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UK Gov't To Review Hundreds of Websites, Axe Many of Them

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the scarce-resources-infinite-desires dept.

Government 92

krou writes "The UK government is to review all of its 820 websites after the Central Office of Information revealed that for 2009-2010, the government spent '£94m on website development and running costs and £32m on web staff,' which each site visitor representing a cost of £11.78 to the government. 'The UK Trade and Investment website averaged 28,000 users per month but cost over £4m ... 16% of government departments did not know how their own websites were being used by tax payers, and almost a quarter were not aware of the running costs.' There was also anecdotal evidence of departments bidding against each other for search terms on Google. The review is to be carried out by Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox."

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YRO? (5, Insightful)

MessedRocker (1273148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698750)

I'm not sure what this has to do with my rights online. This pertains to an internal governmental review of *its own* websites, not other people's.

Re:YRO? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698786)

Slashdot is mindless libertarian central. Any story that can be twisted to make it sound like the government is incompetent gets an immediate green light. Naturally, the fact that *every fucking private corporation on earth has the same kind of problems* never comes into it. The next time you see a story on slashdot where there is some obvious corporate incompetence, ask yourself why there is no tag labelling it "corporations" as there is always a "government" tag added to these kinds of stories.

Re:YRO? (3, Insightful)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698830)

While /, may be considered "libertarian" by some, this story is still useful. The actual monetary costs of web technology on the taxpayers is an interesting figure. The story is not necessarily saying that the money is wasted or that the government is evil for spending it on web2.0 twitter-enabled blogosphere enhancements to their local police station website.

(that's just what we collectively imply)

Re:YRO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699000)

Sure it is an interesting figure, and an interesting topic for those in the industry. The problem I have is the idea that this somehow impacts "your rights online". That is complete and UTTER bullshit. This thread will no doubt consist of people wargarbling about how evil and incompetent the government is and how tax is theft. This shit gets really tiring and does nothing to advance the agenda of efficient government.

Re:YRO? (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699044)

Perhaps the categorization is a bit absurd, but I've no problem with some wargarbling :)

Re:YRO? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699368)

Its oky YRO applies to anything related to rights, even if it isn't online. It isn't much of a stretch from there to apply it to anything related to online or you.

Re:YRO? (5, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699074)

The actual monetary costs of web technology on the taxpayers is an interesting figure. The story is not necessarily saying that the money is wasted or that the government is evil for spending it on web2.0 twitter-enabled blogosphere enhancements to their local police station website.

The story does suggest, however, that the number of users per month is a valid enough metric. I'm not sure I agree with that. The Trade and Investment website certainly isn't geared toward Joe Public, so if it's used primarily by trade or business groups, popularity with anyone but a meaningful few (those who make deals) is meaningless. The same would apply to a site that provides detailed or complex economic data. If only a handful of researchers visit the website, but each provides summary analysis to thousands of people (the news media, for example), should the website be considered "unpopular"?

Transparency is generally a good thing when it comes to government. So the more websites the better. Compared to other government expenditures, I'd suggest the cost of website development is equivalent to a few red staplers. Besides, I think we'd all agree that the employment of developers and IT staff is preferrable to hiring more counter clerks.

Re:YRO? (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699136)

I certainly agree!

Re:YRO? (2, Insightful)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699174)

i think "site" and "server cluster + infrastructure + bandwidth" are getting a bit mixed up here. I see no issue with have large numbers of sites as you suggest, but does a site that gets 28k people per month need a whole data center? could it be combined with a few other low traffice sites and save on costs?

Re:YRO? (2, Informative)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700576)

It's not even that simple... some sites directly compete and have contradictory information....

The example they were using on the BBC News channel...

http://www.lovechips.co.uk/ [lovechips.co.uk] - (chips = French fries to you odd Americans that can't call anything by its correct name... French fries are a specific type of chip and what you call chips are in fact crisps) run by the Potato Council which is a division of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (a government entity) encourages you to eat MORE chips
http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/Default.aspx [www.nhs.uk] is run by the NHS and encourages you to eat LESS chips

(of course the fact that lovechips was featured on BBC means that their click count has gone way up and now are safe from the cuts... before it had fewer than 100 hits a month, and really should have been cut as it has nothing that is useful to voters or the government.

Contradiction is welcome (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701078)

some sites directly compete and have contradictory information

And that's the way I like it!

