Should your image be private?

I have been involved in a project  to provide  ID cards across the 7,000ish staff we have. This is a whole saga in itself and at first glance nothing to do with the web, but a very significant part of the project has come up with web related  issues – or at least Intranet related issues.

Because our new ways of working projects provide ‘touchdown points’ across the county where people can go into work , there is a need to prove who you are when you turn up at an office you have never been to before. ID cards with pictures, micro-print, Braille and other security devices cover this fairly successfully but what happens if someone turns up without a card or with one that looks a bit dodgy?

GEORGE, our intranet, has a people finder which is being populated with staff data and part of that data is the use of the card pictures. That way the receptionists in our buildings can check on people finder to decide whether to let the non card holder or the dodgy card holder in or not.

GEORGE is only available as an internal tool but there has been  a very small number, not much more than a handful, who have taken exception to their “Copyright Image” – their words – appearing on these pages. (I’m not at all sure ones image is ones copyright?) They are suggesting colleagues might copy them and do nefarious things with their image.

Of course we can disable the right mouse click with a piece of JavaScript – over 99% of our machines run JavaScript and all new machines are thus enabled,  so that prevents the simple ‘right mouse click and copy’ issue raised by some of this group. Even with that disabled there are other ways of copying the picture with the ability to do much the same as if you had right mouse clicked. So that’s a pretty pointless activity really.

The issue therefore is that as it is impossible to totally prevent these pictures from being copied – unless of course somebody out there knows different – should we allow folks to not have their picture on the intranet?

My vote would be to disallow opt out as I feel employees should partake in a security system designed to protect themselves as well as others.

The ‘protection of  privacy’ issue on an internal only system is, in my opinion, a ‘code of conduct’ issue, where the copying of images, and any misuse of those copied pictures,  should have some repercussions on the perpetrator. In my view to opt out because others may copy etc etc  shows an unhealthy  level of distrust in colleagues.

So the questions are …

  • Does anybody have staff pictures viewable on their internal systems?
  • If so, is it mandatory?
  • What do you do about dissenters?
  • Is your image your copyright?

Your views would be appreciated.


Shark attack?

I read  a piece on Public Sector Forums today by Patrick Barnes at Chester. It appears a  company seems to have hijacked elements of his pages into frames and has published it as if it were theirs.

So I checked here…

and sure enough some of our own data was up there. Accessed via the pages our “my Lincolnshire” feature is being used.

Just my opinion of course, and what do I know… but it tends towards passing off at best and deceptive at worst. Patrick’s  suggesting we get together and raise both awareness and clamor.

Patricks full piece makes for interesting reading. You can find it here…

This issue brings into focus the debate about re-use of local government data. Should we allow its free use? Is this re-use or rip off? Is it right for companies such as this to benefit from taxpayers money  etc etc etc?

I’d be interested in your opinions.

Web sites is web sites aint they?

You must have all heard it, or something like it.  This was said to me the other day…“My son can knock up a web site in an hour and he’s only 15. So why are you wasting so much of my money on yours?”
Comments like this are the scourge of web managers in local government. Little Johnny can knock up a web site all about his skateboard club  using one of the plethora of pieces of software on the market and can have it hosted for nothing. Or at least that’s what the public believe.
This view is understandable and is probably the view and even experience of most members of the public – maybe, even of colleagues with whom we work.
What is not realised is that most local government web sites are about as far away from little Johnny’s simple model, in flying terms,  as a Eurofighter is away from Wilbur and Orville  at Kitty Hawk.
Lets drop the crass analogy but I think you get the point. They sort of do the same thing but they are not the same. They are worlds apart.
Modern web sites employ  far more complex technology than was used back in the early web days (1993) when we wrote the pages in raw HTML on a computer using something as simple as text editor, and yes, I was there. We now have astounding Content Management Systems (CMS), CSS etc. all providing the latest ability to more easily produce technically exquisite  web sites.

