State Dept Crowdsourcing New Blog Name – What’s Wrong With DipNote?

DipNote, the official blog of the Department of State will soon get a makeover.  The blog was started on September 25, 2007 with a first post by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack. See his first post here from 2007 and his last post here in 2009.  The functionality and interactivity were not tops, the design with blog text occupying two thirds column space was not ideal but — we thought it was elegant particularly the banner.


The blog first underwent a makeover in 2009 after Secretary Rice left and as Secretary Clinton assumed office with the Departments’ 21st Century Statecraft initiative. Below is the updated and current look:

We were not particularly fond of the new design. We did not grow to like it but then again we seldom visit because of well, allergies.  When we did visit, we took a strong dislike of that background with splotches that we came to call the “hesitant blue”   The deeper solid blue similar to its Tumblr account would have been much better.  But what do we know? We just know that we liked the washed out version less.

Here is part of the Media Note on this:

The updating of the State Department’s blog is part of 21st Century Statecraft — the complementing of traditional foreign policy by harnessing and adapting the digital networks and technologies of today’s interconnected world. The blog’s redesign will include greater functionality and interactivity with an emphasis on visual engagement.

So now, the blog is going to go under the knife for the second time, so to speak.  As part of the Department of State’s redesign of the official blog, Department employees worldwide submitted more than 370 submissions for a new name for the blog. The top suggestions, all four of them, are now available to the public, who are asked to vote on the final decision.

Here are the top suggestions; click here if you want to vote on the new blog name:

  • Unclassified: The State Department Blog
  • Statecraft
  • DipNote
  • Matters of State

Would be interesting to see what else were in those submissions, right?

Public voting of the new blog name started today, Friday, December 7, 2012 and can be accessed on the Department’s website, as well as the Department’s official social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the blog itself. The public voting will last until Friday, December 14. The result will be announced when the new blogsite launches in  early 2013.

Umm… we can see you giving us an eye over there — what do we think about … well, let’s see:

Unclassified: The State Department Blog: Zzzzzzz. Please don’t call it that, it offends the imagination

Statecraft: Sounds like a dangerous 21st century aircraft fueled by nothing but air

DipNote: Sounds about right, except that this was a pre-Clinton era creation. What’s wrong withit? Oh, is that it?

Matters of State:  Is this like a new movie with Will Smith and Gene Hackman?

C’mon folks, is the blog name DipNote really broken? No? Then why are you fixin’ it?  Go ahead and add “greater functionality and interactivity with an emphasis on visual engagement” but  do you really have to change its name, too?

While we’re on this subject, would you please do something with DipNote’s disclaimer during the redesign? Because it says:

This blog does not represent official U.S. Department of State communications. The Digital Communications Center, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this blog as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.

Seriously? Who does it represent? What …

Oh, hey, we just thought of a really shiny blog name.

How about “Matters of Official Concern“? That’s straight out of the Foreign Affairs Manual. And you won’t need a disclaimer since it already says “official” right there.

domani spero sig

Reaching Across the Airwaves, FSO Shayna Cram Sings in Pashto

FSO Shayna Cram is doing something not usually seen in public diplomacy outreach. She is a public diplomacy officer reportedly assigned to the US Consulate General in Peshawar, Pakistan (though listed in key officers list as CON).   Peshawar is the gateway to AQ and Taliban strongholds in the tribal belt of the country and has long been considered one, if not the most, dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service.

The Pashto song “Jenaiy”, which means “girl”, was written reportedly as a tribute to Malala Yousufzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.  The video features Cram on guitar and vocals with Pakistani musician, Sarmad Ghafoor, on the rabab.  A rabab, also known as rebeb or al-rababah is a traditional stringed instrument dating back to the 18th century.  If you are in Turkey, check out the collection at the Mevlâna mausoleum in Konya, after you’ve seen the Whirling Dervishes, of course.

The article includes a photo and some quotes from Ms. Cram:

Reaching out across the airwaves is a cheap and easy way to get around the frustrations of restrictions to make contact with people, Cram says.

“How can you do that for example in Peshawar when you can’t leave the (consulate) gates? How do I reach someone’s heart and let them know who I am and what I’m about as an American when I can’t physically go out?” she said.

