back to article IT council chiefs ditch Sadville after splurging £36k

Saddo IT bosses at Tameside Council in Greater Manchester splurged £36,000 on a virtual town hall in Second Life in an effort to use “modern ways” to communicate with citizens. However, the council scrapped it after one year because very little interest was shown in the service. Liam Billington put in a FoI request to the …


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  1. rpjs

    To be fair...

    I used to work in local government IT and we were one of the first councils in the UK to have a website, back in 1995 or thereabouts, and the same criticisms about whether it was a legitimate use of public money were raised then. I don't think anyone would argue that councils shouldn't have websites today.

    On the other hand, Sadville is *so* 2005, so wtf Tameside were doing playing about on it in 2009 is another matter - don't they know the cool kids all have Facebook profiles these days?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      To be fair...

      A web site is nothing like a computer game.

    2. Dave Bell

      "Sadville" is such a biased term

      This whole scheme doesn't make sense. The numbers don't add up.

      There aren't enough people in Second Life, to make it worth spending a lot of money on advertising something local. This is the internet equivalent of advertising with a British DAB broadcaster.

      But calling it "Sadville"? It makes me think that somebody at Vulture Central couldn't get laid.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: "Sadville" is such a biased term

        We've always called it Sadville. Principally because it irritates people. Where have you been?

    3. Marvin the Martian
      Thumb Down

      But they did know the public, so no excuses.

      They had a website and email, so the young & digitally connected were already easy to reach --- so why an effort that makes those even easier to reach? Instead of the elderly/ blind/ ... ?

    4. someone up north

      how many people visit the site?

      do you know how many actual hit did the website get each day, or is it just a hobby horse for some one, just to fill up their time sheet

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Second Life?

    Seriously? I may not have that many friends but I don't know anyone who uses Second Life. I've never talked to anyone who even expressed the remotest interest in it. If it wasn't covered in stories like this on el Reg I wouldn't have the faintest clue what Second Life even is.

    So WHY did they decide that anyone would want to use it, to get in contact with their bloody council no less? And how do you spend £36,665 on a computer game? No really... are we paying people to play games? They should be sacked.

    I simply can't believe it. What hair brained IDIOT thought that a crap 3D virtual world would be a quicker way to get info than an ordinary website with real text that you can actually read. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Is it because 50% of people are illiterate now? I dare say you could spend that £36k on a teacher or something actually useful. I suppose it was either Second Life or a new speed camera. Gotta make the community safer right you CLOWNS.

  3. nichomach


    "Meanwhile, we at Vulture Central are off to buy a virtual "IT council boss IS a donkey" statue. "


  4. matt 83

    "statue of a black horse"

    surly they mean a white elephant >.<

  5. Anonymous Coward


    'nuf said.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Stop it, stop it now...

    ..can ALL public services please STOP trying "innovative and modern ways" as they are usally cluster fucks.

    Try this:

    We are looking at TRIED and TESTED ways to communicate....

    Now fire the twat (well twat+arse licking team) that thought this was a good idea and save the residents a few hundred grand a year.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    You just couldn't make it up, could you1

    "It seemed like a good idea at the time..."

  8. Lunatik

    Oh FFS...

    The mind, quite literally, boggles. What on earth do councillors think the money paid to their council is for?

    If I was a Greater Manchester Council Tax payer I'd be round there right now, battering down their door looking for the idiot responsible for this. No doubt a fan of Second Life in his, erm, first life, he or she should be easy to spot; they'll be the one the interesting personal aroma and pictures of dragons/pixies/unicorns round their monitor.

    What next? Farmville retained as 'Greener Living Consultants'? Crime Prevention Strategy by Mafia Wars?

  9. Steve Crook

    I surrender

    It's 'only' 36k, but that's another job where someone could have been doing something useful. What did they think they were doing? Perhaps they could save a bit more money by sacking the person that suggested it...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Terrible Place.

    Having worked in the Tameside council offices I can see why it didn't get off the ground, if it was a true replica of the place it's a dump, beige brick built somtime in the 70's and it's all falling apart, couldn't wait to go out. And that statue of the knight and horse is in the public entrance, I doubt the real thing cost as much to build as the virtual one.

