Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Change.gov changes again

Slate covers another round of updates to Change.gov. They are all pretty minor, but it raises an interesting point. No one makes any fuss when other websites update their content in such a minor way, but these changes seem to get noticed. Slate notes that promises made on a website don't carry quite the same weight as a "Read my lips" on TV, but I think that they are missing the point.

Modern web users don't see content on the web as binding. It is implicit that anything on the web can be updated and changed at any time - and this is often a positive thing, like when news organizations are able to correct errors in a story rather than waiting to issue a correction the following day. The key is to make these changes visible and transparent. Typically when a news story is corrected, there is an indication of the edit and a link to an explanation.

On the other hand, if a company updates its website, you would never expect to see an explanation of why the change was made. It's just understood that these things change from time to time.

Which standard should we have for Obama? Before you go for the stricter standard, remember that this will make the administration more hesitant to share information in the first place. After all, if everything you post online is treated as binding, you will probably think twice before posting. Besides, as we've already seen, any significant updates will be documented and highlighted by groups like Slate and Ars Technica (and bloggers like me), so maybe there's no reason to worry at all.

1 comment:

Andy said...

"Modern web users don't see content on the web as binding."

I tend to agree. One thing that will be interesting is if that forces more traditional government watchers to accept a more dynamic presentation of policy or if their definition of 'flip flop' follows them to the this type of policy direction announcement.

If a more view dynamic of policy initiatives is acceptable to web users, or the at least the viewers of the website find this acceptable... it may also give the incoming administration the opportunity to feel the voters out on a policy. Maybe put something on change.gov and if all of 4chan does not flame them, it may be viewed as more acceptable. If they get immediate negative feedback it may let them change the focus of a policy or redact is as a webmaster's typo.

--andy