back to article Shiny new UK.gov stats website a 'disaster' - MPs

The official website designed to give the British public access to government statistics has been branded a "disaster" by MPs. Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, was brought in front of the Public Administration Committee yesterday to explain why it's so hard to actually pull up any information on ons.gov.uk …

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  1. Frankee Llonnygog

    No doubt it will soon migrate to www.gov.uk

    From which point, it will have greatness thrust upon it

    1. LarsG
      Meh

      IT(GOVERNMENT x TAXPAYERS MONEY) = DISASTER (100xOVERSPEND)

      GOVERNMENT = COMPLETE F***KUP

      A simple equation that like the many famous equations is a constant. It is so now, it will be so, forever so.

  2. AndyS

    Link?

    A full article about a website, without a link to the website? Seems like a fairly vital bit of information.

    1. Flawless101
      Trollface

      Re: Link?

      Wouldn't want the thing to crash.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Link?

      To be fair, it's in the title...

  3. Evan Essence
    FAIL

    Business as usual for HMG IT, then

    How much did this cost?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Business as usual for HMG IT, then

      Nobody knows but by golly, Amazon will be forced to pay for it! Twice!!

  4. FartingHippo
    FAIL

    New Government Site is Shit Shocker

    Is it Groundhog Day already?

    (although it's the first new site in a while not to fall over 5 minutes after going live - which is a pretty piss-poor measure of success)

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    [ ] Lies

    [ ] Damn lies

    [ ] Statistics

    Check one.

    1. David Pollard

      Check at least one.

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A success by any other name

    > no way of getting an answer to that question if you are a lay person

    So, at least it's met one of it's core criteria.

    Afterthought: it appears the article was written with the same intent as the website in its subject: nowhere is there any mention of the URL, just references to "the site". Maybe the second of the core criteria is to make no reference to the site's address, thus preventing people from accessing it, so it can be closed down in the future due to "lack of public interest"

    1. Cthonus
      Holmes

      Re: A success by any other name

      I'd go as far as to suggest it's been cribbed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20701514

      The BBC only give the url as a link under the heading "the website".

      Easy for a harried journo to miss on the way to a deadline.

  7. Flawless101
    Unhappy

    Colour me shocked.

    I'll never understand why government IT is the way it is. My experience of it just gave me the impression of amateurs with no proper understanding of the tech, sure there was diamonds in there... but it was mostly awful. Imagine a proper in-house IT company for software dev using industry standards, and support. Perhaps I've just experienced the worst of it, but it I now have a special appreciation of how bad IT can get.

    A dream too far?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Typical uk.gov "Gold standard IT project" - reams of project paperwork, lots of consultants, clueless mandarins not knowing what they want, empire builders, protecting interests, etc etc etc.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        It's like a no-go theorem

        Public administration, the handling of the government apparatus of coercion and compulsion, must necessarily be formalistic and bureaucratic. No reform can remove the bureaucratic features of the government’s bureaus. It is useless to blame them for their slowness and slackness. It is vain to lament over the fact that the assiduity, carefulness, and painstaking work of the average bureau clerk are, as a rule, below those of the average worker in private business. (There are, after all, many civil servants whose enthusiastic fervor amounts to unselfish sacrifice.) In the absence of an unquestionable yardstick of success and failure it is almost impossible for the vast majority of men to find that incentive to utmost exertion [that] the money calculus of profit-seeking business easily provides. It is of no use to criticize the bureaucrat’s pedantic observance of rigid rules and regulations. Such rules are indispensable if public administration is not to slip out of the hands of the top executives and degenerate into the supremacy of subordinate clerks. These rules are, moreover, the only means of making the law supreme in the conduct of public affairs and of protecting the citizen against despotic arbitrariness.

        It is easy for an observer to indict the bureaucratic apparatus for extravagance. But the executive with whom the responsibility for perfect service rests sees the matter from another angle. He does not want to run too high a risk. He prefers to be on the safe side and to be doubly sure.

        All such deficiencies are inherent in the performance of services which cannot be checked by money statements of profit and loss. Indeed we would never have recognized that they really are deficiencies if we were not in a position to compare the bureaucratic system with the operation of profit-seeking enterprise. This much-abused system of the “mean” striving for profit made people efficiency conscious and eager for the utmost rationalization. But we cannot help it. We must put up with the fact that one cannot apply to a police department or to the office of a tax collector the well-tried methods of profit-seeking business.

        Ludwig von Mises: Bureaucracy (1944)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flawless101

      Having worked with various gov IT people as a small third-party vendor/developer, I can tell you it's shocking. I can't tell you the number of times the systems we supply and manage for HMRC and UKBA have not failed, and yet when something goes wrong somewhere we generally say what the problem is within 10 minutes, followed by 5 hours of gov "management" running around attacking us and making us defend ourselves 100%, followed eventually by an admission that it was the thing we said it was (generally the network or the SAN).

      Also having done some work for QinetiQ, that's equally baffling. PhDs trying to implement some form of SOA, arguing that web services are a service (sort of true), a Windows service is a service (not true), hahaha, I suppose even mail delivery should be considered a service! (Loony.) Your opinion of SOA notwithstanding, I hope this gives you some idea of how far removed from the real world some of these people are.

