YOUR CITY WEBSITE SUCKS — PART 1: WORCESTER, A BENCHMARK OF MEDIOCRITY

AFTER OUR AWARD-LOSING COVERAGE OF THE WORCESTER ELECTIONS AND THAT GUY WITH THE HAIR… TODAY, WE BEGIN AN EXCITING NEW CHAPTER IN BIZARRO WORCESTER, IN WHICH WE RETURN TO OUR M.O. OF LOOKING AT OPEN GOVERNMENT AND WORCESTER’S LACKADAISICAL COMMITMENT TO IT!!!!!!! THEREFORE, IN HONOR OF SUNSHINE WEEK AND THE UPCOMING BEST OF WORCESTER AWARDS, WE PROUDLY PRESENT A LOOK AT ONE THING WE ALWAYS FIND COMEDY IN NO MATTER HOW CRAZY THINGS GET OTHERWISE: GOVERNMENT WEBSITES.

A CITY’S WEBSITE CAN REVEAL A GREAT DEAL ABOUT ITS CIVIC HEALTH. IT CAN REVEAL HOW WE INFORM. HOW WE PROVIDE. HOW WE VALUE THOSE WITHIN CITY HALL. HOW WE VALUE VISITORS. HOW WE VALUE THE INTERNET. WHAT WE THINK OF OURSELVES. OR HOW LITTLE WE GIVE A CRAP ABOUT ANY OF THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE HAVE MADE A LOT OF JOKES OVER THE YEARS ABOUT WORCESTER’S PRESENCE ONLINE. BUT ONE THING WE NEVER DID WERE TAKING AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT EXACTLY HOW IT MIGHT MEASURE UP OUTSIDE THE COMPLETELY TRUE STATEMENT THAT EVERYTHING FROM WORCESTER MUST SUCK BY DEFAULT. WE DO NOT EXPECT TO BE UP THERE WITH SUCH GIANTS OF WEB DESIGN AS INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI, OR EVEN NEW YORK, NEW YORK‘S RECENT UPDATE. BUT WE HOPE TO AT LEAST BEAT THE MULTITUDE OF OTHER GENERIC CITY WEBSITES WE LOOK EXACTLY LIKE. THEREFORE, WE SHALL PIT THE CITY OF WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS, AGAINST FOUR OTHER SIMILARLY-SIZED CITIES’ WEBSITES (AND TWO PERSONAL CHOICES).

TO THAT END:

METHODOLOGY

FIRST, WE PERFORM A SERIES OF TASKS ONE WOULD TYPICALLY EXPECT FROM A GOVERNMENT WEBSITE. THEN, WE COMPARE THOSE RESULTS TO THAT OF OTHER WEBSITES FROM CITIES OF SIMILAR SIZES ACROSS THE US. THEN WE ASSESS A SERIES OF ARBITRARY PENALTIES BASED ON SUBJECTIVE RAGE INDUCED BY THE PROCESS. WE SCORE LIKE GOLF (OR THE PREFERRED BIZARRO VERSION, FLOGGING); LOWER SCORES == BETTER THAN. IT COULD BE SIMPLER, BUT THEN YOU’D END UP ON A WEBSITE WHERE THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER WENT BOBBING FOR APPLES IN GASOLINE BEFORE MAKING THE ADS. AT LEAST WITH OUR FAUX-BUDGET WORDPRESS SITE YOU GET A SURPRISINGLY READABLE WEBSITE DESPITE OUR BIZARRO CAPITALIZATION AND BASED PRONOUN USAGE.

IN ALL CASES, WE ASSUME CITY HALL STAFF WOULD BE MORE THAN HAPPY TO HELP IN PERSON OR VIA PHONE WITH ANY TASKS YOU MIGHT REQUIRE OF THEM, IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY OTHERWISE HAVE TO DEAL WITH POLITICIANS ALL DAY.

