Joho the BlogCan the White House blog? - Joho the Blog

Can the White House blog?

I like the fact that the Obama administration put up a site – Change.gov – for the transition within a couple of days of winning the elections. I like that it has a blog. But it isn’t yet a real blog. It’s a news page, written in the safe voice of the trained professional.

It’s early days, so I mainly want to appreciate it, not criticize. But there are reasons to think a White House blog is always going to tend towards the bland.

A president could blog, speaking in his or her own voice. But, have you seen the list of what President Obama has to deal with? If he has time to blog, he’s not paying attention.

But maybe the White House could blog. The problem is that America is a big and diverse country. Some of us are Democrats and some are Republicans. Some of us like our news straight up, and some of us don’t respect it without a side order of snark. Some of us think the world is too serious to be made fun of, and some of us think the world is too serious not to be made fun of. Some of us want lists and footnotes, and some of us want videos and typos. So what do you do? Come up with an informative-but-bland blog that offends no one?

Or perhaps you offer a full plate of bloggers. A White House online magazine, so to speak. Lots of voices, opinions, and styles. A Greek chorus for the President, made up of divergent voices. How divergent? For an official White House blog, I would think it’d have to be pretty mainstream, because it’d be speaking for the President’s administration. Even so, knowing that this blogger is an amazing font of facts about telecom policy, and that one is able to put industrial policy into an historical context, and that other one is capable of occasional crackling sarcasm when discussing energy policy, well, that’d be extremely cool.

It’d take courage … and some grade-A metadata to remind people that bloggers speak more loosely than the press secretary does. But by having, say, a dozen in-house people blogging to start, the administration would have a unique way to keep citizens informed, would continue to build trust and intimacy with the American people, and would be able to try out and improve ideas in the cauldron of public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on.

This may be a terrible idea. In any case, I think it is a very unlikely idea. The risk would be high: Political opponents would certainly seize on posts at every opportunity. But how long can we live in fear of being taken out of context? At some point, don’t we just have to trust the American people to understand that it’s important to be able to talk like human beings amongst ourselves?

I dunno. I’d love to see it. Or, preferably, a much better idea. [Tags: ]

26 Responses to “Can the White House blog?”

  1. […] the White House blog? Posted in November 10th, 2008 by in Uncategorized Can the White House blog? It’d take courage … and some grade-A metadata to remind people that bloggers speak more loosely […]

  2. It may be a good idea, but it’s also unworkable.

    In order to be of any use, comments would have to be allowed. If they were, it would immediately fill up with so much (let’s call it) flamage to be not worth reading to try to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m sure you’ve seen numerous examples of what I mean. Just about all the comments are supplied by “superior thinkers”. It always happens in political or religious discussions.

  3. What about a video streaming ?
    Once a week ?

  4. There’s an example of the thing I think you mean at the British Foreign Office. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, does blog himself – as do a changing group of officials. It’s (mostly) a bit cautious, but it’s still relatively early days, and shows it can be done.

    http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/

  5. Kim Stanley Robinson envisions an actively blogging president in his near-future-sf Sixty Days and Counting. I am not sure about the plausibility but the portrayal is thought provoking:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sixty-Days-Counting-Stanley-Robinson/dp/0553803131

  6. I think the Obama administration could allow his administration blog his agendas and concerns and to me, that is better than what we have today.

    I would also add that the modern day press secretary could utilize a blog format to answer alot of the questions journalists would pose before the daily brief. He/she could also allow (through moderation I’d assume) allow others ‘regular folk’ to ask question to create the dialogue Obama was talking during his campaign.

  7. What interests me about this is the potential from the White House’s perspective of searching and mining a large quantity of citizen input for valuable ideas and connections. If (this is a big if) they can make that search engine smart enough, it could connect needs with solutions in ways that are not visible when everything is filtered through mass media.

  8. […] Weinberger: Can the White House blog? Posted in November 10th, 2008 by in Uncategorized David Weinberger: Can the White House blog? …are reasons to think a White House blog … bloggers speak more loosely than the press […]

  9. Yes if you were mining for input it would seem like you would need a substantial system of organisation to allow for good ideas etc to be separated out from the bad.

    The blog wouldn’t have to be standard – could utilise assisted analytical techniques as simple as thumbs up/down voting. Getting technical we might consider reputation based qualification for comments (reputation being earned in sub-systems or sub blogs debating the content like you might on a wiki and represented like multi aspect ebay ratings?).

    Even more technical and interesting would be the use of multi criteria decision making tools to assist both the evaluation of user generated suggestions and content to ease this process and provide a potentially rich source of visually coded metadata in combination with reputation (as above) without great effort on the part of the system or the contributor. This rich visual metadata could help people navigate within the community.

    Build the ultimate blog ecology!

    In other words i think it could be done and it could be an amazing project. Maybe someone (with a heck of a lot of spare time) should build something and offer it up? I know i would love to design it!

  10. […] “Will he blog?“, David Weinberger asks – and says so himself that it’s a bit ambitious to hope so, but isn’t hope what this election was all about? It works for the Danish Prime Minister, so why not for the American President? All I hope for is that the Obama-Biden administration will be open and welcoming input from the American people in a way it has never been seen before. Change.gov already asks people to write their stories and send them in, so a facilitation of the possibilities the internet gives you is already underway, but I want to see them drive it all the way to the front. The technology is there – they just need to have the courage to open up and start the conversation. […]

  11. […] of public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on. – Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? — Joho the […]

  12. […] David Weinberger asks a very good question: Can the White House blog? […]

  13. Why not an “Off the Bus” style blog platform hosted at a dot gov site, perhaps through the Library of Congress? This way, ordinary Americans (and “superior thinkers”) could blog and comment in a centrally edited online publication marketed, and eventually utilized, as an historical document in the public domain.

    Also, like the HuffPost, the most-poignant “Joe Sixpack” contributions could be featured on the landing page and in the emails to subscribers alongside the more-carefully written “official” posts by in-house administration staffers.

    To wit–
    blog.gov? a national blog?

  14. It’s certainly an interesting idea, and I think if they screened comments or only opened certain blog posts up for comments, this would be workable.

    In any case, someone would need to draft up a proposal. I don’t think the administration would spend a ton of time thinking about this, but they might consider it if someone spoon fed it to them with a plan that either counters or works around the major risks.

    (Just in case: http://change.gov/page/s/contact)

  15. The fact that there is a “Blog” button at the top of the change.gov website is, I think, an enormous signal. Part of “the change we need” is a mechanism for genuine citizen input, like the electronic town meeting that was discussed, was it in the 2000 election? or earlier? The Obama campaign was *not* easy to get to with suggestions and input, but this looks new.

    Is there a model for screening out flamers that is worthy of a blog that is a function of the White House? Not dissent or debate, just idiots and obstructionists?

  16. […] of public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on. – Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? — Joho the […]

  17. […] the Blog » Can the White House blog? Posted in November 10th, 2008 by in Uncategorized Joho the Blog » Can the White House blog? It’d take courage … and some grade-A metadata to remind people that bloggers speak more loosely […]

  18. […] of public conversation???for comments would definitely have to be turned on. – Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? — Joho the […]

  19. […] public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on. – Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? — Joho the […]

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