In case you haven’t heard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now has a blog that is intended to let you share your concerns with them and stay updated to changing events and policy. I heard this earlier this week, but I thought it was a hoax, like Fake Steve Jobs, so I didn’t bother to share. Until…
Joe Logon, my former co-worker/manager, briefly opined about the TSA blog. I decided to take a stab in the dark and share my thoughts on the new blog that our government is running to help address the concerns, the stealth-like knowledge and alleged secrecy in that part of the government.
Layout: The blog is very clean and simple, using Blogger under the hood. The lack of widgets and other distracting devices places focus solely on the content, which should be the goal of a blog. The headlines stand out, but require you to scroll down the page to see it. Conversely to content above the fold, anything below the fold gets minimal attention; so I suggest they place a widget on the sidebar with “Most Commented” so users can find popular content without necessarily scrolling down.
Blog’s Purpose: The true intent is to discuss openly concerns and policy changes within the TSA, “…facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.” Despite this, frustrated users often drive the discussion into negative feedback targeted against the TSA and the blog author(s).
Comment Moderation/Policy: Considering how outrageous some people can behave online; TSA moderates all comments that are posted. However, they do it very reasonably by allowing critical feedback to get posted. The intent behind moderating is to leave the trolls, idiots and psychos at the door, thereby allowing the general public to openly discuss concerns. Their comment policy is briefly noted when a user posts a comment (and in full detail, too):
…We will not post comments that contain personal attacks of any kind; refer to Federal Civil Service employees by name; contain offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups, or vulgar language. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly off topic or that promote services or products…
- “Meet Our Bloggers”: I’ll echo what Joe said, that is, the blog should detail the blogger’s full names or a lead editor. Blogging via pseudo-first name aliases removes some of the trust (and accessibility) from the bloggers. Blogging is about communication, trust and being straightforward — not just sweetening press releases; which I can see the site potentially scaling back and doing.
- Videos: Why aren’t they using YouTube, Metacafe, Revver or some other online video service to play videos? Not only will videos play much better, they can reach a much larger audience and capture people to visit their blog. Windows Media just isn’t a great way for your audience to watch it.
- Header Image: Although I like the image, it seems too generic. They should include a photo montage of the American flag, a picture of an airport (or security screening) and include official branding on it. In addition, linking the header image to the main blog page is apropos as it can function as a part of the navigation, subconsciously.
- Blogging Activity: Overall, I appreciate the candid nature of the bloggers there. They seem to be doing a pretty darn good job embracing their diverse audience and have been answering questions from the comments. However, I suggest they break big posts up into chunks and post them with full details on each point. This is mainly because not a lot of people have enough passion to read a full blog entry, they just focus on the finer, important points of it. Aside from that, I hope they keep it up!
I think this blog has potential, and it’s already being pretty well received. Only their execution and continued patience will earn trust among their readers. I took a quick scan in the comments, and there are a couple individuals who continue to post their vitriol against the TSA with no merit. For those, I’d kill it. I have a simple rule when it comes to negative feedback — “don’t just tell me I suck, tell me why I suck.”
Additionally, I think it’s a good move by the government to embrace social media. I believe that other departments of the government could actually benefit from a blog, not just the TSA.
What other functions should the government be blogging about? Share your thoughts (or disagreements) in the comments.