May 14, 2009

Grading WhiteHouse.gov, part II

How is WhiteHouse.gov shaping up? After less than stellar grade of C+ early in his administration, the Washington Post has re-assembled its team of bipartisan analysts and came back with a B. Certainly better, but still no A.

So, what were the findings?

Craigslist.org founder Craig Newmark gave the site an A-, the highest of the group. He found the online townhall hosted in March that featured more than 100 thousand questions and 3.5 million votes was an "impressive" feat.

Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation found the White House's use of Facebook "pretty engaging." But Andrew Rasiej of the Personal Democracy Forum questioned why people couldn't directly post comments on WhiteHouse.gov while they could on Facebook. Both gave the site a B-, with a C- on the front of transparency alone.

What were some of the problems?

Ticking off a list of criticisms, Miller explained: "The budget is presented as a series of unsearchable PDF files. The page listing nominations has not been updated and there are no links (or easy access to) the personal financial disclosure statements of those nominees. Do citizens get even a glimpse into the president and vice-president's daily schedules? Nope."

Jim Harper of the Cato Institute criticized (as we have) the Obama administration for breaking their promise on giving legislation five days of public notice before signing it.

John Henke of conservative blog The Next Right rightly complains that both the speeches and appointments pages haven't been updated since February. He gives WhiteHouse.gov a C.

Guest Grader David Almacy, who knows a thing or two about web presences during his two year stint as President Bush's Internet director, also gave the site a C. He said citizens should be able to get a better idea of what Obama is doing on any given day. He wishes the site would focus less on the blog and more on keeping other parts of the site up to date.

So there you have it, some positive developments but still a whole host of issues that need to be addressed.