It’s not just in the technology though is it. The drivers which push us to produce a fully compliant, accessible, feature and content rich, fast web site have become more powerful. Usability, channel shifting, interaction, web 2, social networking, cost saving, increased demand, user expectation, Martini time expectation Government mandates, accessibility standards, external testing, Socitm Better Connected review, comms “message” issues,  the list goes on. It never fails to amaze me we actually keep all of this together.

What about the design element? Clearly there are fashions in web site production just as there are in all elements of our lives. Fashion changes and today’s sites look old hat in a year or two.
Lastly it is the size of the beasts we are building now. Tens of thousands of pages/documents, hundreds of interactive forms and thousands of updates a month, from hundreds of colleagues who write the content, make producing and managing a local government web site  a mammoth logistical task.
The elements of technology, powerful external and internal drivers, design and the vastness of what we build all compound to make today’s local government web sites complex animals far beyond the skill sets of what little Johnny can do. The only similarity is that they can both be described as web sites.
The next time you are told the equivalent of “ my son can knock that up in a day” think on just what it is that makes for a modern local government web site and either take up the cudgel or simply smile as an external expression of what you know inside.
They are comparing a glider with a 747. And web sites simply aint just web sites.

Baby and bath-water comes to mind.

Recently we had some stats produced by our very excellent stats system* . On top of the stuff we normally get, we set the system up so as determine information on our search; we have recently moved search engines you see and we  were just curious.
Perhaps, well not perhaps, definitely, we should have looked at this area before but there is only so much you can do. Anyway the upshot was that it showed the percentage of visitors who used our search is around the 10% mark with a very low percentage of failed searches.
Blimey we thought that’s a small amount of people who use the search. Especially given the search results  page is in our top five pages by number.  We thought the percentage of users who found their information that way would be high, much higher in fact, than was shown.
We contacted Nedstat so as to ensure the code is right and to ask their opinion on the percentage. “Oh no” they said, “that percentage would be considered slightly on the high end of the 7-10% average”.
We were shocked. Here we were believing our navigation is pants and people could not get to stuff they were looking for at all. We’ve had the odd comment on this of course but the odd comment amongst millions of users is no indication. And the facts disprove our assumption.
We, like many of you, will have realised providing a navigation system for content as widely varying as that provided by local government is never going to be easy – but did any of you realise we (local government) are seemingly quite good at doing it?
A while back, well 6 years or more, I threatened to produce a site with no navigation just a giant search box, like Westminster in fact. I was pilloried by my internal colleagues. Unbeknown to them, and indeed me, they were right. I would have seriously annoyed 90% of our customers who get to their data by navigation, or direct link of course.!
Back to those that do search… vast amounts of pages are discovered this way. So there are, relatively,  not many people who do search, but the amount of pages viewed that way  is vast.
So what’s the moral of this story?
  1. Navigation probably works better than you think, it seems.
  2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when re-designing your page navigation.
  3. Make your search as good as it can be.
Both work for different people and both are of major importance.
*we use Nedstat to provide our statistical information.

When the needs of the user are constantly evolving, standing still is not an option.

The Lincolnshire Echo produced  a negative piece today about Lincolnshire County Council’s web site. The piece attacked the Councils spend, the size of the web team and, ludicrously, the Councils  need to update the site regularly. The inference being Lincolnshire County Council are wasting tax payers money by producing the Council web site.

The County Council web team has constructed a rebuttal here…
thewaistline by Lincolnshire County Council
The piece on TheWaistline defends the Council’s spend on its web site, its use of external contractors and suppliers to produce the site, the size of the web team, it discusses what the web team does and the size of the task, its need for constant development of the site and how the site is perceived by those who have some knowledge on the issues surrounding Local Government web sites – as opposed to the perceptions of those who simply wish to throw brickbats.
But, better still, it talks of how the web site and by definition the web team, make savings of over £1million a year for the Council.
This article is worth a read by anybody who is similarly pilloried by a clumsy and unaware press.