I was initially delighted when I picked up a recent issue of the local Tweed Shire Council’s “Tweed Link” newssheet and saw the front page header “Council joins the ‘blog’ world”. Wow! I thought, if the local government authority for this semi-rural community not only has a blog now but is celebrating the fact in print, then surely blogging has seriously arrived in my part of the globe.

Well, not quite.

It appears that what someone at the Council thinks is a blog is in fact no more than an ‘online consultation page’, containing a summary of projects with contact details for the project officer, as for example this project description for the development of the local Jack Evans Boat Harbour. Yes, you can comment, but only by way of sending an email to the project officer, an email you send on the understanding that Only constructive or appropriate comments will be placed on this page. No names or personal information will be placed, only the text of the comment.

Ah, open government comes to the Tweed at last!

So far, either no one has commented on the Boat Harbour plan, or comments have not been deemed sufficiently “constructive or appropriate”.

Now, I am the last person to want to discourage first attempts at blogging by businesses or government agencies, but I do think it is a pity when what can’t really be called a blog is given the name.

While there is no one, generally accepted definition of a blog or weblog, there are some good explanations of what constitutes a blog, for example the WordPress Codex Introduction to Blogging, starting with “What is a ‘Blog’?” The article includes the following list of items usually found in a blog (noting there are exceptions):

  • A main content area with articles listed chronologically, newest on top. Often, the articles are organized into categories
  • An archive of older articles
  • A way for people to leave comments about the articles
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll”
  • One or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.

Using that list as a guide, Tweed Shire’s effort does not make the cut.

I sincerely hope my Council and others will get into using blogs as a way of interacting more fully with the community. But they need to make a better effort to understand what the rest of us mean when we talk about blogs.

One thing I’m conscious of while writing this post is that I’m scheduled to speak on blogging, some weeks from now, to a gathering of government people. I think I had better start now, looking for exemplary blogs in the government sector – and maybe some more cautionary, “how not to” examples. All links – preferably constructive and appropriate – will be gratefully received!

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