Birmingham DIY web site was free wasn’t it?

Iron man statue

Gormley's Iron Man, Victoria Square, Birmingham

I declare an interest here. I’m a Brummie and proud of it. Imagine then my feelings about the furore over the cost of the web site and the setting up of the FREE! DIY site by a bunch of web coves eager to prove a point.

I was disappointed of course; the largest authority in Europe spent the largest amount of cash on it’s web site and some said it wasn’t very good either. As a Brummie my shoulders sagged.

Having ran a large local government web site for the past – too many years – I am fully aware of the problems besetting every web architect / manager/ content editor etc from out of date data to “I’m just too busy darling to bother with YOUR web site” (your web site?) type attitudes of the care-less folks across the organisations. Perhaps that’s a bit unfair. They have their jobs to do too.  Nevertheless content is a pain and the churn rate is so high that… well it fair makes your head spin.

I’m guessing what Birmingham achieved is a good scaffold on which to build further services and data repositories and that costs money. But I’m not here to defend the eye watering figures mentioned.

What I am here to argue is that it’s really easy to pick. Pick, pick, pick, “Oh I wouldn’t have done this or that” or the ” I could do that for nothing” – as appears the case with the DIY site for Birmingham.

Also these DIY or cheap and cheerful sites don’t have the imposed standards hanging around their metaphoric necks. They can simply ignore them. Up-time being just one of those and from what I have heard here the DIY site for Brum wasn’t exactly stable, to say the least.

In a nutshell it’s pretty easy to to talk of the impossible but doing it is another thing altogether. And it’s even easier to whine from the sidelines without having any responsibilities for the finished product whatsoever.

Certainly my experience has shown that internal critics of a site, when sat down and asked what they would do to resolve the set of problems facing web managers, suddenly find the current ( though criticised) solution amazingly competent.

I have similar views about the so called “Free” open source software. What’s free about software that requires an unspecified amount of “techies” – and they are not free – within the council to build it so it works? It’s not free at all. I heard recently of one council that used  open source CMS software and then had 4 techies developing, running and managing it + those who actually ran the site and chased the content.

So all this “free” glistery stuff is not savings gold is it?

Flack jacket and helmet on at the ready. I sense incoming.


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