DipNote: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Posted by Luke Forgerson
January 2, 2009
Calendar of Dec. 2008/ Jan. 2009 Hangs on Office Wall

About the Author: Luke Forgerson serves as DipNote's Managing Editor.

Last week, we revealed DipNote’s most popular entries in 2008. After tallying the results, I can’t say that I disagree much with our readers. They indeed identified some of DipNote’s memorable entries from last year. As I reviewed a year’s worth of blog entries, though, I realized there were several other entries from last year I wanted to highlight.

Some of the entries just missed being mentioned last week, including Jun Bando’s entry on piracy off the Somali coast. It was the sixth most popular individual entry last year. USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore’s entry on Kosovo and Maria Gabriella Zambrono’s entry on Cuba were also among the most popular entries last year.

Assistant Secretaries David Kramer and Samuel Witten brought to our attention the issue of statelessness. Ambassador James McGee communicated to us the dire political and humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe.

Josh Glazeroff’s entries from India expanded our understanding of consular work, and Solomon Atayi’s message from Chad reminded us of the challenges and dangers American diplomats face.

Brian Van Pay’s entries allowed us to join him aboard the Healy on the Arctic Ocean, a place most of us will most likely never visit. Department Spokesman Sean McCormack took us to other places we likely will not visit. His entries from Tripoli and Rabat gave us a glimpse of Secretary Rice’s meeting with Colonel Qadhifi.

Last year has already been described as historic, not in the least because of the U.S. presidential election. Many around the world watched the U.S. presidential election with great interest. On Election Day, Thomas J. Dowling at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi wrote about the reaction from Kenya.

Collectively, these entries illustrate the broad scope of American diplomacy. These entries also reveal much about you, our readers. Your comments on the entries have grown to become one of my favorite components of the blog. I enjoy reading your insights and opinions and am always eager to see the reactions to a posting. Let us know what entries you personally found most memorable last year, and what you’d like to see more of on the blog as we look toward the year ahead.

On behalf of everyone at DipNote, thanks for reading, and we wish you the best in 2009.

Comments

Comments

Rita T.
January 3, 2009

Rita writes:

Thank you for taking the time to round up all of these links and, in advance, for your work in 2009!

Susan
|
Florida, USA
January 3, 2009

Susan in Florida writes:

The postings on human trafficing by Mark Lagon and the posting on contraband diamonds. I found these postings both heartbreaking and inspiring. I was inspired by the individuals, like Mark, who are trying to end these inhumane and illegal practices. I appreciate their courage and their dedication. By bringing attention to these situations perhaps more will be done to eventually eradicate these extremely horrific global problems forever.

Dan
|
District Of Columbia, USA
January 8, 2009

Dan in Washington, DC writes:

@ Luke -- I work at the State Department, and wanted to send my thanks to you and the DipNote team for all the provocative content over 2008. All the best for 2009.

One of things I've liked best some DipNote articles has been when the writer of the post has responded to the comments by readers. I think this is good for both the writer and the readers, as it helps them learn from and acknowledge each other views. Unfortunately it seems that most of the State employees who write DipNote entries do not take the time to respond to any of the comments from readers. Doing so would make this blog a more interactive, interesting and useful collaboration and communications medium.

Luke F.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
January 8, 2009

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Rita, Susan in Florida and Dan in Washington, DC -- We are glad to count you among our readers. Thanks for your kind messages.

@ Dan in Washington, DC -- I agree that an author's direct engagement with readers makes for a more enriching blog entry. We will make a concerted effort to encourage bloggers to take a more pro-active role in responding. Some of our authors have responded directly to our readers. Tara Foley, Greg Garland, and Ambassador Mussomeli are just a few who come to mind. I suspect more authors will take advantage of the opportunity do so in the future.

John
|
Greece
January 8, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Dan in Washington, DC -- DipNote has a great feedback! Mr. Forgerson is right! I never expected that Mr. Sean McCormack would answer to my question some weeks ago.

But he did!

A U.S. Assistant Secretary of State talking to me?

Replying to "Mr Nobody" from Greece? What other nation, which other Foreign Affairs Ministry offers you this chance?

Luke and Tara, and plenty of other authors indeed, did the same (answered back) and not only for me, but for everyone who deserved a descent answer to a descent question (hit the archives section and check)

Best Regards Dan! I really welcome you here!

Ron
|
New York, USA
January 8, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

DIPNOPE

As an early dipnoter, I saw the possibility for critical real-time give and take on State Diplomacy. I must say, the Dipnote devolved into a self-congratulatory PR mechanism.

Unfortunate that such a great technical communications tool has been so hermetically sealed.

John
|
Greece
January 9, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Ron in NY -- I strongly disagree with your point Ron. DipNote IS NOT a self-congratulatory PR mechanism, but an open, healthy, democratic forum.

You are indeed an early dipnoter and I have read the majority -- maybe all -- of your very interesting posts. However, an early dipnoter like you should have noticed by now hundreds of non-self-congratulatory posts.

