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Enter the Blog!

Hot on the heels of my blog about communication within Heritage Railways and the need, as they grow, for Boards, volunteers, distant members and other interested folk to stay (or get, in some cases) in touch with each other, there seems to be a bit of an epidemic of blogs appearing. On the GWSR, we have a Steam Dept blog, a Carriage and Wagon blog, a Broadway Extension Blog and now, a Boardroom blog.  Please have a look at them: they give a good flavour of our wonderful railway and what is going on at the moment and I really welcome the information they contain.

I do like a bit of a blog myself, but there is something niggling away inside me about this explosion of blogitis. What is the impact of this ever increasing pile of electronic ‘communication’?  I’ve put speech marks in there because I do think that ever deeper avalanches of words can impede as well as inform communication. I guess I might seem a bit grumpy about this (is he ever satisfied…?) but a blog is, of itself, no guarantee of communication. Communication is a two-way process and the idea of the Blog originated in creative folk like writers, poets and media folk airing their ideas, attitudes as a way of getting book contracts.  The focus of the average blog used to be a personal reflection, a showcase of their writing ability, done in public. It could be pretty random but it was a good way of expressing yourself at quite a personal level.

What I am picking up on now, though, is the blog as newsletter, just telling us what is happening. We do need to receive timely accurate and useful information about what our PW Department, Board, C&W folk are up to because there are some people who think they are useless and sit drinking tea all day but some of the disputes that occur on our heritage railways, such as the row over the Bridgnorth station development, are not always about people being inadequately informed. They occur because there are disagreements about policy, objectives and actions. Some of the disagreements happen because someone has not received enough information but mostly the miscommunication is about people being left out of the discussion loop and feeling excluded from the difficult and messy process of thinking things through before they become policy.

Blogs are great for discussion, debate, airing your thinking, checking out reactions to things and getting people to talk about stuff. So the only blogs really worth their salt are the ones where people are engaged in real, honest debate about what to do. They are a great way of sharing your thinking, getting debates into the open as part of the process of deciding what to do next. Used well, they will bring us all closer together as part of the process of making our heritage railways the open, democratic and accountable organisations they must be.

After all, the pay for being a volunteer is rubbish so nurturing the true democratic involvement of every volunteer has to be part of the vital core business for the organisation!

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