DorobekInsider: The liner notes: Why blog — or Web 2.0 — anyway?

On Monday, I am part of an event focused on the use of Web 2.0 in the government market hosted by government marketing guru Mark Amtower titled, Social Networking for B2G: Who’s Doing What, Why and How Can It Create a Fuller Pipeline for your Company in 2010. Specifically, I’m on a panel talking about blogging with Debbie Weil and Mark Drapeau. Other topics through the day include Twitter and Amtower favorite LinkedIn.

As I said, they have me scheduled to talk about blogging — and I guess it is because I’ve been doing it for a long time now, at least for this market and in terms of this market. I started blogging at Federal Computer Week more than four years ago… that blog has now morphed into theDorobekInsider. And more than a 17 months ago, I wrote a post headlined, Some tips to bloggers. I’ll amplify on it here… and alter some because, as we know, 17 months is near a lifetime in the Web 2.0 world… even the gov 2.0 world… And in January, even before theDorobekInsider moved to, I wrote: Why blog? And welcome to another government CIO blogger: GSA’s Casey Coleman.

So in preparation for the Amtower event, I’ll just review the ‘why blog’ question… and then update some of my tips… and I’d love to hear your take on them.

First — why blogs?


Blogs have been around for awhile — at least I don’t have to explain what a blog is anymore.

They seem so simple, but from a journalistic standpoint, what an absolute revolution — putting publishing into the hands of… anybody… everybody. Absolutely remarkable.

But blogs also fit into the Dorobek definition of Web 2.0 — these are tools that enable information sharing. We have always understood that information is power, but what we are learning is that the real power of information comes when that information is shared. Blogs are one way to broaden that conversation. And in the government space, we have seen that with Rob Carey, the CIO at the Department of the Navy, the first government CIO to blog… Linda Cureton, now the NASA CIO, who is a regular blogger… and GSA CIO Casey Coleman, who has both a private blog within GSA and a public blog titled, Around the Corner : Innovation in the Business of Government: A GSA Blog. We spoke to Coleman on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris about the blog and why she does it.

In fact, Cureton wrote a very thoughtful blog post about blogging… and that spurred me to invite her to chat about it on Federal News Radio 1500 AM. Cureton clearly uses her blog as a way of thinking about issues in a very public — and very transparent — way. Again — my definition of Web 2.0: These are merely tools that tap into the theory that all of us are smarter then each of us individually. They tap into the theory that information is power — and that shared information becomes exponentially more valuable when it is shared. So Cureton thinks about issues and problems — and decisions that might otherwise seem out of the blue are suddenly clear… there can be buy-in… and it makes our decisions very human. Transparency and accountability — and, I would argue, leadership — require courage. It takes intestinal fortitude to step out and make your ideas very public. People can disagree — and there is still the ‘got ya’ culture out there. So I give these leaders a lot of credit. Carey and Cureton and Coleman are demonstrating that this tool can be an important part of leadership.

So I think blogs are an important step towards transparency and tapping into the wisdom of the crowds.

Cureton listed her reasons for blogging:

The truth of the matter … that I am not comfortable and I am afraid.  So, why do I blog?  Here are my reasons:

  • To learn and demonstrate the value of Web 2.0 technologies supporting the spirit of innovation that should be required of a NASA CIO
  • To communicate to stakeholders and customers the activities and issues related to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center IT Transformation
  • To focus my thoughts and learning to the things that matter in my role as the CIO

A very different example is the TSA blog, which has helped TSA improve their processes.

How to actually do it?

As  I mentioned, more than 17 months ago while at Federal Computer Week, I posted tips for bloggers. I have tweaked them below:

* Content is king… Write about something that matters — to you, to the community, to your organization — I mean that in the broadest sense of the word, but…

* Have a notion… Have an idea why you’re doing this and what you want to get across and the audience you’re trying to reach. Who are you writing this for? It makes a big difference.

* Understand that notion will change… My experience is that blogs evolve. And how you use them will evolve.

* Post regularly… If a blog is going to work, you have to post regularly. Find some regular interval and make the time. But realize that this does take time. The corollary to that is… And yes, regularly can mean daily… or monthly, but do it regularly.

* Integrate your blog into your life… This one is important. If it is going to work and be sustainable, you need to work it into your life. So, for example, if you are working on a security policy, blog about it. What better way to show people that you are pondering the issue — and get others insights. The same can be true about whatever you are working on. Ponder how much time you spend on documents and — god help us — e-mail messages responding to one issue or another. Rather then just sending an e-mail message, turn it into a blog post and send others the link to that post. Blogs are an opportunity to be real — and I think people will appreciate the work you do and the challenges you face much more.

* Don’t let perfection get in the way of the good… We hear this so often, but it is particularly true in the blogging world. Blogs are iterative. I often kick myself because I’ll think about some post several times. Well, just break it up into pieces. Don’t write the great American novel. Write the OK chapter or the not-bad paragraph. It is about sharing thoughts — and the people who are expecting perfection in a blog have come to the wrong place and, frankly, should go somewhere else.

* Appreciate comments… Even critical ones. Yes, bosses. It isn’t always easy, but… relish in the discussion. It is going on. It’s it better to be a part of that discussion rather then having it go on without yo ? (And in the government world, comments can be hard to come by. Know your audience and realize that feds have been burned before for speaking. It takes time.)

* Time management… The one thing you will hear from any blogger is frustration about time. And you need to realize and understand that this does take time. I have found that it works best if I have a time that I blog — each and every day. Some people have done multiple-user blogs to defray the time cost.

* Don’t discount what you do… This one frustrates me the most — and I’ve heard it from CIOs. They say, ‘Who would want to read what I work on?’ And most government folks will probably have this notion. Have you looked at some of the blogs out there? If you build a community of even a few hundred people and get a few new notions of a better way of doing your job or creating a policy, it could be worth it. This community works on important issues and important programs. Please don’t discount that.

* Just do it… Really — just do it. By doing it, you will learn… and this stuff isn’t as difficult as you make it out to be.

* Share… Share your lessons learned, share your ideas, share your thoughts. Be open to what might happen.