Whaddyareckon of the Ruddblog?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's new blog

Kevin Rudd launched his prime ministerial blog yesterday. I’m not sure it’s going to work — as I already told the Fairfax newspapers.

In addition to the common prohibitions on defamatory and abusive content, the rules for Mr Rudd’s blog say that comments will be accepted for only “five business days” from the time the post is published, be moderated by his staff strictly during business hours, cannot include links to other websites, and are limited to 300 words.

“Not allowing links to other websites is just dumb,” one blogger, Stilgherrian, told the Herald. “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 ever get past repeating slogans.”

It was a sentiment shared by “An Onymous Lefty” blogger, Jeremy Sear, who posted a response to the Prime Minister’s blog titled “Kevin Rudd is hip to the kids… of 2004”.

“The strict moderation will remove the livelier aspects of discussion,” Mr Sear said.

I also reckon the first post, about climate change, sounds like a prepared political speech, with a question tacked on the end to make it look bloggy.

How do you think we can make Australians more aware that we need to act on climate change now?

I thought we’d mostly moved well past “creating awareness” and the biggest criticism of the government’s climate change policy was the lack of actual action so far.

But what do you think?

[Note: The original Fairfax piece doesn’t have links: I’ve added them in myself. Fairfax is still too rude or daft or whatever to link out to the things they mention. It’s nice that they included my quote, given that.]

29 Replies to “Whaddyareckon of the Ruddblog?”

  1. It’s just a press release, and the information is non-newsworthy.

    Climate Change is preaching to the converted on the blogosphere (Andrew Bolt fans notwithstanding).

    Blogs are successful when they’re responsive to feedback and linked with other bloggers… RuddBlog fails badly on that score.

  2. I think that it’s good to see the PM maintain adherence to detailed programmatic specificity while deploying communication channels, though I concur with your assessments, Stilgherrian, and in due season, we will see that the PM’s conception of a blog is of the flushable variety.

  3. I don’t have too much trouble with the five day limit – after about 20 entries, most blog responses turn into personal sledging matches anyway.

  4. @glengyron: I agree about the responsiveness. Responding to comments personally, even if it’s more of a “social stroke” rather than a full response or rebuttal, is what helps build a sense of community by making the commenters feel as if their comments were appreciated.

    Of course that’s hard to do when you have lots of comments or you’re a busy person. “Yeah, thanks for that” comments soon become repetitive and boring. But perhaps the message there is that you’re either running the blog properly, with full commitment, or you’re not.

    @Sylvano: On that “detailed programmatic specificity”, I found it interesting that the post includes an exhortation for MPs and Senators to support certain legislation. They represent what? Way under 1% of the potential audience. By singling them out you make the other 99% feel excluded.

    @Baden Smith: The 5-day limit might be OK when you have fast turnaround. But with a 24-hour turnaround of comments, that means you have at most 4 or 5 cycles of comment and response. That’s not much of a conversation.

  5. i don’t have problem really with the time limit on responses, i guess it keeps the feedback ‘fresh’ – as long as the content is also ‘fresh’. which it probably won’t be. I’m more worried about negative comments being moderated into oblivion (whether ‘offensive’ or not) to create positive spin through ‘comment polling’ – “gee look, 100% of our ‘blog respondents love us! just don’t FOI us for the ones we didn’t publish!!”

    I’d love to put a positive spin on it and concede that perhaps the PM’s office does genuinely want to embrace this format, but is still ‘frightened’ by all this fandangled web 2.0 stuff and so has put restrictions in place that will slowly be lifted as they get more comfortable with it.

    sadly, i suspect not.

    even judging that perhaps they just ‘don’t get it’ i think would be too sympathetic.

    clearly they know exactly what they’re doing (or trying to do), which is manipulate yet another forum for populist purposes. haven’t press releases been available on the web for years? calling it a ‘blog doesn’t make it a ‘blog. i so desperately *want* to congratulate them for trying new things, but it feels too contrived to warrant that yet.


