Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:43 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 17:43 | SYDNEY

The public service and the blogs


Sam Roggeveen


2 August 2010 15:39

Nicholas Gruen, economist, blogger and head of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, has a post on the excellent Club Troppo blog lamenting the reluctance of Australian public servants to engage with social media.

When The Interpreter was launched in 2007, we hoped it would have a very strong public service following, and so it has turned out. Our stats package allows us to see in real time the servers that are 'reading' the blog at any time, and during business hours, there are always scores of readers on our site from the foreign policy, intelligence, defence and aid bureaucracies. Anecdotally, too, we know the site is read all the way to the highest levels of government.

But just to reinforce Nick's point about the extreme reluctance of public servants to do anything more than read the site, I have been disappointed by the lack of engagement with The Interpreter from bureaucrats. Granted, we don't make it especially easy, given The Interpreter has no open comments. And, of course, public servants can't wade into party-political debates.

But we do publish a lot of reader correspondence and we're relatively open to criticism (my selection of photo for this post notwithstanding). And party-political debate is not what The Interpreter is really about. Moreover, there is surely a lot of room for simple information sharing that falls far short of engaging in partisan debate — what Nick calls a 'you might be interested in this' style exchange.

In fact, I do receive that style of feedback now and again, and one occasion illustrates the fear that public servants seem to be in the grip of when it comes to social media. The email was from a Defence Department official; it recommended an article on a subject that was being debated on The Interpreter at the time. That's it. Yet the official thought it necessary to request very earnestly that, if I was going to publish this email, his name not be included.

Photo by Flickr user Laughing Squid, used under a Creative Commons license.