back to article Google force feeds Web 2.0 to US gov

When uber-Googler Andrew McLaughlin joined the Barack Obama Transition Team, charged with prepping the new administration for inauguration day, he had dreams of "bringing Web 2.0 to Washington." But he soon realized the US government is the sort of operation that can't use the interwebs without printing every page. Quite …


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  1. MadonnaC
    Black Helicopters

    I would have commented

    but the Gubment passed me over for a lower bidder

  2. Mike Powers

    This is why.

    You know all those crazy people who foolishly argue against government-managed health care?

    This is what they're thinking about.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    California geekery

    comes face to face with good policy. It must be a terrible shock to them.

    Where's the Obama-with-halo pic?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    Does the gentlemen in this ramble have a specific concrete example of something the government needs web 2.0 for? Or is this just some kind of subsidized idealogical crusade to make civil servants more hip?

  5. Ole Juul

    Travel broadens the mind

    Andrew McLaughlin has just returned from a trip to earth.

  6. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Google Ventures Boldly ...... Smile and say GCHEESE :-)

    "But that doesn't include the federal government, which has extreme problems dealing with simplicity." ...... which translated means wastes everyone's time and money protecting their pork barrels and feather nests.

    Yeah, we see their pathetic problem and are taking their ball away with the disinfectant of Sunlight on their dichotomies.

    And what is with all of this shared nonsense ..."The first thing McLaughlin ran into was the government's acquisition and procurement rules, which apply to almost anything the government might purchase or make use of. The rules require competitive bidding." The fiasco in Iraq was and is a no competitive bid operation, as are all such Foreign Soil Adventures/Land Grabs, for who wants to start and supply a War and its Zones other than the Criminally Insane, Intellectually Bankrupt, Morally Deficient and Ethically Challenged in some Manic Moronic Membership Lodge/Fools' Folly.

    Fortunately, Web 2.0 does not need them or their Input, which is something which they are having extreme problems dealing with and it is costing them their Capitalist Banking System as they fight against the New Virtualised Systems of Transparent Operation.

    " "The good news is that President Obama personally really gets this," McLaughlin says. "But we need to embed more good people in these government agencies."

    If you're a good person, he suggests you embed yourself"

    Seconded. An excellent Plan. Of course, he does realise, I suppose, that those who are already deeply embedded would work Renaissance Miracles in Betas Immediately with Renegade covert fiscal stimulus to Driver Leads thus Guaranteeing Principled Principals Playing on his Team for Mutually Beneficial Fundamentally Changing Goals ...... with Proxy United State ProAction with Virtually Real and Alined Non-State Actors.

    Hell, Man, a Convenient Marriage made in Heaven as Easy Come, Easy Go Electronically Transferred Wealth, always ensures Perfect Compliance to Joint Silent Presidential, Prime Administerial Adventures. .... and a Perfectly Structured Investment Vehicle Opportunity for the Post Modern, Long Great Game Player with Balls and Brains on the Sides Servering Angels and her Visions of Beauty in Venus .

    And Yes, just to dispel any possible doubt and remove all ambiguity, that is a Transparent Virtual BetaTest of the New Obama Administration Heuristic ...... and Google Algorithm IntelAIgent Application......... for State of the Art Total Information Awareness Systems ProgramMING.

    Strike that Curve Ball Googley to the Boundary and Stands and be Prepared to Rule and Reign Supremely and Sublimely with the Crowd Wildly and Widely and Wonderfully in Full Support.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    What a complete tit

    Youtube, Facebook, Google, Twitter? Despite the title, when this article started I assumed it was about bring modernity to government IT, I wasn't prepared for the cretinous rubbish that followed.

    Andrew McLaughlin seriously wanted to migrate a government to use those services? His plans didn't fail because of government bureauracy, none of the 'hurdles' stated in the article are really ridiculous, they are just good accountable government. It went nowhere because the plans were the product of a child-like mind.

    As I read "everyday web apps running on commodity hardware" I pictured internal government services and processes accessed through a web browser and run from off the shelf data centres instead of the usual, multi-million dollar customised client/server applications used for such tasks. This, while still possibly nieve, would have been credible than his ideas for gimmick government.

