I recently finished reading a book about blogging that mentions the Department of Homeland Security as one of several types of groups that probably should not blog. The reason: Certain agencies and businesses that deal with sensitive and confidential information have a culture that contradicts the openness that successful blogging requires.
DHS (the umbrella agency that includes Customs and Border Protection) is giving it a try anyways. They started The Blog@Homeland Security about three months ago and recently announced the creation of “Our Blog,” a Ning-based online community that is being called a “civic network that connects users and encourages a new kind of dialogue about issues unique to the southwest border.”
The blog is explained as: “An inside-out view of what we do every day at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Blog lets us talk about how we secure our nation, strengthen our programs, and unite the Department behind our common mission and principles.” So far, however, the blog is relying more on links to news stories, photos of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano meeting important people, and lists of speaking engagements of DHS representatives.
Being that I’m getting my master’s degree in online communities, I am intrigued by DHS’s foray into blogging. The book I just finished reading, “Naked Conversations,” is about blogging for businesses and organizations. Authors Robert Scobble and Shel Israel take the view that a good blog is one that is based around authenticity and openness – not bureaucratic speak. The challenge with DHS is their very reason for existence can elicit such strong political opinions (immigration comes to mind), that fear over controversy may suck the blogging life out of an otherwise interesting agency.
Then again, they might still be figuring out their voice.
There’s some hope. In their book, Robert Scobble and Shel Israel note that the question may not be so much as whether or not to have a blog, as to how to determine what can be blogged about – and what can’t. I would like to see videos and commentary that illustrate the border’s vastness and complexity. Give me a sense of what it’s like to be a Border Patrol agent. Take us on a virtual ride-along by sea, air and land. It may be just one side of this complex cross-border story, but it has a place in our increasingly fragmented world of Internet information