I just finished reading a fascinating report by David Wyld called The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0. Not only was it academically rigorous, but it was also a fun read. Now that's a rare achievement. Wyld is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he directs the College of Business's Strategic e-Commerce/e-Government Initiative. He is also a noted speaker, and will be presenting as part of a government track panel at the upcoming Web 2.0 conference.
According to Wyld, public officials are just beginning to have blogs, despite the fact that blogs have become popular on corporate and individual Web sites. However, a handful of officials do have them, including members of Congress, Congressional committees and caucuses, governors, state legislators, mayors, city managers, police and fire chiefs, and college and university presidents. Wyld's report includes links to dozens of their sites. And of course, we are seeing blogs used in the 2008 presidential campaigns; Barack Obama's blog is probably among the best known.
Blogs aren't just for individual public figures. Some public organizations are beginning to have blogs. Wyld illustrates this using the U.S. military, which is trying to deal with terrorism in the Information Age through the use of STRATCOM. One core function of STRATCOM is to allow blogging and chats between everyone from generals to privates. The system radically cuts through the hierarchy that normally defines military culture by allowing anyone“”at any level“”to respond directly to others' questions.
Wyld is an expert on what government officials should and should not do when setting up and running and a blog, and believe me, he's seen it all. A few of his key recommendations include making a serious time commitment, posting regularly, writing it yourself, and allowing comments. (He also recommends not posting angry messages at 2 a.m., but you'll have to see the report for his juicy example.)
Allowing comments is the most delicate area. According to Wyld, Mayor Bill Gentes of Round Lake, Illinois, says, “I allow uncensored comments so I get the negatives, positives, and the inane!“ But Gentes loves the format and feels it allows for an honest exchange. However, a much more common model in both the public and private sector for comments is to have registration, moderation, comment policies, and CAPTCHA technology. Without these measures, anonymous negative posters can hijack your blog; this very thing happened to one unfortunate school superintendent, as Wyld illustrates in a case study.
I highly recommend his report, and I know he'll be an informative and engaging speaker. To hear from David Wyld in person, come to the Web 2.0 conference and attend his panel on Current Web 2.0 Initiatives within Government Agencies.