Blogging at Public CIO


Public CIO Magazine has an article on blogging called The Coming of blog.gov by Blake Harris that I'm part of. Blake asked a lot of good questions and we talked for a while.

That is why the Utah state government's brash foray into blogging stands out. A few months after becoming Utah's CIO in 2001, Phillip Windley began blogging personally.

"It wasn't very long after that -- a month or so -- that I realized there could be a lot of value to an organization if there were people inside the organization who blogged," Windley explained. "I could see how when I wrote stuff on my blog, people who worked for me and people who worked in IT throughout the state, as well as others, would respond to it. I thought, "This is cool. I've got a channel to essentially talk to these people.'"

But Windley also wanted to hear what these people were thinking and saying. So he assembled a little program, negotiated a price for up to 100 licenses with UserLand, and offered anyone in Utah state government a free blog for a year if they wanted to start blogging. Although blogs were little known among the general Internet population back then, about 35 people took him up on the offer.

Many of these blogs eventually died for various reasons. "Some people just don't like to write," said Windley. "And there was some institutional backlash against it. There was one guy in particular who worked for me who kind of caught the vision and started writing about what we had tried that worked, what didn't work, and where we had made mistakes. A lot of people got really upset at that, saying it was airing their group's dirty laundry."

For governments to maximize blogging as an organizational tool, Windley said governments must create a culture that allows people to say things and not get slapped for it. "A lot of governments are not like that," he said. "But if you want to use blogs for interdepartmental communication and for people to exchange ideas internally, they have to feel comfortable that they can say what they think and it is not going to be held against them."

Yet even without such radical cultural change, Windley sees many institutional uses for Weblogs, both behind and in front of the firewall. For example, behind the firewall, a very straightforward use is to put up a Weblog on your help desk. And when you start getting issues about a problem in your IT infrastructure, post it on the blog. "It is like your early warning trouble ticket system," explained Windley. "It takes an hour to set up, and will be much better than what most governments do to let their employees know of issues and problems taking place. Stuff like that is just so brain-dead simple. The software is free or low-cost, and it is easy to use."

In front of the firewall, according to Windley, one obvious place for a government Weblog is in public affairs. Although it isn't obvious to the user, part of the Census Bureau Web site, for instance, actually runs on blogging software. It automatically puts news in chronological order, allows people to comment and gives a free rich site summary (RSS) feed.

For Utah, from what Windley admits was rather haphazard beginnings, blogs have now become a vital tool for state IT management. David Fletcher, deputy director of administrative services for Utah, was one of the bloggers from Windley's original program. Today, his public Government and Technology Weblog comes up high in Google searches.
From Government Technology's Public CIO Magazine
Referenced Wed Feb 02 2005 16:00:46 GMT-0700