This blog looks suspiciously like the Privacy Commissioner blog. Read on to find out why!

The "GC20 blog template proposal prototype" looks suspiciously like the Privacy Commissioner blog. Read on to find out why!

If you are reading this blog, then it’s obvious you support the Government of Canada being (more) Web 2.0-enabled. If, for whatever reasons you were looking to bring blogs into your department, I hope this blog post can help you.

This blog posting will:

  • Provide you with a ready-made template for you to submit a proposal,
    and
  • Provide you with a blog prototype, ready with a CLF 2.0-like template.

Why can I share these with you? A few reasons: these were independently developed (myself and others), with citations available publicly on the net with no privileged information (that’s what you put in!), and among the purposes of this blog is to influence positive change in the government. Supporting the development of blogs across the Government of Canada supports this.

What you need to know – there are different kinds of blogs

As a public servant, the following distinction is very important to make. They are mutually exclusive.

Personal blogs
Most of the blogs out there are personal blogs. Someone’s gardening tips, parenting experiences, travel log – these are all personal. Heck, even this blog is a personal blog. They are typically run by someone in their spare time, slow down fast in posts, and write about topics totally out of context. For the context of public servants, these have been blogs about the Government of Canada, again, like this one.

Internal blogs:
Blogs that are only accessible within the network. I have heard about a lot of these sprouting up in the Government of Canada, but have yet to see one. I presume they remain all proof-of-concepts/pilots with unclear direction and purpose. But these are easier for the department to launch and try out.

External blogs:
This is an actual blog that is accessible by the public and represents the organisation (department/agency) that is responsible for it. For the Government of Canada, there exists only one: the Privacy Commissioner of Canada blog (ironic, yet, however not ironic). As they are public-facing, such blogs need to be compliant with all the policies, such as: Official Languages, Common-Look-and-Feel 2.0 (“CLF 2.0″), and others.

This list is not exhaustive. There are also professional blogs – the website presence of some companies exist only as a blog (they may find it easier to maintain), and there are some collective blogs (like Techdirt and Slashdot), where multiple authors contribute to the same blog for more regular posts on a variety of topics. But for all intensive purposes, public servants of the Government of Canada need to know the differences between these types.

Why should the government have a blog?

There are many reasons for proposing to your organisation (department or agency) to have an external blog; improved demonstrated transparency, to be part of the digital conversations going on, to engage the public/stakeholders to the work your organisation is doing, to gather input on particular topics. There are many reasons. If your needs are more humble, you may be interested in pursuing an internal blog, limiting your blog to only the public service or just your organisation, having it “behind” the organisation’s firewall.

This blog entry applies to proposing an external blog to your organisation.

Necessary conditions to proposing a blog

As with any proposal, the blog needs to be relevant to your work – otherwise it’s just a really decorative suggestion you’re submitting to someone else – likely Communications (where requests get can be prioritised after ‘No‘).  Does this limit you? Not necessarily – many groups in your organisation can have a rationale for proposing having a blog. You’re on the frontlines? The blog can showcase your real service to Canadians. You’re doing policy research? The blog can showcase the value you add to the public service. You’re in stakeholder relations? The blog can solicit feedback while sharing current work and progress in the area. Doing investigations/inspections? Following the ADM around? Reviewing contracts? The introspection you can share (with a certain spin of course) can be surprisingly interesting to others. At least more interesting than the stale static page your department has up already.

I have identified 3 areas that need to be addressed to propose such a blog (I think there are more, but these are the over-arching ones I could think of):

  1. The policies do not prevent the department from having a blog;
  2. The blog fulfills the objectives of the department;
  3. It is technically feasible for the blog to fulfill policy requirements (CLF, Official Languages).

Thus, the proposal I have prepared covers 3 main areas, which each elegantly start with the same letter (bonus if you can name it):

See the blog proposal here

  • Purpose
    The purpose of the blog is aligned with the objectives of the Department, the Directorate and the Division proposing the blog/receiving the blog;
  • Principles
    The mission of the blog and the role it serves. Also what the blog is not;
  • Policies
    How the blog fits in the policy framework for the department; MAF, Content, CLF, Official Languages. Also elaborate what policies govern the use of the blog; posting policy and comment policy.

You will see in the proposal that there are areas to fill out with your own information – this is key. For the best likelihood of success, you will need to develop a rationale that is relevant to your department and directorate, and, if possible, your division, citing at best documents you can get a hold of. With the proposal, you can do a search and replace on any terms that are in curly brackets {{{term}}} (i.e.: replace {{{Department}}} with the name of your department).

And of course, you are also expected to completely review your proposal – I offer the proposal template only to kick-start you on your way. Please do feed back into the blog proposal and submit changes you think can make it better. I am anxious for your insight.

Prototype

Likely a manager will want to see what such a blog will look like. And they will want to see a blog that has a CLF-look and is bilingual. Thus, I have setup 2 prototype blogs, drawing on the lessons learned/best practices of the Privacy Commissioner blog;

  • The blog needs to be hosted in-house (on departmentally-controlled servers):
    The prototype runs on WordPress (also what this blog uses), the very popular and easy-to use blogging platform that is also FREE, Open-Source
  • The blog needs to be bilingual, with posts posted bilingually
    Two blogs are put up, with policies to publish in both official languages simultaneously by posting on each blog in each language

You will see on the prototypes that the links are there to download a CLF-theme ready for you to throw into your WordPress themes folder and go.

Likely reaction

Hard to tell, and I cannot sanely address all the possible responses, issues or argumentation that can come up. You should not be expecting “Yes”, as departments like to follow precedence more than lead by example, and at current count there is only 1 public blog out there. Bonus point again if you can name which one. You should be looking for “Not no”, and foresee having 2 hurdles put up for each one you take down. Likely though, each of those 2 hurdles are less challenging than the one before it, but if you do the math, each following set of 2 hurdles may in sum be greater than the single hurdle before it. Writing that sentence unfortunately demonstrates my geekiness and love of logical analogies. But I do hope that this post removes the most significant one.

“Some” likely responses, and some proposed responses to responses

  • Why not just develop a blog internally?
    Because no one will read it, limiting our outreach, engagement and feedback.
  • Can we really do this?
    Why not?
  • Are you sure?
    Yes!
  • Are you super-sure?
    Yes!
  • What are we going to do with it?
    (Enter your crafted intelligent answer here, and share with me please!)

Best of luck. Get out there kiddo.

I hope to write only one more post about blogging (finally my impressions of Mike Kujawski’s blogging presentation) before moving onto other topics that I can beat a dead horse with.

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