Government agencies have been slow to embrace blogs. The reason, IMHO, as a gov’t web site manager, is that government’s approach to content is different. Government sites are held to a higher standard and subject to more reviews and requirements than commercial sites are. Agencies are nervous about unmediated communication from official government sites.
For example, the site I work on, NOAA Ocean Explorer, has a YouTube channel. On the channel we post cool videos of underwater exploration. One early issue that came up was – what should we do about comments? We didn’t want our videos to be swamped with comments filled with curses, links to porn sites and other inappropriate material. However, we didn’t want to be accused of censorship (which has been an issue when it comes to science at NOAA). Also, unfortunately, we don’t have the staff time to respond to comments.
So, we decided to turn off the comments. This against my personal ethos of web 2.0 inclusion but in government, the rules are different.
There was an interesting article about DipNote, the State Department’s blog. They allow comments and there’s been an interesting discussion about the role of women in Saudi Arabia.
Another leader in the field is the Library of Congress’s blog. They have a very common-sense policy when it comes to comments from readers:
“This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user’s privilege to post content on the Library site.”
So, government web sites are slowly coming around to the brave new world of blogging, which is really encouraging.