But first, we must print out the internet...
Now, the White House did jump all these hurdles in streaming Obama's weekly radio addresses to the masses via YouTube. But then it ran into the persistent cookie issue. Following the DoubleClick scandal of the late 90s, all government sites are barred from using persistent browser cookies, a staple of Google's ad-happy video-sharing services.
When the White House embedded YouTube video on the presidential blog, it was breaking the rules. The adminstration caught a tremendous amount of flack, and YouTube was forced to offer a workaround - which some are still unhappy about.
And finally, there's the Presidential Records Act - McLaughlin's, um, favorite impediment to the government entering the 21st century. The Presidential Records Act requires that all documentary materials related to the presidential office must be saved for posterity.
"The problem is that everything must be kept on paper," McLaughlin says. "So, government web masters have to sit and print snapshots of their websites on paper. If you do a blog post, you have to print it. This is a real pain, particularly if the site does comments. You have to print out all the comments too."
"So then the question is 'What about status updates on Facebook? Do you have to print that too?' The answer is 'Yes.'"
When Mr. McLaughlin went to Washington, he assumed that all this could be changed in an instant with a presidential order or two. But he was wrong. "I wrote the draft. But it didn't happen."
Most of these rules are statutory. In other words, you have to work your way through the bureaucracy to change the bureaucracy. It could happen, McLaughlin says, but not without a complete cultural overhaul. "The good news is that President Obama personally really gets this," McLaughlin says. "But we need to embed more good people in these government agencies."
If you're a good person, he suggests you embed yourself. ®
Big Fuss over Nothing?
I can certainly see why people wonder why any government should embrace Web 2.0 technologies. Personally, I think Web 2.0 is highly overrated for it's impact and utility. However, I think we can plainly state that all governments do a horrendous job of making information accessible and retaining records electronically. Certainly, McLaughlin's experience validates that from a US Gov't perspective and I can't believe other governments are much better.
And as pointed out, this sort of insight into bureaucracy just makes me excited thinking about all the things the Obama Administration thinks the gov't should be involved with. Where does the change come into play again?
Mine's the one with the "NO GOV'T ALLOWED" label.
I agree. There's nothing preventing the US government from posting their content on their own (perhaps modernized and easier-to-navigate) websites and providing the necessary accessibility features. And because works of the US government are public domain, there's *nothing* preventing a group of citizens (I certainly think public.resource.org would be up to the task) from reposting that to popular social/sharing services.
The secutrity of a government network is tenuous enough as is. Allowing access to Facebook and others is not going to improve matters in that regard now, is it? On top of all the virus concerns there's the whole publishing of sensitive information issue, and on top of that the "Bad PR" angle.
Picture this potential Facebook update by some Jet Jockey in the DoD:
User - F22FanBoi101
My Status: On stand-down after cratering my $120 Million jet - ROFL. Ejection seats FTW!!!
On a side note, amanfromMars = Iain M. Banks? Check out the last story from State of The Art and tell me you don't see the similarity.