 

WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

 

GENERAL

 

APPEARANCE

WORCWEBSITE

  • OVERALL IMPRESSION: NIGHT-VISION GREEN WITH A BROWN CITYSCAPE HEADER; A COLOR SCHEME APPROPRIATE FOR A POST-APOCALYPTIC DYSTOPIA. WEBSITE LAYOUT UNCHANGED SINCE 2009.
  • MOBILE VERSION: COMPLETELY UNREADABLE.
  • FRONT PAGE HIGHLIGHTS: OSTENSIBLY HELPFUL SUBSECTIONS INCLUDING ANNOUNCEMENTS, “STAY INFORMED”, A TEXT LISTING OF MEETINGS AND EVENTS, AND A “SPECIAL INTEREST” SECTION CONTAINING RANDOM STUFF TAKEN OUT OF A HAT. IF A LINK IN THE SLIDESHOW CHANGES TOO QUICKLY, THEN GET OWNED, SLOWPOKE. WE GO ONE WAY IN WORCESTER: FORWARD!!!!!!! (UNTIL WE HIT THE NADIR OF OUR TIME LOOP AGAIN… THEN WE PARTY LIKE IT 1969!!!!!!!!!)

 

FUNCTIONALITY

(ALL TASKS ATTEMPTED BY FOLLOWING DIRECT LINKS FROM HOMEPAGE. WE STOP AT TRANSFER TO THIRD-PARTY WEBSITES,)
  1. CONTACT CITY HALL: 1 CLICK
    1. OTHER LINKS, “Contact Us“§
  2. FIND OUT WHERE TO VOTE: 2 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “…View All
    2. Where do I vote?
  3. VIEW MUNICIPAL CALENDAR (AND OBTAIN ICS FEED FOR USE IN MICROSOFT OUTLOOK, ETC.): 2 CLICKS
    1. OTHER LINKS, “Municipal Calendar
    2. iCalҠ
  4. PAY PARKING TICKETS: 3 CLICKS
    1.  E-SERVICES, “Online Payments
    2.  -> Parking Ticket, “PAY NOW!
    3. -> “YES, PAY NOW
  5. OBTAIN A BIRTH CERTIFICATE, WITH CONFIRMATION IN SYSTEM: 6 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “Search Public Records
    2. Birth Certificates
    3. [Enter Name]
    4. transacted online” (WITHIN PARAGRAPH)
    5. Birth Certificate, “ORDER NOW!
    6. YES, PAY NOW“‡
  6. FIND INFORMATION ON PARKING BANS: 2 CLICKS
    1. SEASONAL INFO, “Winter Parking Ban Info
    2. SELECT STREET FROM DROP-DOWN LIST.@
  7. REQUEST REMOVAL OF RESIDENT NUISANCE BEAST: 2 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “Customer Service Center
    2. Dead Animal In Street
  8. FIND SCHOOL CLOSINGS: UNABLE TO LOCATE ON CITY WEBSITE.#
  9. FIND YOUR SCHEDULED TRASH DAY: 3 CLICKS
    1. LIVING & WORKING: “… View All
    2. Trash & Recycling
    3. Trash & Recycling Collection Map“%
  10. FIND THE CURRENT COUNCIL AGENDA: 2 CLICKS
    1. STAY INFORMED, “Agendas & Minutes
    2. Current/Upcoming City Council Agenda with Attachments
  11. REVIEW PREVIOUS COUNCIL MEETINGS: 6 CLICKS
    1. STAY INFORMED, “Agendas & Minutes”
    2. City Council Journal Archive
    3. SELECT FROM DROP-DOWN BOX
    4. Video Archive” [FROM SAME PAGE]
    5. SELECT YEAR
    6. SELECT DATE^
  12. OBTAIN A LICENSE/CERTIFICATE FORM FOR YOUR BUSINESS: 2 CLICKS
    1. DOING BUSINESS, “…View All
    2. Business Certificates“)
  13. OBTAIN INFORMATION ON APPLYING FOR A LIQUOR LICENSE: 3 CLICKS
    1. DOING BUSINESS, “…View All
    2. License Commission
    3. RELATED PAGES, “Document Center“; LICENSE COMMISSION, “Application – Liquor – Liquor License (New)“)‖
  14. APPLY FOR A JOB WITH THE CITY: 2 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “…View All
    2. Employment Opportunities
  15. FIND THE LATEST BUDGET: 2 CLICKS
    1. SPECIAL INTEREST, “Annual Financial Reports
    2. SELECT THE LATEST BUDGET FROM THE LIST.Δ
  16. FIND AUDITS: 2 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “Document Center
    2. City Auditor” ◊
  17. FIND RECIPIENTS OF CITY-ISSUED CHECKS: 2 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “Search Public Records
    2. Vendor Check Register“↕
  18. FIND CITY-AWARDED GRANTS/TIF AGREEMENTS/ETC: 4 CLICKS↑
    1. CITY GOVERNMENT, “Departments & Divisions
    2. Economic Development
    3. Cultural Development
    4. List of Grantees
  19. CONFIRM AND CONTACT YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES: 5 CLICKS
    1. E-SERVICES, “…View All
    2. Where do I vote?
    3. ENTER VOTER INFORMATION, NOTE DISTRICT
    4. CITY GOVERNMENT, “Mayor & City Council
    5. SELECT YOUR DISTRICT COUNCILOR 
  20. OBTAIN CURRENT WEATHER CONDITIONS: 1 CLICK
    1. “Worcester Weather” (BOTTOM RIGHT OF PAGE)*

