Behind the blog: Web 2.0 record-keeping and blog comments

Author: 
mark.gallagher
Category: 
The Department of Finance Archive

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We always intended this blog to have a dual purpose. First and foremost, it’s an online engagement tool used to keep in touch with people interested in the redevelopment of the Web Publishing Guide. But, importantly, the blog is also meant to provide lessons and examples about blogging for Australian Government agencies interested in setting up their own blog.

With this second purpose in mind, in this post I’ll look at record-keeping issues involved in managing comments submitted to our blog. Record-keeping may not be the most exciting topic, but it plays a crucial part in making sure that government agencies are accountable to the Australian people. Records provide evidence of agency activity and help create transparency as agencies go about serving the public.

However, as recent US Government policy acknowledged (PDF), and as the Government 2.0 Taskforce said in their final report, there are some issues that agencies need to consider when capturing records generated from  third-party Web 2.0 sites and services.

Excluding spam, all comments submitted to this blog need to be kept as Commonwealth records. The team also needs to keep records of any comments we edit or pull down from the blog for moderation purposes. While the WordPress service does capture some of these things, we believe that we can’t rely on it alone to meet our record-keeping responsibilities. There are a few reasons for this, including the risk of data loss and issues around ease of access and appropriate storage locations for Commonwealth records. Instead, we make sure we keep our own copies of all comments made on this blog. Our record-keeping process runs like this:

  • Each comment published on the blog or caught in the automated moderation filter generates an email notification – including the author’s name, email address and the complete text of their comment – which is kept as a record.
  • If we edit a comment, we’ll also create a document showing both the original and the edited version.
  • We also create a document for each comment we remove from the blog.
  • We don’t keep records of spam comments outside of the WordPress backend and the occasional email notification when a spam comment slips through the automated filter. This comes down to issues of normal administrative practice and what counts as a significant record or not.

If you work for an Australian Government agency and want advice about record-keeping issues as they apply to blogs or other Web 2.0 technologies, you should visit the National Archives of Australia Agency Services Centre. But in the meantime, what do you think about our blog’s record-keeping policy? How would you tackle these issues? And are you excited about Web 2.0 record-keeping yet?

Comments (7)

Great to see that the deeper purpose of Gov2 and blog communication is recognized and by the looks of it well on the way to being implemented.

Without the concept of learning from leassons and addressing shortfalls, new ideas, expansion, image-enhancement and a host of other things, how can effective communication and collaboration be achieved?

Just stumbled on this in passing, so can't stop to chat right now. Back another time.

Cheers

Madeleine

Community Stakeholder (Individual)

Hi Mark,

An interesting post. It's a very laborious process you describe. I wonder whether a WordPress plugin mightn't be able to streamline some or all of it for you.

Perhaps there's stuff to think about that doesn't jump out at you, but if the plugin recorded all comments received in the form they were received, then that more or less solves the problem doesn't it? You can also - if necessary later - write more code into the plugin to enable someone at the back end to compare the raw comment with the published comment.

What thought has been put into such possibilities?

Hi Susan, Mark and WPG Team

I am keen to match names and faces so as to demystify the concept of The Faceless Bureaucrat and The Faceless Stakeholder.

I will be in your locality soon for a function. Will try to contact you by phone in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, I am most interested in the progress of the Web Publishing Guide.

I have had some cursory email dialogue with Steve Davies and hope to hear from him again soon as he has some important ideas about guidelines for both government and citizen stakeholder engagement and guidelines that will encapsulate some fundamental principles. Steve has suggested that more than five such principles.

I posted comments on 8 and 10 May on "Does our Blog need a User Guide?" In addition I have been actively involved in mostly unilateral comment on the Gov2 website and some comments directly posted to the WPG website.

Though I have not made recent comment, this does not imply waning interest. I will get back to comment when my current commitments permit.

Steve has suggested that "engagement dialogue are not separate from moderation. They are the foundation and need to be captured in some principles. Moderation provides a means of ensuring principles are lived up to."

Steve has also suggested that "clear principles reduce the need for moderation."

I am really keen to see how the Web Guide develops both with regard to inter and intra-government approaches and how citizen engagement and understanding of policies will be developed and publicized.

Please refer to my comments on 8 and 10 May respectively on "Does our Blog need a User Guide?"

http://agimo.govspace.gov.au/2010/05/07/does-our-blog-need-a-user-guide/...

and on 8 and 10 May on Moderation Policy and Processes in response to Mark's reply to my post.

http://agimo.govspace.gov.au/moderation/comment-page-1/#comment-153

I am pleased to learn from Mark's posting of the current approach to leave things flexible and user-friendly whilst discouraging inappropriate behaviour and trolling etc.

I have made some lengthy posts on this the Moderation Policy page and on Does our Blog Need a User Guide (8-10 May 2010) to start off a dialogue and provide some initial thoughts.

I accept that the spam filters exist for a good reason and I have no problem with that. Nor do I have problems with short delays with posting online to facilitate manual moderation.

Some private blog sites have fairly strict word count expectations - say three paragraphs and do not encourage the more in-depth reciprocal dialogue that I am seeking with Government about policies and community expectations.

