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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. ®

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