Buzz of the Week | Embracing Web 2.0

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The State Department’s entry into the blogosphere last week intrigued us. It was unusual, especially for a government agency whose history dates to 1789.

Although it’s difficult for a tradition-bound agency, State is making an effort to enter the Web 2.0 world. Other federal agencies have started blogs. For example, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt keeps a blog. But blogging at State is unusual primarily because of that department’s complex culture and long history.

Web 2.0 doesn’t come easy to government. Agencies have had fits and starts with Web 2.0 initiatives, partly because those efforts are so antithetical to the way agencies have operated. In government, information has meant power, and the more information one had, the more powerful one was. Powerful people tried to retain power by retaining information.

Web 2.0 turns that power relationship upside down by creating a world in which people recognize the power of sharing information. Web 2.0 applications, such as blogging, enable people to easily share information.

Among Web 2.0 applications, blogs are probably the least revolutionary. A blog is basically a Web site for posting information or commentary. Blogs can be powerful applications for government agencies if they use them to think aloud, share ideas and generate new and better ideas. Blogs are the electronic equivalent of brainstorming.

It’s too early to tell whether Web 2.0 information sharing will work in the government. However, State seems to be on the right track. In his first posting on the “Dipnote” blog, State’s blog editor, Frederick Jones, displayed the kind of openness and authenticity that one expects from the best blogs.

“We’re new at this,” he wrote. “It looks like we broke our own rule and used State jargon in our blog title. Dipnote refers to a diplomatic note. It is one of the many ways in which governments formally communicate with each other.”

Think of that first blog post as one small step for State and a giant leap for the government in managing information in the 21st century.

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