The White House now has a Tumblr account:
We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.
But this is also about you. President Obama is committed to making this the most open and accessible administration in history, and our Tumblr is no exception.
We want to see what you have to share: Questions you have for the White House, stories of what a policy like immigration reform means to you, or ways we can improve our Tumbling. We’re new here, and we’re all ears.
Experts called the third floor of the White House "an outstanding example of a firetrap." The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion's plumbing "makeshift and unsanitary," while "the structural deterioration [was] in 'appalling degree,' and threatening complete collapse." The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration.
"It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely," he testified to Congress in February 1949. "In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation."
So it had to be gutted. Completely. Every piece of the interior, including the walls, had to be removed and put in storage. The outside of the structure-reinforced by new concrete columns-was all that remained.
The Shell of the White House during the Renovation, 05/17/1950
Original Caption: The Shell of the White House during the Renovation, 05/17/1950
Created By: National Archives and Records Administration. Office of Presidential Libraries. Harry S. Truman Library. (04/01/1985 - )
From: Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, compiled 1957 - 2004, documenting the period 1849 - 2004
Contact: Harry S. Truman Library (NLHST), 500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence, MO, 64050-1798. PHONE: 816-268-8272; FAX: 816-268-8295; EMAIL:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Production Dates: 05/17/1950
Scope and Content Note: Window openings provide bursts of light into the cavernous interior of the White House, supported only by a web of temporary steel supports. The exterior walls rest on new concrete underpinnings, which allow earth-moving equipment to dig a new basement.
Persistent URL: arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=6982099
Truman Library URL: www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/view.php?id=22
Access Restrictions: Unrestricted
Use Restrictions: Unrestricted
Building off of last week's post on the Obama Administration's new digital government strategy, I came across this analysis over at TechPresident: "White House Rolls Out New Plan for Digital Government".
Among the changes called for in the plan:
- Within six months, the Office of Management and Budget will release new government-wide standards for open data, content, and web application programming interfaces. Agencies will have another six months to make sure they are following those policies. They are also going to be asked to take two customer-facing online services and expose the information it delivers through APIs to "appropriate audiences," meaning some set of developers will be able to build applications around them without necessarily working in close concert with the agency providing the data.
- Agencies will be asked to publish ever more data through APIs and as structured data, which are the building blocks of modern web design and mobile-ready websites. The White House line on this is that it will also encourage outside developers to build new businesses on top of government data.
- The General Services Administration will establish a Digital Services Innovation Center to work with agencies to modernize how they interact with citizens on the web.
- The White House will begin releasing its own source code on GitHub and launch a "presidential innovation fellowship" program to bring developers from the private sector into government for six-to-12-month projects.
- The federal government will work to develop "MyGov," a prototype central hub for citizens to access all the services and information they're looking for from government online.
- Through programs like one intended to encourage small businesses to compete for government business, the White House will work to change IT procurement practices and cut down on the number of high-dollar, low-output contracts. Other procurement-related initiatives include a government-wide vehicle for mobile device and wireless service contracting and government-wide guidance on bring-your-own-device policies.
- Data.gov, the federal repository for government data available online, will transition away from being a hub for data files and towards a central clearing house of government APIs that developers can incorporate into web applications.
While we're excited that the White House is continuing to espouse the importance of open government principles, our concern is that the plan (PDF) does not address digital preservation or authenticity, two critical issues for librarians in guaranteeing long-term FREE access to government information -- and issues we addressed in a 2010 letter to then deputy CTO for Open Government Beth Noveck.
It's all well and good to talk about IT reform, shared IT infrastructure and services, APIs etc, but who's going to manage all of this cool digital stuff for the long-term? And where will the funding (or RE-funding) come from to keep Data.gov afloat in order to manage all of the APIs? In an era where GPO's FY2012 request for $6million to fund continuing development of their Federal Digital System (FDsys) is met with $0 funding by the House and only slightly less catastrophic $500,000 by the Senate, talk is all well and good. Digital infrastructure and services, and more importantly the staff to manage them, costs $$ -- arguably much more $$ than distribution and preservation of paper collections in the FDLP. We need a government and politicians who won't short-change open government and transparency. We need them and the public to realize that "online" does NOT equal "free beer" but "free kittens!"