  8. Tom

    Give them their due

    Most stuff on the internet is in things like Pointless Document Format and has such a built in 'paper mentality' that its pretty unreadable on the screen.

    And its only luck that means most Flash offerings contain such little data that people dont wipe out rainforests trying to print these too.

    Office Software: the red flag walking slowly in front of your computer.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Common sense one, wankery love

    As a tax-paying US citizen, I do not want to see Web 2.0 used as leverage to fast track no-bid contracts. I don't want government services that I pay for to be plastered with ads. I don't want unlimited liability to become part of the government's philosophy any more than it already it. Government services are not free and should not be perma-beta. Accountability disappears with unlimited liability. Accountability also doesn't exist without record keeping, although the current way of doing that seems overly onerous. I don't want the history of the Office of the President subject to the whims of revisionists, and paper provides the best record (are you listening, Diebold?).

    No, his army of code monkeys can't wreak Silicon Valley wankery while latched onto an unrestricted government teat. This is a lesson to software engineers everywhere: there are things called requirements. If somebody's paying you to code, you typically don't get to write them. Developers don't have to like them, and the requirements don't even need to make sense. That's a fact of life for the profession. Maybe they should have been business analysts instead?

  10. DZ-Jay

    So, what's the problem?

    These policies seem sensible to me. The only one that, in my opinion, should be updated is the presidential records law, which does not really fit the electronic nature of the Internet or modern data acquiring mechanisms. It may need to be upgraded to include the long term storage of electronic information in non-paper media. But other than that, all seem fit for a governmental organization which needs to serve the people and account for all its spending and service incursions.

    Regarding the so-called "free" Web 2.0 services, Mr. McLaughlin's arguments are idiotic. These services are most definitely *not* free; they are supported by advertisements. And since the government cannot and must not participate in such schemes, it means it will have to pay for the services in other ways if they want to use them.

    This is no different than, say, ad-supported television or ad-supported radio: a government agency cannot just take "free" air time and let advertisers pay for it--they must budget and purchase access to the medium.

    If the government is going to have to set up a special for-pay arrangement with YouTube or FaceBook or any other Web 2.0 company to use their services, then it needs to research the cost and benefits and compare them against building their own infrastructure. And, yes, this takes time and effort, especially if such organizations do not provide the services in a usable way to the goverment, and which they may not be inclined to modify at a reasonable cost.

    In view of this expense in effort, time and treasure, the administration should then decide if Web 2.0 "goodies" are really all that necessary. Perhaps they can reach more people in a more efficient manner using other more traditional ways. After all, event counting all the benefits that the Internet offers nowadays, lets not forget that the United States survived without it for a long time.

    However, so far at least, the Obama administration seems to be preocupied not necessarily in efficiency of communication, but in being the cool and trendy administration that "gets" what the kids are doing.


  11. Jonathan McColl
    Thumb Up

    Not like the UK government machine...

    Your article reminded me of this quote from a Grauniad report: "... fits the pattern I saw during four years serving on the government's Renewables Advisory Board, which felt like watching several dozen episodes of Yes Minister in slow motion."


    The writers once said that they were ready to write a similar programme set in Washington.

  12. Jonathan McColl

    And another thing: what's the problem?

    A problem with international terrorism = an aid to modern global business = speed and slipperiness of communications systems. Paper has worked in one way or another since it changed from parchment and that from baked clay tablets: for legal documents that will be used in law to prove or disprove a case. Let the gummint use any version of the Web to advertise and communicate. It will still 'redact' papers or not even write the things when it wants to hide some unpleasant history, just like it always has done. If a government wants to keep recordings of every single email and phone call and internet search we make, why shouldn't it use the same technology to record its own Blackberry calls?

    There will always be special-interests that will keep recordings of speeches, TV appearances, YouTube offerings, just as others will Photoshop them when they can. We will never win against The Man, but we will always watch him and attempt to keep him in order.

  13. Bruce Ordway

    an example of government web 2.0 needs?

