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Posts Tagged ‘blog litmus test… and the White House tries out live blogging

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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

DorobekInsider: TSA blog as a government 2.0 example

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TSA's Evolution of Security blog

TSA's Evolution of Security blog

Last week, I mentioned that I attended a forum on government 2.0 sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council titled “Evolution of the Web: How Social Networking is Changing the Way Government Does Business.” And I reported that one of the superstars of that panel was TSA and Lynn Dean, who is the manager of strategic and Web communications in the Transportation Security Agency’s Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs.

Last week, I posted about TSA’s Idea Factory, which is a wonderful example. But TSA has another really excellent example: it’s public blog.

I have to be very honest: I said privately — if not publicly — that I thought that concept of a TSA blog was… well, if I didn’t say foolish, it wasn’t far from it. My thinking then was that blogs build are a way to build community and why, after all, would somebody return regularly to the TSA blog?

But I have been proven abundantly wrong. The TSA blog is one of the most read government blogs and, perhaps more importantly, gets scores of comments.

Strangely, I underestimated the power of a blog. (Shame on me.) What the TSA blog has given the organization is something that is so important for government organizations — for most organizations: transparency. It gives the TSA an opportunity to talk about the issues that TSA officers deal with — and why they deal with the issues the way they do.

So yes, there are the obvious public outreach benefits, but there are also benefits for TSA, Dean said. “It is a great reality check to hear what people think,” she said. Many of those are misconceptions, but… that is important to know as well.

That transparency also has garnered some respect even among us cynical media type. A case in point: Remember the story earlier this year that said that authorities at the airport could confiscate your laptop without any reason. Needless to say, it freaked people out. AndTSA started getting pings. But it was TSA — it was Customs. And TSA got some praise in places such as Wired magazine’s blog for clearing up the misunderstanding.’s Threat Level blog even gave TSA some positive press.

Dean acknowledged that it was no small fete to get the TSA blog up and going. And the IT organization was no help — shame on them. (After I heard Dean, I poked around with some TSA folks I know and they told me that the IT organization originally told them it would cost $600,000 to get a blog up and running. One wise IT person finally just suggested, ‘Um, can’t we just use Blogger [Google’s blogging software], which is free?’

So one lesson for IT organization’s is you better figure out how to implement these different Web 2.0 tools are people are going to find ways to bypass you. And, on the flip side of that, for program people, if you’re told something akin to a $600,000 figure to start a blog, go to somebody else in the IT organization until you find the creative innovator.

Back to Dean’s presentation: One of the challenges that TSA faced soon after launching the blog was… catching up with the success.

Once TSA launched the blog in January 2008, within three days, they had received some 2,000 comments. “Early it was ‘This is great,'” Dean said, until they realized that they had to review all of those comments. (Most agencies have a policy that comments need to be reviewed before they are posted to the agency’s Web site. That being said — and it is an important point — TSA has been careful not to censor. They will not post comments that are dangerous or insightful, but they do not censor comments critical of the organization.)

It is important to speak candidly about risk, consequences and strategy, Dean said.

Dean also had to find people who could feed the blog beast. To do that, she did a Google blog search for ‘work at TSA.’ The blogs she found were specifically not about TSA, but they were people who know about blogs — and blogging. They had a predilection to understand what TSA was trying to accomplish.

So, Dean’s tips:

* You have to convince the skeptics — and cover your basis (legal, IT, security)
* Recruit the appropriate staff who get it
* Develop a strategy of what you are trying to accomplish
* Be responsive to readers, to internal concerns.
* Run your blog by being honest and transparent. That’s the point, after all

One demonstration of success came with this comment:

wow, reading this blog actually makes me think that TSA might know what they’re doing.
feb. 11, 2008, 9:43p

Later, I’ll re-offer my tips to bloggers.

Written by cdorobek

October 6, 2008 at 11:23 PM

DorobekInsider: Increasingly impressed by the NASA Goddard CIO

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OK — I have to admit that when I first saw Linda Cureton, now the chief information officer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, I wasn’t that impressed. This was years ago, but she is now the reason that I just don’t trust first impressions. In her case, my first impression was just completely wrong. Cureton is a force in the government CIO community.

I have been increasingly impressed with Cureton over the years. In addition to being a passionate about her family — if you speak with her, you will her about her mother — but Cureton has grown into a strong and confident. She can occationally be controversial, but she is adept at building teams and consensus — and then presses forward with what she believes is the right decision. (Tomorrow, I will give you some addition insights about how Cureton has had a direct impact on the government IT community.)

Want an insight into her passion for her team. Read her most recent blog post:

Will They Cheer For You?

Today, I attended the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Awards Ceremony. It honors the Goddard Space Flight Center workforce for their dedication to many vital areas, including leadership, management, science, engineering, mission support, and customer service.

The Management Award recognizes managers, supervisors, and organizational team leaders who, while providing day-to-day direction to work units, demonstrate through their management behavior, style, and approach, exceptional levels of achievement that creates a positive and productive work environment for their employees. GarciaBlount was recognized today for exemplary management and leadership qualities that make his Branch, Code 547, and Goddard, a technology leader in manufacturing support.

When his name was called, six people, obviously from his team, let out a tremendous and loud cheer that pierced my heart and touched my soul today. There were six sitting next to each other. They had to have come together, early in fact, to get adjacent seats in the crowded auditorium. They all had cameras, screaming and cheering as they called his name. Their excitement touched me. The frantic clicks of their cameras matched the tempo of what must have been their pounding of their hearts. And I heard it. I didn’t know Garcia, but I thought he must be one heck of a leader….

