Thursday, 21 July 2011

You're Not Interested in That Are You?

There's been a slight re-arrangement of NCC's website, specifically index. Here it is

There used to be an item in there called 'Council and Democracy' which was where you'd find all the various meeting minutes and agendas, the constitution etc. Basically, the stuff that 75% of this blog is based on and of interest to anyone who wants to take a bit more interest in what goes on at the council than just what day your bins are emptied.

So, why has it been taken off the front page? Is NCC getting a bit less keen on citizens taking an active interest on what their local taxes are spent on?


sfc said...

Oh dear, Andy, I know you're wont to see conspiracies everywhere, but really! If you click on the "Your Services" tab you will find what you're looking for - not unreasonable, I'd suggest, given that 'Council & Democracy' is really more of a service than something you'd 'do' online.

This time you seem to have scraped the underside of the barrel labelled "Paranoia". Calm down, dear!

Andy said...

Yeah dumbass, I could find it again without much trouble but people's attitudes and comfort using the internet vary and I'm probably more familiar with NCC's website than most.

The placing of items on a website can offer an insight into how much the owners/designers want people to find them. A deliberate decision to take an item off the front page does send a message.

Btw, before making accusations of conspiracy theorising and paranoia, maybe you should back it up with evidence of such things.

sfc said...

Mmm, Occam's razor...?

Andy said...

Not very persuasive I'm afraid. You need an alternative explanation for the change for that principle to hold any water.

sfc said...

The alternative explanation is really rather simpler. Most website institutional website designers will analyse customer demand. It's not unreasonable to surmise that visitors to Council website will be most interested in info on schools, waste collection services, planning, libraries, etc. Oh, and complaints, for when Councils get things wrong.

Most members of the general public are not, I would venture, interested in Council minutes, let alone the obscure documents of obscurer committees. And those that are are likely to be more familar with council website, and more able to navigate to their chosen destination.

Let me put it the other way - if all you could see on the front page was Committee papers, but no service info, what would that say about the coucnil's priorities? (Please don't fell compelled to answer that question, it's rhetorical!)

Andy said...

Although it was rhetorical, I would never suggest only having council minutes on the front page, taking an idea to extremes doesn't really help.

Call me old fashioned but I think it's healthy in a democracy to enable, nay encourage people to take an active interest in the institutions they vote for. On the other hand, I'm not exactly on the fringe in wondering whether, despite the public rhetoric, in fact far too many politicians are actually rather comfortable with the electorate not taking too much interest in what they do.

So while it would be wrong to try and force people into reading minutes and stuff it would be consistent with openness to at least make it easy to do so. I am immediately a bit suspicious of any apparent decision that goes the other way.

Your alternative explanation isn't really simpler it's just different and admittedly a bit less cynical. Council websites are not just designed to ensure access to the most 'popular' services, although that of course is one factor, councils have a duty to raise people's awareness of certain things or educate them. That can mean giving house room to links that wouldn't necessarily be particularly popular, who knows, maybe even promote them.

Now put that into the context of senior councillors regularly belittling freedom of information and publishing expenditure and I'm entitled to spend 5 minutes on a blog post asking the question.

sfc said...

Like I say, Occam's Razor. Usual business practice is the most straightforward explanation - the introduction of additonal "contextual" factors is an unnecessary complication which runs counter to the principle.

Also, the referencing "the context of senior councillors regularly belittling freedom of information and publishing expenditure" is precisely the kind of conspiratorial mindset that I referred to in my initial post. You asked for evidence - QED...

Andy said...

Well, you say 'conspiracy' and I say 'observing a pattern of behaviour and using that to infer the motivation behind an action'. We'll just have to differ on that.

As I said in my previous reply your understanding of 'usual business practice' would be inadequate for a LA website.