A civil servant friend told me yesterday that the Cabinet Office has just issued guidance that all senior civil servants (that’s deputy directors and upwards) are now allowed to blog, publicly, in their own names, about the issues that they work on.
Fascinating if so – but not surprising, given the approach being signalled by Tom Watson, the Minister for Transformational Government. Here’s a speech he did at the end of last month on information and government, which is required reading (a minister who’s heard of Clay Shirky! swoon!).
(There’s also an amusing anecdote in it about him making a speech in which he observes of open source that “One, nobody owns it. Two, everybody uses it. And three, anyone can improve it.” – whereupon
Two days later a political opponent sent out an email laying claim that in fact they are the ‘owners’ of these new ideas. I was accused of plundering policies from the Conservatives.
The irony that laying claim to the ownership of a policy on open source was lost to the poor researcher who had spent a day dissecting the speech. He’d been able to do so easily because it was freely available on my blog, a simple tool used for communicating information quickly and at nearly zero cost without the requirement to charge for access.)
But back to the intriguing question of blogging officials. How would it all work? Watson has posted a first stab at some principles on his own blog – here they are:
1. Write as yourself
2. Own your own content
3. Be nice
4. Keep secrets
5. No anonymous comments
6. Remember the civil service code
7. Got a problem? Talk to your boss
8. Stop it if we say so
9. Be the authority in your specialist field – provide worthwhile information
10. Think about consequences
11. Media interest? Tell your boss
12. Correct your own mistakes
…which, as people in the comments section of his blog generally agree, seem like not a bad starting point.