The kind of country where contradiction is not welcome is not the country where I'd want to live. There may be pros and cons to eating chips or fries, and I think the government should release all that data and let the public decide.

Think of your mini-rant on how that food is called. What would you say if some "Royal Council on Nutrition Terminology" decided that "chips" should be called "fries"? Geroge Gershwin said it best:

"You like potato and I like potahto,
  You like tomato and I like tomahto;
  Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
  Let's call the whole thing off!"

 

Re:YRO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701624)

Bad example for them to pick in my opinion.

The NHS is a public body that is funded by the tax payers. The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, while being a public body, are funded by "the agriculture and horticulture industries through statutory levies". (source [ahdb.org.uk] )

The ADHB's goals are stated as:

        * increasing efficiency or productivity in the industry;
        * improving marketing in the industry;
        * improving or developing services that the industry provides or could provide to the community;
        * improving the ways in which the industry contributes to sustainable development.

So it in no way surprises me that they contravene Government advice to eat less of their products - although it does disturb me (as a UK resident) that a such a body can considered 'public'.

If this is the sort of they are planning on removing then I don't think it's a great loss. There are some well used, large Government websites (at least north of the border) and Local Authority sites that are necessarily separated due to divisions of authority and funding, that should be kept on as thy provide the best point of information and contact short of a telephone conversation (which can be hard to get). I just hope they don't get trigger happy with the cuts.

promoting chips? (3, Insightful)

pbhj (607776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701700)

It's not the contradiction that gets me - it's that anyone in gov thinks that it's necessary to promote eating chips.

Every town has several chip shops, most pubs and restaurants serve them, all the supermarkets sell them surveys show that people are eating them several times a week and some people at every (non-breakfast) meal time. They are considerably less healthy than other options ... so government are spending money promoting them and hiring (C-list) celebs to do videos and such.

There can be no one in Britain that lacks knowledge of chips.

The other more general issue I have is that the gov do individual tendering and have individual web departments to manage all those sites - they should just use a standard couple of CMSs across gov. They don't need to brand everything or have bespoke sites all the time. They should be providing information not marketing things to us.

Re:YRO? (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701326)

Compared to other government expenditures, I'd suggest the cost of website development is equivalent to a few red staplers. Besides, I think we'd all agree that the employment of developers and IT staff is preferrable to hiring more counter clerks.

Well, yes, but this is a "news for nerds" site. If you want to know about the other cost-cutting measures, try a real news site.

The counter clerk argument is misleading, I think. Firstly, because, as others have said, most of your in-person interactions with government in the UK are likely to be at a Post Office. Secondly, a central government site that is actually useful (online tax returns, for example), will have millions of visitors. Those aren't the ones that are in danger.

Re:YRO? (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705612)

Transparency is generally a good thing when it comes to government. So the more websites the better.

I think you mean the more information the better. That is not the same as more websites.

Consider this [stopbenefi...dni.gov.uk] government website, for example, which is devoted to benefit fraud and proclaims it costs £12.6m, while a rather more useful website from another government department contains a report that gives the rather more plausable figure as £2.7b (I suspect still a big understatement, but seeing as these guys give something that can be called "information" it also says what they weren't counting).

Many of the government sites are things that seemed a nice idea at the time but are functionally at best useless.

Re:YRO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32706594)

Suppose they removed the websites. Citizens still need to connect to the government bureaucracy. What would the alternative face-to-face costs be? Think about rental space, salaries, benefits, building maintenance, paper forms, etc....

Small minds think to cut web government web spending when there are savings galore.

Re:YRO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698788)

It's just another in a long series of pro-Conservative topics that have been placed on Slashdot.

You're being played.

Re:YRO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698828)

Well, partially it could be considered YRO since, if i can remember correct, there were plans to get rid of physical buildings that cover some government sections and move them all online.
Of course, this could well have been previous governments plans.

Although in a way, kinda glad the crap is being looked in to.
Hopefully this will mean a more integrated government site, instead of a mess of crap and confusion.

Re:YRO? (2, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699486)

I'm not sure what this has to do with my rights online. This pertains to an internal governmental review of *its own* websites, not other people's.

Well in one way this has to do with your rights online is when a government removes information (web sites) from the public, it makes the public a little less informed of what their government is doing and what services it provides the people. The article isn't very clear of which sites are going to be removed and the more that are removed with information that might be useful/vital to the public, the more this effects your rights online. While the cost might not be worth the added expense of the hosting, some of these sites should possibly be merged and in the end to save the labor of merging the sites the government might cut corners and just cut the information out all together. A less informed public is a public with less rights and say in it's government.