    Web 2.0 and YouTube? I don't want/need my governement getting involved with YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc...

    However, I would like the US to set up a public infrastructure. A low cost internet access without ads. Something like Public Broadcasting, NPR, cable access, National Foundation for the Arts etc... It would be nice to have a choice between Comcast and a national internet provider.

  14. James

    Insane tendering

    I've seen similar stupidity in large organisations - passing over free and better options because they don't have a PR team or lawyers to jump through tendering hoops. It's this "logic" which has my university squandering six figures each year on a third-rate unreliable proprietary email product, while other universities either build far more reliable services on open-source packages or get an adequate service - certainly better than we get for far more money - for free from Google.

    The requirement to *keep* a copy of all websites, blog posts and Facebook status updates is sensible - requiring the copies to be *on paper* is not. An electronic record (in an open format: HTML, plain text or similar, as appropriate) would be far better, in cost and ease of retrieval: far easier to index gigabytes of files on computer than tonnes of paper in a storeroom!

    The archiving rule should just be changed to allow electronic rather than paper copies; tendering rules should mandate that free options be included automatically, and fix the indemnity thing somehow - it's not as if Microsoft rush to take the blame every time a Word virus trashes a load of work!

  15. Stephen Sherry

    I agree with the above, who cares about web 2.0?

    It's the gimmickiest gimmick since the " fiasco". A bunch of big headed nerds believing that if they describe current technology in an easy to package way (i.e. confusing it all to heck by summarizing a complex and changing system into a catch phrase and acronyms), it must then be superior. But every reason the gov can't use web 2.0 (whatever the hell that is compared to the web before web 2.0, hype-less maybe? Nope, there's been hype at least since MS got into the web browser market.) seem like good reasons for me not to use them too. Just one example, if it's my fault for watching something illegal on someone's site, when I may not realize it is illegal, or even real (in the case of violent acts or whatever), where does the justice fit? Seems like a huge waste of resources by the policing units to crack down on the bystanders, than to just get the evidence and go after the actual perpetrators of whatever injustice is posted on the web, ALONG with having the provider of the web space take it down, who in this case, while they can moderate their own site (assuming it isn't hacked), they are apparently faultless completely for anything they have on their page, as long as they take it down when they are told to.

    It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me, so therefore, anytime anyone mentions web 2.0 in public, which has yet to happen to me (and I'm an IT nerd to the extreme), it will just make me hate the hype monsters even more. They're the ones that seemed to educate Andrew McLaughlin, and left him floating in a world that doesn't really exist the way he was told to imagine it. The gov needs big picture people, not people who package everything unexplainable or ever changing, into a permanent sounding idea. When I went to college for IT, about 1/2 of the people there were cheaters and full of crap since they were taught to sound confident in what they say even if they have no clue what they are talking about. There were actually courses dedicated to those things. The few of us with actual curiosity for technology fought an impossible war against people believing all IT people were trying to cheat them and doing shoddy work, or overestimating the ease at which they could do something, leading employers to believe IT was something kids would soon be trained for in High School, making our incomes drop like stones. That's what I thought of when I heard Dot.Net, and especially since things have only gotten worse in IT, Web 2.0.

    I wish things would just go back to the basics, without all the BS ;P I can't think of a single web based thing that wasn't done before web 2.0, other than huge media companies ignoring it until their usual markets started getting thinner because the consumers decided to go a different way than the companies planned.

    But hey, what could I possibly know, it's not like I'm Web 2.0 certified or anything, I just have an IT degree ;P

  16. skeptical i
    Thumb Down

    For what purpose again?

    Sorry, I must have skipped something ... did McLaughlin say which Web 2.0 gewgaws he wanted the government to use, why, and why existing communication devices (phone, postal mail, e-mail, fax) are so woefully inadequate as to justify the effort? (I'd rather be paying government employees to actually do their jobs instead of updating their myFace pages.)

