I really want to like Kevin Rudd’s new blog. I really do. For Australia’s sake I want to be able to say that government is finally getting Web 2.0. But I don’t. It’s got “fail” written all over it. It just isn’t what people expect from a blog in 2009.
The rules are wrong. The tone is wrong. The dynamic is wrong. And the content, at least for the first post, is wrong.
A blog isn’t just any bunch of words to which the punters attach comments, otherwise Amazon reviews and half of ABC News are blogs.
A blog is where a blogger leads an ongoing conversation with their audience. Often, a post presents a half-formed idea, and the resulting comment stream takes on its own life as that idea is explored.
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Ruddblog’s restrictive commenting rules work against the natural flow of online conversation. All comments are moderated, and only approved during business hours with a turnaround up to 24 hours. Comments are only open for five days. That’s not much to and fro.
And as I told Fairfax, not allowing links to other websites is just dumb. Links are the currency of the web. They allow you to reference work that’s already out there. If you can’t do that, and you’re limited to 300 words, then the discussion won’t get much past slogans.
(Mind you, Fairfax doesn’t link to other websites either. Even pointing to the PM’s website at pm.gov.au was done begrudgingly: the address wasn’t a clickable link.)
The first Ruddpost reads like a speech. But I suppose that’s how Rudd speaks. Perhaps it is the blogger’s authentic voice.
The exhortation for “all Senators and Members of Parliament to support this vital legislation for our nation’s future” seems out of place, distancing the 21,847,300-odd Australians who don’t sit on green and red leather seats.
The final question seems an afterthought: “How do you think we can make Australians more aware that we need to act on climate change now?” Aren’t we past the awareness-raising phase and well into the doing-something phase?
But look, it’s a start.
A conservative control-freak organisation like the Prime Minister’s Office needs to loosen its sphincters slowly. Especially with a conservative control-freak Prime Minister.
It’s perhaps unfair to over-analyse the PM’s first blog post. I’ll bet, though, that his minions are analysing every reaction just as intently. @KevinRuddPM’s entry into the Twitterverse was awkward, but he’s slowly opened up to the point where he can tweet “Can’t believe Mozart didn’t get a guernsey in triple js hottest 100 of all time. KRudd” without the world interpreting it as some sort of prime ministerial directive.
A core question though, as Sean the Blogonaut puts it, is “Why is he really doing this?”
“Is he giving us an insight or is it just spin in different format? … I still have the feeling with this PM blog that we are to somehow feel grateful for being allowed to read the thoughts of the PM. Will he interact with commenters? It seems decidedly one way at the moment,” Sean writes.
“Besides he should be running the frigging country not procrastinating on the internet while at work.”
Just what can a prime ministerial blog offer in the way of political discussion that we, the citizens, can’t already find elsewhere on a hundred political blogs? That, Mr Rudd, is the question to ponder.