TOTAL CLICKS: 52

PENALTY CLICKS

  • § – “**Emails to the Webmaster account are checked periodically. For more immediate assistance, please email the Department or Division direclty[SIC] via the email address listed on their home page.” TRANSLATION: WE RUN A FIEFDOM. BOTHER OUR VASSALS INSTEAD OF LOOKING FOR ALL YOUR CONTACT INFO ON A “CONTACT US” PAGE. THEN FETCH ME A TURKEY LEG WITH MEAT THE SIZE OF GEORGE RUSSELL’S HEAD!!!!! 10 CLICK PENALTY.
  • † – NOT SEARCHABLE ON THE WEBSITE ITSELF. OF GREATER CONCERN, THE LINK TO OBTAIN THE ICS FEED SO SAID CALENDAR MIGHT BE ACCESSED BY MOST MODERN APPS (IN AN UNUSUALLY BROAD CONCESSION TO TECHNOLOGY) HAD BEEN STUFFED OUT OF THE WAY IN A LINK CRYPTICALLY MARKED “iCal”. WHICH, OF COURSE, EVERYONE USING MICROSOFT OUTLOOK WOULD KNOW. 5 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ‡ – WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU TRY TO PAY FOR A BIRTH CERTIFICATE NOT IN THE DATABASE. IF YOU KNOW, WE SHALL GIVE YOU A COMPLIMENTARY BIZARRO TAH PIT AND AWARD FURTHER PENALTIES ON YOUR BEHALF!!! IN THE MEANTIME… 2 CLICK PENALTY FOR PLACING THE SOLE DIRECT LINK ON THE PAGE TO PAY FOR A BIRTH CERTIFICATE IN HYPERTEXT WITHIN A PARAGRAPH.
  • @ – IF ONLY THERE WERE A WAY TO “SEARCH” BY HARNESSING THE POWER OF A DATABASE VIA SOME SORT OF UNSEEN “ENGINE” INSTEAD OF USING A DROP-DOWN MENU CONTAINING 2,221 STREETS (GIVE OR TAKE A LANE OR TWO). 5 CLICK PENALTY.
  • # – PHONE HOTLINES AND RADIO STATIONS GENERALLY TEND TO BE BEST EQUIPPED FOR THIS TASK GIVEN THE UNRELIABILITY OF INTERNET ACCESS DURING STORMS (STUDENTS WOULD OF COURSE BE MORE VIGILANT ABOUT THIS THAN PARENTS). BUT WE WERE UNABLE TO IDENTIFY ON EITHER THE CITY OF WORCESTER OR WORCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS WEBSITES ANY SUCH HOTLINES OR RADIO STATIONS AFTER A THOROUGH SEARCH. AS WE DISCOVERED DURING A SNOWSTORM ON FEBRUARY 5TH, THE WORCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS WEBSITE DID POST A RECENT SCHOOL CLOSING ANNOUNCEMENT RIGHT ON ITS FRONT PAGE, MIRRORED BY THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE@WORCESTERPUBLIC TWITTER ACCOUNT AND NUMEROUS OTHER PLACES. HOWEVER, FOR THIS TASK WE NEEDED TO SEE A SPECIFIC PAGE ON EITHER THE WORCESTER PUBLIC OR CITY WEBSITE TO UNQUESTIONABLY ANSWER THE QUESTION: “DID WORCESTER CANCEL SCHOOL?” DESPITE THE ADROITNESS OF THEIR EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT SYSTEM, WE DID NOT. 20 CLICK PENALTY.
  • % – REMEMBER WHEN WE COMPLAINED ABOUT THE DROP-DOWN MENU ABOVE?? WE PREFER THAT TO STARING AT AN UNSEARCHABLE MAP. BY THE WAY, CREATING A DATABASE OF WORCESTER’S 2000+ STREETS MIGHT MAKE MORE SENSE THAN PUTTING THE LIST ON EVERY PAGE WHERE ONE MIGHT NEED TO SEARCH THEM. 10 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ‖ – ALTHOUGH WE FOUND ALL THE INFORMATION WE THINK ONE WOULD NEED TO FILE WITH THE ABCC AND THEN PETITION THE LICENSE COMMISSION, FOR A CITY BILLING ITSELF AS “A Great Place to Do Business!” WE FOUND THE ROAD TO THIS PDF PACKAGE OBTUSE TO A BIZARRO DEGREE (WE COULD NOT FIND THE PDF PACKET FROM THE “SEARCH THIS SITE” TOOL; SEE BELOW FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE DOCUMENT CENTER). 