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Can Weblogs Go To Washington?

One of a series of Can Weblogs...? experiments from 2002-2004.


To bring about the first weblog by a United States Senator.


In March 2003, I helped to produce the first weblog by a British MP, which also happened to be the first weblog by an elected official. Anywhere. I'll be chasing more of these local fellows in the very near future, but I also wanted to get the ball rolling with a US senator and/or congressman.

I'm focusing on senators first, as it usually pays to do battle on a single front (besides, one sets a healthy precedent for the other).


Not a lot for you guys to do on this one, at least in these early stages. Still, some increased awareness wouldn't go astray, so feel free to read, absorb and link as you see fit.

Activities and progress will be announced in the main weblog and repeated here in summarised format.

Phase One - Awareness

A genuine weblog is driven by an individual, so we have to make a senator want one. The following short article has been written as a starting point:

Why Politicians Need Weblogs

You may choose to bring this article to the attention of a senator - or any other politician for that matter. It's pretty straightforward and universal. Hopefully, we'll have a few senators keen on the idea once we get past Phase Two. With any luck, we may even reach one who wants to help Phase Two along. Stranger things have happened.

UPDATE - Phase One actually appears to be the main drive behind this. After some research into the viability of a weblog format hosted at senate.gov (see below) it became clear that there needs to be demand for any particular service before any type of publishing format is considered for use. Basically, we need at least 3 senators requesting this kind of service before we can proceed. The following dedicated page has been produced to help make this happen:

Write To Your Senator Today (So You Can Leave Comments On Their Weblog Tomorrow)

Phase Two - Clearance

The main problem is, once you become a senator, you must publish via senate.gov

This has led to a few external blogs being produced by (we can only assume) independent parties 'in support' of this senator or that. I won't name and shame, but I should point out that this sets a very unhealthy precedent in that it puts the responsibility directly into the hands of the PR/marketing/spin/campaign flunkies. Not good for the senators, and of no use to us.

If we're not careful, the current situation could shape this into a very negative development instead of a very positive one. So, step one is to clear a reliable and secure weblog format for use at senate.gov - the format chosen for this initial approach is Movable Type.

14th April, 2003

I'm in touch with the office of the Sergeant at Arms (new bloke in charge is Bill Pickle) about the clearance of Movable Type for use at senate.gov and am awaiting procedural guidelines by email.

I had one nagging worry about all of this: that material published at senate.gov would be subject to clearance. Happily, this isn't the case. The guidelines/rules for publishing at senate.gov are not available to members of the public, but what I did find out was that what is published at senate.gov must be in keeping with the rules and ethics of the Senate. If not, it will be subject to review by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Rules Committee.

Put simply, there is no rule against this style or frequency of publishing, but some folks in charge may be concerned about the increased observation/moderation that might be required as more and more senators publish more material on a more regular basis.

4th June, 2003

It has become clear that the Senate Rules Committee is also the body that will need to clear the way for the introduction of this type of format to the senate.gov

The office of the Sergeant at Arms has confirmed that Movable Type is compatible with their system, but warns that there may be minor complications regarding access, as the system relies on cookies (and cookie use is heavily restricted by many government departments). They also note that, rather than driving forward on one particular system or format, they would instead - upon instruction by the Senate Rules Committee - investigate/evaluate a number of different weblog formats.

Right now the main drive involves requests for this format from potential nuts that wish to take their place behind the wheel (see Phase One above).

More updates to follow. Watch if you like, link if you must.

Here's the easy-peasy link-o-sleazy:

Back to 'Can Weblogs...?' for further results and updates.

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