Gov Gab: Your U.S. Government Blog
October 29, 2007 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Haven't you ever wished the US Government had an official blog? Now they do. It's called Gov Gab.
posted by finite (35 comments total)
"We are federal employees who work in the Office of Citizen Services and Communications at the U.S. General Services Administration. In our daily jobs, we encounter a staggering amount of U.S. government information and services that can benefit your life. From saving money and visiting National Parks to finding out about government auctions and the latest recalls, we want to bring these resources to you in a new way—through our blog."
posted by finite at 8:42 PM on October 29, 2007

Let me just say that as an image to greet you as you navigate to a government blog, this picture may not be the most reassuring.
posted by Kattullus at 8:45 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite] = bog slug ova..

Coincidence? You be the judge.
posted by googly at 8:51 PM on October 29, 2007

No, what the US Government really needs is a Myspace.

Mood: Hegemonic
posted by Avenger at 8:52 PM on October 29, 2007 [7 favorites]

> When the wildfires started burning, I know it sounds callous, but I didn’t pay that much attention to the reports on the news. I’ll admit that I’ve become somewhat immune to hearing about all the disasters and crime that’s proclaimed loudly by the media 24/7.
So, wait, are all the posts by Bush? Or just this one
posted by churl at 9:03 PM on October 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

Not bad. Pretty conversational and easy-going, with links to useful information. And it's got a nice beat and you can really dance to it!

BONUS: check out the substitute blogger Colleen!
posted by davidmsc at 9:04 PM on October 29, 2007

I agree with Kattullus, I thought it was going to announce some new genetic experiment program. Ve vill haff to insert ze chips now.
posted by blacklite at 9:05 PM on October 29, 2007

Ooh, from the people that brought you the Consumer Action Handbook! Seriously though, it's pretty useful.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:06 PM on October 29, 2007

So I was talking to Brit again. Brit is about the only person I can trust anymore but since she broke up with Tony and started going out with Gordon I'm not even sure about that. I mean she's nice and all but she just might take her toys and go home one of these days, know what I'm saying?

At least Fran is back on my side. I think. She's making noises like she is but after the last couple of years it's going to take us a while.

So Brit tells me that the foreign girl, y'know, 'Tamia? Well, after all I've done for her and her boyfriends she still just doesn't like me. She acts like she likes me sometimes but then she turns around and pulls something that just blows up in my face. I'm pretty sure it's her anyway. Brit gets the same shit, so I guess she's on the up and up about it. But the thing is I feel like I'm committed to going over there even if I just hang out with her 'Dad. He seems to like me a little better but he's still conflicted I guess because he doesn't think I treated his daughter right, or something.

Which brings me to Pers. The exchange student, the one with the chemistry set and the lab? Well the city wasn't too happy about that I guess and wanted her to take it down. I guess they think she's going to blow up the neighborhood. OK, I admit it, I filed the complaint, but jeez it could have been anyone.
posted by dhartung at 9:10 PM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

So, how long until we see a U.S. Department of Lost and Found? Come on, Onion, you've been prescient before, do it again.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:13 PM on October 29, 2007

Yeah, I have to say I found the flu image a little disturbing on first blush as well :)
posted by delmoi at 9:20 PM on October 29, 2007

Like any real blog it needs a little v1@gra spam in the comments.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:23 PM on October 29, 2007

The State Department's blog is called "Dipnote".
posted by Poolio at 9:26 PM on October 29, 2007

I can't wait for the post before they tool up and go and start another school massacre.
posted by pompomtom at 9:34 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

No, what the US Government really needs is a Myspace HUG.
posted by SassHat at 9:47 PM on October 29, 2007 do we go about changing this from a font of whitewashing to a force for good? seriously...i'll bake a pan of brownies for whoever formulates the best plan.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:50 PM on October 29, 2007

I totally came to comment on the disturbing photo too. Anyone else's stomach turn a little?
posted by Quidam at 9:50 PM on October 29, 2007

also WTF! this whole thing reads like 'hints from heloise'. it's as if they had blogging in the 1950's
posted by sexyrobot at 9:58 PM on October 29, 2007

We welcome your comments and expect that our conversation will follow the general rules of respectful civil discourse. This is a moderated blog, and we will only post comments from bloggers over 12 years of age that relate to topics on Gov Gab: Your U.S. Government Blog. We will review comments for posting within one business day. You are fully responsible for everything that you submit in your comments, and all posted comments are in the public domain. We do not discriminate against any views, but we reserve the right not to post comments.