    AC, just incase.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Think before acting


    “We were looking at innovative and modern ways to communicate with citizens at reduced costs and online transactions are the cheapest way to do this,” said Tameside’s ICT assistant exec director Norman Crawford in FoI response


    Really? Because I'm sure given 20 minutes or so, pretty much everyone on this website could come up with a plethora of ways to communicate with the citizens of Manchester for far less than £36,665 pa. For crying out loud, for that money, I'd walk around the town centre wearing a sandwich board and reach more people than this bunch of morons.

    And how does £36,665 make online transactions cheap?!? Congratulations you bunch of morons, you've blown ££6,665 and have absolutely NOTHING to show for it. I never even understood how items in Sadville are actually worth anything anyway. An actual statue of a bloke on a horse, absolutely, I get that, but for something which doesn't actually exist and can be replicated many times over in a second, no, sorry, that's bollocks.

    In all honesty, in my day job as a web developer, I don't understand how some things cost so much. Domain names for example. OK, registering new ones, that's fine, but when some goddamn loner camps on a domain we suddenly decide we want, and its worth several grand! But this, even this is more understandable than a virtual statue. Even though there are an infinite number of domains, like car number plates, there can only be one of each, so good ones can command a value, but seriously, stories I've heard from colleagues about £50,000+ being paid... well, it boggles the mind.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    That is genuinely amusing

    Who uses Second Life? Obviously someone with the pulling power to start a £36,000 project at Tameside Council.

    I do admit, I have been "on" second life in the past. Don't know if things have changed at all but at the time I found it to be a cringeworthy experience that made me shudder.

    Trying to engage a local community through Second Life? I can't imagine how that was passed as a good idea.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...odd to have a policy that doesn't retain emails for even 18 months wouldn't you say? In 2009?

    Isn't it around 7 years for records relating to fiscal matters in the commercial world? Well, matters subject to HM Revenue & Customs?

    Oh well I'm sure its just an oversight and its not really taxpayers money anyway. Heh - imaginary councillors, now there's a thought, they'd do as much good as the venal party scum we have now.

    1. rpjs

      It was

      It was certainly seven years for financial records back in the 90s when I worked in local government.

      Perhaps someone should do an FoI request as to how long they usually keep emails for.

    2. Jolyon


      What do you think the cost would be of retaining all emails sent to, from and within a local authority?

      Significantly more expensive than a Second Life white elephant would be my guess - local residents may not consider the expense worthwhile.

  14. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    36,000 GBP

    I used to live in Tameside and I can assure you this is cheap and well though out, compared to some of their other schemes.

    1. Dave Bell

      Rough figures.

      I figure that about 10% of this is the cost of paying Linden Lab for the "private island" and the accounts for the council IT staff going into Second Life to run things.

      And it possibly doesn't take many hours per week, for the IT staff, to run up that sort of figure for the year.

      But, on Linden Lab's own figures, there's fewer than 1.5 million people, world-wide, regularly using Second Life, which is fewer than 1 in 1000 internet users. Figure from the numbers for the UK, and for the Tameside population, and there's maybe 150 Second Life users from Tameside.

      The cost doesn't seem crazy for the amount of work, but it doesn't make sense as a project.

      1. Kibble
        Paris Hilton

        @ Dave Bell

        The cost breakdown wasn't very clear. However, only one person needs to have a paid account to rent virtual land from Linden Labs, and guessing that it was the IT guy. All the rest of the accounts can be free. The U.S. cost is $72/year. YMMV. (Perhaps some of the councilors probably wanted specialty or unique avatars.) There are also the costs with perhaps hiring a graphics specialist to build the horse & knight statue as well as the virtual buildings and museum items. I'm sure the cost of having the IT staff monitor the site probably wasn't included in the final figure.

        Regardless, I agree it was an expensive faux pas on the council's part. Just wondering if any of the councilors are continuing to play on the Second Life site as a hobby.

        Paris as she looks better than a cartoon.

  15. Pugs

    Interesting Site

    Was having a browse about the side and noticed a lot of similar requests...someone has been busy "Natalie Davis" has put in 1168 requests:

  16. Graham Bartlett

    "IT boss on a donkey"

    I hear some blokes over in Russia have one you can borrow. You might have trouble getting it over here though - it doesn't like flying...

