Wednesday, August 15, 2007

PS21 Challenge magazine article: Journey into the Blogosphere

Some time back, my corporate communications colleagues were invited by the editor of PS21 Challenge Magazine (the magazine for Civil Service employees) to share about NLB blogs and blogging efforts. I was roped in to contribute some views (since I had a bit part to play in starting the NLB blogs mentioned).

This afternoon, a GahmenBlogger member, from another agency, alerted the group of the feature article (btw, PS21 magazine would be pleased to know that their target audience do read what they publish):
In an increasingly noisy and contentious blogosphere, it is important that agencies continue to reach out and be engaged in the local community.

Read the full article here.

Nice coverage of the thinking and operational philosophy behind Youth.SG and Yesterday.SG. I know that the good folks over at MCYS and NHB have put in lots of effort and thinking into nurturing their readers and contributors.

Nice to read that NLB was quoted as "another agency which has made promising inroads into the blogosphere". The writer felt that out of the four blogs (that was before we had a fifth), "perhaps most interesting are Ask! and High Browse".

Over emails, I was also asked to share some thoughts on my personal blogging efforts. Specifically I was given this question -- "How would a civil servant be able to tell if what he/she blogs about is sensitive information?"
Mr Ivan Chew, a.k.a. the Rambling Librarian, suggests that you ask yourself the following questions before blogging about anything regarding your work:
  • Is it my job or business to share this information publicly?
  • Should it be made public by my corporate communications department before I talk about it?
  • If the corporate communications department isn't going to make this public, can I still do it? (See question 1)
  • How much do I understand my corporate culture?
  • How much do my co-workers and reporting officers trust me?

"It really depends on the job," says Mr Chew. "I work for NLB, Public Library Services. We provide a service to (the) public. Most of what I blog about has to do with what's already public knowledge, just that it's not widely disseminated, for example, the services and loan promotions.

"When Public Service officers blog, it is also important to project a professional image that fits into the Public Service's values of 'Excellence, Service and Integrity'," he adds. "Always remember that your online conduct will influence how others view the Public Service. Seek to be a positive influence, and to be constructive and helpful rather than destructive."

Wow. I almost sound intelligent. And did I really write the bit about "seek to be a positive influence, and to be constructive and helpful rather than destructive"?

Anna, the writer of that piece, said she took it from one of my earlier post. She said it was from a very early piece. I can't seem to find it though. Not that I doubt Anna. I just doubt my ability to write. Heh.
[UPDATE 16 Aug 07: She clarified that it was a sub-editing error, where the sub-editor thought the last para was attributed to me. Darn. I really liked the "constructive rather than destructive" quote.]

What's more interesting (pointed out by Vanessa), the same issue featured this opinion piece by Jimmy Yap - Blog Away:
I feel that the Public Service is being much too tentative about blogging. This is a mistake. I think the Public Service should embrace blogging, but - and here's the caveat - they should do it right.

Blogging can be an effective way to get your message across and to get feedback from customers. In addition, blogs could humanise the Public Service, making it more warm and approachable.

I would like to stress what blogging shouldn't be: it shouldn't be boring, and it shouldn't be propaganda. It is too easy to start a corporate blog, make it somebody's job to write it regularly, and hope that this improves your communication with citizens. This is a mistake.

I like his line from him, from the second last para: "While blogging has its upsides, I would like to warn potential bloggers that blogging is a lot of work. Given how busy senior public servants are, I would suggest instead that they comment on other people's blogs."

Very true. You don't have to start a blog to engage bloggers. You can leave comments. Start a conversation.

Too bad there's no Comment Feature for Jimmy's article. I'd wanted to leave a comment. Which, um, I'll do so right here:
Refreshing thoughts, Jimmy. I'd like to paraphrase your opening line, to say "Singapore's Public Service has another proud tradition of embracing change and innovation". I sincerely believe this to be so. This article and yours proves it.

There's another pitfall though. The fact that we are "government" means some people will view our efforts at engaging the public with suspicion. Anything we do might seem to them as having ulterior motives.

For instance, this blogger who felt that that said "the gahmen is trying ways to understand and think about how the internet could be control or dealt with" and that "certain public space are better off without gahmen participation". But in the end, I think he might have loosen his stand a bit.

He's entitled to his opinions, and he was civil in expressing his opinions. We can agree to disagree. I guess that's more important. Government agencies don't always have to respond to differing views, or try to "win people over".

"Public Engagement", to me, means there's equal opportunity for the public and private sector to share and exchange views. Whether that result in consensus is another matter.

I've shared with people that maybe government agency employees should attend formal courses on "How to Engage the Blogosphere Effectively". And it doesn't necessarily mean "getting people to agree with your views all the time".

Here's the earlier article (Apr 2006) that featured NLB blogs - "Riding on the blogging wave".


  1. Its a good article, something that can really help to educate the senior management and perhaps skeptics of gahmen blogging.

    And uh..yeah..I am one of those weird people who read Challenge magazine..just browse and if anything captures my eye, I will read on. The thing I dun read...Duets..seriously man..dun need it..dun want it..been telling my colleagues to stop giving that to me but guess they got spare copies yeah? :P

    Anyhoo, the gahmen bloggers group thing is really helpful man..I learnt so much from you guys..kudos to your efforts, you guys are really serious about your work.. ;)

  2. Hi Ivan

    I must admit I have mixed feelings. I am pleased that you like my column, but I am horrified that the terrible picture of me is now online.

    I'm teaching a course on online journalism so I'll follow your blog with interest.




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