The White House and Facebook – a New Era?
The White House hopes to learn something from Facebook exec about running a website.
The White House org chart is looking more and more like a standard Silicon Valley business.
The White House has hired Josh Miller, a member of Facebook’s product team, to serve as its first Director of Product. If you’re wondering what products the White House has that require a director, you’re probably not alone.
“The White House has many digital products – from WhiteHouse.gov to the We the People Petition site,” Miller wrote in a blog post Tuesday announcing the move. “It’s a dream to be able to add to and improve this portfolio.”
The focus of Miller’s new role appears to be using his experience working on social products at Facebook and before that at his startup Branch to build tools that make it easier for citizen to communicate with government representatives.
“Imagine if talking to the government was as easy as talking to your friends on social networks?,” Miller wrote. “White House officials have started to regularly host Q&As on Twitter. These initiatives represent amazing progress, and there’s so much more good work to be done.”
Miller’s track record is one of innovative social products, but arguably none that have earned mainstream success.
Miller cofounded Branch, a New York startup that developed multiple online discussion tools, which gained a fair amount of attention among media organizations, but ultimately failed to gain widespread adoption. Facebook acquired Branch in early 2014 to launch the new Facebook Conversations group. In that role, he spearheaded the release of Rooms, Facebook’s quasi anonymous community app, which has yet to make much of a dent with Facebook’s billion-plus user base.
Reps for The White House did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
Throughout his time in office, President Obama has cozied up to the big technology companies in Silicon Valley and poached from several of these businesses for new and existing roles to push The White House into the 21st century. It began with Obama’s creation of a Chief Technology Officer role at the beginning of his term, for which he last year hired top Google exec Megan Smith.
The revolving door between the tech industry and the Obama administration does go both ways: Obama’s top advisor David Plouffe joined Uber last year, White House spokesperson Jay Carney went to Amazon earlier this year and Lisa Jackson, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency is now at Apple.
This effort to techify the White House only appears to be accelerating in the final months of Obama’s presidency.
In March, the White House hired David Recordon, another Facebook employee, as its first Director of Information Technology. The next month, it hired Jason Goldman, an early Twitter employee, as its first Chief Digital Officer. Goldman worked with Miller on Branch as well.
“The mission of our team is to connect people with purpose,” Goldman said of his new role when it was announced. “[People] expect more human moments, more conversational moments, less being talked to and more being talked with.”