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Daily Digest: Barney, Building Blocks, and the Burgeoning Food Movement

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 18 2008

  • The Inside View on Revolutionizing .Gov: Dozens of senior web managers spanning federal agencies from USDA to HUD to NASA to EPA to ASDF (okay, we made that last one up) have penned a useful white paper with recommendations for the next presidential administration. In "Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government," the Federal Web Managers Council urges an overhaul of the more than 24,000 websites that make up the federal web empire. It's time, says the group, to put plain-spoken, consistent web communications and networked efficiency firmly at the center of government. It's great to hear a vision for the way ahead directly from the many dedicated federal employees who actually get their hands dirty in online government.

  • Barney Cam!: This latest and last video installment of the life and times of Barney, the White House dog, is truly something to behold. The Bush family gathers to celebrate Christmas in this stilted and scripted piece, and you have to get a load of the President acting out some intentionally goofy lines, like when he admonishes his pet to quit "nappin' to the finish." Bonus: dream sequences in which Barney's the star of the Beijing Olympics, the Ryder Cup, and other sporting events that Scottish terriers rarely win. Seriously, though, a great deal of time and energy clearly went into this lengthy production, and it's a glimpse of the rarely-seen home life of the First Family and First Canine. So it seems wasteful for it only to be offered on whitehouse.gov in proprietary Windows Media, QuickTime, and RealPlayer formats.

  • New Media 101: If you ever get the question from colleagues, allies, or clients, "We want to get all web 2.0 up in this piece. Hmm, where do we start?," then we've got something for you. Over on Wellstone Action, Xavier Lopez-Ayala, the new media director for the Obama campaign's Minnesota wing, details the building blocks of a solid new media strategy. The steps are aimed at enhancing political campaigns' "field, communications, and fundraising efforts," but with a little tweaking they can inform the new media plans of a wide swath of organizations.

  • Keeping Track of the Iterative Transition: Transparency advocates have put out the call for the presidential transition team to keep track of changes to Change.gov through some sort of version control system, but until Team Obama sees the light on that point, there's the new Change.gov wiki. Put together by the Austin-based League of Technical Voters, the third-party versioning project scrapes Change.gov regularly -- once a day for most content, twice a day for news -- thereby compiling a rich history of the evolution of the site. The wiki is still pretty rudimentary and could use a little TLC, so jump in if you think you can make it better.

  • Google Inside the Beltway: The DC headquarters of Google recently hosted two hour-long discussions on open government that should be of interest. The first, moderated by YouTube's Steve Grove, focused on lessons in transparency and participation from the campaign trial. On the panel were the Obama campaign's Sam Graham-Felsen and Buffy Wicks, the Republican National Committee's Cyrus Krohn, and Jeff Eller of Public Strategies. And the second session took a look at the nuts and bolts of implementing open government. Moderated by Andrew McLaughlin (who has a permanent home at Google but is now serving on the Obama transition team), that discussion featured Karina Newton of Speaker Pelosi's (D-CA) office, the Sunlight Foundation's John Wonderlich, Chris Barkley of Senator Coburn's (R-OK) office, and Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archive. One interesting nugget: Newton's insight into how the Speaker's team uses Google Trends to help brand hot policy topics.

  • The Burgeoning Food Democracy Movement: "We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time." Thus begins the declaration of Food Democracy Now, a new online movement aimed at creating a sustainable food future in the United States. Signed by food and environmental luminaries like Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, and Marion Nestle, the loosely-knit group's mission may find some footing now that Obama has selected Tom Vilsack to serve as Secretary of Agriculture, as the former Iowa Governor was distinctly not among the potential USDA chiefs the coalition had wanted for the job.

In Case You Missed It...

And Matthew Burton previews a book chapter he has authored in which he outlines his vision for how the national security apparatus should use tech to address future threats. Home in on specific risks, he says, and don't hesitate to go through a process of trial-and-error using low-cost -- and hopefully open-source -- tools. Matthew also issues an intriguing call for "developer-analysts" to be embedded deep inside the intelligence process.