Emphasis mine - I'd love to see that tested, though they'll probably avoid controversial topics such that any dissenting posts would be off topic.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:59 PM on October 29, 2007

We do not discriminate against any views, but we reserve the right not to post comments.

Is this what you will do to me if I disagree with the administration on torture or foreign policy?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:27 PM on October 29, 2007

1970s . . . IP addresses
1980s . . . DNS
1990s . . . HTTP
2000s . . . blogs
2010s . . . ?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:30 PM on October 29, 2007

2010s . . . wiki
Yeah, I know wikis existed in the late 20th century, and so did blogs. But, in the 2010s governments will actually have to start using some of this awesome transparency-enabling technology we've got now. And that blog in the fpp is not what I'm talking about.
posted by finite at 12:04 AM on October 30, 2007

i'd like to think that:
2010s...true democracy.

has anyone else realized that 'representative' democracy is no longer necessary yet? i guess we'll have to have somebody watching and maintaining the servers, we really need elected leaders and all that bureacracy anymore? i just don't see it. thoughts?
posted by sexyrobot at 2:13 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Intelligence Community already uses a Wiki internally. Not transparency-enabling exactly, since parts of it are top secret.
posted by grouse at 3:30 AM on October 30, 2007

I just love their categories, so cheery & vague.

* All
* /Home and Family
* /General
* /Health
* /Money
* /Fun
* /Travel
* Comments
posted by scalefree at 7:44 AM on October 30, 2007

You searched this site for "iraq". 0 entries found.
posted by maniabug at 10:13 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

You searched this site for "iraq". 0 entries found.

A fine example of why these feds started a instead of a
posted by finite at 11:48 AM on October 30, 2007

has anyone else realized that 'representative' democracy is no longer necessary yet?

As they say on the Chumbawamba/Negativland album The ABCs of Anarchism:
The founding fathers hated two things--they hated democracy and they hated monarchy--and they saw to it that we would have neither
If you've discussed the idea of a direct democracy with many people, you've probably found that there is an ingrained fear of "mob rule" which is quite strong still. A friend of mine calls it "the September 12 problem", as in, what would the USA have done on 9/12/2001 if we had a direct democracy? I think these fears are largely unfounded, and that wiki-government is an inevitability. The key to a working democracy is a population of interested and informed voters, and the internet is a big help with that too.

As founding-father TJ wrote in 1820 (according to wikiquote) "I know, (there is) no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

And yet, today, our congresspeople don't even read all the bills that they vote for. And even worse, for people like me who sometimes do read them, we cannot tell who wrote what parts! There is no edit history! WTF! For weeks after the Homeland Security bill of 2002 was passed, it remained a mystery who had added the last-minute lawsuit immunity provision for Eli Lilly until finally, Dick Armey fessed up.

There is a new political party in Australia: Senator On-Line (‘SOL’) is a truly democratic party which will allow everyone on the Australian Electoral roll who has access to the internet to vote on every Bill put to Parliament and have its Senators vote in accordance with a clear majority view.
posted by finite at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2007

SOL? AWESOME!!!!!1111!!!!! we need this here!
wait...we can have this here...someone just needs to run for office under this
posted by sexyrobot at 4:19 PM on October 30, 2007

The oligarchy will be Shit Outta Luck when that party is successful, so I don't expect it to come too easy.

But yes, it is very important to realize that we can implement a direct democracy, or even wikiocracy, incrementally without needing to scrap the whole government and start over.

