Earlier this week, Congress announced what were billed as Senate and House "hubs" as part of a move to improve lines of (two-way) communication between government and the people.
It's hard to sit through the cavalcade of phony welcomes as the leadership performs the equivalent of a company commercial for the video-hosting service. Watching these pathetic twits appear on a video is exquisitely painful. I still can't decide who gave the worst performance, but between Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the competition was intense. (Acting lessons only go so far, folks.)
Still, here's a tip of the hat to the hired help in Washington for embracing technology, even in a small way. Besides, since we're on the eve of a changing of the guard, who am I to rail against a step to facilitate the "conversation" between the elected and the electorate?
But at the risk of being portrayed as a complete stick in the mud, let's also not ignore the obvious benefit that will accrue to YouTube (and its parent Google). I don't have any particular problem with the arrangement except for a technology request: you should be able to download high-res videos and save them to use in mashups, mixing, etc. And as far as I know, the deal Congress cut with YouTube doesn't let you do that. Put that on my personal wish list for the 111th Congress.
Predictably, this is the sort of high-profile agreement that leaves Google's rivals in a state of hyperventilation. Bad enough that CEO Eric Schmidt is a "Friend of Barack." But now his company is Congress's preferred video upload service. None too happy about that prospect, one anti-Google tech lobbyist put it to me this way: "What's next? Can we look forward to future happy, chirpy welcomes from (Congress) the next time, say, DynCorp wins a contract to sweep floors or Lockheed wins a systems integration deal with the Senate?"
OK, he laid it on a bit thick, but from that Washington wag's perspective, the larger question was why Congress should opt for the private-sector capture of public records? If there's a compelling reason why any company should have the inside track on this material, he wants to hear about it.
For that matter, so would I. You can answer that question up on YouTube (or any other service that captures your fancy.)