  6. I agree – this isn’t a blog in the true definition of today’s blogosphere. But then, is that really surprising? For the PM to put a toe into the water is interesting and would always be hampered by layer upon layer of approval and moderation and formality to protect it from devolving into a mess from day one (as they wold see it). Just like BigPond entering Twitter and being over formal, over regulated and lacking true connection, eventually they learned and improved. Maybe the PMs office will evolve the strategy as they see what works and they realise they can relax (not necessarily remove) some of the restrictions to truly invite something really exciting to happen.

    It’s the first post and for me is exactly what I would expect. I am more interested to see what this strategy becomes, whether it learns and evolves (like BigPond, dell and countless others did) instead of writing it off on day one.

  7. I am undecided at the moment. Putting aside the fact that I think the man is a twat. Should a PM have a blog? Why is he really doing this? Is he giving us an insight or is it just spin in different format?

    When we blog its a pretty egalitarian playing field, you stand or fall by the quality of your ideas. 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.

    Besides he should be running the frigging country not procrastinating on the internet while at work 🙂

  8. As I mentioned over at Whirlpool (http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=1241681&p=17#r330), I attempted to post the following within the first hour of the blog opening:

    “What will be the carbon impact of the Rudd Labor Government’s proposed ISP-Level Content Filters? Does the monitoring of this impact form any part of the technical trials currently being undertaken?

    “The Minister Stephen Conroy is never available for comment, and his office only ever replies with a 4-page document that somehow fails to answer any questions.”

    Immediately upon submitting that comment, I was politely labelled a spammer.

    Now, if the comment had simply not been approved due to (blatant?) trolling, that would be one thing; this was automated. Is “Conroy” now on the list next to “Viagra” and “Cialis?”

  9. I’m familiar with your blogname via comments on other blogs, as per normal. But I’m very puzzled by

    The blog won qualified support from one of Australia’s most prominent bloggers, “Girl With a Satchel” Erica Bartel, who said it was a way for the Prime Minister to bypass traditional media and talk directly to his constituents.

    “A Prime Minister interacting with his public can only be a good thing,” she said. “If the blog is to resonate, and not be written off as a gimmick, it will have to be authentic and genuine, by no means an obvious ploy to pimp party politics.”

    I have never heard of Erica Bartel or any blog called Girl with a Satchel. Never seen it on a blogroll, and google yields nothing except that particular news article.

    Prominent blogger!? Has this “blogger” been created out of whole cloth by Ari Sharp? and I agree with others about the absence of links in the article. Sure, it’s not normal practice across all online MSM articles, but you’d think in an article about blogging…

  10. I note with some interest that of the 62 responses last night, while Fielding-style reponses were allowed, not a single one critiqued the CPRS on the basis that it handed out too many free permits, had too lax a target and so forth.

    I personally submitted some responses and all were modded out even though all but one exactly observed the conditions (in one I overlooked the rule on links — which were to websites discussing actual modelling of the integration of renewables into the power system, the pumped storage facility at Ben Cruachan, Scotland).

    Apparently you’re not allowed to critique (politely and on the basis of scientific knowledge) disinformation by contrarians.

    When I tried to take another look this morning, the site was down with technical difficulties. Hmmm

  11. And can I ask Stilgherrian, what does the “Long Live the Wild Red Fish” slogan mean?

  12. @Michael Quall and @Kimota and @Sean the Blogonaut: The question for Mr Rudd really is about what happens next, as opposed to sweating the first post, yes. Will everyone’s hyper-analysis help, though? Sean, your point about egalitarianism is spot on.

    @The~SARACEN: Trying to link climate change to a discussion of Internet filtering could be seen as a off-topic. New computers to do Internet filtering will probably have a greenhouse impact, sure, but the DBCDE blogs degenerated because people used every opportunity to hit the filtering issue instead of answering the question. I’m siding with the moderator(s) on that one, sorry.

    I don’t know that I’d call it “spam”, though, just off-topic.

    @Helen: I found the blog Girl with a Satchel as the very first Google result for that term. That said, I don’t know how prominent it is — though I did see it linked off Crikey‘s home page yesterday.

    @Fran Barlow: I suspect the site could well have gotten heavy traffic after the mainstream media attention this morning. If so, does that represent success (interest!) or failure (lack of capacity planning)?

