22 thoughts on “Why the government of canada needs bloggers

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  2. CH

    Would there be a broader issue of access/accountability? For example, who would be able to access these blogs (internal/external, specific to groups/regions, etc)? I think it would be fantastic, personally. It would link departments together and, perhaps, begin to break down silos that exist not only between, but also within departments.

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  4. david_a_eaves

    CH – As a starting point I think there should at least be blogs internal to the department. Obviously, my feeling is that they should also be visible to other ministries – in most cases keeping unofficial thoughts secret from one another is pretty much grinding the movement of knowledge, information and expertise to a slow crawl. Opening them up to be accessible to the public would be fantastic as well – and the risks would be smaller than what any legal department would tell you… but I can imagine that is another battle for another day. In the short term, let's help out those working for the government first.

  5. Peter Smith

    Nice. Love that weinberger quote. I gather you are thinking here of *personal* rather than corporate blogs. There are a few of us out there doing the personal blogging thing unofficially. But my feeling is that right now, mainstream thinking inside the GoC is that official, corporate blogs are the way to go. The thinking goes like this: who has time really to blog when you are supposed to be, you know, actually working… so let a few folks in the communications shop maintain a single, authoritative, corporate blog – which will be a way to regurgitate news releases for the blogosphere. Plus it will have the added benefit of keeping comms busy and out of our hair while the rest of the org goes about doing real work. Case of broadcast-era thinking being applied to a non-broadcast world.

  6. david_a_eaves

    Peter – love the line “case of broadcast-era thinking being applied to a non-broadcast world.” True, true.The worse part is that these “corporate” blogs will probably go unread. The lesson the government will draw?: Nobody reads government blogs ergo, they don't work in government… Sigh…

  7. Dave Macdonald

    David, from an outside perspective I find this useful as a personal thought experiment. I'm often overwhelmed by an excess of information and finding effective filters is something I struggle with. I also don't have the patience to sort through volumes of diverse source material.Do you think there is a sacrifice of reliability when it comes to this kind of dissemination?

  8. david_a_eaves

    Dave, this is where I think the broadcast mode of thinking hampers us. Will the average blog within the public service be less reliable than official notes? The answer is yes. However, nobody will read the average blog. Over (even a short period) of time, public servants will mostly gravitate towards and read blogs that offer useful insights and that filter information in a helpful manner. As a result I suspect that more people will end up seeing more helpful and more reliable information the is presently the case. This is mostly because currently “reliable” information is indistinguishable from unreliable information – so most people are forced to tune all of it out.

  9. Conrad Barwa

    Interesting – there might be some legal issues and procedural ones though. Here in the UK the govt is very reluctant to let the public see any discussions or advice given by civil servants to the govt on some sensitive issues like privatisation, the War in Iraq and awarding of certain contracts. The excuse is that such advice is confidential bt the reality is that govt doesn't want to expose its decision making process.The other point about meetings is relevant and would be good, however, from my experience of watching and studying European and Asian govts a lot of departmental meetings are less to do with flows of information and more to do with making sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and hammering out a consistent uniform line, to do with internal politcking and bureacratic in-fighting and lasty as a measure of control of suordinates. I would say 50%-60% could be safely eliminated from a pure efficiency point of view but given the political processes in many countries this is unlikely to happen.

  10. Nicholas Charney

    David as usual your comment makes perfect sense. I will respond in kind with our weekly column this week because you raise many points that need to be addressed beyond this comment stream (e.g. creating meta data, the fact that no one is going to read an average or below average blog, and the inherent value in sharing front line stories to name but three). I will tweet you the link when I post it. I would also love to see some of the notes or listen to a lecture you gave (if you have a recording). You know where to find me.Cheers,

