Sunday, November 19, 2006

Councillors and blogs

Mike Ion writes that "what we need to do is encourage responsible blogging and that we need to encourage (insist?) that elected representatives use blogs to reconnect with their constituents." I don't agree with that.

Some councillors write very good blogs, but no councillor uses a blog to reconnect with their constituents, because 99+% of constituents don't read blogs. The people who read councillors' blogs are their political opponents, and if the blogs are good, people who live around the country and around the world.

Having a website, with information about the local area and contact details, is useful - people in my ward used to contact me because Tim designed one for me. And I got a lot of e-mails, which are a good way of keeping in touch with constituents.

A related idea that is also bad is the idea that councillors should put a record of all the meetings that they have attended on a blog. Most meetings which councillors attend are quite boring, and even the ones that are important and which it is possible to write about (i.e. ones without confidential information) are only of interest to a small number of people. If, for example, there is a meeting about sorting out a local park, then instead of writing about it on the internet, it is much better to write a quick report about it, print off copies and put them through the doors of the people who live nearby, with a note explaining that you thought they might find it interesting, and your contact details if they want to find out more.

Blogs which are written by people because they feel that they ought to, or for a purpose which blogs are not very well suited to, are not very successful. If you read Antonia or Stephen's blogs, then you won't find out all that much about what they do on a day-to-day basis as a councillor, but you get to see what motivates them, what they care about and via the comments you can have the chance to chat to them about these things. This is great, but being realistic not many councillors will be able to do this, and it is an optional extra for people who like that sort of thing rather than something which makes councillors more effective.

Much more important to make sure that if someone wants to find out about how to contact their councillor, or what they have been up to, that there is a website which they can google or which they know about from regular leaflets which they can use to access this information.

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