Blogs as Public Policy Forums

A new study out by Brookings “Blogs as Public Forums for Agency Policymaking” looks at blogs created by top officials in five federal agencies and compared them to similar, but non-official blogs on the same topics to see how each are used to link citizens and government officials.  Authors Julianne Mahler and Pricilla Regan found that these agency blogs “elicit more controversy than expected” and that they “have more posts and comments” than related, but non-agency sponsored blogs.

Non-official blogs, like “FAA Follies” and “CDC Chatter” focused heavily on internal administrative issues such as management, personnel, contracting and budgeting.  They tended to be frequented by employees, not the public.  The official blogs, such as the TSA blog and the State Department’s DipNote blog, were targeted to the general public and tended to be more policy-oriented and engaged in “true dialogue,’ according to the authors.  Many of these blogs were launched after the IBM Center’s report by David Wyld on the use of blogging in government was released in 2007, giving many federal agencies a useful how-to guide on launching and managing an official blog.

Interestingly, some government officials now use their internal blogs to float ideas before they release new policies in order to gain insight from their colleagues in advance.  This approach, used in a blog by the Navy Chief Information Officer Robert Carey, has led to helpful revisions to policy and guidance before they were circulated more widely, he noted recently.

Also, the Obama Administration seems to be using social media approaches more frequently to elicit citizen input.  The most recent is the ongoing National Dialogue on Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  There, you can rank proposals made in earlier phases and help direct the focus of the review.

I’m sure there are other examples.  Feel free to add any you think fellow readers would find helpful.