  17. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Change is always Best Performed as a Top Down Operation ... for Shock and Awe Impacts *

    Please get used to the Novel Idea that the Stealthy IT and E.Mergent Private Sector will run Virtual Rings around Failing and Corrupt Governments, for you surely wouldn't want their Arrogant Politicians, who just assume and delude themselves that they have Magical and Mystical Control of Global Wealth and Power and can Abuse the Ignorance of the Masses for their own Personal Financial Crooked Gains, and yet are at the Mercy of Media and Communications, to be in Control of Anything Politically Sensitive/Vitally Important, for they are not Morally Fit nor Intellectually Equipped for ITs Virtualised Future Purpose and Resources Supply..... for the Truth of the Matter is that they Produce Absolutely Nothing and yet would have you Believe that they are Indispensable and Deserve to Live off the Fat of the Land and Foreign Hard Labour, for Free....... a Parasitic Cost Burden which Taxes are for..... for Taxes are not for your Benefit, they are for Solely to justify and pay for their Existence....... which is an interesting Ponzi, is it not?

    That is not to say that all Political Players in all Government Models are all Failing and Corrupt, for quite obviously, those supporting the Stealthy IT and E.Mergent Private Sectors reforming Failing and Corrupt Governments Virtually would be Worthy World Champions rather than Despicable National Losers.

    Yes, the Times they are a Changing indeed, in Deed.

    * Stuck in an Establishment Bubble/Time Warp in Support of a National Leader, no Matter how Charismatic rather than Surging Forwards with Drivers in InterNetional Leadership which dDeliver Goods for All, is a Failing which a Charismatic National Leader with Imaginative Vision should be able to Address and Resolve and Lead with Intelligence Providing all that is Needed for Seeding/Feeding Sublimely.

  18. Schultz

    Some things are meant to last

    Others just make it to the next economic cycle. Which one would you choose for your government?

    Quantity versus Quality, it's still a tough choice!

  19. Harry
    Thumb Up

    Unusually, the government is probably RIGHT

    Take adverts, for example.

    Third party adverts absolutely should NOT be on government web pages. Nor, indeed ANY business-related pages whatsoever.

    Adverts absolutely do not belong on sites like BBC, ebay or any other self-respecting business. The site should be there to support and promote the OWNER's business, not to earn money with unnecessarily annoying third party adverts whose sole "benefit" is to discourage the visitors for whom the site is intended.

    Nor are there vast expenses involved in running a web site. Servers and connectivity are dirt cheap -- the server will cost a lot less in operating costs and connectivity than the company switchboard. Properly thought out, the material placed on the server should cost a LOT less to create than the equivalent printed documents. So, you've made a vast profit just by deciding to cut down less trees and put it on the web site. Provided, that is, you don't employ stupidly expensive consultants to do it (or, worse still, to design your logos).

    Similarly, third party cookies and spyware of all types should be banned -- not just on government web sites, but on all web sites globally.

    Meanwhile, look at the SERVICES provided by U-tube, twitter etc. Mostly, they are services which could and should be provided on the company's OWN web server. No problem with adverts or third party cookies if you're not using third party services to proved them.

    The other problems could and should be surmountable. Records need to be kept -- but the requirement should be to keep them in a format compatible with the medium on which the information originally appeared. If properly managed backup tapes are sufficient for the tax man, then surely a suitable electronic medium can be found to maintain the official archives.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A nice feature, not a bug

    So the US government is too ossified to take advantage of the internet's astoundingly efficient information dissemination channels.

    As someone mighty suspicious of any government's - especially Obama's - brand of "information" I am pleased to hear that this is the case. May it long continue.

  21. Steve
    Thumb Up


    "Most government agencies prevent their employees from visiting sites like YouTube and Facebook. "These services are presumed to be social rather than job-related.""

    Wow! Politicians aren't all a complete bunch of frakkin' 'tards! Who knew?

  22. Justin White

    Big Fuss over Nothing?

    I can certainly see why people wonder why any government should embrace Web 2.0 technologies. Personally, I think Web 2.0 is highly overrated for it's impact and utility. However, I think we can plainly state that all governments do a horrendous job of making information accessible and retaining records electronically. Certainly, McLaughlin's experience validates that from a US Gov't perspective and I can't believe other governments are much better.

