This just gets interestinger and interestinger. First there was the showdown at the BlackBerry Corral, with the President holding on for dear life while the Security Forces threated to rip the device from his hands. Pres 1, Security 1, I'd have to say, because we certainly don't want the President to be insecure in any way.
Now Politico reports that IM is banned for all White House staff. The most technologically advanced team in politics, ooops, in government, is having one of the most useful tools ever taken away. Great headline, by the way, Politico for Ben Smith's article: "Obama staff will say cu l8r 2 IM."
When we were involved in Reinventing Government 15 years ago, many people in government agencies weren't allowed to have email. So they went home and sent email to one another on their private accounts. We don't want that, obviously, and these folks are in the White House, which we want to be the most effective, fastest, most accurate (enough superlatives yet?) government on earth. Taking away IM is not a step in that direction.
Seriously: we've talked before about Tom Allen's famous finding - that if you're more than 50 feet apart, you've got a virtual communication problem to address. Everyone in the White House is more than 50 feet apart and they need to stay in very close contact.
Information policy is lagging, folks. We need some quick brain work from the folks who've really been thinking about this stuff. The desire for transparency should not be blocked by the fear of discovery.
Here are a few choice paragraphs from Ben Smith's piece:
The lawyers broke the bad news to Obama aides at a briefing Friday morning convened by incoming Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts: Not only are they leaving the modern world to enter a White House where some of the clunky desktop computers still run Windows 2000 but — worst of all — they'll be forced to surrender a form of communication staffers have relied on for the last two years to communicate with each other, outside allies, and the press.
"They just told us flat out we couldn't IM in the White House," groused one senior staffer Friday.
"It sucks. It's really going to slow us down," complained another, saying that lawyers had warned that, along with instant messaging, White House software will restrict users to a range of sites roughly "like your average grade school."
The clunky technology is standard issue for government offices, but the bar on instant messaging is particular to the White House. Legal and security experts say it is dictated by the fear of embarrassment if IMs were to be disclosed.