I’ve had a bad case of blog block – now over – the whole month of May without posting to Bacon Butty… not least due to a hideous computer crash. It’s amazing just how much embodied time is stored in a computer! Anyway, it’s been a busy period and there is much to be said, so stand by for further posts…
But first a comment on blogging itself: what a pity Owen Barder’s excellent blog [now removed] mostly on development issues has been forced into a ‘members only’ space by a ridiculous article in the Mail on Sunday. Owen is a senior civil servant at the Department for International Development and is well known for his challenging and incisive insights into development thinking. It’s a great pity that his colleagues and the wider world are to be denied his insights and informed commentary because a muckraking comb through his blog by a reactionary newspaper.
The government appears increasingly nervous about civil servant blogging and is reportedly to require civil servants to obtain the same permission they would require before writing an article or letter for a newspaper (ie. make it impossible). The logic is impeccable of course. But the approach is wrong. The position is extremely risk and loss averse – seeing only problems but no opportunities. And there are great opportunities to open thinking and ideas to debate and challenge and to invite greater inclusiveness for communities of interest. But then that isn’t what the civil service is really after.
Mandatory mandarin blogging
One could argue entirely the opposite case and see blogging as an extension of Freedom of Information – going beyond what is written to what is actually believed. Perhaps civil servants should not just be allowed to blog, but should have a duty to declare what they are thinking, and be required to keep a public blog for that purpose. It would be a fantastic form of meritocracy – we could see what the mandarinate is actually spending its time thinking about and how good their ideas are. Junior civil servants would be able to position themselves as thought leaders and everyone would be open to challenge. It could create an evolutionary system of diversity in ideas, challenge and selection and promoting of the winning ideas and individuals. All in public view.