Archive for March, 2008

Some things that have caught my eye recently

Time flies, and suddenly I realise that I haven’t posted here since the excitement of the civil serf affair. Rather than the usual (unintentional I assure you) long essay, here’s a few things that have interested me over the last few weeks – and might be of interest to you too:

  • Networking Democracy – really interesting debate beginning over at Our Kingdom about how government can use the internet to assist a national debate. This is related to the Governance of Britain programme, which I have talked about before.
  • Andrew Brown‘s been busy using to create a feed of cabinet papers from Lewisham Council. What a brilliant idea! – and an easy way to syndicate content if you’re not all RSS enabled. Hoping to use this idea shortly.
  • The BBC has published some guidance for its staff engaging in social networking. Its thorough but succinct and most importantly its out there for everyone to see. (I have had some involvement in the development of similar guidance for civil servants but that’s not published yet. Frankly, the BBC guidance and the civil service code cover the bases for any civil servant unsure about what they should/n’t or could/n’t do online).
  • Almost as a companion piece, Colin McKay has published a great piece of guidance on how to do social media ‘stuff’ in large organisations. Worth reading for tips on getting people onside and stuff in ‘under the wire’ (according to Wikipedia, Colin is a professional skateboarder – you kept that quiet!)
  • I saw Clay Shirky speak at the RSA last week about his new book ‘Here Comes Everybody‘. David Wilcox has a good video clip of part of the presentation. Can’t wait to read the book.
  • Some more public sector blogging – nine members of the house of Lords have launched a team blog. Be interesting to see how that develops.

Civil Serf – final thoughts

As this story will be digital fish and chip wrappings tomorrow, I thought I’d just clarify my position in light of continued interest in the story from the media.

Civil Serf is an individual who expressed her personal individual thoughts. She is not a corporate PR machine attempting to control the ‘message’ and shouldn’t be treated as such.

She made a mistake.

She realised her mistake and did the right thing – protected herself.

Nobody died.

Leave her alone.

I hope she’s okay and safe (and feeling safe).

Tom Watson on transformational government

Tom Watson, the MP blogger and cabinet office minister responsible for e-government, spoke at a conference yesterday about how technological change will redefine government’s relationship with the citizen. Its well worth a read.

Interesting to note his thoughts on the civil serf story – a very promising approach and much more measured than the scare headlines that have been knocking around in the press (have they learnt nothing from last time?)

Looks like there will be interesting times ahead for us working in and around government online.

Civil Serf – what went wrong

There’s been a lot of discussion across the blogosphere, and in the press, about the disappearance of the Civil Serf blog yesterday. The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph both published articles about Civil Serf and shortly afterwards the blog disappeared.I’ve been quite taken aback by the response. You’d think some terrible contravention of human rights had occurred the way people have been talking about it.The facts are simple, Civil Serf crossed the line. The Civil Service Code is clear about integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality being critical to acting as a civil servant. Even if all she’s guilty of is being indiscreet, then she’s certainly not acted in the spirit of the code.

If you work for an organisation, any organisation, and choose to criticise it anonymously (but leave enough clues to identified) you are asking for trouble (this isn’t the first time I said that). End of.

The fact that the person in question is a civil servant does not make it in the public interest to ‘lift the lid on Whitehall’, because a civil servant is more aware than most of their terms and conditions of employment and why they’re important. So they have less excuses if they do cross the line.

For the record, I enjoyed reading the blog. I recognised the tone but 1. although its not my experience, I know some colleagues sympathised more and 2. Working in any large bureauocracy (public or private) is frustrating. Its easy to single out the public sector but its a pretty obvious target.

Obviously I think civil servants are absolutely in their rights to blog their thoughts, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing what I do here. But that right needs to be placed in context whoever you work for.

Quick reminder – afternoon tea for government webbies this afternoon

Its the third UKGovWeb afternoon tea meet up this afternoon – think opencoffee with a public sector slant (best china, cucumber sandwiches etc – not literally).

Come along if you’ve got half an hour spare. There’ll be the usual mix of civil servants, contractors, consultants, social hackers there. Good place to chat and meet interesting people (and have a cup of tea).

We’ll be at Cafe Zest, top floor of House of Fraser in Victoria Street between 2pm and 4pm today.

More information here and here.

Hope to see you there.