Why I blog and what you can expect

This is probably something that’s been due for awhile, but since we’re discussing use of internet by TRL board members on Thursday, I’ll just write it up shortly tonight.

Most basically, I’ve been blogging in various forms for almost ten years, oftentimes on very political topics, and for me blogging almost completely equals transparency.

If I was to write a list of the most influential books I’ve read, the Cluetrain Manifesto would easily be in the top five. It significantly changed the way I think about organizations, government and communication. I react less emotionally to it now than I did the first time I read it five years ago, but the core message still rings true to me. By the way, you can read Cluetrain free online here.

To me, the cental thesis of Cluetrain is found in this chapter “Markets Are Conversations” by Doc Searls and David Weinberger:

The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: “Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm.” “The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?” “Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today.” Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer, Brewer, Fisher, Shoemaker, Smith.

For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. “Markets were conversations” doesn’t mean “markets were noisy.” It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work.

Obviously, this book is written from an MBA/business point of view, but for me, this has always related to government as much as it had to commerce. Government serves best when the people being served have a good idea what public officials are thinking. And, the more citizens hear it in our own voices, and have the opportunity to react, the better.

Now, I laid out rules for this blog a few months back, and they totally only cover what I expect from you, the community. Here’s a few short things you can expect from me. I’ll probably edit these later and add them to the current “rules of the blog page.” Also, these rules apply to what I do here or anywhere else on the internet in my role as a library trustee.

1. I’m not going to violate any state laws. So, in short what happens in executive session stays there. I’m only going to blog about general topics of library management and about actions or discussions in public meetings. Anything else is strictly out of bounds as far as I’m concerned and state law as I understand it.

2. Once a decision is made, its been made. After the board of trustees has voted on any particular topic, I’ll say why I voted a particular way, but I’m not going to beat a dead horse week after week. I’ll respect the decision of the board, support it and move forward.

3. Aside from generally recounting comments in public, I won’t characterize statements or rationals by other trustees. I can only speak for myself.

There are also dangers to this sort of venture, some real thorny legal ones, and I’ve been mindful of those. In the end, I’d be remiss not to give props to Walter Neary, a city councilmember from Lakewood, and Ramsey Rammerman who have done a lot of serious thinking on these issues. Their webinar back in January (more here) is practically required reading in this regard.

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1 Comment

Filed under General stuff

One response to “Why I blog and what you can expect

  1. Michael Crose

    Emmett: There is no question that I support transparency in government. the bodies in which you participate, it can lead to confusion. Much of the information that you receive as a Board member is designed to provide you advanced knowledge of what will be discussed in public sessions. This is done as a courtesy to you so that you can prepare yourself for informed discussions in public meetings. There is nothing worse than to sit at a meeting and say “Duhh.. I didn’t know anything about this.”

    It has always been my approach to lay everying out on the table. After all, we are working in a fiduciary capacity with the funds that the public so generously provides us to provide a vital public service. However, just like in any working or personal situation, it is sometimes better to wait for the public discussion before sharing unprocessed infomation.

    Emmett, you represent the next generation of leaders in this country. Many of us who have devoted our professional lives to public service are counting on you and your peers personal ambitions aside and lead us to a higher plain. Theabsence of understanding and (sometimes) respect for what has come before may lead us to our own demise.

    Respectfully,

    Mike

    The future is yours…not ours.

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