    And as pointed out, this sort of insight into bureaucracy just makes me excited thinking about all the things the Obama Administration thinks the gov't should be involved with. Where does the change come into play again?

    Mine's the one with the "NO GOV'T ALLOWED" label.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    So a White House channel on YouTube...

    Excuse me? So this guy is complaining that he went to Washington to create an Administration equivalent of the Soviet Propaganda machine, and the government's rules prevented that? So what part of that is bad?

  24. Terry Silver badge


    From the UK side of the ocean I canonly sit with a dropped jaw that anyone even thinks that "WEB 2." is of real value to anyone outside of the PR or IT worlds.

    Governments make powerful communications to whole nations ( via TV, papers, even web sites) and specific ones to individuals or groups (phone fax, mail etc).

    But the idea that a few fragmented, trendy, commercial, ad-supported, social networking sites, because they're the latest thing are somehow an improvement on this is laughable

  25. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Self service

    Why is it surprising that the Government won't trust web companies? The thought of trusting Google to anything of great importance is insane. Free services are engineered to be cheap and scalable, not 100% reliable. Nobody notices if 5% of 15000 garbage search results are missing. When free web-email vanishes, you get what you pay for. When a worm runs its way through a free social site, you get what you pay for. When hackers raid customer databases, you get what you pay for. When a video of somebody getting kicked in the crotch won't show, you pick a video of a fiery car crash.

    The big question is, why can't the government manage their own servers? Fire McLaughlin and get a team to build it.

  26. Pierre

    Nice but why?

    Why would any gub'mint want to use Flikr or YouTube? Creating better equivalents in-house would take, what, 4 hrs and a couple almost-free machines. I don't think it justifies scraping perfectly good policies. Are they supposed to use GMail, too?

    All that is downright ridiculous. Who's saying that governmental agencies must resort to free tools whose usual users are pimply pre-teens and "autoproduced artists"? These tools are used not because they are good but because they are free and kindergarten-level, which offsets their crappiness in the context of recreative use by tech-illiterate pennyless people.

    As far as I'm concerned, Obama lost every single bit of the tech creds he might have had when he decided to use YouTube for official stuff. Way to look like a clown. How many of you would do serious business with someone who uses Youtube and Facebook as their front-end?

  27. Father Jack

    Safety First...

    The secutrity of a government network is tenuous enough as is. Allowing access to Facebook and others is not going to improve matters in that regard now, is it? On top of all the virus concerns there's the whole publishing of sensitive information issue, and on top of that the "Bad PR" angle.

    Picture this potential Facebook update by some Jet Jockey in the DoD:

    User - F22FanBoi101

    My Status: On stand-down after cratering my $120 Million jet - ROFL. Ejection seats FTW!!!

    On a side note, amanfromMars = Iain M. Banks? Check out the last story from State of The Art and tell me you don't see the similarity.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Ignorant Web 2.0 Weenie

    OK so hot shot Google is all shocked that yes you have to follow rules in government, and laws aren't easily changed. What a shocker! All the tech people supporting the government just didn't have that guys skills or insight to do it. Right! Maybe someone need to get off their high horse and get to work

  29. zenkaon

    The government already has all it needs

    from the web 2.0 likes of Youtube, Facebook,Twitter, BeBo etc....

    ...complete and unrestricted access to everyones accounts.

    Seriously, I DO NOT want my council tax bill coming through on my facebook account.

    Oh and McLaughlin saying "If you're a good person, he suggests you embed yourself"....forget it after what you've just said...I'll go and (continue to) actually do something that I can develop/use/advance without waiting for the political sayso of someone who still finds email a challenge

  30. Steven Jones

    Government and business are different...

    I hope this niaive twerp has woken up to government and business being there for two fundamantally different purposes. Business is their solely to make money within the constraints of the law.

