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Thursday, October 4

Look behind you

This rather puts the relationship between local government and Whitehall in context.

In California, Tuesday, one keystroke action by a Washington D.C. bureaucrat deleted every Californian government website, the entire domain, for eight hours.

"We don't for sure have the whole picture, but as we understand it, there was some event at the Transportation Authority of Marin Country where their site got hacked," says Jim Hanacek, public information officer for the California Department of Technology Services. Traffic was being redirected from that site to one featuring pornography.

A department within the U.S. General Services Administration in Washington oversees and polices the .gov domain.

"The federal government saw this incorrect use of and they made a change at a much more global level than probably was necessary and it started taking down all of our domain. That impacted Web access and e-mail services."

"Unfortunately there was no prior notification, they just made the change and sent us an e-mail to one of our administrators who wouldn't be a normal contact," Hanacek says.

"Once that person saw the e-mail and started looking we determined how serious this could be and we opened our emergency operations center. Unfortunately that was about 3 in the afternoon and folks back East were already going home, so it took us some time to get hold of the right people in the General Services Administration to get this address reinstated."

Those corrections began between 4 and 5 p.m. PT but didn't restore full normalcy until about 7:30 p.m.

Hanacek indicated that California's IT people will be having a chat with their Washington counterparts: "We'll certainly be discussing how we should be notified of a change of this magnitude."

Love to be a fly on the wall at that one.

The Miliband effect

Colin McKay from Toronto posts about the new Foreign Office (FCO) blogs, led by the inspiring, youthful 'gay icon' (according to the Telegraph) Mr Miliband. Hat tip- Simon Dickson.

Colin says:

It’s important to remember that EVERY member of a diplomatic service is trained - extensively - in skills essential to a blogger:

* the comprehension of complex ideas and themes
* the synthesis of debates and positions, often conflicting
* the rapid creation of understandable but nuanced subject briefings
* and, most importantly for a government blogger, an acute awareness of the influence and impact of their words and writing.
Precisely. All the skills needed to blog are exactly the sorts of skills diplomats have anyway. And many other public servants — not many new rules needing inventing in practice.

As I commented on Whitehall Webby, who was worrying about blog maintenance by the chosen FCO authors (there's six all up, including one by the Afganistan Ambassador, who appears very keen):
It implies a shift in resources, i think. That’s a better way of looking at it rather than as another imposition on time on top of something which will continue. Think of how other sectors have shifted resources, such as in marketing, have preempted us in some areas (though behind in others). If online engagement is as effective as we think then it should have resources including time and energy from senior people. However I also think that methods for easier use with emerge as tools match needs. things like twitter are ridiculously unusable but reading scroble twittering his son’s birth was mesmerising - that gap will close.
So on the one hand blogging can adopt existing experience/skills but on the other hand it will - and should - take up reallocated time and resources.

Here's the 'kitted up' Ambassador at the Kabul TV station Tolo TV

Wednesday, October 3

Mobile web taking off - slowly

BBC News has an interesting summary of the state of the UK mobile web market. It's healthy, they think;

Figures for February 2007, from the Mobile Data Association show that almost 15 million people use the web via their handsets each month.
New flat rate price plans and much faster speeds are increasing usage but most have download limits and stop Skype or streaming video use.

They have only recently stopped ridiculous restriction to their own portals and content and have seen portal content usage rise and spending within previously walled gardens.

T-Mobile said "Usage is as diverse as the people using it."

"Half of our customers surf the internet on their mobile when they are at home watching TV. They do not need to go to a laptop and fire it up. The mobile is there for them."

"Social networking has rocketed up the charts recently," he said. Sites such as Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and eBay have become very popular destinations for customers."

Said Vodaphone:

"It's different and relevant to the individual. It's the real long tail of relevance."

Usmanov vs. Murray update

Tim Ireland reports that Craig Murray's website - due to go back up on Monday and including everything which was there before about Uzbek tycoon Alisher Usmanov - was hacked into just before it was to go live.

It's now hosted on a US server and collateral damage this time included Atlantic Free Press and Pacific Free Press and other sites.