    The tag line “Vive les poissons rouges sauvages!” is best translated as “Long live the feral goldfish!”, and is a concept I coined in a previous post to describe the fast-moving but ultimately ineffectual swarming (schooling?) of the more clueless end of the blogosphere. It’s cropped up in a few posts since.

  13. Like I said, though, Stil, it wasn’t the Mods that labelled it as spam: it was an automated response. As in, I clicked “Post”, and the resulting page said “Your posting … has been automatically flagged by our spam filters as being inappropriate for this website.”

    I dunno, maybe I’m just looking for conspiracies. But the way that magpie over there keeps looking like it’s hiding something makes me wonder…

  14. I heard of the blog on Newsradio yesterday morning and went to the trouble of tracking it down. It wasn’t easy and in the end I only found it via “twitter” — so the PR side is definitely not up to speed.

    Still, the more substantive point is that the site can’t possibly amount to any direct information channel to the PM — and it’s hard to imagine in practice how any such channel could — given the extent of the constituency which it nominally addresses.

    Thanks for the translation — I’d forgotten the idiom that “goldfish” was “red fish” in French

  15. @The~SARACEN: I wonder, then, what specific word(s) triggered the spam filter? The only sensible possibilities I can see are the topic of content filtering, or Senator Conroy. Or perhaps some combination.

    That raises the common “social media expert” point that it’s silly to pretend that certain conversations don’t exist. The conversations will happen. If you block them at your own website, they’ll just happen somewhere else — somewhere where your own voice may not be present.

    @daiskmeliadorn: Ta for the correction. The main post has been updated.

  16. Does anyone else get that vaguely nauseous feeling that always accompanied visiting Conroy’s DBCDEQSTRIANAERGH blog? (They really should have just bough a domain name.)

    Also just noticed, that if you just use lowercase (which is fine, since as we web-savvy peeps know, urls are case-agnostic), you now get /pm_connect/pms_blog.


  17. (Sorry for the double-post, but a work colleague just pointed out that this would explain the hairdryer incident. Couldn’t leave that un-posted.)

  18. @MattR: I’m starting to think there’s a series of compulsory stages you have to go through when adopting social media, similar to the 5 stages of grief proposed by the late Elisabeth Kübler-Ross — who, I might add, I had the very great pleasure of interviewing back last century.


    Now I’m wondering what those stages might be, and what order they might come in. At least one of them is “fear” or “paranoia”. Certainly one of them is “acceptance” or “release” or something.

    Anyone got any suggestions?

  19. I think commenters on government blogs should get their own set of stages:

    Disbelief. What the hell were they thinking? Is everyone in the government totally ignorant of internet culture? Do they even know what a blog is? (Check out the help section on KRudd’s site. It’s like explaining a blog to your grandmother. And KRudd’s blog doesn’t fit the definition laid out there, leading to…)
    Frustration. Stupid moderation. Stupid lack of linking. Stupid press-release style. Stupid …
    Nausea. Why the hell do I keep coming back? It just makes me angry and sick trying to read anything on here.
    Frustration. What!? They still haven’t addressed any of the technical issues? And it still reads like a press release.
    Disregard. The what blog? Where did it go? There’s no links to it anywhere anymore… (I’m looking at you, Conroy!)

  20. I also do not think it will work in his carefully groomed world of PR and Spin. It is just a new outlet for the “message”. But the comments thing is easily bypassed. But set up the comments somewhere else where they can be unmoderated.

  21. I see an easy workaround to the comment moderation issue: a tag. If someone tries to comment on a post and it’s denied, post it to your own blog and tag it with something like PMDidn’tPublish*. Tag searches or trackers/aggregators (Technorati, etc) will soon put together a picture of the unpublished comments. That would be more interesting than the sanctioned conversation I suspect.

    * I know WordPress tags can be phrases rather than run-together phrases like hashtags. Don’t know about other CMS’.

    1. On review, the blog looks more like a Discuss-this-recycled-content site. I get the feeling old discussions will be removed to make way for the new. PMDidn’tPublish posts will need to quote whatever parts of the post, or the comments, they’re commenting on.

      Someone needs to explain tags to the PM too.

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