  11. Harley Young

    To extend what David wrote: blogs are much like conversations in the way that authority and utility is evaluated and established. If you always go out with a group for lunch and one of the fellows talks a lot about music, for instance, but claims all sorts of songs were #1 hits, when that's just not true, you'll eventually discard what he says about music. Moreover, your discovery that his music information isn't credible probably informs your perception of other information he provides. Perhaps not everything he says is false, but when he starts talking about fiscal policy or the money supply, you're bound to treat his input with more skepticism — and do your own fact checking, or simply dismiss it out of hand.Blogs are similar in many ways, with at least one important advantage: many, many people fact check and the more people who read and comment, the richer the discussion and the more useful the property (both the blog content and the comment stream it generates). So, as blogs surface within the government, the community will eventually decide who is credible and/or who is skilled at synthesizing lots of information into a tersely cogent analysis.

  12. Michael

    Governments have legitimate concerns that employees' otherwise off-hand or un-thought out comments could get out in the public realm through a freedom of information request. This is not an attempt to silence free speech but rather to ensure that the integrity of a government's (ministry, department, etc.) position and process is advanced. And these days as people use email, blogs and social networking tools, in a manner that was unheard of ten years ago, this concern is more out front. So does the business case for a more transparent, organic self-learning public service trump the reputational and legal risks of disclosing the free flow of employees' commentary, thought out or not? This is not an easy question and one which is more central to the issue than one might think. What Mr. Barwa wants above is not a free flow of information but rather anecdotal fodder for his conspiracy theories. Working with Freedom of Information legislative imperatives and concerns and the corresponding need to improve the public service through encouraging more open systems is a very real balancing act.

  13. Michael

    and for what its worth regarding my comments above – I suggest anonymous blogs and facebook clones that are hosted by servers outside the government – i haven't quite figured out the legal/ technical side of this, but otherwise intranets can be tricky places to allow unsolicited posts because of FOI.

  14. Michael

    And I particularly like the Weinberger quote above. I agree.Since Gutenberg we have always had too much information. Information used to be collected in things we called BOOKS and the way we used to manage this information was through a LIBRARY. What are meta data and search engines but really a super cool dewey decimal system.

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  16. Medela

    Something I don’t get, possibly because I’m a white male, is why we should pay any attention in the public domain to the concerns various people have about abortion. If Catholics don’t like it, don’t do it. If Protestants don’t like it (and that is something that only arose in the 1970s, at the behest, according to Frankie Schaeffer, of Fulton Sheen to Protestant leaders who previously had no moral qualms about it, but only about promiscuity), don’t do it.What this really is, is not about abortion. It is about controlling sexual activity, and the sole basis for it is theological. And theology should not play any role in the public order of a pluralist democracy. That’s what is at issue. The religious do not like not controlling the social order, and they do not like people being free of their control.Abortion is not murder – it is destruction of tissue, which increasingly resembles a person. But a person is not something that is all or nothing, and we set secular boundaries more or less arbitrarily, because biology is vaguely bounded. So the religious authorities oppose abortion because it gives them a way to shift attention from the fact that they want to control who can have sex when, since controlling mating is a major justification for religious authority. By casting it in terms of a moral absolute like murder, this gets lost in the shuffle.But once you establish abortion as a moral prohibitivum, you can now justify real moral crimes, like shooting abortionists, bombing clinics. In other words it becomes a basis for terrorism, and terrorism this is. It is no different to the Wahabism that justifies Al Qaeda’s crimes or the Taliban.So why do television shows like Boston Legal see it as necessary to pay lip service to the “moral conundrum” of abortion? Why should every show that tries to back abortion rights have to make the abortion-having woman undergo a moral crisis? There is no moral crisis; there’s a theological crisis only, and if you are not in that theological tradition, then there are no reasons to feel any more guilty about an abortion than about having an appendectomy. And since the Church’s theology is not the basis for western common law, nor even for the moral consensus, there should be no legal sanctions other than those imposed upon responsible medicine and psychology.Again: if the Church is worried about some activity, prohibit it for members of the Church, not for anyone else. They have and should never be given control over those who are not members of their club of their own free will. That is what makes it possible to be in a democracy.

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