Inside Inside Government


Posts tagged with "what are we doing"

Oct 8

What are we doing about… online consultation tools?

Lots of departments around government have been asking what we’re planning to do about consultations. We realised that we’ve been thinking so hard about it that we’ve not been telling you properly. So, here goes.

1. We are not going to build a new platform for consultations. There are plenty of good tools out there, and many departments are already using different platforms for different sorts of consultation. If you’d like to know what’s available, and what might be appropriate for your specific consultation, we can definitely help you there. (See point 4 below.)

2. Although Inside Government won’t include a one-size-fits-all consultation product, it will have a clear and useful way of linking to the consultations that departments run. We’ll make it easy for you to add links to your consultations, and for users to be able to discover them (by department, and probably by policy area). Users will know when your consultations open and close, and how to get involved. And once you publish the outcome of your consultation you’ll be able to link to that too.

3. If you use a consultation platforms that provides an API (like Delib’s CitizenSpace for example) we will be able to use that to ensure that Inside Government makes it even easier for you to link to your consultations and to automatically know when they open and close.

4. We will provide help and guidance for policymaking and comms teams. We’ve already begun a conversation about consultations and open policymaking and based on those discussions we’ll be pulling together some useful principles, advice, examples and a ‘matrix’ of digital engagement tools together with their strengths and weaknesses.

Hopefully that helps demystify things a bit.

Oct 4

What are we doing about… print publication orders?

Most departments make a subset of their publications available to order in hard copy. Most are offered for free, some are sold. Orders are handled by fulfilment contractors. Examples include Prolog, EC Group and TSO

These contracts need to continue after departments move to GOV.UK. Centralising publications contracts is out of scope for the GOV.UK project - another part of the Cabinet Office is leading on that. 

Inside Gov will provide a way for users to continue to order publications from departments’ existing providers. Here is how we are tackling that, so far: 

1. Order URL and price

You can already specify a URL for each publication, for ordering hard copies. This will work for BIS, DECC and other departments whose publication contract includes a hosted e-commerce website for handling publication requests:

If a value is entered the order URL field, this is how it renders on the site: 

The link will open up the e-commerce site. At some point, these external services should be redesigned to use GOV.UK style but there’s no immediate rush to do that. We will provide tools and information when the time comes. In the meantime they may need updating to remove links back to the parent department’s website. 

2. Orders by email 

In time for the first couple of departments going live, we will also be providing an option to specify an email address for requesting publications. This will create an email link which will open up a new email in the user’s email software, with preconfigured text to collect the details of the user’s publication request. The user story for this feature is here

This approach should work for departments like DFT and DCLG, who currently provide order forms to achieve the same thing. We will iterate from this point, and it’s likely we will provide forms for this too. But that means ensuring the personal data is sent securely, so it will take a bit of time to get that done properly. 

And that, for now, is it. If you need more than this basic starting approach before your site joins the platform, let us know and give us some examples of what you provide right now. 

What are we doing about… access permissions?

Right now, anybody who has a user account for the Whitehall publishing tool can see and edit anyone else’s draft content. 

“WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?” we hear you cry. Actually, it’s a deliberate strategy.

Noise not restriction

In the Inside Gov team we have set out to create a tool which is open and flexible, and which fosters trust and collaboration between editors across government. 

We have a mantra in our team of ‘noise not restriction’ - by which we mean that we want to encourage good practice using help and warning text instead of limiting what users can do with their accounts.

Restriction, in our collective experience of many a CMS, leads to frustration and - at worst - dodgy workarounds like people sharing their account details. Plus every feature we add creates bloat and complexity in the user interface. 

Joined up writing

More importantly, though, we need editors across government to be able to see and edit each others’ content so that, for example, we can have a single policy on Afghanistan maintained by MOD, FCO, DFID and other contributing organisations in collaboration with each other. 

Restriction as a last resort

However, we also understand that restriction will sometimes be unavoidable, and we will need to limit who can see certain draft content.

We are already working on the first aspect of this, which is to restrict who can see draft statistical publications in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics (protocol 2, paragraph 7). 

We will iterate to restrict other things, as and when there is a real and pressing need and/or statutory requirement to do so, but in order to do it well we need to fully understand:

  • what needs to be protected?
  • from whom?
  • under what circumstances?
  • or else what bad thing could happen?
  • and who needs to still access in order to create and publish it?
Colleagues in departments, please help us to answer these questions so we can meet your needs while still supporting collaboration and trust. 

What are we doing about… FOI?

Here’s our current thinking on how content relating to FOI will be treated on Inside Government in its version 1 release in the autumn. 

We’re trying to simplify things for users, and do away with any text that they simply won’t read. 

So in that spirit, we plan to provide in each organisation’s corporate area on the site: 

  1. The contact details for making FOI requests (this functionality already exists)
  2. A link to the mainstream guide about FOI  
  3. An aggregated view of all the FOI release publications from the organisation (the user story for this is coming up

We think this meets all the user needs in the most efficient way possible.

We’re always happy to be told we’re wrong. 

What are we doing about… devolved administrations

GOV.UK houses services and information from the UK’s central government. Because some administrative powers have been transferred from Whitehall to the UK’s nations, there are occasions where a user of Inside Government or Specialist will come across content which is not relevant to one or more of those nations. 

So that it is clear to the user where something doesn’t apply if you are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland we have added distinctive labelling to the pages, and we are also able to make a suggestion as to where that user can go to find out what is applicable.

The controls for this in the publishing app are some very straightforward fields and tick-boxes…

Which then appears to the user of Specialist like so…

It’s the same control method for Policy pages, but here the labelling is slightly different (reflecting that the page is on Inside Government rather than Specialist)…

Clear and helpful for the user. Simple for the publisher to add, edit and delete. That’s how we like it.