30 March 2006
PM Website: Citizen Unfriendly
On March 30th, the PM's front page looked like this when viewed in the IE browser set to display a larger type size. The type is the normal size (not enlarged) because the webpage design prevents the IE browser from effecting the type enlargement requested by the viewer.
The PM's webpage text is enlarged, as requested by the viewer, by three out of five browsers (and partially enlarged by a fourth), leaving only one browser that is prevented by the webpage design from displaying enlarged text. Three and a half out of five – that might seem to be a reasonably good record, until you recall that 80% of people surfing the Internet are using the IE browser for the PC, the only one that cannot enlarge the text as requested by the viewer. This means that, by implementing a faulty webpage design, this site is preventing a large majority of its viewers from obtaining enlarged type. One wonders what the site designers are thinking. Is anyone minding the store?
[Later, April 4, 2006 21:28 UTC]: The Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser is notorious for resisting changes in the displayed text size, even when the user requests a changed size. This IE characteristic appears when viewing certain websites that are not designed to accomodate IE's pecularities. Some website designers are aware of this defect in the IE browser, and adjust their site design to accomodate viewers using IE.
For example, the Prime Minister's home page will not display enlarged text when viewed in the MS IE browser, even when this browser is set to show the "Larger" or "Largest" text size.
In contrast, this Government Online blog is designed so that the IE browser is able to display text sized "Medium" or "Larger" or "Largest" in accordance with the viewer's preference. For those viewing this blog in the IE browser, you are welcome to try various text size settings, at your convenience, to see how this blog's text responds. You may wish also to try the response of your browser text size settings when viewing the Prime Minister's home page.
29 March 2006
PM Website: Last Week's News
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 29th, the PM's front page looked like this:
For larger view, click on image
The problem is, this speech was given six days ago, on Thursday, March 23rd, according to the Prime Minister's media centre:
For larger view, click on image
26 March 2006
PM Website: Antiquated
Here's an excellent commentary on the state of the Prime Minister's website. Stephen Taylor calls for "A new, refreshed and modern web presentation of the Prime Ministerial website..."
The Prime Minister's current website "remains quite simplistic in its presentation and web standards..." (Yes!)
"...quite antiquated..." (True.)
Screenshot date: March 25, 2006
For larger image, click on thumbnail
Prime Minister of Great Britain website
Prime Minister of Australia website
Prime Minister of New Zealand website
Prime Minister of France website
Prime Minister of Sweden website
Prime Minister of Japan website
Prime Minister of India website
Prime Minister of Pakistan website
Prime Minister of Bangladesh website
Prime Minister of Jamaica website
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka website
Premier of Cambodia website
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea website
Prime Minister of Kuwait website
Prime Minister of Slovenia website
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago website
Prime Minister of Belize website
over the years:
For larger image, click on thumbnail
[Later update, April 8, 2006 23:45 UTC]: Here's a specific example of antiquated:
This photograph of the Queen, as displayed in the Prime Minister's home page, is tiny, just 85×73 pixels — the size of an ordinary postage stamp as it appears on a monitor screen. The file size is a miniscule 8.4 kilobytes.
This image would be small even for for a thumbnail serving as a link to a larger image, but this is not a thumbnail — it is the best this official website can do for Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her eightieth birthday. This would have been an appropriate image in 1996, when hard drive storage space cost $600 per gigabyte, and the fastest Internet connection available in most homes in Canada was just 14 kilobits (not bytes) per second. But this is 2006, when hard drive storage space costs only 60¢ per gigabyte, and more than half of homes have connections faster than dial-up, and even dial-up connections operate at 58 kilobits per second.
Today, for 1¢ (one cent, that's retail with all taxes included) you can buy enough hard drive space to store more than 2000 of these tiny images. Saving money could not have been the reason why they decided to use this tiny image. Seems to me the designers of this site are simply many years behind the times, using small images as was appropriate for the way things were in the mid-1990s, and not comprehending the current circumstances.
24 March 2006
British Columbia Hansard
If a group of politically-informed and Internet-literate citizens were to produce a set of guidelines for the presentation and organization of Hansard records on the WWW in a citizen-friendly way, they would come up with something very much like the design of this site by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. No other province or territory comes close to the high standard set by this website.
