Praised recently in the Economist, Jeremy Gould oversees an important U.K. government Web site, but he also blogs. A lot, and he also seeks opportunities to "agitate" for increased use of social media in government. To be clear: Jeremy's blog focuses on social media use in government and related issues, but it is not a government blog. He answered Municipalist's questions about how that is working out, details on the British government rules for civil service bloggers, as well as why Jeremy is not nearly as passionate about David Beckham as many Americans.
Describe your current job. I do four things - two I'm paid to do and two (what I'm most well known for) I don't.
1. I oversee the running of my department's corporate website - www.justice.gov.uk
2. I lead on digital strategy for the department. Which technically gives me oversight of all our external web activity, but this varies from site to site and owner to owner. This basically means providing consultancy advice on developing web activity, ensuring that all the department's web assets meet government standards etc etc
3. I agitate (rather than evangelize) for the use of social media in government - to improve our current web delivery and for engagement purposes.
4. I try to support / lead the community of government web people to self organise themselves as a recognised group of specialists. For example, I organised a barcamp for government web people last January and run a regular series of informal networking events.
What is the history of your blogging? About 18 months ago I was working with the central strategic government communications team on a project to assess the opportunities for government in social media. One of the big questions knocking around was "Can civil servants blog?" So I thought I'd start and see if anyone stopped me. So far, no one has. I'm not not the most prolific blogger but it bubbles along with a post every week or so.
What are the goals of your blog? The real goals of my blog were to be able to: test some ideas about civil servants blogging reach out to other civil servants, and those interested in government online generally Generally participate in the conversations taking place across the web around government, democracy and the web.
American readers see that your blog links to various laws that seem to limit or at least carefully define how much anybody in government in Britain can blog. Can you describe those, and what they mean? I think you're referring to the recently published principles for participation online? Civil servants' activities are governed by the civil service code. The principles merely contextualize that for the online world. They're not draconian by any means and the principle is "You can" rather than "you can't".
Your blog has gotten a fair amount of attention. Has that helped or hindered what you are trying to do? Both, in equal measure. Helped in that it has raised my personal profile considerably. I've been able to meet people, invited to meetings social gatherings etc that I probably wouldn't have got access to before. On the other hand, some people certainly regard my profile with nervousness if not resentment. As its opened doors and given me a voice, it has clearly rattled some people.
What is the state of blogging by those anywhere in government in the UK? And: Why should government blog? Blogging in government at the moment is still pretty much confined to the geeks. The real opportunity for government in my opinion is using social media and social networking to engage at the policy level - helping officials to listen and participate in conversations about subjects they have direct responsibility for at the policy level. Helping them to learn and share before they even reach the point of developing options and making recommendations to politicians.
And, finally, for my American readers -- David Beckham: What the hell is the big deal!? You tell me :-) Beckham used to play for Manchester United, arch rivals of my team Liverpool. So I'm afraid you're asking the wrong person!