Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The era of openness begins

It's been only a week since the election, and already we are starting to see the implications and challenges of pledging to run an open transition. If you haven't seen it already, check out Change.gov, Obama's transition website. Though it's definitely remarkable that Obama's team managed to post the website a mere 24 hours after the election concluded, there is little about the website that truly suggests a more open approach to the transition.

In fact, Change.gov is already drawing attention for the exact opposite reason. News organizations have picked up on a major change to the website: the detailed and sometimes bold agenda from Obama's campaign has been removed, to be replaced by a brief and vague description of the administrations goals.

Is this a failure of openness? Probably in a minor sense - it would be nice if the website at least called attention to the (justifiable) change and explained why it was made. But is this a cause for concern?

I believe it's not. Ars Technica explains it far better than I can, but the disappearing agenda is a far cry from any sort of cover-up or secrecy. Everything that was removed is replicated and still available all over the internet (including on the campaign's issue page). This is not a sign that Obama is about to overhaul his policy in secret; it's just that he wants to be careful what he promises when, and how the message is conveyed.

Nonetheless, it is a positive sign for openness that so many people have jumped on the disappearing agenda. We can only hope that Obama's team will provide the same level of access during his administration, and that the vigilant watchers on the web will continue to call our attention to this sort of change.

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