WhiteHouse.gov Revamp Raises Questions

The official WhiteHouse.gov Web site has been online barely a day and already it is raising questions about the Obama administration’s refresh.

While the new site has won praise for pledging to uphold President Obama’s commitment to open government, geek tech sites found themselves debating whether the site actually followed Web search best practices.

For instance, some Obama enthusiasts seized on the fact that the new site contains a shorter Robots.txt file, the portion of a Web site that instructs search engines what parts of the site they can index and which parts to not index. The implication on many posts and comments was that Obama was allowing more pages to be indexed than Bush had.

But another tech blogger pointed out that the current WhiteHouse site runs afoul of Google’s Webmaster guidelines.

Additionally, Web site Politico.com questioned the objectivity of some of the content on the site. For instance, in the section containing biographies of past presidents, George H. W. Bush is credited for winning favor for the successful invasion of Irag, but then “was unable to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner cities, and continued high deficit spending.”

In other sections, the site accuses former President George W. Bush for failing to keep promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, under Clinton’s watch, “the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.”

White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Obama assumed the presidency on a theme of change, responsibility and hope, a key element of which was open and accountable government. Much of his endeavors on the Web have been in support of that mission, such as the Change.gov site, which featured blogs, videos and other content designed to make his inner circle more accessible.

In a blog post by Macon Phillips, White House director of new media, Phillips pledged that the Web site would work toward the three broad-brush goals of communication, transparency and participation.

Channeling Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago, the site asks citizens to submit their ideas through an online comment application, and log in to the “briefing room” for detailed information about the issues of the day.

The site also offers e-mail updates and RSS feeds, as well as links to the president’s policy agendas, videos of his weekly radio addresses, and executive orders.

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