When Orange County staffers came forward this week with a new policy for social media that encourages more departments to join in, county supervisors pushed back. Some even kicked.

“I just don’t want us to get into this if we don’t understand our policy now,” said Supervisors’ Chairwoman Janet Nguyen.

Local governments, including the county, are pretty much already into it: Residents can now get Twitter updates from the Orange County Transportation Authority and even check wildflower updates on the county parks department blog. A number of cities, like Newport Beach, have, or are in the process of, adopting policies

But Nguyen and other supervisors still had some pointed questions for staff.

Things like commenting policies… Is a comment a public record that has to be retained for a year under state law? Will the staff allow anyone to comment?

“I really don’t want this to become a way for commenters to harass our employees,” Nguyen said.

Supervisor Pat Bates she wants a quarterly report to see what benefits it brings the public saying she fears that good old fashioned customer service might fall off if employees can point someone to a facebook page. “Some of these (technology advancements) have so dehumanized the contact between humans,” Bates said.

Satish Ajmani – the county’s IT guru – replied to Nguyen that some aspects of the experiment are still unknown. “We don’t have all that experience yet,” he said, adding that different departments are expected to run their own facebook, twitter and blogs.

To date, it looks as if the county’s most experienced blogger is Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, who has brought online a ton of information and election updates.

After Kelley, it looks as if the parks department is the most sophisticated user, creating things like a wildflower blog.

But judging from the current IT mess at the county – two recent county performance audit reports criticize more than $100 million in expenditures on things like no-bid contracts – Nguyen said she’s nervous…and a wildflower blog won’t calm her fears.

Considering the intensity of political blogs in Orange County, Nguyen said county staff could be spending a ton of time monitoring blog comments.


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