For example, do you call Zharkov's or SNP's posts self-congratulatory? Do you think that Joe's in TN and Eric's in NM extremely intellectual analysis and views are self-congratulatory? They are powerful, constructive and creative contributions. And this counts for many other simple civilians like you and me, who freely contribute here without any tendency to make PR.

I do not understand why you believe that this communication tool became "so hermetically sealed" when at least half of the posted texts are against SD and the U.S.A. policy.
If it was "sealed", they wouldn't post such material. On the contrary, it's absolutely "Dipnote", as Sean describes the term in the Welcome section.

Best regards Ron!

Dan
|
District Of Columbia, USA
January 9, 2009

Dan in Washington, DC writes:

@ Luke - thanks for the feedback and glad to hear that you and the DipNote team at State are encouraging Department employees who write articles for DipNote to respond to comments from readers. I know how busy many of these State Department staff are, but if you and Sean McCormack can do it, so can they! (I once wrote a letter to Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, and he took the time to write back, in his own hand, a short personal note. If Secretary of State Colin Powell can do this -- on paper, more State employees can and should also write back too -- electronically -- and the letter I got back from Secretary Powell is now framed in my office.)

@ John in Greece - I do indeed recall that some DipNote writers from State have responded, e.g., Tara Foley and Press Spokesperson Sean McCormack to name a couple. I think these exchanges have been some of the most provocative and productive on DipNote. Unfortunately, this sort of back and forth between the State writers and the readers' comments has been something more of an exception than the rule, at least from my reading of DipNote. Nevertheless, State has certainly come a long way and is to be commended for breaking new ground, and sharing more diplomatic information and perspectives with people around the world, via DipNote ... This represents a noteworthy and appropriate step toward a properly engaged, effective U.S. diplomacy for the information age and today's increasingly open, integrated, and intricate era in international relations.

Regarding your question about what other foreign ministry offer such a chance to blog, there is only one other such national foreign ministry blog that I am aware of (there might be others that I don't know about) -- the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) ... see http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/

It is interesting to note that the head for the UK's FCO, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, has his own blog and posts pretty frequently. It would be interesting to see something similar from the U.S. State Department's senior leaders. Also re the UK blog, seemingly most of their postings are just that, i.e., there is not a lot of back and forth between the FCO writers and those who post comments to the FCO blog site.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
January 10, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Dan in Washington, DC -- Thanks for the link Dan, I found it to be interesting, and I think it would be a good thing if Sec. Rice posted her thoughts on a favorite subject (or three) before her leaving office.

And if she's reading this I wish her much happiness in private life.

I got no small amusement reading the cold statistical analysis of Dipnote performance specs of posts and commentary...now I know how it feels to be swimming in a fish bowl...(chuckle).

But cold statistical analysis doesn't touch upon actual results that have taken place by public interaction with those implementing US foreign policy.

And it is those results that really make Dipnote a worthy project to persue through this next administration and beyond.

I told Luke Furgeson with a grin when he took this on that we the public would make him earn his paycheck...(chuckle).

But what value can be put on ideas from the peanut gallery when they cause the powers to be to think about an issue on a whole new level?

Priceless.

And therein lies the opportunity and invitation to think that Dipnote affords one to and all.

So I would repectfully ask the Sec. of State to seize the opportunity to contribute.

Then I'll have the opportunity to thank her in person (virtually)for doing an outstanding job over the years.

----------

@ Ron in New York -- And to Ron, this is not the Mickey Mouse Fan Club...LOL!

It's on the cutting edge in the war of ideas, if Dipnote has any potential at all for sustainability. Otherwise it it just becomes a place to vent at taxpayers expense.

It's up to you, and the rest of us commenting as to what we help Luke, Sean and DoS create here.

If it's cold statistics that work for folks, then ponder this; There's over 7 billion people on the planet, and someone out there has a better idea.

I'm not suggesting Dipnote has the combined intellectual capacity to solve the world's ills....yet.

But then I'm not one to pray to statues in order to practice dissapointment.

Thus my presence on this blog, as one small fish among many in a rather large fishbowl.

John
|
Greece
January 12, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Eric in NM and Dan in DC -- I thought we had OUR BLOG here guys: U.S. DipNote! Why do we have to change frequency Dan?

DipNote works perfectly!

John
|
Greece
January 12, 2009

John in Greece writes:

What I mean by saying that DipNote "frequency" is fine, I agree with Eric in NM. It's very complicated to analyze web statistics.

According to my "media logic", when you analyze a web medium platform you should take in serious consideration the fact that along with the mathematical measurements you have to analyze the qualitative data (characteristics) of the visitors. Nevertheless, this is almost impossible. Some months ago, Joe in TN wisely "posted" a general question concerning the Blog: what is the background of the people writing here.

Moreover, I would add: what is the BACKGROUND AND INFLUENTIAL POWER IN DECISION MAKING of the people READING this Blog and how many they are?