For example (just one of many), the Guide to the Old Hansards Web Project is written in plain English, and and covers the ground thoroughly. British Columbia is the only Hansard site that addresses the question of the Old Hansards – records published in print before the mid-1990s when they began to publish Hansard online simultaneously with the printed version. Once the online version was established, what should be done about the earlier Hansards? Should the government adopt a plan to work back through the earlier print-only Hansards and gradually publish them online? British Columbia has developed such a plan, and has described it publicly. No other province has addressed this question.
Yukon is the only territory whose Hansard goes back before the rise of the Internet. Early on, Yukon published its pre-Internet Hansard online, going back about ten years to November 1987.
The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia has its Hansard online back to January 1970.
British Columbia's Hansard is available in HTML from the beginning on January 22, 1970. It is also available in pdf beginning on February 12, 2002. The pdf and HTML versions of Hansard do not have identical content – the information is not quite the same in the two versions. For any given day, both versions contain the near-verbatim Hansard transcript of the debates on the floor of the Legislature; the pdf version also contains a list of the cabinet ministers, and a list of the MLAs, that do not appear in the HTML version; these lists are a useful addition to the Hansard record. As usual, for any given day the pdf version supplies an orphan page, with no navigational links to any other page in the website. The HTML version supplies a page with a navigational link enabling the viewer to access the other content in the site.
Beginning on October 6, 2003, the Hansard report for each day includes online video.
Many of the provincial and territorial Hansard websites include a page of links to the other twelve provincial and territorial Hansard websites. The British Columbia Hansard site has the best page of links to the others.
A search of the British Columbia Hansard for the earliest mention of "information highway" turned up one on May 13, 1994.
The earliest mention of "internet" is on June 29, 1995.
Northwest Territories Hansard
This site contains a clear explanation of the system for naming these Hansard files. "Each Hansard is named according to its particular Assembly date – for example Hn990908.pdf is the Hansard for September 8th, 1999."
Unfortunately, all of these Hansard reports are in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format. There are no navigation links in any page. All pages are orphans.
I am unable to find a search service for the Northwest Territories Hansard.
23 March 2006
The Nunavut Hansard in English is online back to March 9, 2004. Unfortunately, all of these Hansard reports are in pdf format. There are no navigation links in any page. All pages are orphans.
The Nunavut Hansard in Inuktitut is available online.
I am unable to find a search service for the English version of the Nunavut Hansard.
Searching for an Inuktitut word in the Nunavut Hansard:
Also see: Inuktitut Computing dot C A
A search of the Saskatchewan Hansard for the earliest mention of "information highway" turned up one on March 25, 1993.
The earliest mention of "internet" is on March 6, 1996.
22 March 2006
Newfoundland and Labrador Hansard
These daily records are "orphan" webpages. For example, the Hansard record for March 24, 1998. If you click on this link, you will arrive at a webpage with no navigation links enabling you to go to any other content in this site. One of the basic rules of website design is that each and every webpage should have navigation links that enable the viewer to find his/her way to the other pages in that site. Search engines often provide deep links that take the visitor directly to the webpage with the content they want. Once in that page, how does the viewer get access to other pages in the same site?
Unfortunately, at least one of the navigation links points to the wrong page. In the webpage Forty-Third General Assembly - Third Session - 1998 there is a link for the Hansard record for March 13, 1998 (the earliest Hansard webpage in this site). However, if you click on this link, you will be taken to the Hansard record for May 13, 1998. I am unable to find the correct file for March 13, 1998 -- it appears the May 13 file was uploaded to the URL for the March 13 file.
I am unable to find a search service for the Newfoundland and Labrador Hansard.
Prince Edward Island Hansard
The Hansard records are presented in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format for all sessions – except the Spring 1997 session which is presented in HTML.
The Prince Edward Island Hansard presents its Indexes in pdf format, thus they are useless for anyone trying to access this information online. For example, the Hansard Index Fall 2003 - Spring 2004 is 58 pages in pdf with no hyperlink anywhere. An online index with no links is as useless as (insert well-known rude expression here).