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Same idiot ?

    It might be the same idiot who invested in the facial recognition software in 2006 ?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Much as it pains me...

    Let's get a bit of proportion on this.

    Sadsville spend - £36,000

    Tameside Council annual budget - c.£500,000,000

    No, seriously.

    "of the authority's overall gross expenditure, only 20 per cent is raised by Council Tax, the remainder - nearly £400 million - is from Government."

    It's a rounding error. No more than that.

    1. Robinson
      Thumb Down


      How many rounding errors can you fit into £500,000,000? Or are you seriously suggesting that this is the one and only rounding error in the entire budget? The very fact it was contemplated an executed, at such cost, tells me a lot about the culture of profligacy with public money at the council. It's indicative, isn't it? It wouldn't surprise me if £100,000,000 of their budget was basically wasted.

      1. The old man from scene 24

        Re: Moron?

        I'm with AC. It's like an average person who earns, say, £30k a year splurging £2.16 on a whacky idea just in case it has wings. No biggy, nothing to see.

    2. Jolyon

      And from which budget

      If this is just replacing some other attempt to get uncaring residents involved with council services then it might be no more expensive and no more of a failure than any leafletting / poster scheme or whatever the money gets wasted on at other local authorities.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It could have been worse

    They might have invested it in an Icelandic bank.

  20. someone up north
    Jobs Horns

    why NO virtual money for their pay?

    for some reasons, these IT council chiefs are not smart enough to implement virtual pay for them self, i am 100% sure the voter will approve this

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Only Tameside?

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are other public bodies who have "invested" in Second Life. I was @ HMRC a couple of years ago and having a Second Life presence was one of their "innovation" ideas!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahead of its time

    Unfortunately Second Life was ahead of its time and very badly policed which allowed the sleezy side to dominate what was in fact a great idea.

    I built a Pilots' club for a client where customers could visit, meet and chat with other aviation enthusiasts, look at 3D images of the simulation product packaging. They could watch videos of the products in action. We even organised lectures where an airline pilot talked about various flying procedures with an audience. We had members from all around the world and it became a tremendous way of interacting with our customers. When combined with teamspeak (pre-voice chat in Second Life), it became a great conference call facility.

    It was after all just a 3D website where the customer could walk around our DVD cases and read the copy on the back. Mrketing is all about interaction with the customer and that ability to "pick up a product and look at it" was previously something that could only happen in store and gave more involvement than looking at flat web pages. With the added bonus of live interaction with customers in a virtual face to face situation. 2D websites allow you to have live support, via a text chat window so why is Second Life unacceptable to the reg "sadville" bashers.

    IT readers really are so infantile in their sexual innuendoes about any article in the Reg that I would have thought Second Life sleeze would be right up their street. After all, the internet has porn on it so I am told! What is the difference between the web and Second Life?

    Second Life did a lot of things wrong but the idea behind it was great. Maybe Reg readers should get their heads out of their backsides and be a little more encouraging of innovation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Innovation needs a purpose

      Whether or not Second Life turns out to have been ahead of its time rather depends on whether, at some time in the future, a 3D model of internet usage becomes the norm. Until then it could just as easily be an interesting idea that was over-hyped and ultimately failed.

      The problem I think is that techies get very excited about the cool stuff they can do and lose sight of the benefits compared to the investment in time and effort required from the user. In a business context, all the benefits of SL that I've ever heard seem very trivial - you can pick things up, you can watch an avatar that may or may not be anything like you "interacting", whatever that means, with other avatars that may or may not look anything like their owners, after the meeting your avatar can dance or go ice skating (yes, that was seriously suggested as a reason to go to a business meeting in SL), if you come I'll send you a virtual cup of coffee (another real life enticement).

      Unfortunately the advocates of SL within businesses were their own worst enemies and let their enthusiasm get the better of their judgment. That, combined with all the other things going on around SL, made it seem ridiculous.

  23. El Richard Thomas

    At this rate, in about 5 years they will implement a video call centre...

    ...using ChatRoulette

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