04 October 2007

The delicate art of online diplomacy

The US Department of State has a blog. And it accepts comments. And many of those comments were less than flattering. And still, I think it's great that they did this.

This represents a giant leap for this Administration, even if the posts are just re-hashed press releases or excerpts from speeches, simply because they allow for public comment. We've lagged behind foreign governments in blogging. I'm pleasantly surprised that the Bush Administration is willing to dip their toes in the blogosphere, and I hope people will allow them to make a few mistakes as they learn how to do this.

The blog at State - which is unfortunately called "DipNote" - is actually part of an emerging and encouraging trend in federal government blogging. A colleague pointed me to a new blog at the Department of Homeland Security, as well as guidelines and a list of federal blogs. HHS did some interesting blogging directly from the Secretary and on the topic of preparing for a flu pandemic, though they've stopped. My wife found a health marketing blog from the Centers for Disease Control that I think would do quite well if they kept at it. The content there is sparse and not updated.

The State Department will recieve its criticism on policy issues, and still has a credibility problem with many inside and out of the US. But the simple fact that the Administration is willing to change, ever so slightly, the terms of information exchange - the fact that they're starting to look at this less as a lecture and more as a discussion - is a very good thing.

Furthermore, it's obvious they're reading comments and responding. Not so much to the "you guys suck" comments, but they're reading what people have to say about the blog and they're responding by adding RSS feeds and making the site easier to read. Will the substantive comments ever get addressed? Time will tell. But I'm looking forward to the time when Secretary Rice says, "We got a comment from our blog (which we've since renamed) and we thought it was a great idea."

I never thought I'd say it, but Secretary Rice deserves some credit here.

Next thing you know she'll be on LinkedIn.

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