    Governments aren't there for that - they are meant (at least in democratic companies) to be representative of the peoples views and work in their collective interests. They have to do in a way that balances different interest groups. If that breaks down, then the result is social strife and tension. That means government is constrained by all sorts of rules that don't apply to businesses. That's as it should be - history shows that if there is one thing worse than a rampant commercial organisation, that largely only cares about money, it is a rampant political movement. Think nazism, communiusm, maoism, the medieval catholic church. I can't quite imagine what a combination of state and commercial organisation might be, but I suspect it won't be pretty.

    Let the government get on with setting the framework within which commercial operations run, but don't go mixing the two.

    That's not to say that much state use of technology and processes isn't ossified and stuck in time, but a blatant throwing away of constraints on government behaviour in favour of individual commercial interests is not one of them. That way will lead to the Coca Cola White House or the Big Mac Pentagon (no doubt somebody is working on it).

  31. Gordon
    Dead Vulture


    The advantage of The government using a social network rather than deploying the information on their own system is aggregation. You might not check the government page for the presidents new address, but if you've already got the white house as you friend in you tube you will notice that there's a new message, The advantage is putting access to the government in peoples everyday world rather than making them jump through hoops to talk tot their government. It's a bold and worthy goal.

    However his complaints about procurement, advertising and tendering are silly, they show that the government is working, was the bush government efficient because of all the no bid contracts it awarded?

    I will agree that archiving laws need to be updated, but Rich media on the net only became huge during the Bush admin, and they had no interest in keeping records, or in technology that wasn't some military boondoggle, so this is the first time anyone with an interest has looked at it.

    This could be less of an issue with Open social network standards and making the sites aggregators of social information on social information content providers.

  32. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Re Self Service

    "Why is it surprising that the Government won't trust web companies? The thought of trusting Google to anything of great importance is insane." .... By Kevin McMurtrie Posted Monday 6th April 2009 00:38 GMT

    If you think that you can trust those running Government to be uninterested in servering excess to themselves, and it would be folly and naive to think that one government is any different from another whenever their aims are surely all exactly the same, then just take a read about the gravy train scams and tax free allowances aka tax avoidance shemes which are run by Governments for themselves and their partners ...... which on the other side of shark pond are spawned in lobbying and pork/stinking phish/rotten apple barrels too.

    Fortunately, though, there is nothing to stop Google doing their own thing and creating Greater Virtual Governance by Simply CompleXXXX Search Algorithm and Product Placement with Top Page Ranking, other than them not Using the Intellectual Property Supplied/Born and Bred/dDeveloped for ITs Use. What you can be assured of though, is that It is maybe not just something which they have to have Control of Power over, as IT may well be more than able and capable of doing what is necessary without their Specific Help, which would leave them playing as second fiddle in an orchestra rather than leading AI Gala Performance as VirtuOSo Concert Grand Master Pianist ..... for All it needs is a Special IntelAIgents Service* , which can supply ITs Own Feeds and Needs from and for Selective Range of Supportive Select Suppliers ...... Purveyors of True Blue XSSXXXXCellents.

    But hell, if they aint up to the Future Task, they aint gonna be Bothered Long to be part of IT, for what would be the Point of Carrying Useless Baggage/Excess Weight for Short Term Gain. Man, that's what got the System into its Present Melting Down Pickle ....... which I don't know whether you've noticed or not, Governments haven't changed at all, thus guaranteeing even further and more Rapid Declines and Losses and ever more Dirty Secrets of Failed Control Leverage being exposed to the Mind of the Masses ....... and they aint gonna be Kind with the Knowledge they would then Know, given the Known Suffering it has been Instrumental in dDelivering since ...oh, since Way Back a Long Time, because they were Played for Ignorant Tools by Arrogant Fools.

    * That would be a Mutual IntelAIgents Operation ... MuI7 ..... should IT be in Need of AIMoniker .

  33. Paul Fisher
    Thumb Up

    re: Harry

    I agree. There's nothing preventing the US government from posting their content on their own (perhaps modernized and easier-to-navigate) websites and providing the necessary accessibility features. And because works of the US government are public domain, there's *nothing* preventing a group of citizens (I certainly think would be up to the task) from reposting that to popular social/sharing services.

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