Despite its somewhat odd name, The State Department's new blog site, DipNote , is a pretty interesting example of new ways to use blogs.

The site features several State Department officials blogging about their work, their travels, and current issues in international affairs. The content is certainly interesting, but that isn't what really caught my eye about this site.

What I found incredibly surprising was that the blog actually allows comments. And they don't appear to be censored.  After a quick scan of the comments on several blog posts, I realized that both positive comments and comments critical of the State Department or US Government are freely flowing.  Here's an example–a comment that appeared on a post about Burma.

Roy in Oregon writes:
"Thou hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull the mote that is in thy brother's eye." Luke 6:42

Let me see — You are a political appointee in the most secretive administration in U.S. history… How is that helping "create a free flow of information crucial to democratic development?"

— You are the member of an administration which quite improperly and illegally harvested telephone information without appropriate judicial warrants…. That doesn't discourage "free flow of information?"

— Your President authorized pressuring Internet Service Providers to release information about legal (but private) citizen use of the internet… Who can trust this administration to protect the principles of "freedom of expression?"

Brother, how about first removing the beam (and the blinders) from your own eye and working to end the murderous cabal which employs you? Posted on Mon Oct 08, 2007

Pretty bold.  And the comments are loaded with others very similar to this one.  It seems like DipNote is actually a legitimate forum for discussion rather than just a false front.  In an era where so many media outlets, organizations, and political campaigns are concerned about "inappropriate citizen content" appearing on their websites, I am finding the openness of DipNote pretty refreshing.  I have to say, I'm even impressed.  Why is it that so many newspapers remain unwilling to open their sites to various types of user commentary, but the US government appears willing to reduce barriers to two-way communication?

DipNote is a great example of a blog that is leveraging user comments to generate traffic and discussion. I would venture to say that if the site lacked freely flowing and less-than-complimentary comments, the site would be much less popular than it is now.  Perhaps this can serve as a model for newspapers still serving up "flogs" (fake blogs) and websites without interactivity.