Government Blogger Code

I’ve only been blogging for a few months, although I have enjoyed writing the posts and hearing the feedback. People have been generous enough to not only share their thoughts in the form of comments, but also have met up with me to engage in a conversation on posts. For me, this is the most rewarding part of blogging.

In addition to this, I’ve also had conversations with a wide range of people on the idea of blogging itself, specifically in the Government context. As someone who identifies himself as a public servant, and as one of only a handful of bloggers that does so, what implications does it have? I enjoyed reading Chelsea’s post about a piece of free advice that she received (that she stop blogging), and it’s caused me to reflect on my experience so far.

While I haven’t explicitly been given that advice, I have been given hints to be careful about what I’m saying/how I’m saying it. Sometimes it creeps up when I’m not expecting it. I’ll be writing a post, and a little voice in the back of my head will ask “Is this too offensive? Is this too provocative?” Given what I write about, I would be surprised if I were to find myself in the middle of controversy, but you never know!

Prior to starting this blog, I tried to look for advice on what sort of principles I should consider when blogging. I found some interesting articles that broadly discussed the issue and were incredibly helpful, but I really wanted a set of principles.

It might be nice to have a set of principles, based on the experience of others, which we could use to encourage others to blog. For those who aren’t sure where to start, or how to decide if they should/shouldn’t post something, a set of guidelines could be helpful.

For me, the following are a handful of basic principles that I attempt to follow:

1. No Ranting — If the writing comes from a place of anger, it’s not likely to contribute to the broader discussion, and may put people on the defensive. Rants are for bars, not the internet.
2. A Confidence is a Confidence is a Confidence — While all my posts are inspired through conversations with others, if someone is uncomfortable being directly quoted or referred to, then I will respect that.
3. Keep it broad — While specific instances will pique my interest, and start a post, I’ll try to abstract the issue to appeal to a broader audience.
4. Editorial Committees are Key — Sometimes I’ll write a post that, for whatever reason, isn’t sitting right with me. I have a group of people that I will occasionally run posts by prior to posting. Their advice and feedback has been invaluable.

I’m curious, from other active government bloggers, what principles do you adhere to?


2 thoughts on “Government Blogger Code

  1. hey Colin,
    I have made a conscious choice, until such time as there are clear rules of conduct spelled out where I work, to also speak in general terms, never specifically reference where I work, what we are working on, and especially not mention people I work with. I have seen others less concerned, and at times have cringed, knowing that what they publish can and may be discovered, which could garner some disciplinary responses.

    Also? I won’t tweet about our comms products, events or initiatives, which is kinda funny, since I have no issues sending out other departments’ cool info. Again, mostly because I am not an official spokesperson for my employer, and I haven’t been given permission to do so.

    But do I think tapping into our own people to help us promote and disseminate information could be powerful and positive? Yes. We just need to clearly communicate what that means and what the rules of engagement will be. We’ll be working on those….!

  2. I think I might start going with the principle: would I be proud of what I wrote if my boss’s boss told my boss they read my blog. (possibly regardless of what that person actually said – unless they pointed out a glaring error in my calculation of what I should be proud of or ashamed of that I hadn’t previously considered).

    Also, rants are for bars is a great line.

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