27 August 2010

Brookings on Improving Congressional Websites?

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The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings recently released a paper titled Improving Congressional Websites. According to their own copy, they were founded in 2010 and are “at the forefront of shaping public debate on technology innovation and developing data-driven scholarship[sic] to enhance understanding of technology’s legal, economic, social, and governance ramifications.”

While I was previously unfamiliar with the Center, I am completely in favor of what they’re trying to accomplish and impressed by their bravado at having moved to “the forefront of shaping public debate on technology innovation” in such a short period of time.

With this in mind, I downloaded the report, read through it, and would like to offer a critical but brief analysis.

  1. I believe the information presented is obvious to anyone already interested in these issues.
  2. The perspective presented was relevant during the growth of the Internet in the early 2000′s (aka web1.0), but doesn’t take into account use of social media (web2.0).
  3. The most recent data for the report was collected 3 years ago (in House of Representative’s terms, given that campaigning is in full swing, that’s effectively two Congresses ago).
  4. It does not present any recommendations for how Congressional offices can improve their websites, but merely mentions the Congressional Management Foundation’s Gold Mouse Awards as the type of program that “society” should sponsor to encourage offices to do so.

In short, I was stunned by the simplicity and lack of useful information and insight that this report contained. Independent of your politics, Brookings is well regarded as a think tank. This report should not have been published as it is, even if the fine print on page 7 does specify that, “This paper from the Brookings Institution has not been through a formal review process and should be considered a draft.”

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