Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dragging an "analog government bureaucracy into the digital era":

Waldo inspired my headline.

My poor widget in the sidebar hasn't had new content for hours! I can't stand it. The Obama Team spoiled me with how well they kept on top of everything.
The same moribund system that tried to forbid the president's Blackberry seems to be the root of the problem. Reagan was right. Government IS the problem. Waiting for government to change is like watching a tree grow. I'm getting more timely information from the SF Gate than from Washington. President Obama's Web-savvy team works out the kinks at its new digital home, the administration's attitude of openness is already starting to change the archaic federal culture, making other agencies re-examine how they interact with the public....

During the campaign, candidate Obama compiled a list of more than 11 million e-mail addresses. Millions more connected to the campaign through online organizations like and Facebook groups, so there is no shortage of citizens to converse with.

"He is sitting on a volcano of participation," said Micah Sifry, editor of, an online hub that examines the intersection of technology and politics, referring to the enormous amount of online participation Obama's campaign and transition teams generated. "The potential here is enormous.

The Obama team learned one hard lesson on its first day in the White House. They arrived at their offices to find they were working on 6-year-old versions of Microsoft software, few laptops and no social networking connections. That's one reason it took several hours to post some of Obama's first-day executive orders on, such as enhancing the Freedom of Information Act and freezing the salaries of White House employees who make more than $100,000.

"The people who came from the Obama campaign understand what to do," said Raven Brooks, executive director of Netroots Nation, which acts as a hub for liberal online organizations. "But now they're working with a lot of senior staff and career politicians from Washington who may not be on the same page yet."

HUD changes policy

Still, the incoming administration's new way of doing things has already been felt. Last month, Obama transition team members asked federal agencies if their employees were allowed to use social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, and if not, why not? Almost immediately after receiving the inquiry, the Housing and Urban Development Department dropped its prohibition.

Obama's campaign built its power on connecting with citizens where they can be found - on social networks like Facebook - instead of waiting for them to find a faceless federal Web site.

"The biggest change we have in this administration is that they understand the power of these tools," said Bev Godwin, director of, a federal site that helps connect citizens with government services. She also works with managers across the 24,000 federal Web sites to improve best practices.

Some would argue that easy access to too much data makes spying easier. Spare me that nonsense. That's like worrying about privacy when for thirty-five dollars I can discover more about you than you know about yourself, including your credit reports and your mother's maiden name.

The Obama team is on the right track.
Sic 'em, ya'll.

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