Monday, March 09, 2009

Take a Deep Breath – We’ve Got to Be Patient

Mea culpa. Like my fellow Web Passionistas, I am guilty of being terribly impatient for the Obama team to make long-awaited changes in the way government does business through the web. I've read a good number of blogs and tweets, sounding the frustrations many of us share. A few weeks ago, I even sent a whiny email to Macon Phillips, complaining about the introduction of multiple new websites around the economic situation (,,, Sorry about that, Macon (at least I didn’t use all caps!). I know a lot of us are so eager to see change…we idealistically thought these folks would walk in the door, wave their magic wands, and – poof! – all better. Well, darn it…I think we’re going to have to be patient.

I'm sure the Obama team is as frustrated as we are. They came in with the same high expectations, only to face a dearth of office space, lengthy staffing processes, complex procurement requirements, and other laws and regulations that have been making government employees groan for years. For example, I know the privacy and accessibility laws and regs complicate jumping into some of the new technologies that most of us agree will help government interact with citizens. But it’s the right thing to do to protect the privacy of citizens who use government websites – citizens hold government to a higher standard on this issue. And we must make our web content accessible to all citizens (and if it’s not important enough to make it accessible, then – gee – maybe it shouldn’t be there at all).

It’s gonna take some time to get over these hurdles. They have to sort through the laws and regs and figure out which ones have to be preserved and which ones can be modified. I worked for the government for a long time; and one thing I learned is that you can accomplish most anything, if you just keep looking for options. I think this team is up to the task.

Now, if we haven’t seen progress a year from now, we can – and should - really yammer. And, sure, we should keep reminding them about the things that are really important to us – making top citizen tasks as prominent and easy-to-use as possible, transparency, engagement, and (my own personal pet peeve) downsizing the absurd number of government websites (each with its own look and feel) and unattended government web content.

But for now, let’s be patient, fellow Web Passionistas. If the past is prologue, it will be another 3-5 months before they get all the people in place. Macon and his team are working hard at the White House. Vivek Kundra just got his foot in the door at OMB; and while I know we all have high expectations of him, even Gandalf himself couldn’t bring about change as fast as we want it. Everything we’ve seen indicates these folks are on the right track. So let’s give them a chance.

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