This is statistics you cannot have, though, due to the complexity and nature of the internet platform!

What I mean is that you may have just one unique hit per day from Iran, Russia, China or Sudan, but this one unique hit can be "translated" in thousands of significant/meaningful "hits" if the visitor can affect local policy and he/she is inspired by the Blog's "ideas".

Another example: Maybe you statistically "trace" only one unique visitor from Syria or India, but this unique visitor may be a ?web bug? who prints out posts in a hard copy format and distributes 100 photocopies to another 100 local officials. So, you cannot measure this unique hit as one, but you are not sure about the 100. All of which means that you cannot be so sure about the real web penetration.

In other words, you can have a Blog with hundreds of thousands of visitors, which however are "meaningless" due to the lack of decision making power, while you can have an internet platform with only 500 visitors who can change the world.

When it comes to diplomacy and politics is what Joe says: "Who is Who" is that makes the difference. And I doubt if there is such a web counter yet.

A simple comment describing my view concerning the issue "diplomacy in the internet era" is that DoS (Dr. Rice, Sean McCormack and all the staff who run not only DipNote, but every internet project) brought American Diplomacy to the new millennium era. DipNote and all the other SD's internet platforms are not only vital tools, but also "non-negotiable" concerning their importance in this modern "war of ideas".

I would not dare to think that U.S.A., the pioneer of everything, will quit "internet fight" -- the most important communication tool of today and tomorrow.

Of course, SD and the new Administration can evaluate all these matters extremely better than me.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
January 15, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece, Check this out bro -- I think it will answer at least one of the questions you raised, and I've got a workable alternative to data collection on at least those who choose to post commentary at the end of this excerpt.

http://comops.org/journal/2008/12/18/state-dept-blogging-one-year-later-...

"As we noted in Part 1, Dipnote is in a unique (and unenviable) position of being prohibited by law from setting cookies to collect information about users of the blog. This denies its editors important information like how many individuals view which posts, whether the audience is diverse or primarily a recurring group, whether particular kinds of posts increase its audience, and so on. In short, they can't get information that bloggers normally use to improve their offerings. This information is available to some extent through analysis of comments, but few users post comments.

We're not lawyers, so we don't know the specific legal constraints on what the blog can do. However if the limitation is that the government cannot set cookies and collect individual data, perhaps an alternative is to use a third party for this purpose. Analytic services like Google Analytics and SiteMeter provide html codes that bloggers embed in their pages. The analysis server?not the blog's server sets the cookies and collects the user information.

Reports provided back to the clients, to our knowledge, do not contain information about individual users but only aggregated data (for example, about the number of unique users who viewed a particular post). These services are commonly used on blogs and other web sites. Visitors can even disallow the cookies from these analytic services if they don't want to have their data collected. Perhaps this offers a way for the State Department to learn more about Dipnote readers without actually collecting individuated data about them."

---end---

If one visits the site linked above, you'll understand who provided my amusement with the cold statistical data. And they have some good ideas to share.

But to solve Joe's conundrum...and a personal frustration in accessing my own archived posts on multiple topics over what? A year and a half now and probably about a thousand posts placed on site? (Something like that as my best guesstamate.)

I think it would be fairly simple to create a way for the blog users..."we the peanut gallery" AKA -- contributors of public comment...( now was that politically incorrect or what?...chuckle!)...To create a user profile...by linking the name on the post to a voluntary profile (if the user wishes to include say age, occupation, etc.) in addition to the basic info like name and location.

On the individual's profile screen should be a link to "all posts by author".

In other words, Even though Dipnote by law cannot gather personal information, I wouldn't think it would be prevented from allowing a user to divulge their own personal information, should they wish to share it with other bloggers. I'm not suggesting this to include email or phone numbers for obvious reasons.

If I as a long term user could access (without having to spend hours wracking my brain and searching through the archives for one particular comment I'd like to reference, but have lost track of)...and could just do so by a click on an author's profile -- mine, or your's or Joe's for instance...The ergonomic aspects of this site would be much improved...and such a feature would tend to create continuity of ideas and the ability to cross-pollinate (reference) ideas and thoughts across threads of topics which at present is not possible without a heck of a lot of effort.

A lot of these issues we discuss are inherently interdependant by the very nature of the world we live in.

Thus a comment I may have made a year ago on one topic, may have relevance to a interrelated topic discussed today...but if I can't find it to save my life, how am I going to be able to bring it's relevance to bear in the here and now?

Short of archiving all my posts on my box separately, (which I could kick myself for not having done already)...I can't think of any other way to recall my own posts, much less anyone else's. Like trying to find a needle in a haystack at present.

The ergonomics of the blog, is akin to the drivability of a car...and for one who likes a manual transmission and the stream of concious thought blowing 190 MPH with the top down, I hope Luke and the gang can help put GPS on my dash board.

'cause this blog runs best at the speed of thought.

"Where was it I left that skid-mark?"....LOL!

.

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