Blogs – are there applications for statistical agencies?

Hi everyone – I am Jessica Gardner from the UNECE Statistical Division, and I am very pleased to join in this blog. At the upcoming UNECE Work Session on Dissemination and Communication in Washington (12-14 September 2006), I will present a paper on ‘Blogs – are there applications for statistical agencies?’. When researching this topic, I was delighted to learn about ‘Blog about Stats’, and the work Armin and others are doing to utilise this emerging communication channel.

According to Technorati, there are more than 52 million blogs currently in existence, with around 75,000 new ones being created every day. It is certainly a medium worth taking notice of! Statistical agencies could consider:

  1. using blogs to communicate with staff and customers
  2. creating a policy on blogging (whether or not you decide to publish an official agency blog)
  3. monitoring what the blogosphere is saying about your agency

You can download my paper (5 pages) to read more about these ideas. There is an accompanying presentation (6 MB), which includes examples of how blogs are being used by organizations.

Perhaps the most immediate benefit to be gained from blogs is the creation of cost-effective knowledge management and communication systems. It seems ‘Blog about Stats’ aims to do just that, by providing a platform for communication between dissemination specialists in statistical offices. Well done!

4 thoughts on “Blogs – are there applications for statistical agencies?

  1. Dear Jessica

    1. Your paper is a very good and short introduction to the technology and to the social importance of blogging. It launches the discussion in the Statistics Community about this communication tool and I think it’s very important and necessary to do this now.

    2 In the field of official statistics and especially in dissemination and communication of official statistics there are so many initiatives and there is so much creativity but there is also a lack of integrated discussion about such initiatives. There are UN, OECD, Eurostat, EFTA, IMAODBC and also NSIs that organize interesting meetings on dissemination and very often there are the same people attending these meetings. But an overall platform to spread information, ideas and experiences does not exist. The blog would try to change this on a non official basis between dissemination and communication professionals of the statistical organizations and NSIs.
    This blog is clearly defined as a tool for “knowledge management and internal communication” as you mention it in point 6. And as such a tool I think there is no danger that “the boundary between official statistics and unauthorised comment can become blurred”. On the contrary, I fully back (and hope it will arrive) point 10! “Perhaps the most immediate benefit to be gained from blogs is the creation of cost-effective internal knowledge management and communication systems”

    3. For an official utilization of blogs by statistical institutions there are some caveats. A policy on blogging is needed and this policy should be based on a clear distinction of blogs. Such utilization categories could be:
    – the above mentioned form of blogs as internal (partially password protected, partially also with broad accessibility) discussion platform and knowledge management system
    – blogs that open discussion on special topics with external users – the blogosphere. This gives the double chance to get (early) knowledge about issues present in the public, to answer these and to communicate with other blogs launching “discussions about (y)our organization, products, and/or services” (your point 6). Such blogs could be very useful as an issue management tool (see all the literature about issue management in communication).
    Much more reflection and work should be done on these categories of blog utilizations!

    4. is an experiment. The reasons for this blog and its function are explained above – with your help. My (very short) experience with this blog and another internal blog is: The start is slow; blogs need people who initiate topics, who are not afraid to show their ideas, to put questions. And – especially in our field – blogs need more than one person to do the initiating job.

  2. Statistics Sweden is testing the possibility to use blog as a tool in connection with seminars in short term economic analysis with the focus on the national and the global economy. We link to the most important sources for the analysis, our own and external, and we are updating with new information as a preparation for a seminar 4 October 2006. See (sorry only in Swedish, but the blog is partly in English)

  3. There is no escaping the blog. Policies are needed. “A policy should make clear any boundaries and expectations about references to work and the workplace. Finally, a corporate policy on blogging should be developed, regardless of whether an agency decides to publish its own blog” (Jessica Gardner in her paper ‘Blogs – are there applications for statistical agencies?’).

    Examples of such policies:

    See also the About section of this blog:

  4. It is a bit tricky to formulate a policy about blogs in the statistical world without giving examples of applications. Traditionally blogging is about expressing views – which may support or interfere with corporate policies and values. But blogs can also be used for many other purposes where there is no value problem of that kind.

    My feeling is that one important function of blogs can be to make statistics more accessible and relevant to users. During the latest years I have tried in three different areas where global and national data and information are scattered in many formats, categories and sources:

    Global Statistics:

    Regional Statistics:

    Statistics for short-term economic analysis (also commented in no 2 above):

    I think the advantage of such blogs may be to get updated information in an area, which is not always effeciently covered by existing categories and nomenclatures in statistical systems of publishing.

    “Deeper” and specialised links, subscription by RSS and XML functionality, communication possibility for every post included and adapted searching tools are other advantages. It is also possible to trace the use of statistics in different media (including other blogs) and include them as posts in the flow of information.

    Blog flows (collaborative or personal) can also be converted to “wikis” giving the possibility to design personal or collaborative web sites where you as user is is adding and editing the content deciding what information you want to see at first hand. These techniques are already here through Google and will increase the precision in dissemination and communication of statistics.

    And Google Analytics can be used to follow blog visits and the show of pages world-wide. I am looking forward hearing about any other examples of applications and experiences in this field.

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