Re:YRO? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32700750)

Well in one way this has to do with your rights online is when a government removes information (web sites) from the public

Who says there was any information on them?

Re:YRO? (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701708)

>A less informed public is a public with less rights and say in it's government.

I'm pretty sure that they won't be depleting the information available - lovechips.co.uk is hardly a dissertation on chips as a food option.

Externalities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698764)

The UK needs to study economics instead of pop economics.

I'm always bewildered... government contracts (5, Insightful)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698784)

As a web designer / developer I am always bewildered by the obscene costs I hear for government websites, especially given their terribly below level of quality and usefulness.

People with government contracts must really milk it for all it's worth.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698886)

> People with government contracts must really milk it for all it's worth.

In the USA complying with procurement regulations can be insanely expensive.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698938)

>complying with procurement regulations can be insanely expensive.

Aren't costs from regulations created by the government?

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (4, Informative)

suky (59722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698986)

It's a two way street. Governments are slow to adopt streamlined purchasing systems because they're spending tax dollars and so everything has to be accounted for and purchases authorized in various different and often complex ways. Many vendors are more then happy to put up with all the inane purchasing requirements BS the government will throw at them in exchange for a high-volume and usually exclusive contract with higher prices then retail consumers would pay.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699232)

"Governments are slow to adopt streamlined purchasing systems because they're spending tax dollars and so everything has to be accounted for..."

That's the plan, anyway... the reality... not so sure.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699544)

>complying with procurement regulations can be insanely expensive.

Aren't costs from regulations created by the government?

Yes and no. Different regulations are created by different branches of the government. While one branch may say 'such-n-such must be done in xyz way', it is done based on the concepts and idea/l's of that branch with often little to no regard of how it will effect the other government branches. This of course can cause costs of other branches to just jump much higher even though they had nothing to do with it.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699952)

So still yes :) just because they are disorganized and beurocratic doesn't make them less at fault for causing the costs :P

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (5, Insightful)

sco08y (615665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698930)

As a web designer / developer I am always bewildered by the obscene costs I hear for government websites, especially given their terribly below level of quality and usefulness.

People with government contracts must really milk it for all it's worth.

I worked for a small company that did a website for a local government agency years ago, around '97 I think. They wanted all kinds of bells and whistles so they could go to their bosses and show them what an awesome web site they had. It was designed far more to please government insiders than to be useful to taxpayers.

I don't think we were milking them, rather, they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out. They also didn't have any plan, really, to maintain it or scale it up or have it go anywhere. From going on to six years working in or around the government, that's just how they do stuff.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698972)

It's a good idea that they're paring things back and hopefully reducing the number of sites that are necessary. Here in the US, WA to be more specific, our state government did that some years back. They cut it back to just one website, with sub domains for various parts of the government. The basic idea was that pretty much any idea should be no more than a handful of clicks away from the front page of the site. And if you couldn't do that you should be able to click on a unified search engine that could find any state resource in minimal time.

Admittedly, it's not perfect, but I've found it to be an efficient way of finding information on state government. And it actually does a better job than many corporate sites do in terms of accessibility.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (5, Insightful)

Chelmet (1273754) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699038)

they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for. I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699064)

I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

You're doing it wrong.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (2)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699102)

If only it worked that way. Potential clients often come to us with demands and whacky ideas, There is often no talking them down from them, either.

They just don't seem to understand that their gas station doesn't need an interactive photo gallery with 940 photos and a library of virtual tours of the bathroom, all in 1080p streamed to their brand new iPhone app

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32700798)

I don't know about your jurisdiction, but in the UK, the government can't force you to accept a contract for work. So, if the government offered you, say, £1,000,000,000 to look after 650 real dancing poodles for their new Interactive Web2.0 Houses of Parliament Simulator, the moral thing to do would be to refuse. Otherwise you're just receiving stolen goods from a fence.

Actually, I'd go further to say that a government should be employing its own permanent staff of web designers and never need to contract out.

(Hint to libertards: not a rant against government, but a rant against inappropriate channeling of tax money to private hands.)

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (5, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699152)

they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for. I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

The Government employees paid to design projects like this are themselves on the take in a different way. They want to use the project as enhance their reputation. Key to this is having lots of bells and whistles. Flashing lights help too. If you can get the Minister a media opportunity then your career is looking up.