      In one way or another, they are generally a joke, with a job for life.

  8. Thomas 4

    The only sensible thing to do

    ...is to abandon the whole thing and start over from scratch, with the project costing twice as much this time around.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The only sensible thing to do

      Incomptent supplier: "I'll tell you what, lets start again, but this time, we'll do it properly, here's the spec and bill"

      Clueless Mandarin "Wow, it must be good if it'll cost that much! I can't question it too much, I don't want to appear clueless in front of this supplier..."

      1. Roger Greenwood
        Go

        Re: The only sensible thing to do

        They must have read Fred Brooks - something like :- "Plan to throw one away - you will anyway so you might as well plan it that way".

  9. HamsterNet
    Unhappy

    Simples

    Why not every website that is built for the government should have its creators company name stamped at the bottom of every page. That way these crap producing, overpriced (you have to be to get a gov contract) companies can fold like they should.

    1. TRT Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Simples

      Like film companies, I suspect they will incorporate a company specifically for a project of that size.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A disaster?! Absolutely impossible!!!

    "new government project" and "disaster" never co-exist on the same planet, never have, and never will.

  11. Phil A
    Thumb Up

    URL

    http://data.gov.uk

    It's not perfect but to even have the information available is a pretty good start.

    1. Hieronymus Howerd

      Re: URL

      Ta.

      I note the obligatory Web 2.1 "stuff scrolling sideways on the homepage" so beloved of, among others, the BBC and EVERY BLOODY WEBSITE DESIGNED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS STOP IT ALREADY.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Site...

    One assumes it is the ONS site (linked from the very bottom of the BBC article): http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/datasets-and-tables/index.html

    One wonders how the aims and objects of that differ from this: http://data.gov.uk/ ...

    1. Steve Foster
      Boffin

      Re: The Site...

      data.gov.uk is for publishing raw* data in machine-usable form (CSV, XML, that sort of thing) that others can consume. While the ONS site is a bunch of reports (logically, the ONS site should be built on results from data.gov.uk, but probably isn't).

      * after sanitising & other "airbrushing" techniques have been applied, of course

  13. RISC OS
    FAIL

    Why do all govenment websites...

    ...look like they were made in 1999?

    It doesn't work because some dick in government contacted it out to their sister's husband's brother's one-man IT company (based in the backroom of the 2nd house) instead of finding a professional company to do it.

  14. H2Nick
    FAIL

    Thanks for the URL.

    Just tried "total government spending"

    Nothing for the total on the first page.

    saw "UK Central Government Procurement Spend"

    tried "UK Central Government spend"

    Hopeless.

    Simple enough to find on this site : http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/total - though that fails quickly enough with 'server not found' if you click on "revenue"...

    Maybe all the various Gov sites feed data into this new one. Maybe I'm just dreaming in colour...

  15. bed

    "Shiny new UK.gov stats website a 'disaster'...

    Surely this should be "gov.uk" stats web site is a ... Firefox can't find the server at www.uk.gov. Perhaps quoting the URL would have helped. I sense some hasty journalism.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      One could at least ask the extradition-ready special partners to do redirects.

      That would actually be cool.

      "iran.gov" could lead directly to the AEI for example.

  16. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Point of order?

    Guvernment = body of people elected to form representatives in the House of Commons dealing with all matters related to the Commons and commoners. It has ability to set taxes for what it seeks to do and empower udders tp do its bidding.

    Civil serventia = the bit that takes all the money, spends it upon itself, shuns publicity and is supposed to make policy manifest. Trouble is it doesn't do that (make policy manifest I mean) and what it does do it shouldn't (they have their own agenda upon which politicians sometimes unwittingly impose themselves?). Know wot I mean 'arry?

    I mean, you don't expect MPs to do any website coding now do you?

  17. Arrrggghh-otron

    Downloads?

    Really? I have to download the raw files? And trying to do that I see the download links are broken and you can't order the files by date.

    Why isn't this stuff in a DB with read only access?

    1. Paul S Williams

      Re: Downloads?

      Because sharing data through a database isn't a very 'open' solution, raw data in open standards allows futureproofing, and less RDMS licensing!!

      1. Arrrggghh-otron

        Re: Downloads?

        Your point makes sense, but I had one or other of the open source databases in mind when I said that.

        Keep the tables reasonably simply and exporting it to any other format should be easy. However getting a CSV into a DB is also fairly easy. But it would be nice to be able to run queries on the data direct from the site...

  18. Paul S Williams

    gov.uk or ons.gov.uk???

    My understanding is that gov.uk has been a groundbreaking reworking of directgov, using agile development methods. Its been held as a flagship agile project, hoping to make the methodology and related culture more acceptable to government software contracting. If this site is mistakenly suggesting the problems are on gov.uk rather than, as I believe it ons.gov.uk (a separately managed site) then maybe this should be made more clear...

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: gov.uk or ons.gov.uk???

      Yes, it's about ons.gov.uk.

      C.

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