It is Broadstairs Water Gala today and I have been badgering the council to promote it in some way that is noticeable on the council’s website.
I know that I keep going on about this but it is very important, in this age when most internet sites are about intense advertising and promotions based not on what is good but on who has paid the most, dispassionate local government sites are an important source of local information.
In a general sense going to a district council’s website should be an accurate way of finding what’s on in that area, in Thanet this just isn’t the case.
With the council’s website hompage what is there, that is much worse that no information, is wrong incomplete and misleading information.
On the right hand side of their homepage http://www.thanet.gov.uk/ they have a section called “Events” the top event is “An evening with World Tree Music 27 August 2010” this event has actually been cancelled. It has been rescheduled for 22nd October, although this information isn’t available on the TDC website.
There is no mention there of the main TDC funded event this week “Dunkers and Dippers” and no mention of today’s main Thanet event Broadstairs Water Gala.
Dunkers and Dippers does come up on their header banner, providing you have installed the right software and are prepared to wait long enough for it to appear.
Before I go into what the council has done wrong, I will outline what they could do right, with a couple of hours work using free internet facilities, something that would both save them money and make the site work properly, giving much more accurate and up to date information.
First the search box that doesn’t work properly, this needs replacing with the free Google one, like the one on the sidebar of this blog.
TDC as a “government agency” qualify for a free one without advertising.
Next the press releases, these need to be published directly by the press officers, a blog embedded in the TDC press releases page, with all the press officers “team members” and either comment moderation or comments turned off would do this for free, as would plenty of web publishing freeware.
Next the “what’s on” the same solution for the press releases would work fine here, obviously the tourist information team would need to be the ones with direct access to the web publishing. After all they go to all the main Thanet events and erect their information tent, something that must be considerably more expensive than putting the information on the web.
Now what has gone wrong.
The business with the search facility is ongoing I have tried to use it on and off for the last few years and occasionally pointed out to them that it doesn’t work properly, sometimes they fiddle about with it but it is obvious that they lack the resources and experience of Google in the web search business.
They have several options with Google search facilities, the basic one that is free performs about twenty times more efficiently that the TDC in house solution does on the occasions that it is working at all.
Press releases, I had a long and rather tedious attempt to get them to sort this problem out last year and they have come up with a sort of half solution.
I don’t think they liked the idea of embedding a blog and just letting the press officers get on with it, the solution was free worked properly and meant that the IT officers never had to bother about the press releases again.
The problems that I identified last year were that the pictures that the council take to accompany releases either just vanish or only appear as thumbnails, that sending the information off from the press release department to the IT department for publication caused delays and mistakes and that the releases didn’t have feeds. The only thing that really seems to have improved is that they now have feeds.
Events there are many solutions here, plenty of them are free, but in the end all that is required is just what’s on for the next few days listed in date order.
What the council IT bods have tried to do here is produce an automated system to list events, using it the phrase that comes to mind is “beam me up Scottie”.
The first problem here is that computers just can’t differentiate, by this I mean that they can’t easily tell the difference between a quiz night where 50 people may turn up and something like Folk Week where 50,000 people may turn up.
There is also the business of surrealist events one of the events listed on their homepage Murderers Magicians Madmen & Monarchs 16 September 2010 doesn’t appear to have a location. It says when it is even what it’s about and who the lecturer is but not where, once again this is what happens when a computer lists events.
I am adding to this one in-between bookshop customers, I have put the post up incomplete to remind people that the gala is on today.