Misspeaking, Biden Directs Mayors to Private Web Company
By Garance Franke-Ruta
They made it look so easy.
For nearly two years, the Obama team made successfully using cutting-edge new media look deceptively simple. Since entering the White House, though, the truth has been laid bare: running a successful Web operation using new technologies is an exercise in successful glitch management. From e-mail outages to not posting promised information online, there have been glitches aplenty as the new administration has settled into its government quarters.
Today, a new glitch -- in the form of a misstatement by Vice President Biden -- arose to direct 80 mayors visiting the White House to a private-sector Web site instead of the government's own stimulus-bill spending tracking site.
"We've already set up a Web site, Recovery.com, which will show where and how the money is being spent," the vice president told the leaders of the United States Conference of Mayors during a speech in the East Room of the White House. "The public can actually go on a Web site and see how we're spending this money."
But the stimulus site is not Recovery.com -- it's Recovery.gov. Recovery.com and Recovery.org earlier today both redirected to the commercial Web research company Onvia, a NASDAQ-traded $20 million business that's been tracking government spending for a decade and that's now also in the business of helping businesses secure government contracts being doled out under the stimulus bill.
The glitch was short-lived; informed of the vice president's statement, Onvia quickly implemented redirects on Recovery.com and Recovery.org -- sites purchased by the company around the time the first House version of the stimulus bill was made public, according to Onvia senior vice president Eric Gillespie, with the goal of ultimately building them out as information sources providing even more granular documentation of how stimulus monies are being allocated than the government's site.
The two sites are still in development, and the fact that their urls were sending searchers to Onvia was a sort of secondary glitch prematurely revealing their coming existence.
"We inadvertently tipped our hand a bit with our dotcom and dotorg, but our intention is to provide a level of information that's deeper than what the federal government can provide," said Gillespie. "We dialed them back and now they are redirecting to the dotgov."
Recovery.com and Recovery.org will stop redirecting to the government's stimulus tracking site once the private stimulus spending tracking sites are launched by Onvia, he added.
Posted at 4:14 PM ET on Feb 20, 2009
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