Continue reading her post here

Written by cdorobek

September 10, 2008 at 11:27 PM

An introduction to the

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Who says nothing happens in August. There was all sorts of stuff going on during the Dog Days:

  • The seemingly never ending election season continues with each parties respective conventions and the full presidential tickets were completed.
  • A hurricane threatened the Gulf Coast.
  • Earlier in the month, an almost hurricane once again threatened the LandWarNet conference down in Florida — again.
  • And then, of course, there was the amazing Michael Phelps.
  • … and, after nine years, I left Federal Computer Week.

OK — you tell me which one doesn’t fit?

I can’t speak first hand about the other events, but I can talk about my departure from FCW and the creation of this blog.

When all was said and done, my departure from FCW happened very quickly. (Federal Computer Week editors made my departure the magazine’s “Buzz of the Week” for the week — and perhaps that is a sure sign that, in fact, there was not much going on in August. The write-up also made me sounds… well, somewhat tabloid, but I’m told that any press is good press. I’m not sure I buy that, but… Editors, by their nature, edit — and editors edit pretty much everything. I was shocked how much my reading speed slowed when I became an editor because I would read books and start editing them. And then, when you read something about yourself, there is an almost overwhelming desire to edit.)

Why did I leave?

Well, when I announced my departure from Federal Computer Week, there were two reasons. One, of course, is a remarkable opportunity to try something new: radio. As I mentioned, starting September 15, I will be the co-anchor of the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, which will air from 3-7 pm ET on Federal News Radio (in DC at 1500 AM and online at Federal News Radio’s parent company, Bonneville Communications, took a risk on growing the station from a small outpost on a tiny AM frequency to a powerful DC frequency, and they thereby expand the station’s reach and coverage. The Daily Debrief is also expanding to four hours from its previous two hour slot. The company is also taking a risk on putting a print guy on the radio. I have a lot to learn in the weeks and months ahead, but… I’m looking forward to the experience.

The other reason for deciding to leave is that I wanted to grow something that I could call my own. This blog is the start of that idea.

The publishing business has changed so much in recent years, like so many businesses. Look at how the government market has changed in the past decade. But the changes in publishing have been truly revolutionary. Today, the printing presses have been democratized to a point that just about anybody can become a journalist. (That being said, it did take me some time to get this site up and running, but that was more of my own focus issues — there was a lot of stuff going on.) That doesn’t mean that everybody who has a blog actually is a journalist, but… anybody can be a journalist.

And I watched over the past several years as the innovative Huffington Post, started by Arianna Huffington, developed from a mere blog into… well, something more. (The NYT recently did an interesting story about the evolution of the Huffington Post.)

Then, over the last few years, I have tried to develop’s FCW Insider into something more.

So what will the be? Essentially, at least at the start, it will be something similar to what the FCW Insider was — a place to talk about the issues confronting government… a place to provide news, insights, and analysis. But beyond that, part of what I want to do is build community. After all, anybody who works with government understand that this is a community. As editor of Federal Computer Week, it reinforced how important it is to have a publication that covers that community. I tried to do that at FCW and with the FCW Insider. And I will continue to do that here — reporting on community events ranging from community gatherings and events, as much as I can.

I believe that publications are an important — almost essential — part of community. (And publications can be in print or online.) The government community is actually very lucky to have a wide variety of really good publications. There are, of course, the suite of pubs from the 1105 Government Information Group, my former home. As you might imagine, I’m partial to Federal Computer Week, but… my former colleagues are some of the best and the brightest in the business and they are working very hard to cover this market. They also have years of experience covering government and IT. But this community is blessed by a number of really good pubs: Government Executive, which has really done a remarkable job growing online, developing NextGov to cover government IT… and the venerable Federal Times… and, of course, there is the Washington Post’s Federal Dairy.

But one of the things that a publication offers is something of an unbridled look at the community itself. Too often, a community can become too focused on themselves, almost evolving into a clique. And journalism can provide that self-reflection. Journalist can hold up a mirror that can cause us all to reflect and ponder — do our words match our actions? The trite word that was always used was “objective.” That word never made sense to me, even in journalism school. After all, nobody can really be objective. We bring to any story our own thoughts and feelings. What we can do is treat people fairly. I have tried to do that over the years — and I will continue to do that both on the radio and here online.

So I do love this profession, despite its faults. After all, I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I was 13-years-old. Ironically, I fell in love with journalism through radio — two radio stations in San Francisco: KGO-AM, the Bay Area talk station, and KCBS, the Bay Area’s all-news station.

Journalist have the sometimes unenviable task of saying what others will not say, and that has made journalists unpopular. It goes with the territory. And there will be times that you may be ticked off at me. (And I pay forward an apology?)

I have a few tenants for publishing. One is that publications have to get things right. In my experience, truth is like beauty — it depends on the beholder. But to the extent possible, I will attempt to get the facts right… and when I don’t, I’ll tell you what I got wrong and correct it. Anothertenent is that you have to treat people fairly. The third is that publications can’t be boring. There is so much to do and so little time, the real competition in the world is for time.

I can promise that I will do everything under my control to treat everybody as fairly as I possibly can.

I hope to bring some of this community to radio… and I’m going to do it here on the Dorobek Insider. Earlier this year, I offered my tips for bloggers. In that post, I suggested that people need to be prepared to allow a blog to evolve over time — to grow and change. That was my experience with the FCW Insider, and I hope and believe that the Dorobek Insider also will evolve — and, I hope, grow — over time. I don’t know what the end point is. Frankly, I hope you will help me figure that out.

Regardless, as always, comments, concerns, questions, suggestions (for the blog or the radio show) or tips are always welcome. I can be reached by e-mail at “chris at” or by phone at 202.658.8590. People can also just comment here — no registration required, at least as of right now.

They say life is a journey. I hope you’ll continue to stay with me… both on the radio and here online… and let me know your thoughts.

Written by cdorobek

September 2, 2008 at 8:39 PM

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