WhiteHouse.gov takes a page from Twitter’s playbook

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One of the many cool things about President Barack Obama’s inauguration (and the resultant excitement on sites like social network Facebook and micro-blogging service Twitter) is the new WhiteHouse.gov web site, which was unveiled as Obama was sworn in. As an Obama fan, it’s exciting to see his agenda (yes, the same one that was already available on the transition team’s Change.gov website) up on the White House site, and I’m glad that Obama’s “Director of New Media” Macon Phillips is promising to use the site to increase communication, transparency, and participation. Too bad it initially falls short on that promise, in ways significant and less significant.

Here’s one way that WhiteHouse.gov is a big step down from Change.gov: It doesn’t allow comments, as Valleywag’s Owen Thomas notes. But wait, there’s a generic “contact us” form that lets you send messages to the administration, just as you would with a giant corporation! Even better, the form limits your comments to 500 characters. That’s barely more than four “tweets” on Twitter. (In comparison, this short post has more than 1,400 characters.)  Goodness knows the administration shouldn’t waste time on comments with any nuance. I guess we’re supposed to save that for old-fashioned paper-and-ink letters, which face no such limit.

Also mildly annoying is the White House blog’s RSS feed, which doesn’t post full items, but rather just the first sentence of each post. Want to read the full text of President Obama’s first proclamation? You’ll have to click through to the blog. Granted, that’s a minor inconvenience, but it’s disappointing when an administration that’s supposed to be tech- and new media-savvy unveils a blog that’s redolent of old media. What, is Obama desperate for page views?