Rest in Peace Civil Serf

I was upset this morning to read that the Civil Serf blog had been shut down. It did however explain why the RSS feed had been filled with info about the birth of a French baby called Arthur and other less useful info.For those of you that don’t know, Civil Serf was a blog by a civil servant providing a great insight into the internal runnings of government.”The online diarist, known only as “Civil Serf”, has been titillating readers with tales of incompetence from within the government machine since last November.” – Scotsman

She eventually gave enough details for her to be identity to be revealed so it was not entirely unexpected.

We (businesses) spend a great deal of time talking about how tools such as blogs can improve collaboration within businesses. The same can surely be said for Government.

As Emma Mulqueeny Says :”Anyone who works in an e-media team in the public sector, will tell you how difficult it is to champion the use of any social media tool to any great effect. And, other than responding to the perennial cry: ‘I want a blog’ – which never, ever really means I want a blog (Miliband excepted of course) there is little or no interest. This could be due to the fact that there is a great nervousness around it: mis-information and wild assumptions all ultimately culled by risk aversion/avoidance.”

The internet is far less tolerable of nicely worded press statements that have been worded in corporate/politicians waffle. Or as Doc puts it :The internet means “Bullshit will lose leverage.”

In fact politicians could learn a lot from listening to folk like Doc
.. Markets are Conversation.
… Election should be Conversations?
…. Conversations will win Elections!
Businesses, politicians and parties need to understand this.

Politicians need to learn to engage people in conversations. It’s an interesting issue if a civil servant should blog but there is clearly a lot that can be learned by politicians from this experience.

Corporates are currently trying to understand how they can be private in public; trying to understand how they can collaborate with their customers safely on the internet while still keeping their core data secure. It’s an interesting issue. There are great benefits from any organisation talking openly about its ideas before it commits firmly to them.

Obviously certain information needs to be kept secure for legal, financial, commercial, diplomatic or political reasons but when I start thinking seriously about what information needs to be protected and what would benefit from being shared the vast majority falls into the “should be shared” category.

The Data Protection Act allows people to request information, usually when its too late, so the government ends up giving out information that results in the government looking bad. Maybe this is fueling an attitude where politicians are scared to give out information early.

Hiding problems which are shared with others rarely makes sense.

“Information wants to be free!”- ?

“The internet recognises censorship as a fault and routes around it.”-?

Governments could be using blogs such as this as a great way to dip their toe in the water, instead of leaking a policy one week before announcing it.

I have not managed to find much information about the circumstances around the blog being shut down (it only happened over the weekend). While I understand the reasons for shutting it down I would much rather see them do something more positive with the blog. If the civil servant has been identified and sacked it will be a real shame for the civil service. They would be wasting a fine asset.

One day I will try to read the civil service code and form a slightly stronger opinion about how openly civil servants should be allowed to blog.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Rest in Peace Civil Serf

  1. I have resisted talking about civiserfgate but echo your points. The civil service code is worth a read and does cover what civil servants can and cannot say in the public domain (so this would include blogging). There is a point here amout anonimity and how wise it is as a civil servant to blog anonymously, and perhaps be indiscreet. I know that there are specific guidelines being drafted for social media and civil servants, but I think they will need to hurry up and get something out there quickly! Jeremy Gould has some good stuff to say about this at http://whitehallwebby.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/how-appropriate-or-helpful-are-anonymous-comments/

  2. I have read Jeremy’s post and comments before but forgot to mention in my post. There are many valid points made. Particularly good reasons for people remaining anonymous.

    Ultimately we need to encourage a culture where people see the benefits from being honest.

    I would love to see a blog about the social media and civil servants guidelines before before they are set in stone. Its a prime example of something that is being tackled across almost every sector and could benefit from “the wisdom of crowds”.

Comments are closed.