working in the open — public servants in Canada

While there have been public servants using social media including blogs and Twitter for a long time, there has been a recent upsurge in government employees deliberately choosing to use various online sites to do what I would call narrating their work. This kind of open sharing of work in progress can be a great way to demystify what happens in government as well as to make new connections and get broader feedback.

Some recent examples from within government:

The above examples are all on Medium, a platform developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

You can also find public servants sharing their activities in other channels, for example CIO of Canada Alex Benay on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This increased public visibility of individual public servants and their work builds on years of conversations and experiments both “inside the walls” of government and on social media. For example, there was a Canadian government event in 2010 called Collaborative Culture Camp that touched on many of the challenges of working collaboratively and openly.

I found that Twitter took a lot of my energy away from longer-form writing about my work. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2011

I think one loses a lot by not blogging. Twitter can to some extent maintain a presence online, but it can’t expand it or make substantial impact. …. If you want to share your ideas in a way that will generate substantial discussion and spark interest in a major way, you have to write in the long form. … to have an impact you must be writing your ideas, narrating your work. Not just for others, but as importantly, to better understand yourself, to have an online archive of your thoughts and work over time.

I am trying to return to doing more blogging and working in the open.

The above has a particular focus on the descriptive type of working in the open, there are other kinds of open work as well, for example open code on Github.

Kudos to Mary Beth Baker (Twitter @bethmaru) for her leadership role in getting the GC on Github.

As one example of open code, the website for the Canadian Digital Service is generated from Github, and is available for people to file issues or pull requests at

Note: Crossposted from my blog Science Library Pad