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FCW Insider: A note on the White House almost-blog

A week after the debut of WhiteHouse.gov, I finally realized what the new site is missing.

Of course, a lot is missing, if you are looking for the wealth of forums hosted on Change.gov last fall. But that makes sense: The Obama team is in start-up mode, with much of their attention focused on the economy. No doubt in the months ahead the public will have plenty of opportunities to review and comment on policy proposals, legislative initiatives and other documents, as the president has promised.

But that doesn't explain the blog, which was announced with much fanfare as a new venture in government transparency. Which it might be, if not for one missing element: a comment function.

I finally noticed that today because I visited the site specifically to look at the comments they had received in the first week. After following the development of Change.gov last year, I am interested in seeing how the Obama administration manages the public discourse online.

For example, how will they handle comments that are totally off-point or even offensive? A story in the Jan. 26 issue of Federal Computer Week ("Change Dept.: White House Web site") noted that the First Amendment might come into play. Will they address those concerns in a manner that is both sensible and transparent? And, as I've written previously, will they be able to keep up with comments if traffic really takes off?

I am guessing the blog lacks a comment function precisely because of these challenges. That's understandable. But then perhaps they should have held off on the blog. In the end, a blog entry without a comment option is just another press release.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Jan 27, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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