Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Thanet District Council’s Facebook Mystery

When it comes to Facebook to be honest the whole thing is a bit of a mystery to me, with my own facebook site and after some difficulty, all I do is connect it to this blog so that what I post here shows there automatically.

I just don’t have time for more internet sites and have stuck with blogger as it is easy to use, particularly for people who want to comment without having to fill in some online form.

What the council do on the internet is a bit different though for a number of reasons, the most pertinent being that all of us council taxpayers contribute to the cost and so there is a sense that the councils efforts to publish information on the internet represents all of us.

As far as I can see when it comes to facebook the council have tried to do something similar to what I do with my blog posts with their press releases, the underlying problem for the council is that when it comes to IT they seem to take the approach that they know better than anyone else, and can solve problems by throwing our money at them.

At the moment the council publish their press releases like a bog with comments disallowed, see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest_press_releases.aspx and this part of the council’s website is supposed to feed to other websites, like a blog does. If the council’s feeds worked properly, every time they added a press release their facebook page would update, people who subscribe to the council’s press releases would receive a new press release and just like blogger other local internet sites would receive the feed and an updated link would go to the top of the list.

To explain this in a bit more detail, when the other local bloggers, Tony, Simon, Don, Peter and so on write a new blog post it pops up on the top of my sidebar and people like you who read the local blogs, notice this and go there to read what they have written.

The problem is though that the council’s feeds don’t work properly, now a simple solution to this would be for the council to use a blog with the comments disallowed, blogger is very versatile and you can use a a blog with all of the complicated and expensive add-ons like feeds and free image publication without it showing to the blog readers, Thanet Waves does this see http://www.thanetwaves.co.uk/

For a number of years now I have been trying to get the council to solve these problems by just embedding a blog in their website and putting their press releases with the associated images, all something that we pay for.

Over this period of time I have had various answers from the council about why their feeds don’t feed properly, the latest being that this is because of a fault with Google, obviously as the don’t feed properly to facebook either this just doesn’t make sense.

As a sort of temporary solution to this problem I have put the new council information that I can fairly easily manually extrapolate from their website and their press releases onto the internet for them. See http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ I don’t think the council like this very much and there have been some efforts by them to make doing this difficult for me. Apart from a short period of time when they took me off of their press release email list I have done this consistently for the last two years.

So here is their facebook wall http://www.facebook.com/pages/Thanet-District-Council/83700846372?sk=wall showing a press release they published on 12.10.2011 with a link to The Thanet Anthem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am4T7QbQm3w

This would be funny it we weren’t paying for it. 


  1. Michael.. what on earth do you think you are paying for?

    Only a fraction of your council tax actually goes to TDC and the greater part pays for roads, police KCC services etc...

    The present budget will shrink even more dramatically in the coming twelve months as central government cuts in overall expenditure take effect.

    The council prioritises its service and resources and IT is one element being transferred to a shared service vehicle between our neighbouring council. Rather than indulge your hobby and interest in IT the council focuses its efforts and resources on what's really important in regard to its statutory obligations to the public in very difficult times. Facebook is not included here and neither are blogs!

  2. Sorry Simon, I am assuming that you looked at the council’s facebook wall, as the link to it is the post, are you saying you wished you hadn’t?

    I agree with you that budgets are short, but the council promoting The Thanet Anthem on their facebook wall seems excessive.

    Paying for the press releases that don’t even feed properly to your own blog, I assume you don’t condone this.

    What is wrong with the council saving money in the way I have suggested?

  3. DrM,

    You make a reasonable and rational argument. But at the same time you do not have the strength or manners to resist inserting a gratuitous snide remark.

    Do you think it right and proper for a public servant to speak to a taxpayer in the way you often do?

    "Rather than indulge your hobby and interest in IT the council focuses its efforts and resources on what's really important..."

  4. John Simon is not a public servant, but a council cabinet member, I don’t think the council’s facebook wall is really his fault, however I would be interested in his views on it.

    I am afraid the council’s problems with IT date back to when they first tried to use it and don’t have much to do with the current economic restraints.

    The addition of the Thanet Anthem, the out of date press releases being much more to do with pressing the right computer key than how much money you have been allowed to do it with.

  5. This seems like a further problem communicating with residents (i.e. taxpayers). Another example is with TDC consultations where very few past ones have any results feedback on the website consultation pages even though the website mentions about giving feedback. It would be nice to know the results when you've taken the trouble to reply to the consultations and the lack of feedback is likely to lead to people ceasing to respond in future. Presumably most responses are electronic so the work involved should be minimal. The lack of transparency through feedback also helps feed the 'conspiracy theorists' or maybe they're right all along!

  6. Michael,

    Why do you say that Dr Simon Moores is not a public servant? He is a Councillor and paid from public funds, that is taxes. This makes him a Public Servant and accountable to the electorate. Which means that he should be polite and courteous to the electorate. Even the ones who annoy him, which they have a right to do.

  7. 16.38 I think used properly the internet could save the council a considerable amount of money, simply taking the attitude that council information should be published on the internet unless there is some legal reason not to, would immediately make the council’s website the primary source of council information not only for the public but for officers and councillors.

    John I think there is some difference between politicians and civil servants, I don’t think one can really call the one the other, tar with the same brush maybe.

  8. Michael, Anyone paid from taxes is a public servant, with an attendant accountability to the taxpayer and electorate.

    I am not tarring everyone with same brush. There are good public servants and bad ones. This includes TDC.

    If you want to show a difference then it is correct to say that elected Councillors must accept responsibility for the actions of their unelected Officials. Every time I think this through it makes perfect sense.

  9. Michael, A further point. We should never let any elected politician run away with the idea that there by some divine right.

  10. Computers Are Hard Lets Go ShoppingOctober 21, 2011 2:29 am

    I have read, and re-read this post and the comments. I am confused. Am I missing something here or are your commenters missing something ? It is late, and I'm slightly teddy tired-eyes.

    I wonder whether any of them know what the Thanet Anthem is. Are they so eager to debate their agendas that they just didn't bother to check out the link ?

    "This would be funny it we weren’t paying for it." Priceless.

    I suspect you are toying with them.


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.