These Hansard records are "orphan" webpages. For example, the record for March 6, 1997. If you click on this link, you will arrive at a webpage with no navigation links enabling you to go to any other content in this site. If Google, or any other search engine, sends you to this webpage, you will have no way to find other pages in the website operated by the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
This is a strong negative for this site. Such a decision could have been made only by someone steeped in the print culture, as opposed to someone familiar with how online documents work when viewed with a browser.
A search of the Prince Edward Island Hansard for the earliest occurrence of "information highway" turned up one on March 11, 1997.
Later update:– I don't understand the organization of the Ontario Hansard online. Consider these two links, both to the same date:
(1) December 8, 1994
(2) December 8, 1994
Both links take you to webpages that seem to be Hansard reports of words spoken on the floor of the Ontario Legislature on December 8, 1994, but how do they relate to each other? I can find no explanation. The comment (above) about good navigation links in each webpage, applies only to the page accessed by the second link. The page accessed by the first link has no useful navigation links at all.
All of Ontario's Hansard records are available in HTML format, from June 4, 1985 onward. Those pages dated after October 20, 1999 are also available in pdf format.
A search of the Ontario Hansard for the earliest occurrence of "information highway" turned up one on June 2, 1994.
The earliest mention of "internet" is on December 8, 1994.
The earliest mention of "electronic highway" occurs on May 17, 1990 (I believe this is the correct date although the date appears nowhere in the page. In fact, nowhere in this page does it state that this is business of the Ontario Legislature — internal evidence leads to this inference.)
"Enter your query below:"
I did a search on electric for "26 Legislature" and got eleven hits. Each hit then gave me access to the Hansard record for one day. For example, one of these hits pointed to the Hansard for November 10, 1987. This works okay, bringing up the Hansard for that one day. However, this is an "orphan" webpage — it does not have any navigation links to take me to any other webpage in this site. One of the basic rules of website design is that each and every webpage should have navigation links that enable the viewer to find his/her way to the other pages in that site.
A search of the Yukon Hansard for the earliest mention of "information highway" turned up one on May 10, 1994.
The earliest mention of "internet" is on December 1, 1994.
"Select below to view Hansard document:"
Selecting "22nd Legislature, 3rd Session (1991)"
and then clicking on "Go" should bring up the Hansard for that session, but it does not. Same result for each year 1992 through 2005. I tried this with the Firefox browser, and with Microsoft Internet Explorer; got the same unsuccessful result with both.
[Later update, April 5, 2006, 16:05 UTC]:– The Alberta Hansard is now working, at least a small part of it. The Hansards for the sessions in 2006 are available, but those for all previous sessions, 2005 through 1991, still do not work. The sessions for 2006 are available both in HTML and in pdf. The pdf pages are orphans, of course, but in the Alberta Hansard the HTML pages also are orphans, as for example February 22, 2006, March 15, 2006 and April 4, 2006.
Someone in the Alberta Hansard staff has a wild enthusiasm for line breaks. They are scattered throughout the HTML pages with no regard for where the line breaks should appear. This image (next below) shows a part of the HTML Hansard page for February 23, 2006:
showing ragged text (above) caused by excess line breaks.
For a full-size view, click on the image.
For a full-size view, click on the image.
Ottawa Ministers' Expense Accounts
cabinet minister expense account
and click on Search. It reports
"2733 documents meet the search criteria".
Number 1 doesn't seem useful. I try the second hit:
2. Guidelines for Ministers' Offices - Part 10 of 19
I get "PAGE NOT FOUND (ERROR 404)".
The Search engine has reported several similar items
"Guidelines for Ministers' Offices - Part (xx) of 19.
All of them lead to an error message.
(Later update:– These error messages were first seen on March 22, 2006. The same result was seen on April 9, 2006, and again on January 25, 2007.)
Still looking for the cabinet ministers' expense accounts online information, I go down the list of items reported by the government search engine. Among the first 100, there are none that lead to any minister's expense account. Abandon that approach.
Go back to the beginning http://canada.gc.ca/main_e.html and try the A to Z Index.
Under E, there is no Expense Account item — nothing between Environment and Exports.
Under M, there is no Minister item — nothing between Milk and Money.
Under C, there is no Cabinet item — the first item is Cable Television.
They say that ministers' expense accounts are available online. Maybe they are, but they are very well hidden.
How do I find them?