Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better litmus test… and the White House tries out live blogging

with 4 comments

When the new launched on inauguration day, Jan. 20, there were very divergent reactions — in a way, the site is almost a litmus test to how well people view change in government — is Government 2.0 an evolution or a revolution. In many ways, a persons view of the Web site will tell you how they view that issue. For example, on Jan. 20, the Obama White House Web site added a “blog.” That spurred a lot of conversation. And there was an interestingdicotomy between the government people interested in Web 2.0 who were thrilled, and the Web 2.0 people interested in government, who derided the blog as a blog-in-name-only because it doesn’t even accept comments.

My suspicious is that we will continue to see the evolution of how this White House uses these technologies — and pushes agencies to use these technologies. And we’re seeing a team that understands how they work — and is interested in empowering agencies. Specifically, I’d point to the fact that there is a White House director of new media, I’d point to Vivek Kundra, and the still yet to be formally announced White House director of citizen participation Katie Jacobs Stanton.

20090211-white-houseThere was yet another development on Tuesday when the White House, traveling in Florida in support of its economic package, live-blogged the speech that the president gave. Live blogging is where somebody actually blogs as an event is going on. You can see the text of the White House live-blog from Ft. Myers, Florida here.

This from Steve Rubel of the MicroPersuasion blog:

This isn’t your father’s White House. The Obama administration’s communication team – as I write this post – is live-blogging a speech the President is giving in Florida today on the economy.

This is a big deal. The new administration, unsurprisingly given its history, is slowly opening up the White House to the new world of media. It’s not that they don’t get it. They do. It’s just hard to turn around a giant institution like the government. But slowly, it’s happening. Posting the weekly addresses and more on YouTube, inviting The Huffington Post to ask a press conference question (a first, which Obama did last night) and now live-blogging are all baby steps in the right direction.

I wonder if the White House will revive Obama’s old Twitter account next.

My sense is that live blogging has been surpassed by Twitter, but… I agree with Rubel — this is a big step. Can you imagine an agency live blogging?

That being said, I also hear my friends at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project saying, ‘What is the business problem you are trying to solve?’ In the end, what does live-blogging do for you? Don’t get me wrong — I understand the power of information and I’m fascinated by the power of making information widely available. And for those that scoff about blogs, I’ll just point to the conversation spurred by that NASA “government innovation oxymoron” post and video. Information is power — and information is much more powerful when it is shared. It lets you tap into the wisdom of us.

I am also torn that some of these things just need to be done because, in the end, they lead to other things. They are all baby steps. Pretty soon, we’re walking. We’re sharing information. We’re collaborating. It’s one of the remarkable things about these tools — they don’t cost much. So you can see what works. After all, what is the real expense of live blogging? The time of a communications person who was probably already going to be there anyway?

So… in the end, I think it is a big baby step.

Finally, I’d point to one of this comment on Rubel’s blog post from Robert Worstell:

We may be opening up a sizable can of worms here. While we can be assured that security issues will be covered, fact-checking bloggers will start immediately dissecting the speech even as it is delivered. Given the bias of some bloggers out there, this could go both good and bad. Both sides are entrenched in safeguarding what they consider to be “truth”. And, if not speedily moderated, we either risk wading through voluminous trolling or complaints of free-speech suppression…

So do we then risk being elitist or “discriminatory” by opening up comments to a vocal minority? Or do we shut out all comments and let other blogs take up this slack?…

Further, outside of last national election, the average is less than 50% voting – will this be the case in online activity as well: will the connected few have more sway over government policy and the off-grid/disconnected?

Much of this is the scare of the future. After all, is our big fear that people will blog facts? If that is the worst thing that happens — and it spurs a discussion on issues — I would actually chalk that up in the “benefit” category.

The later point — the digital have-nots — that, however, is fascinating and deserves more discussion at some point.

For now, I’m excited to the the taking those baby steps.

Written by cdorobek

February 11, 2009 at 6:43 AM

4 Responses

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  1. Through different media, I think that the State Department has come the closest to live blogging, whether it’s through updates via @DipNote, or the agency spokesperson (Sean McCormack) snapping TwitPics of the SecState and uploading them with commentary. Really interesting trend.

    Mark Drapeau

    February 11, 2009 at 7:31 AM

  2. I think this is awesome.. certainly a shift into a right direction. Perhaps your NASA video might reach the President’s eye as well…wishful thinking :-)

    Prasad Karunakaran

    February 11, 2009 at 10:14 AM

  3. […] a comment », which has been criticized for not jumping into the deep end of the government 2.0 pool, is taking its first steps to […]

  4. […] get poked for not enabling comments — and I hope they are working on that, but, as I’ve said before , I think that blogging can be very powerful. Having the OMB director post is a powerful […]

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