5 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ^ – DASTARDLY PURVEYOR OF SUNSHINE KEVIN KSEN SUGGESTED WE EVALUATE THIS, WITH PARTICULAR INTEREST IN TRANSCRIPTS. THE ABSENCE OF SUCH WOULD PROVE A BARRIER TO TRANSPARENCY, BUT GIVEN THE CITY’S MANDATE TO PROVIDE AT LEAST THE MINUTES AND RECORD, WE FIND THE AGENDA/MINUTES DELIVERY METHOD APPROPRIATE. CITIZEN KSEN TOOK UMBRAGE WITH THE CONTENT, BUT POTENTIAL OML VIOLATIONS WOULD BE OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF THIS EVALUATION. WE TOOK MORE UMBRAGE WITH THE ANTIQUATED VIDEO FORMAT ITSELF, HAMPERING TRANSCRIPTION AND DISSEMINATION, AS WELL AS PONDEROUS METHODS FOR SELECTING AGENDA DATES AND VIDEOS IN THE ARCHIVE. 15 CLICK PENALTY. YOUTUBE IT AND FORGET IT!!!!
  • Δ – ON FIRST WRITING THIS ARTICLE ABOUT A WEEK OR TWO AGO, THE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT LISTED ON THE FRONT PAGE HAD NOT BEEN THE LATEST FINANCIAL REPORT. APPARENTLY WE CANNOT AFFORD TO DISPLAY THE LATEST BUDGET IN ONE CLICK. 2 CLICK PENALTY BECAUSE WE WERE TOO LAZY TO ASSESS A HIGHER PENALTY.
  • ◊ – DESPITE IT BEING A MATTER VERY PUBLICLY PURSUED BY THE CITY AUDITOR, WE HAD TO SEARCH THE OPAQUE LASERFICHE WEBLINK JOURNAL DOCUMENTATION ARCHIVE FOR THE PREVENTION AND WELLNESS TRUST FUND AUDIT. OTHER PERFORMANCE AUDITS CAN BE FOUND IN THE DOCUMENT CENTER, A CRAZY CATCH-ALL WHERE DOCUMENTATION CLEARLY WENT TO DIE. ALTHOUGH IT CAN BE SORTED BY KEYWORD, WE STILL FIND THE ARCANE FORMAT TO BE CUMBERSOME TO TRANSLATE INTO THE MORE USER-FRIENDLY PDF FORMAT. SUCH OPACITY SENT A VERY CLEAR MESSAGE: AUDIT THIS20 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ↕ – CITIZEN KSEN ALSO RECOMMENDED WE ATTEMPT TO FIND SIGNED CHECKS WRITTEN TO VENDORS. WE CANNOT. THE ZERO-PENALTY SOLUTION WOULD BE TO MAKE THIS LOOK SOMETHING LIKE AN ONLINE BANKING ACTIVITY REPORT. WE FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO FIND SPECIFIC SERVICES VENDORS MIGHT HAVE RENDERED, AS THE NOTES AND CATEGORIZATION WERE FAIR AT BEST. BETTER ONLINE RECORD-KEEPING WOULD FREE UP THE CLERK’S OFFICE FOR MORE USEFUL ENDEAVORS LIKE ANSWERING OUR CRANK CALLS. “DO YOU HAVE ED AUGUSTUS JR IN A CAN???? *GUFFAW GUFFAW*” 5 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ↑ – AS YOU CAN SEE, WE WERE ONLY ABLE TO FIND THE GRANTEES LISTED. ALTHOUGH WE FOUND INFORMATION ON THE DEFINITION OF A TIF, WE SAW NO SIMILAR DATABASE OR LIST OF BUSINESSES RECEIVING SUCH FAVOR. THE IMPRESSION THIS LEFT US HAD BEEN, TO SAY THE LEAST, UNPLEASANT. 20 CLICK PENALTY.
  • – MOST PEOPLE WOULD LIKELY ATTEMPT TO USE THE MAPS PROVIDED ON THE CITY COUNCIL PAGE. WE FIND THE MAPS MOST USEFUL FOR EVALUATING PHIL PALMIERI’S CLAIM OF DISTRICT 2 BEING THE MOST GERRYMANDERED DISTRICT IN WORCESTER (DALEK OR PITH HELMET??? YOU MAKE THE CALL). HOWEVER, HAVING TO CLICK ON EACH DISTRICT MAP TO SEE IF YOUR HOUSE MIGHT FALL WITHIN IT WOULD BE CUMBERSOME AT BEST AND A CUSTOM SEARCHABLE MAP (GOOGLE OR OTHERWISE) WOULD BE LESS CONFUSING. WE NOTE THE ROSTER OF ELECTED OFFICIALS TO BE DELIGHTFULLY UNHELPFUL FOR THIS AS WELL. 15 CLICK PENALTY.
  • * – ENTERING A ZIP CODE IN THE BOX JUST UNDERNEATH THE WORCESTER WEATHER LINK GENERATED AN ERROR. NOT ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET??? TOUGH NOOGIES!!!!!!!!! 5 CLICK PENALTY.