The customer is always right, and frequently corrupt.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32700096)

It is the architect's job to get you to give up on technically impossible ideas. It most certainly is not his job to tell you that you do not, in fact, want those huge and expensive skylights or granite walls.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32704228)

But it is his job to figure out WHY you want massive skylights and granite and to find out whether there would be a better way of doing it that would satisfy the same underlying wants and needs.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (2, Informative)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700474)

You can't blame only the contractor. Many times the greatest ideas are turned down by the client, no matter how well you explain it. That's what makes government a necessary evil at best, and an enemy at worst.

I work for the government. We were just chatting once, and I casually expressed my disappointment at waste and this seasoned veteran [literally a military veteran] said something along the lines of, "You can't think of it that way. The military is a devouring animal and nothing more. We do try to prevent waste, but all we do is devour.". That's true. With social services, their main goal is to reach out to as many people as possible, so they always come close to spending their budget or over. They'll never ask how they can reduce their spending. With our government websites, they don't need bells and whistles, since they have a captive audience, anyways. Yet, they went the low road and chose non-standard HTML. The stories could go on and on with every kind of government organization.

For multilanguage web sites, even in the 90s, our government could have allowed the user to identify his language preference in his browser. I think that Netscape 4 and IE 4 had this capability, and it was an actual standard, but no, the government preferred to have a welcome page, with a "Please select the language of your choice.", and it still does. This current implementation creates 2 different web sites, instead of 1 web site with different languages.

Most web sites are *still* inaccessible for blind users, I bet.

If you ask for a floating house, and if you would just keep searching for a contractor until he says, "Yes.", then you can't blame him for not trying to "figure it out". In fact, just giving the government what it wants might actually save the government time, and thus reduce the costs of implementing the stupid project.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32700730)

I think many software engineers do 1/2 a job, and consider lack of spec a good thing.

Personally, I totally agree with the fact that a real professional will know what is best practice and also have a plan to maintain the code.

However if you know nothing about the technology and want something done, you need to specify the milestones and get some agreement on how the final product is going to get accepted.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700886)

Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for.

That's for getting the requirements from the users to the developers. You can't capture what isn't there. Even if you can get requirements, often they're expressed as a suggested technical solution (written by a non-technical person, don't forget) rather than a statement of the problem or goal.

Finally, even if you do get good requirements, they'll change. Do you think anybody will tell you?

If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want

No it wouldn't. Perhaps you really do want a floating house. They do exist.

When some petty bureaucrat has got some power and a wad of somebody else's money to spend, it really isn't a good idea to tell him he's wrong however gently you phrase it. He'll chuck you out, and likely have you blacklisted. Rinse and repeat until he finds somebody who will do what he asks, no matter how absurd.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32710460)

Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for. I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

I'm glad it's only as far as you are concerned then. The company I work for at the moment has worked in requirement gathering and specification analysis for 30 years with the majority of clients wanting web related services for the last decade. The majority of web design houses we have worked with do exactly that, web design and development. They don't get involved much with requirement gathering. They just program whatever has been asked for. As for actually trying to convince (even with proof) an organisation of what they really need it's really tough. I've been doing reqs and specs for 15 years and it's definitely the hardest partof the job, especially when dealing with government.

Still can't login from this terminal.... posted by adam.ec

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32734738)

they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for.

Heheh, local government, small business... there was no requirements process or any of that. I has done about a year of college, and was the only person who vaguely understood those crazy computers.

I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

What's wrong with a floating house? There are entire cities that are built on floating foundations due to lack of decent bedrock.

It's not like this stuff is obviously a bad idea. All of it makes sense in the short term. But these agencies have no bottom line, so they don't have a basis with which to plan for the future.

I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

RIght, you totally missed the part where I said "local government" and "small business."

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699054)

They wanted all kinds of bells and whistles so they could go to their bosses and show them what an awesome web site they had

That I understand - but it seems true with most of my non-government clients too! :)

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (2, Insightful)

psych0munky (1673632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699276)

They wanted all kinds of bells and whistles so they could go to their bosses and show them what an awesome web site they had. It was designed far more to please government insiders than to be useful to taxpayers.