“One of the most effective ways I think is through music, because it’s something people can connect to and understand in a simple way.”

Remains to be seen if the tune will catch on. Some commenters online were not happy with her Pashto because it reportedly has an Afghani accent. That’s like my Turkish decorated with bang-bang accent. So, she gets points for being out there. You go, girl!

Okay, so don’t look now but the song has also kinda overshadowed the Pakistani visit of David Pearce, who is rumored to be the next Special Rep for Af/Pak.

As of this writing, the US Embassy in Islamabad has yet to take advantage of Ms. Cram’s side project, and the video is nowhere to be found in the embassy’s YouTube page despite local and some US press coverage.
domani spero sig

Correction: Corrected the name in press reports from Shayla Cram to Shayna Cram as listed in the key officers list.



Consular Work Enters 21st Century: US Citizen John McAfee Blogs from Guatemala Jail

Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the anti-virus software tycoon John McAfee who fled Belize to seek asylum in Guatemala. If not,  read Wired magazine’s piece, John McAfee, Unhinged: His Bizarre Breaks From Reality.

Anyway, Mr. McAfee has now been arrested in Guate, was refused asylum and will reportedly be sent back to Belize where authorities were looking to question him about the shooting death of American expatriate Greg Faull.

But because the Internet is the now public space, Mr. McAfee has an official blog (The Hinterland, the official blog of John McAfee) which is updated often.  He is on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  His tweets @officialmcafee has over 11,000 followers, about the same number of followers as @usembassyguate, the official Twitter feed of US Embassy Guatemala.

And he’s blogging even in jail! About this being a “groundbreaking” activity and about speaking to a Duty Officer at the US Embassy in Guatemala.

Blogging from jail
Date: December 6, 2012 at 5:24 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 84    

I am in jail in Guatemala.  Vastly superior to Belize jails.  I asked for a computer and one magically appeared.  The coffee is also excellent. Only time will tell what will happen.  No one has a crystal ball.  However, I would be truly shocked if I did not conduct the press conference tomorrow as I had originally planned. Stay tuned. I believe, by the way, that blogging from a jail cell might be a groundbreaking activity.

The American Embassy Guatemala
Date: December 6, 2012 at 6:11 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 30    

I just spoke with the duty officer at the Embassy who said there is nothing that they can do.  I asked to be returned to the States, and again … nothing they can do.  So I will wait and see. P.S.  Anybody have friends in the State Department?

Late afternoon of December 6, Mr. McAfee made a plea to his supporters to email or tweet the President of Guatemala to “beg him to allow the court system to proceed, to determine my status in Guatemala, and please support the political asylum that I am asking for.”

Shortly after that, reports says he was taken to a hospital. But it was not a heart attack, just high stress.  ABC News who has a reporter in Guate writes that John McAfee has been returned to an immigration detention cell in Guatemala after being rushed to a Guatemala City hospital via ambulance and that he may soon be deported back to Belize.

We can’t remember a case of a US citizen arrested overseas who is, in the words of one journalist covering the State Department, “a walking television show.” And this one has a Twitter and blog account and is actively using them.  ABC News details the reported heart attack:

McAfee, 67 […] was reportedly found prostrate on the floor of his cell and unresponsive.  He was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney. Photographers followed in pursuit right into the emergency room, but as emergency workers eased McAfee’s limp body from the gurney and onto a bed and began to remove his suit, he suddenly spoke up, saying, “Please, not in front of the press.”

Please don’t laugh, this is actually quite sad.

* * *

If you are the American Citizen Services Officer in Guate or Belize, our thoughts are also with you.  We’ve never seen any training material or murder boards for a walking/talking teevee show. But you’ll do fine, take a deep breath and swim, don’t sink.

If you are a Consular Officer somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, get ready; if he gets out of Guate, he may show up at your window.  If you follow him on Twitter, he might give a heads up.

If you are the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this is potentially, as Mr. McAfee says, “groundbreaking.” How should your Consular Officers deal with a detained citizen blogging/tweeting from jail?  This is the first one, but this may not be the last.  Is it time to update your ConGen training on the Republic of Z?

domani spero sig