It may well be that for certain issues it would be practical to combine online dialogue with individual offline correspondence to those working on Gov2 policies and guidelines, especially if the costs of using digital space are factors in considering blog length, or for other reasons.

Though not given to brevity, and still learning the ropes of online blogging dialogue, I am keen to continue my participation as I seek more creative ways in which I may be able to engage with Government - which is what attracted me to the Govspace concept in the first place.

I would also like to explore how embedded links, attachments and other material may be accommodated; whether these strategies would be undertaken elsewhere such as OpenAustralia, and how best I can utilize the opportunities being created for transparent dialogue that may benefit other stakeholders.

If ever an edit function is considered that would be a real asset. For some it is harder to work in small boxes and one tends to make more mistakes.

Meanwhile, I would like to raise some privacy concerns.

Steve Davies had provided some links relating to that I was unable to access. This is

At this stage having read the NING terms and conditions, I am reluctant to join the NING platform for reasons that I will explain another time on another blog page. These are associated with privacy concerns.

I would like to know how citizen stakeholders can access the material referred to through other means.

I ask this question online as others may also be interested.

Meanwhile, I hope that my decision will not make if impossible for stakeholders such as myself to access the proposed "Principles for Citizen" or the "Principles for Blogs" designed for stakeholders of the new Govspace.

Today I accessed a disturbing article published in The Age (online) entitled

Facebook founder feels the heat as privacy backlash rages

http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/facebook-founder...

This article confirmed my own reservations about Facebook and social media platforms.

For a host of reasons I made the decision that the NING platform represents not only a security risk, but a violation of consumer rights, despite the advantages and offers made. The terms and conditions represent substantive terms within the contract that would not be consistent with the proposed changes to Australian generic laws.

I for one believe that the blatant intent to "exploit" registrants (and even non-members) of the NING" social media platform) deserves scrutiny by all those contemplating acceptance of the terms and conditions of those wishing to access this social media opportunity.

My reservations about the NING platform are centered on privacy issues. I cannot see any good reason to demand date of birth and photographs as mandatory requirements of joining any social media platform.

My decision not to join the NING platform because of the substantive unfair terms of contract spelled out in a document certainly not designed to be user friendly to the normal population without ready access to expert legal advice has meant that I have been unable to study the proposals made to study the proposed

"Principles for Citizen Engagement” or

The “Principles for Government Blogs"”

that Steve Davies has recently posted.

In my view these principles should be readily and unconditionally available to any stakeholder regardless of any decision to join the NING platform.

If and when I have access to that material, I will duly respond.

The effective management of comments to the AGIMO blog has many implications for appropriate responses to concerns about Government policies and legislation and the potential role of citizen and other stakeholders in influencing such policies.

I have raised some initial concerns elsewhere in my dialogue with Gov2 (comments closed) and AGIMO.

It is my intent to build on these concerns and to continue to seek the effective dialogue that has been absent from every and all attempts by all stakeholders in responding to existing consultation processes in almost all arenas at all three tiers of government.

I seek to highlight gaps in the quality of engagement at all levels; and to resume discussion concerning transparent clarification of the intent of Government with regard to the management of and response to information PROVIDED TO government, rather than information PROVIDED BY government.

There is much room for detailed discussion of community expectations of principles and processes that will govern the dialogue and management of information exchange between participants.

Meanwhile, there are some practical matters which I feel sure that novice bloggers would love to have further guidance, including how to embed kinks and provide attachments, bearing in mind the scarcity of blog space and cost involved. I have raised some of these issues elsewhere.

I will reserve further comment for a future blog.

Back soon.

Regards

Madeleine

Citizen Stakeholder

mkin2711@bigpond.net.au

PS Good to see you still participating in this dialogue Nicholas

I don't think that the blog needs a user guide as most web users using a blog to find information will understand what is going on. Its not a new concept for for the average web user and the ones that don't know how to use a blog are very unlikely to be who you are targeting to get involved.

Cheers Ryan

Ryan

I just tried to answser your post but it was twice rejected as spam which is very disappointing. Could be that I included too many links but there were relevant to the response.

In particular I included Steve Davies' links from other Gob2 web pages on this site.

I have asked Mark to have a look at why the posting was rejected and get back to me so that I can properly answer your views.

Cheers

Madeleine

Citizen Stakeholder

mkin2711@bigpond.net.au

As a recordkeeping method I think it's only one step better than a paper file.
I think it's creating more work for you and removing the records from their context.

We should keep in mind that records are kept as evidence of activity, for transparency reasons.
To serve that purpose they need to be useable. That means it must be possible to view them, in context; i.e. they need to tell history accurately.

I'd suggest an automated audit/journalling capability be built into the system so that it self-records all activity.

The database then contains not only the current record, but the history of the current record, all within context; then include application capability to view the audit trail (with appropriate authority of course).

We might as well face the fact that electronic records will predominate - for practical reasons of both storage and ease of access - and an "archival" record is likely to be distinguishable only by its age.

Comments on this post are now closed. Please let us know if you would like to discuss this post.

Last updated: 27 July 2016