Here, here!! I work as an IT architect for a provincial crown-affiliated corporation here in the great white north (Canada...and no, I don't drive a polar bear to work), and although we are not "fully" government, I see the same damn thing day in and day out from our business people. It is a shame...and when I remind them of taxpayer money going to support this and the fact that simple is better (we cater to non-techy crowds that live predominately in rural areas, so we need to keep things light enough for slower than broadband connections anyways) there is usually acceptance. The problem, it seems is the abundance of middle-management and IT people uneducated in web-technoolgies that the business people usually talk to. The developers and operations guys that no better are very rarely given the chance to talk to the business people making the decisions anyways.

they didn't know what they wanted or needed

Sounds familiar, but that is why we go to outside vendors for help.

and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

Seriously? And is this company you worked for still in existence? If so, do you still work as a consultant, or are you now internal IT somewhere? I don't mean to be attacking, but most of the time we go to market simply because we lack the experience in-house to help the business figure out what they need. The consultants that we bring in that cannot help us usually don't get invited back (no internal staff that just do what they are told, we seem to hang on to and let the people who can actually help the business figure things out, we let go (of their own accord or not)...weird to me..but I digress). Granted we do have the occasional contract where we are just looking for warm bodies to do what they are told, but those are rare. Being a good consultant includes helping your client figure out what they want/need.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700820)

Forgive my ignorance, but does a crown-affiliated corporation get government funding?

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32735064)

and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

Seriously? And is this company you worked for still in existence? If so, do you still work as a consultant, or are you now internal IT somewhere? I don't mean to be attacking, but most of the time we go to market simply because we lack the experience in-house to help the business figure out what they need.

I should expand on that: I was talking about long term wants and needs. They would present us with some short term requirements, and we made them a good website, but there was no follow-up.

No, they're not in existence. I went back to college a few months later and they were liquidated not long after that. This was '97, the whole Interwebs thing was pretty new, and the company owner decided it was the wave of the future. She poured money into it and neglected the best paying accounts, the combination of which broke the company.

In my real job, yup, still doing contract work, this time with a much more experienced firm, and we do real requirements and documentation. We take a much more active role in our contracts, taking their very vague specs and working with them to translate them into something that's actually useful. But it could be shelved, or another contract may fail, or it might never be maintained properly. In a nutshell, you can make a great sprocket and then find that no one's allocated funds for a flange and so the whole thing doesn't work.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699418)

I am a web developer for a government. I have an experience with a project right now where a client went out and hired a consulting agency because they wanted their web site to be "cute."

As a result, it was the responsibility of our team to over look the developers to make sure that they comply to our standards (which are pretty strict as to what can or cannot be on a web site, especially public facing ones).

The end product was an un-usable mess and over budget; this was not the fault of the contractors, it was the fault of the clients who kept on changing their minds, and suggesting things that will not pass our standards (as a result, will never be published to a server without a special exemption).

So I agree with your statement, although I have had experience with contractors who were primary there to milk the government for all it's worth. But with that said, there are also employees of the government who are there for a free ride.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699058)

I've just done a gov't project, and it turned out to be stupidly expensive for what it was. It wasn't the fact that I charged a lot for it, it was that they changed their minds every few hrs about the content etc. The alterations turned out to be triple the price of the website itself. This was because the people sitting in the gov't office telling me to change this, change that, scrap this, swap that.. had absolutely no regard for the money they were spending, which resulted in no planning or organisation for the project. I charge a flat hourly rate to work on jobs, it doesn't change for gov't work, it's just that the gov't work takes three times as long as it should.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699110)

especially given their terribly below level of quality and usefulness.

Aww, come on, tell me this [direct.gov.uk] isn't the best thing you've ever seen.

Government contract = double the bid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699612)

From personal experience:

A media (video, web) company I used to work for would double (or more) their rates when bidding on a government contract and still be the lowest bidder by a mile. They wouldn't even take us seriously if we bid what we usually charged.

Of course, we did good work. There were some high-six-figures to low-seven-figures contracts paid out for a product that was so shiatty I'd have said they'd been ripped off if they'd paid even $20,000. There are businesses finding a niche, getting to know the right people, and then half-assing a couple six figure government projects a year and doing fuck-all the rest of the time.

Posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701446)

I employed for an external contractor that maintains sites mentioned in the report (there's why AnonCoward)

Contract is cost-plus like "we bill for what it costs us to build plus 20%" This is driver for employing many expensive contract staff The big boss pays herself 150/hour Other creative things happen to extract money from the contract which I will not speak of They are not necessarily to the government's detriment though The costs as reported are puzzling because I know we are billing more money than is totalled here Our services are spread over many budgets?

