or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Government 2.0

   February 3rd, 2009

obama on iphoneBefore and since the Obama Administration moved into the White House, there's been much talk about how Obama was using technology, really using it properly, to get things done.

These ranged from his change.gov and recovery.gov websites to the Blackberry battle to tech problems in the White House to Obama's Technology Agenda to the newly revamped White House website and blog.

I subscribed to the White House blog's rss feed on 1/20. In addition to reading the posts, I also paid attention to how many other subscribers there were. At the end of the first week, there were about 800 subscribers in Bloglines, and about 3,000 in Google Reader. As of 2/2, it's up to 1,100+ Bloglines and 16,000+ Google Reader.

This is out of a country of 300 million people - I'm surprised it's so low*.

I think it's great that the government is putting effort into reaching people in new ways, so people can get the information the way they want to be reached. But at what point does it become worth it? These numbers don't take into account people that use other rss readers or actually visit the website, but they do seem low.

Regardless, leading by example is a good thing - if the White House is taking bloggery seriously, then perhaps other parts of the government will also be making information available quicker and easier via technology. The Library of Congress blog predates Obama (191 Blogline/241 Google Reader subscribers), and it has a flickr stream too (~90/226 subscribers). Also, iLibrarian recently pointed to a recap of the Best Government Uses of Web Technology, and that's interesting reading.

These web 2.0 communication channels are now an integrated fact of life for many people, so it makes me feel better that our government is deliberately addressing it instead of trying to ignore it.


*My library's blog isn't much better - out a of a town of about 32,000, we've got 3 Bloglines and 4 Google Reader subscribers (we average over 700 page visits a month).

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5 Responses to “Government 2.0”

  1. Auntie Nanuuq Says:

    Just how many people are really into the day-to-day politics and working of the government?

    From the past 8 years, I believe there is quite a bit of remaining apathy. Not to mention, many of those who are still avidly paying attention happen to be of an older generation such as my father & his friends (they ALL know what’s going on politically & with the government). Sadly, for the most part, they have no interest in using a computer to keep up with what’s going on, they still read the newspaper from cover to cover and listen & watch the news.

  2. M Williams Says:

    fyi – I’m subscribed to this blog via Bloglines and it tells me that _33_ people are subscribed to it, not 3.

  3. Sara Says:

    This seems insane to me, but there are so many people out there who don’t have regular internet access or even own a computer. While I think that everything happening with social media and government 2.0 is great, we still have to remember the folks who aren’t so tech savy.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @M: I meant my library‘s blog, not my own (this one). Also, because of some backend tomfoolery, swissarmylibrarian.net actually has three rss feeds (all of which do the same thing). I added up the three feeds in both bloglines and google reader, and the totals in each are 219 for bloglines and 355 for google reader.

    @Sara: I agree. I was just surprised at how low the numbers were, considering how much the campaign relied on technology to contact people. Perhaps, as Auntie says, people are less interested in the day-to-day happenings than in the larger picture. Regardless, I am happy that the Administration is using multiple communication channels up and down the tech spectrum, to let people chose how they want to receive their information.

  5. Jason Puckett Says:

    I wonder, though, whether that’s a reflection on how few people still have yet to discover the joys of RSS, rather than how few people are actually reading the sites in question.