Doing what the Senator On-Line party is doing is only half of the equation; the other half is to edit everything of any importance in a distributed revision control system with cryptographically-assured revision histories. Like git, but a little more usable and understandable by people who aren't kernel hackers. We can start trying to do that on state and local levels now, but it'll probably be a few years still before the U.S. Congress is willing to be that transparent.
posted by finite at 4:43 PM on October 30, 2007

As Saul Williams says in Bloodletting, "we will wait... for the past... to die".
posted by finite at 4:46 PM on October 30, 2007

that git business is mostly greek to me, but on a related note, i recall that there was an issue of the MIT technology review devoted to the issue of election reform that came out a few years ago. there was one proposal that seemed really interesting to me...have you seen those new upc code things? (the old ones being that pattern of lines and numbers that u see on just about every product sold) they look like a grid of random pixels (here in the u.s. they're mainly showing up on package labels, and i've even seen them on stamp cancellations on standard mail (ie letters)).
the plan was this: when you vote, you get a reciept that includes one of these seemingly-random pixel arrays. then, at any point after that, you could go online to veryify that your vote had not been changed by downloading another, complementary array. here's the cool part: when printed out, aligned with your original reciept, and held to the light, your votes could be read clearly. cool, right? if i were doing it though (like i have the know-how to do any of this ;P) i would include in the reciept a random line from the source code so that you could confirm that the system, not just your personal vote, had remained free of tampering.
but yeah, the user interface needs to be super simple: username, password, vote. signup= <5 minutes.
strangely enough, you've got me thinking of actually running for congress...
and yeah, win. shoot me an email with your address and i'll send you a pan of brownies. :D
posted by sexyrobot at 6:37 PM on October 30, 2007

have you seen those new upc code things?
Indeed. PARC's DataGlyphs® look like the superior technology, but they're useless due to patents. Now, the successful though inferior alternative Data Matrix standard is also facing a patent challenge.

the plan was this: when you vote, you get a reciept that includes one of these seemingly-random pixel arrays.
It sounds like you're talking about David Chaum's Votegrity system proposed in 2004. He has since simplified it greatly and calls it Punchscan. Here is their FAQ.

that git business is mostly greek to me
This might not make it less greek, but I wanted to clarify my (mis-)use of the term cryptographically-assured; there is nothing actually hidden, as the word cryptography indicates there could be, rather, (to quote the wiki article on git) the document's history is stored in such a way that the name of a particular revision (a "commit" in Git terms) depends upon the complete development history leading up to that commit. Once it is published, it is not possible to change the old versions without it being noticed. How? The name of each version is the output of a cryptographic hash function, the input of which includes the name of the previous version. Why? Because revision control systems without such measures can technically be tampered with (for example, someone could edit a MediaWiki's SQL database directly).

strangely enough, you've got me thinking of actually running for congress...

and yeah, win. shoot me an email with your address and i'll send you a pan of brownies. :D
Thanks, I'll pass on the brownies for now but please do send me a mefi mail if you're ever in the bay area and want to get some pints and discuss your congressional campaign.
posted by finite at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2007

i re-read the git article and have a little better grasp on it now...this would all be for the behind the scenes part, right? i tend to focus on the user-interface end of these things, because ultimately if thats crap, then the whole system sucks. (but we can discuss mac vs. windows another time ;)

yeah, the votegrity system is exactly what i was talking about, thanks for the link! the article i read didn't have pix of it though, so it was nice to see it in action (i am a sucker for anything that magically appears...take THAT conservation of mass/energy!) even though that punchscan system looks much much better...that's definitely the one to get behind! not that diebold is gonna let any of that happen without a major fight/ hearty round of hangings.

there's another thing about the voting process that's been bugging me for ages...why this incredible rush to post the results on the night of the election? it always seems to me that it just creates an environment of pure chaos...shouldn't it be done as CAREFULLY as possible instead?

have you posted an fpp on the senator on-line project? i'd love to see that, and what people have to say on the subject. (i'd have done it, but i didn't want to step on your toes...)

and, btw...only bush supporters turn down free brownies ;)
(i also do cupcakes if that's more your thing...)
posted by sexyrobot at 3:26 AM on November 1, 2007

have you posted an fpp on the senator on-line project?
Here it is. [See also]
posted by finite at 4:20 PM on November 15, 2007

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