The sites that are being "closed" are actually being consolidated No content is being lost except where obsolete

Re:I'm always bewildered... government contracts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701662)

Visit their National Health website, it's available in 12 other languages besides English.

Bidding against each other? (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698856)

As a Google advertiser, I've yet to find a way to prevent bidding against any other specific site.

I don't believe Google allows that level of detail. I'm also not aware that you even know the other bidders.

Re:Bidding against each other? (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699184)

if branch X said i'm bidding on term "FOOBAR", then branch Y would have known about it, or better yet, they could jointly buy it and another simmilar term and point to both sites.

Re:Bidding against each other? (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699384)

There's a way... have the home office that owns both divisions control the Google AdWords account and let them declare redundancy when there's two divisions doing the same. (What "declared redundant" is British for what us Americans call "laid-off"? I guess that's the point...)

Re:Bidding against each other? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700942)

(What "declared redundant" is British for what us Americans call "laid-off"? I guess that's the point...)

"Redundant" in employment terms means "your job doesn't need to exist any more, so we're getting rid of it". That might be because you have two people doing much the same thing but the workloads dropped, it might be because you're outsourcing a function or it might be because the employee works for a subsidiary company that's being closed down. There are all sorts of legal hoops that have to be gone through, though - the concept of at-will employment simply doesn't exist in Europe (and frankly, some of the things I've heard about people being fired for in the US scare me. Exactly how many companies have "you must grovel properly" as an unofficial job requirement for all their staff?!).

Having said that, IME most businesses pay little more than lip-service to their legal requirements so they've got something to point at if they're taken to court.

I hope they leave mine alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698858)

As the architect of one of these websites, I hope they leave mine alone. It's not bothering anyone... minding it's own business.. serving the folks.. doing good.

Where do I sign? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32698916)

I'm a pretty good web dev, where can I get me some of that 32 million pounds!

Re:Where do I sign? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32698982)

I'm a pretty good web dev, where can I get me some of that 32 million pounds!

How much are you prepared to pay for your share?

How much is each visitor worth? (2, Insightful)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699006)

Is £11.78 inherently too much to spend for a web site visitor? When I need to renew my vehicle registration, a web site visit that let's me do it online is certainly worth more than that to me rather than spending half a day at the DMV. For some business-oriented sites that deal with licenses, £11.78 per visitor could certainly be worth bringing in a few more £1,000,000 per year businesses to town.

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699048)

Well, considering this is a tax payer funded venture, the answer is as little as possible without making things ridiculous. Meaning that there should be an eye to keeping things as simple as possible, while still being convenient. The whole thing ought to be collapsed down to a small number of subsites within a larger site. The navigational schemes ought to largely be homogenized so that folks don't have to move there mouse all over the screen to find a menu. And there should be a convenient search tool.

If they did it in that fashion, they would end up spending money. They could spend money on a single usability study and apply the results to more or less all the pages, then spread the developers out using the same tools for all the pieces necessary. Probably even be able to keep a steady number of developers on maintaining things rather than needing each department to have it's own set of developers.

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699192)

I'm not sure that the number of sites is the problem, simple that they are each being bought and paid for and run sepperatly, why not keep most(that are useful) and host them jointly?

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (1)

JansenVT (1235638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699068)

Price per visitor does not equal price per useful interaction. Many of those visitors probably looked at the website, failed to obtain any useful information, and then drove to the DMV:)

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (2, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699240)

Nobody in the UK ever has to spend half a day at the UK equivalent of the DMV unless they work there. Vehicle registrations are dealt with by main post offices (or online, of course) and by post. Do it when you're in town, 20 minutes tops if you pick a busy time, more likely 5.

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (3, Informative)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700724)

Oh yes, the "joys" of the good old UK Post Office... ...a place where there are always as many closed counters as there open ones... ...a place where there is never any attempt made to stagger employee lunch breaks to take into account the fact that they are busiest during lunchtime periods... ...a place where the staff will openly moan at you if you drop in a parcel for which you have previously purchased postage online simply to try and help lessen the queues at the counters because it turns out that the actual Post Office gets no revenue from those types of parcel.

These days I go into a Post Office only when there is absolutely no alternative.

