Back by Popular Demand: A Sharper 'DipNote'

Posted by Mike Hammer
May 6, 2013
Assistant Secretary Hammer Participates in a Facebook Chat

Today, we are pleased to re-launch the U.S. Department of State's official blog, DipNote.  Welcome to our new readers as well as our returning ones; we hope you like what you see.

DipNote was the first-ever, U.S. Cabinet-level blog when it launched in 2007 and has become a key online platform on which senior State Department leaders can discuss foreign policy issues. However, technology has changed, and so we've redesigned the blog to include greater functionality and interactivity with an emphasis on visual content.

We remain committed to using our blog as a means to inform and engage the American people and those around the world, and by doing so, we will hopefully help make foreign policy a little less foreign.

One of the first ways we can demystify foreign policy is by defining the terms diplomats use.  A "Dip Note," also known as a diplomatic note, is an actual term used for formal correspondence between governments or international organizations, such as the UN.  As the primary foreign affairs agency for the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of State is in charge of maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries -- which includes formally communicating between the U.S. government and a foreign government.

And while "Dip Notes" represent a formal means of communication between two institutions, we hope this blog continues to serve as an informal platform for discussion among people.  That's something we saw when we asked you, our readers, if we should change the blog's name when we gave it a new look.  You, our readers, voted to keep the name "DipNote." So today we share the new DipNote, which incorporates responsive design to provide users the best possible viewing experience across devices, from desktop monitors to mobile phones.

We hope the redesigned blog signifies our commitment both to innovation and to engagement.  We value your input and feedback, and we know that we must complement traditional foreign policy with the use of digital networks and technologies of today's interconnected world.  Let's stay in touch.

About the Author: Mike Hammer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.



Eric J.
United States
May 6, 2013

@ Asist. Sec. Mike Hammer,

As a member of the public who's been engaging with folks @ State since this blog was first up and running...this old dog is going to have to learn a few new tricks navigating through this new format..LOL! But I'll endeavor to muddle through.

I suppose folks @ Dipnote are still working a few bugs out of the revamped website, but what concerns me most is that none of the public commentary prior to the new format that was redily available for digestion on any given topic is available, though one can "reply" to a now non-existant public comment.
The "archives" of stories and commentary from 2007-on are seemingly gone, "up in smoke" ...disapeared into thin ethernet. This is personally really troubling to me, as if it's just gone for good, permanently, thousands of hours of personal effort trying to inspire my government (and a lot of other folks), to think; along with an unediited compilation of conversations, commentary, ideas, and no small amount of humor poking at the truth that if actually put into book form would be 3-5x longer than "War and Peace" and I've referred to by title simply as "The Cure for Political Stupidity and/or How Not To Go To War With America".

I'm concerned that there has been a destruction of intellectual property that was freely given to all concerned, and that dictators in general now no longer have a "idiot's guide" to help keep them the heck out of trouble! Or at least something to think about before causing trouble.

I hope you'll look into this see what might be done to retain Dipnote's rich history of public interactions.


Eric Jette - aka; "Eric in New Mexico" on the old Dipnote

Susan C.
United States
May 8, 2013
I have to agree with Eric of NM, as I am one one those "original" DipNote bloggers. Not so much about all the comments, although it would be nice to go back to some of them, but rather I too will have to learn "new tricks", so to speak, to navigate the new format. I do think it is quite good looking and it certainly moves you from one area to the other, be it facebook, twitter, e-mail or dipnote. I am a great fan of DipNote so I will keep on learning how to get around it. And, of course, you all would miss my comments! (Just kidding!)
Eric J.
United States
May 9, 2013
@ Susan, Hi! Good to see you here again...hope you are well. I guess the new format means that Dipnote will indeed survive sequester...I'd been wondering about that. @ Luke Forgeson & Staff; Thanks so much for acting so swiftly to restore the comments on current threads and in the archives within hours of leaving you a message on you voice mail and posting my thoughts on the matter. Good job! A little off topic, but I pulled this excerpt of a comment I posted up for perspective's sake, being that it has once again become the topic du jour in Congressional hearings. Originally written the day after the attack, and posted on site the next day...I wasn't basing my assesment by what the Libyan leader said, as I didn't see his remarks until later. When you'all read this, ask yourselves what is the value of "gut instinct" worth when it gets posted by a member of the public on Dipnote in a timely manner? Eric |New Mexico, USA .September 13, 2012 Eric in New Mexico writes: First I wish to express my condolences to the US dept of State and the families of the fallen. Secondly; I think it unwise for anyone not familiar with the facts to critisize the efforts to defend against a well planned coordinated attack, in that folks gave their lives to defend against this act of terrorism, as we are a nation at war. I think we were all reminded of that again yesterday. ---end excerpt---
Eric J.
United States
May 17, 2013

@ Mike Hammer,

 Just a couple suggestions that might prove helpful and more user friendly;

 I'm still getting used to the new format, and obviously "plain text" simply runs a comment together with no spacing ( like my previous one above LOOL!), so perhaps "filtered formatting" should be the default selection when posting comment instead of "plain text".

 State/Province selection reads "NOT LISTED" only.

 Thanks for taking my question on "Conversations with America" the other day, I'm glad you had fun with that (chuckle). So I have a follow-up..

 You said "a picture is worth a thousand words", and I would agree with that...and posit further that a video speaks more to a public audience than a transcript, as it contains more nuanced information than just the words on a page.

 So why would the Dept of State edit a video of remarks between the Secretary and another Foreign Minister?

 I'll give you a few thoughts on why I think they should all be raw and unedited. Let's take this one as example;

 First of all I just gotta say that if folks can't do the audio properly then you're going to have a real hard time in general educating the public, whether that's at a press conference or in the daily briefing. It's a simple thing to make sure the mics are all working properly before-hand.  Having worked in professional recording studios for years and run live sound it pains me greatly to see you'all having so many problems with this aspect so consistantly.

  Second, as a member of the public, it's not easy to stay well informed in an era of "sound-bite" major media news reporting and the last thing I want to see is substantial remarks reduced to "sound-bites" via the Dept's vidio editing process. If we're going to watch, you might as well offer the whole enchilada for public consumption rather than spend the man-hours editing and putting the public on an info-diet of out of context remarks. I had to go read the full transcript to make any sense of it in this case. As well, it's probably not flattering to either participant to have their thoughts edited when they've got important things to say.

  So my advice is simply to let the camera roll, and trust that the public will determine the value of the content. That should not be done via editing for the public.

  Besides, in this case the American public would have had a real good understanding of just how hard the Secretary has been working and the respect he's earned among his peers for his efforts, had not this vidio been edited to exclude the Jordanian Foreign Minister's remarks in this regard.

  One more thing...It would be a good thing I think for any new Dept. of State spokesperson to introduce themselves to the public by posting a thread on this blog, and "taking" a few questions from the public each week to be answered officially at the tail end of that week's daily briefings, or the the following Monday.

  Sort of an "outreach program" to gage what's on the public's might be helpful to the press as well.




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