Civil Servant Bloggers

I see that a few people have been on the site as a result of this post about Owen Barder.

I guess they were interested in the Civil Serf blog which got splashed in the papers and has now disappeared from view.

I was a reader and noticed that it’d gone at some point over the weekend after noting that she’d become a regular read of a number of journalists.  As with Owen, the papers have picked up on some of the more sensational phrases, but unlike the story about him the papers haven’t twisted the facts to make their story.  It was always clear – from the title on down – that this was someone using the internet to vent about a job they had mixed feelings about.

The trouble with this is that once the story goes from being one that we the relatively small audience of internet readers and transpose it to the mass audience of the mainstream media then it becomes difficult for employers to ignore.  I think that Jeremy gets it right.

The blog was interesting because it gave you an insight into the frustration of being a middle ranking civil servant; the mundane and bureaucratic approach of departments, why it’s difficult to get the attention of senior colleagues on your issue, and how politicians can seem an irritation rather than a vital part of the cog of government.  But interesting isn’t always safe, so while I hope the writer is okay I’m more bothered with the set back this might create for other civil servants using online tools for communications.

The Times reports:

Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, is to set out new guidance to civil servants to cover blogging and online social networks following the demise of the “Civil Serf” blogger, The Times has learnt.

Sir Gus will shortly issue guidelines to tell officials whether they can start up blogs or use social networking websites such as Facebook and YouTube, and even if they can change details on Wikipedia.

The guidance may be useful, or it could make experiments like this one over on the Ideal Government site more difficult.

About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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4 Responses to Civil Servant Bloggers

  1. Jon Worth says:

    For what it’s worth access to Facebook is blocked from within most government departments anyway… Blocking Civil Serf would have been harder as the blog was on a lesser-used domain.

    Knowing the civil service I’m sure Civil Serf’s colleagues had an eye on the blog for a long period of time and then went on the hunt when things started to get a bit too big.

  2. Andrew Brown says:

    Sounds about right Jon.

  3. Pingback: Lessons from Civil Serf « Cllr 2.0

  4. I intend to keep blogging, but then I deliberately don’t blog too much about my work, though it wouldn’t be hard with a bit of intelligent googling to work out which Department I work for.

    I never read civil serf, but I can sympathise with some of the things you’ve drawn out in your piece above. Particularly the irritation with politicians (when it comes to PQs that are often extremely ill thought out and in the end obtain pretty useless information, but have to be answered at the drop of a hat).

    Perhaps I’ve said more than enough already! I wouldn’t want to upset the big boss.

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