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700808)

The thing is, while there are a few websites that will have a handful of visitors but relate to multi-million pound businesses, most government websites are targeted at individuals. Thousands of people will visit the DfT website to renew their road tax every day.

On the other hand, does the food standards agency really need its own website, updated daily with separate pages for Scotland and Wales? Couldn't this be combined with several others into a single government information site? Does Ofsted really need a team of 4 to keep its website up to date? Some of these departments spend a few thousand outsourcing. Great! Can others? Well worth considering.

And even the ones that do provide a single reference for a handful of multi-million pound companies - can't they be made a little cheaper?

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701722)

In the UK "ALL" websites are legally required to be able to be read by screen readers.

As I previously stated, The Nation Health website is available in 13 languages as well.

Just try and imagine the costs of updating such a website without errors in translation etc.

Maybe cutting back on available languages would be prudent.

Re:How much is each visitor worth? (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701742)

>Is £11.78 inherently too much to spend for a web site visitor? When I need to renew my vehicle registration, a web site visit that let's me do it online is certainly worth more than that to me rather than spending half a day at the DMV.

The comparison should be with you doing the same by phone - will it cost the DMV less via the website than if you ring their call centre for 5 minutes. If it costs more (with high uptake and after settling in) then the website should be reverted to displaying the contact phone number - mind you if it costs more to do this via the website then they've completely messed up (again).

Yes, well... (3, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699172)

This 'revelation' is simply another illustration of how bureaucracy works.

No one should be surprised to find competing layers of effort, working from silos, oblivious to duplication of effort when they look at this.

It's a symptom, not the issue. It's how govt. works.

Good luck making any effective changes at the delivery level...

Re:Yes, well... (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701026)

It's a symptom, not the issue. It's how govt. works.

Big corporations - especially ones that have grown through acquisition - aren't that different.

Argh. Shot up really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701476)

Those are malaises of *big organizations*, it has nothing to do if they are part of the government or private companies.

Some internationl banks for example function pretty much as Communist bureaucracies, where you need to fill 10 forms and the intervention of several people (4 to 5 if you are lucky)to plug a network cable to a computer.

Dear slashdot.org (4, Funny)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699176)

I regret to inform you, that the UK government has recently begun conducting a review of 820 websites, and your web site is to be terminated immediately, due to excessive costs to the taxpayers.

The UK Central Office of Information recently revealed the high cost per visitor of £11.78 to our websites.

Your recent article linked to the BBC, making your web site part of ours. The BBC.CO.UK received nearly 100 million page views, referred by the slashdot.org page, costing the taxpayer £1 billion.

Therefore the Central Information Office has issued an order that slashdot.org be shut down immediately, as a cost saving measure. Please comply, or the ramifications could be dire.

Re:Dear slashdot.org (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699222)

All your bases belonging to us now?

Went wrong at "Martha" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699196)

nice girl and all, but you sure this is the person to fix any of this?

Well if a website costs £12 how much 4 offic (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699376)

Seriously if they are doing £12 per visitor, it really makes me wonder how much they pay for physical office space per visitor. Since it is the government there is probably a building or office that relates the physical presence of each one of these websites. If overall traffic to the websites are that low just imagine how much is wasted as foot traffic is probably significantly less.

Are they outsourcing? (1)

UBfusion (1303959) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700316)

The budget/visitors metric is a meaningless financial one. If they don't sort websites according to the problems their lack will cause, they'll certainly need an army of clerks, mainly good ole telephone centres, to deal with all the minor requests a citizen might pose, like:
- looking up legislation or organisational details of an institution (e.g. addresses, phone numbers)
- finding white papers and other govt publications
- tracking the correct person to address in order to find relevant information
- finding the aforementioned person's email
- etc etc

Perhaps the big plan is to outsource such website-provided services to India?

Re:Are they outsourcing? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32700994)

True, but in this context my guess is they're websites for relatively obscure government services which only get a few hundred people requesting information per annum anyway. It makes far more sense for such obscure services to either be axed altogether or for their websites to be all lumped together in one big portal - it honestly wouldn't surprise me if these websites are so expensive because each and every one of them is hosted on a dedicated box complete with separate backend database server, some sort of middleware application server, guaranteed bandwidth of at least 100Mbps and at least three separate very expensive commercial applications covered by 24x7 support contracts. When frankly, all they need is a dozen pages on a wiki with limited write access somewhere.

