new online home for Americans and Web users overseas interested in interacting with other participants or potential participants in U.S. educational or foreign exchange programs. There are other social-networking sites built around a single issue or employer, including GovLoop, a social-networking site for federal employees.

"It's kind of like having a pen pal in the old days," according to Goli Ameri, the assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs, suggesting that the site will help people interested in “international stuff” share their thoughts on the exchange programs and the world. The site launched two weeks ago and already has more than 1,200 members.

In an effort to promote the site, the bureau yesterday launched an online video contest that allows users to submit short videos that describe their experiences with cultural differences. Contest winners will receive a two-week, all-expenses-paid foreign exchange trip. The bureau is also advertising on Facebook, Friendster and MySpace to boost membership.

Is there enough interest to sustain a Web site where folks will talk about international affairs? It's too early to tell. But State should be applauded for trying, for doing what it can to boost the American image abroad and for launching the government's first social-networking site.

A new and potentially useful accountability tool can be found at YouIntern.com, a site designed to match college students with potential employers. Most notably, the site allows students to post reviews of internship experiences. While it's currently focused on the advertising and marketing industries, there are plans to expand, according to Anand Chopra-McGowan, one of three recent college graduates and one current student that partnered to launch the site.

Imagine what YouIntern could do for federal government internships: Did you enjoy your experience at the EPA? Post a review on the site! Was coffee-making reluctantly your primary task in the office of your congressman? Let people know! Similarly, if you're a federal agency or department looking for Web-savvy applicants, this could be a great recruiting site.

Do you know of any other useful Web sites, or ones that have the potential to make governing easier? Leave links in the comments section below or e-mail The Eye at federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 2, 2008; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  FY-Eye  
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