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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

David Almacy
David Almacy
White House Internet & E-Communications Director

March 1, 2007

David Almacy
Thank you for joining us today to discuss the new design and functionality of Let me first say that this was a complete team effort and I am so grateful to our talented and dedicated web support team for all of their efforts in the completion of this endeavor. Everyone from the graphic designers to the programmers to the server admins really pulled together to successfully launch what, at times, seemed to be an insurmountable task.

In addition, this month marks my two-year anniversary as the White House Internet and E-Communications Director, and it has been an honor to serve President Bush and to communicate his message online. With that, I am happy to answer your questions.

Thomas, from Middlebury, Vermont writes:
Could you please explain the recent change in the whitehouse website format?

David Almacy
Thanks for your question, Thomas. We began discussing a redesign for the site about a year ago. As the Internet evolves and new technologies emerge, people are getting their information in new ways. So, in addition to freshening the look and the feel of the site, our goal was to improve access to information about the President's speeches, events and policies. Upgrades were made to streamline the code and better highlight existing features such as RSS news feed subscriptions, Weekly E-mail Updates, audio Podcasts, photos and On Demand video.

Although this is the largest redesign of a White House website in our nation's history, the functionality of the site remains the same and is generally consistent with previous designs.

Michael, from Powell, Tn writes:
On average, how many questions are submitted for "Ask The White House" sessions?

David Almacy
Michael, "Ask the White House" was created in April 2003 to provide a forum for the general public to communicate directly with public officials serving in the United States Government. Today's "Ask" is the 420th online discussion. The amount of questions that are submitted usually depends on the guest, the topic, and the news of the day. For example, I have received almost 500 questions for today's chat and will try to answer as many as I can, time permitting.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Director Almacy: How many hits does the White House Web site get in a day? And how many people are on your staff to handle the job? Thank You

David Almacy
We usually average about 1 million page views a day. Of course, this also depends on the President's daily schedule and world events. In addition to Kaylan, the website coordinator, the White House maintains a staff of web specialists who assist in the day to day operation and maintenance of the site.

Joshua, from Arlington, Washington, USA writes:
This isn't a question. It's a review of the website. All I can say is WOW Keep it up. You couldn't have done a better job at implementing the new web 2.0 technologies into the site. I love it. Josh, Arlington, WA

David Almacy
Thanks, Joshua. We have received a number of comments and the majority of them have been generally positive. It was certainly a challenge to upgrade the site while simultaneously maintaining it. There were a number of multimedia features that the White House was offering that weren't being effectively promoted. Hopefully the new layout will assist those seeking information about the President and the daily activities here at the White House.

Rob, from Northeast Ohio writes:
What does the W stand for In George W. Bush?

David Almacy
The President's full name is George Walker Bush. The President's father, the 41st President of the United States is George Herbert Walker Bush. To learn more about the President, please visit his biography page.

Alex, from Washington, DC writes:
David - Love the Podcast page on iTunes. How did you arrange that with Apple?

David Almacy
Thanks, Alex. We reached out to Apple in an effort to provide a direct link in iTunes to the mp3 audio files that the White House was producing via the website. We started Podcasting the President's Radio Address (in English and Spanish) in September 2005. After that, we began providing audio from the President's events and speeches, as well as the press briefings by Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary, and other Administration officials.

At the time, the idea of a government Podcast was fairly novel. Today, however, several agencies are Podcasting, including NASA, NOAA, USDA, Peace Corps, National Park Service, and the U.S. military, among others.

Olga, from Minnesota writes:
I can't find any updated info on White House tours. I am planning a family trip this summer with four children (ages 6-16), and I have hard time finding info on what I need to do to reserve a tour. Can you help? Thank you very much. Olga

David Almacy
Olga, I suggest you visit the History and Tours section of the website which may provide you with the answers you are looking for.

Kim, from Kentucky writes:
Hi David, What prompted the new look for the White House Website? Maybe I just have to get used to it, but it seems more challenging to find things on it now. The categories seem to get lost in all of the white and I wonder how this might affect those with visual impairments? Please give some thought to making the sections stand out more with font or backgrounds that are bold or different in color. I think you have given it a clean, uncluttered look; however, it is more difficult to navigate than before. Thanks for considering my suggestions

David Almacy
Thanks, Kim. In our process, we took into account a number of usability standards and best practices with regard to web design elements. Having worked with the previous design over the past two years, it was a little difficult for me to say goodbye but I am very pleased with the result. I am glad to hear that you feel the new look is "clean and uncluttered" because that was our goal. The good news is that the left navigation, top story placement in the center, and features profiled in the right column is consistent with the former layout. Of course, the nice thing about websites is that adjustments and improvements can be easily implemented. We will take a look at some of your feedback, as we have from others who have e-mailed in, and will consider your suggestions. Thank you for taking the time to submit them.

Dorothea, from nih writes:
What is the name of the retired head usher of 02/1983-01/26/2007 and who is the successor?

David Almacy
I believe the person you are referring to is Gary Walters. Regarding his replacement, the President announced earlier this week that Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon will be the eighth Chief Usher of the White House.

Leona, from Indianapolis writes:
This is not a question, but a statement.I like the redesign of the White House website. I constantly use this website as a supplement to my instruction in AP and US Government Classes. Sincerely, Leona, Indianapolis, IN

David Almacy
Leona, I am glad that you find the White House website a useful tool in your classroom. In addition to the President's daily news, one of the most visited sections of the site is the History and Tours area. Also, the President's Hall is another page that receives high traffic numbers. We are currently working on a revamp of this section as well and hope to launch it shortly. So, stay tuned!

Marilyn, from Texas writes:
I enjoy it when the White House web site shows pictures of the president while on duty. Recently I copied his picture with Prime Minister John Howard and sent it to my email pal in Australia. She was thrilled. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially with the warm smile of President George W Bush

David Almacy
One of the advantages of technology is the ability to capture a number of images of the Presidency in action. The President's photographers and photo editors in the White House Photo Office do a tremendous job in offering a variety of pictures that better frame the President's events and activities visually whether here at the White House, across the country, or as he travels abroad. Photos truly assist in bringing perspective to the text and life to the site.

Efren, from Las Vegas writes:
I'm Doing A Report At School And I Need To Know What Is Gorge W.Bush Plane Called?

David Almacy
The United States Air Force maintains and operates a fleet of aircraft for Presidential travel. The plane that you are most familiar with is a Boeing 747-200B. There are actually two (tail numbers 28000 and 29000) and when the President is aboard one of them, it is referred to as Air Force One.

Joel, from Freeport, Texas writes:
Hi the Question i would liked answered is how long your position has been around.

David Almacy
One thing to keep in mind is that the internet as an innovation is still relatively in its infancy. The first White House website was launched in 1995 under President Bill Clinton.

I am the second internet director to serve in President Bush's Administration. Jimmy Orr served during President Bush's entire first term and implemented a number of the features that are on the site today.

David Almacy
I really appreciate everyone's terrific questions and wish I could have answered more. I'm usually on the other side of these chats, managing them from a tech perspective, so I have a renewed respect for all of our guests who host this online forum! I hope you enjoy the look of the site and take advantage of its features. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, so please feel free to pass them along.