The Google Art Project at the White House is pretty darn cool!
More news and new resources via INFOdocket.com.
An article in the Huffington Post examnes the White House We the People petition web site, and garners some interesting lessons about e-government. It finds that "getting 150 print signatures is vastly easier than getting 150 electronic ones," that the site was plagued with unannounced and unexplained downtime, and that the site had a cumbersome, difficult, time-consuming, and buggy registration process. It says that the registration process "violates the White House's own policy for registering on Federal government websites" and that the site's online record keeping features violate the White House's own Open Government Directive. It says that, initially, the We the People website was not even easy to find. It notes the special difficulties associated with assuring that individuals don't vote more than once, and the conflict of public officials wanting to maximize the public perception that they are open while at the same time doing as much as possible to control the flow of information that might prove politically damaging. It concludes that, regardless of the problems with the site, it "is praiseworthy as a significant new tool for bringing democracy into the Internet Age."
- The Case of the Missing White House Petitions by J.H. Snider, Huffington Post (Oct 31, 2011).
Presidential Directives Withheld From White House Website, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (October 11th, 2011).
Last Friday, White House officials made at least two public references to Presidential Policy Directives (PPDs). PPD 1 was cited in a new executive order on computer security and PPD 8 was cited in a White House blog posting on disaster preparedness. Each Directive is a significant expression of national policy. Neither one is classified. And yet neither of them -- nor any other Obama Presidential Policy Directive -- can be found on the White House website.
The White House decision not to make these documents available is a stark reminder of the incoherence of the Obama Administration's transparency policy, and its inconsistent implementation.
Two stories in the news describe different approaches to government secrecy and citizen privacy:
- White House Orders New Computer Security Rules, By ERIC SCHMITT, New York Times (October 6, 2011)
"The White House plans to issue an executive order on Friday to replace a flawed patchwork of computer security safeguards exposed by the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks last year.
"...In addition to these immediate measures, Mr. Obama’s order creates a task force led by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to combat leaks from government workers, or what the White House calls an “insider threat.”
"The directive also establishes a special government committee that must submit a report to the president within 90 days, and then at least once a year after that, assessing federal successes and failures in protecting classified information on government computer networks.
"...[Pentagon issued cyber identity] credentials allow supervisors to track what users are working on."
- Data Mining: DHS Needs to Improve Executive Oversight of Systems Supporting Counterterrorism, Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-742 (September 7, 2011). The report says that, until needed reforms are put in place the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies "may not be able to ensure that critical data mining systems used in support of counterterrorism are both effective and that they protect personal privacy."
"By not consistently performing necessary evaluations and reviews of these systems, DHS and its component agencies risk developing and acquiring systems that do not effectively support their agencies' missions and do not adequately ensure the protection of privacy-related information."
See also: GAO Report: DHS Data Mining Needs Privacy Oversight, By Grant Gross, IDG News, PC World, (Oct 7, 2011). "One of the most disturbing findings by the GAO was that ICEPIC rolled out its law enforcement sharing component before it was approved by the DHS privacy office."
David Ferriero, the Archivist of the U.S., will be testifying next week at a hearing that will address digital preservation of White House social media.
- White House officials to explain social-media policies next week, By Gautham Nagesh, The Hill (04/28/11).
Senior White House officials will explain the Obama administration's policy for preserving tweets and other messages sent using social networks at a House Oversight hearing next Tuesday.
The White House's official policy states that all messages between the president and his staffers and third parties on social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook must be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. That includes all tweets as well as direct messages and replies sent to official accounts.
But panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said it remains unclear what the administration's policies are for unofficial accounts still used for official communications, such as the personal accounts of some staff members....