Starting up your own personal blog is dead easy. Unless you’re a civil servant and want to talk about your work.
If you are, then you face this choice: play it safe and say nothing interesting ever, or do some homework to learn where the boundaries lie. As ‘Mr Newest Blogging Civil Servant UK’, I’ve been doing the latter: reading up on what I can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) say. For the challengers to my title, here’s a summary of the most helpful links I’ve found so far.
Since 18 June 2008, we’ve had actual rules for this stuff (one of several catalysts to my starting this blog).
- Read the principles for participation online for UK civil servants
- See the related discussion on the Power of Information blog
- See minister Tom Watson’s thinking aloud beforehand
- Read the reaction by civil service bloggers at the time, as neatly summarised by Dave Briggs
You are among friends: a small but growing group of blogging civil servants offering mutual support, both online and off.
- Find them via this list of blogging civil servants also from Dave Briggs (be sure to read the comments),
- Subscribe to all of them in one go via Dave’s aggregated blog
- Email me or any of them to ask about offline meets, or turn up at a teacamp
It’s worth noting that the majority of these bloggers are digital media types and not policy makers. It’s no surprise these are the early adopters, but blogging policy officials are likely to face quite different problems, as noted by Jeremy.
The once anonymous, now fired Civil Serf blogger tested the boundaries of the civil service code so you don’t have to. Sad but essential reading:
- This succinct summary now replaces the blog itself thanks to Simon Dickson
- For what this means for the rest of us, see this speech by Tom Watson, Emma’s reaction and this discussion started by Jeremy Gould
- See also the Owen Barder story, via Andrew Brown
…Then draw your own conclusions. For me the lessons are dead simple: declare your name, disclose your employer, disclaim against representing their views, and use discretion. (And the golden rule of social media: don’t be a dick).
When writing your disclaimer don’t start from scratch, adapt. My own disclaimer owes a lot to:
General tips for new bloggers
Because civil servants are humans too, here are some general ‘how to blog’ links which stand out from the (very big) crowd:
- 8 tips for beginner bloggers
- How to be interesting: Russell Davies (via Chris, thanks)
- How to be interesting: Copyblogger
- 101 steps to better blogging
- How to write a blog post
- The two most important words in blogging
A you can see, I’m yet to put all of this advice into action. And this post could turn out to be hugely ironic if I become a bore or get fired.
Massive thanks to the authors of the linked pages. Please add anything I’ve missed via comments.