I am a civil servant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32699568)

Posting AC, naturally.*

We need to stop outsourcing our IT. Now. Have you ever tried looking for something on direct.gov.uk? Only local council sites are worse, though that's to be expected.**

*We're not allowed to express political opinions in an official capacity, I'm not a press officer.

**Snobbery, perhaps, but people bitch about the government when it comes to the police, bins, etc. when frankly it's not the Service's fault. Those guys seem to do their very best to be king of their own hill...

Re:I am a civil servant (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701954)

I fondly remember the original government site, which I think lived in the open.gov.uk domain. You could actually find things on there.

I dread trying to find anything on direct.gov.uk, it's just an awfully designed quagmire of information. Most of which isn't related to what you're trying to find.

For what it's worth, I usually stick up for civil servants when they're being belittled by people. It's a poorly paid and thankless career for most of those within the service. For some reason I still wish I was one of them though.

Re:I am a civil servant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32702024)

It's probably the defined-benefit, index-linked pension package backed by the British Government. Can't get anything close in the private sector.

Digital Champion Martha Fox? (1)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699860)

When will she digivolve to Ultimate? And what will her new powers be?

Axe them? (2, Funny)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 4 years ago | (#32699914)

" UK Gov't To Review Hundreds of Websites, Axe Many of Them"

Axe them? Axe them what?

Re:Axe them? (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#32702122)

Axe dem wot is wrong wid yinna.

It's about time... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701032)

I worked in local government from 2005 to 2009 where I was involved with the 'Priority Service Outcomes' basically a list of targets with a value attached; if you do x number of these you'll get to keep a boat-load of money from central government. We were quite a small council and I built a website and CMS which met the targets of guidelines; I used all open-source tools and implemented things in a very standards compliant way. Other councils I met with (we all had the same targets) were spending £100K+ on proprietary systems and adopting non-standard approaches. It's pretty criminal really; ~450 councils in the UK all going off in different directions and spending the same amount of money. Whitehall should have spent £200K on open-source projects such as Drupal or Django and an army of volunteers through sponsorship; they'd have a much better system with no waste and no repeat of effort, not to mention the improvements that could be brought back to the projects themselves.

I left the public sector very frustrated; jobs for the boys. There's a lot of talented people in local government, but, they're usually not at the top which is full of lifers with no ambition or clue.

Re:It's about time... (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701192)

We were quite a small council and I built a website and CMS which met the targets of guidelines; I used all open-source tools and implemented things in a very standards compliant way...It's pretty criminal really; ~450 councils in the UK all going off in different directions and spending the same amount of money.

"She [MLF] will also look at sharing resources and facilities and using low-cost open source products to reduce running costs."

Fewer expensive CMS systems in the future, it appears.

Orwelian Britain (0, Offtopic)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701414)

It strikes me as ironic that more and more UK resembles the dystopian world of 1984 that described life in London itself.

The UK needs to get a constitution ASAP, so that it's citizens are protected from the state, or else this kind of action will get worst to the point of no return.

Re:Orwelian Britain (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703508)

It strikes me as ironic that more and more UK resembles the dystopian world of 1984 that described life in London itself.

The UK needs to get a constitution ASAP, so that it's citizens are protected from the state, or else this kind of action will get worst to the point of no return.

??? Because the government is reviewing it's own websites? Take that tin-foil hat off; there's no need for paranoia in this story - it's about getting rid of redundant government websites & reducing costs. Oh, and we have a constitution; it's just not codified in a single document: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_constitution [wikipedia.org]

compared this to my blog (2, Informative)

pbhj (607776) | more than 4 years ago | (#32701758)

My blog had 280357 visits in the last year - that means if it were a gov site it would have cost £3.3 Million GBP to upkeep.

Actual costs assuming I'm paid £20 per hour, so est. £40 per hour employer costs, would be less than £2k for sure. If you assume those costs include all background research and what have you then maybe it would be as much £4k.

Re:compared this to my blog (1)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 4 years ago | (#32704310)

Actual costs assuming I'm paid £20 per hour, so est. £40 per hour employer costs, would be less than £2k for sure. If you assume those costs include all background research and what have you then maybe it would be as much £4k.

The 'actual costs' are probably tied up more in the infrastructure and IT support than in the actual website development.

You are just seeing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32701914)

They only want to ditch those slow and expensive custom build content management systems in favor of Drupal/Joomla. This is just an excuse because a lot of people don't like to hear about open source.

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