WE AWARD AN ADDITIONAL 20 CLICK PENALTY FOR A COMPLETELY UNUSABLE SITE IN ITS MOBILE FORM DUE TO THE LILLIPUTIAN MENU SIZE, IN ADDITION TO A 10 CLICK PENALTY FOR PLACING NUMEROUS LINKS UNDER CRYPTICALLY NAMED SECTIONS AS WELL AS AN ADDITIONAL 30 CLICK PENALTY — TEN FOR EACH SEPARATE SEARCH ENGINE REQUIRED FOR THE DOCUMENT CENTER, LASERFICHE ARCHIVE, AND SITE PROPER.

TOTAL PENALTIES: 199

 

FINAL SCORE:

251

 

CONCLUSION

YOU MIGHT THINK THIS SCORE TO BE HIGH. WE DID FIND SOME WEAKNESSES IN WORCESTER’S WEBSITE, WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT BE SEEING AN UPDATE IN THE NEAR FUTURE (WE HEARD A RUMOR ABOUT THERE BEING AN UPGRADE, BUT WE WERE SKETCHY ON THE DETAILS AND THEREFORE ASK YOU TREAT THIS AS A BIG Y CHECKOUT-LEVEL RUMOR RATHER THAN A PHIL PALMIERI-LEVEL RUMOR). THAT SAID, FOR THE LAST SEVEN YEARS, THIS WOULD BE THE FIRST STOP BEFORE GOING DOWNTOWN OR MAKING A CALL FOR MANY OF WORCESTER’S CITIZENS AND/OR BUSINESS PARTNERS.

REGARDLESS WE EXPECT TO PROVE WE MAINTAIN A COMFORTABLE LEVEL OF MEDIOCRITY COMPARED TO CITIES OF SIMILAR SIZES ACROSS THE NATION, AND ALSO PROVIDE LIVELY DEBATE AS TO WHETHER OR NOT MAINTAINING A CITY’S WEBSITE OR EVEN JUST ONLINE PRESENCE IN GENERAL WOULD BE WORTH ~TAXPAYER DOLLARS~.

 

APPEALS

APPEALS IN BIZARRO WORCESTER USUALLY INVOLVE US LISTENING CAREFULLY TO YOUR COMPLAINTS AND THEN MOCKING YOU WHILE WE MOVE ONTO SOMETHING ELSE. WE HAVE DECIDED, GIVEN THE SUBJECTIVITY OF OUR PENALTIES, TO OPEN THEM TO APPEAL. ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE, YOU MAY POST YOUR OPINION ON OUR PENALTY AND ASSESS YOUR OWN — HIGHER OR LOWER. IF YOUR OPINION SHOULD GET AT LEAST 5 LIKES AND BEAT OUR EXPERT REBUTTAL (WE SHALL BE COPYING AND PASTING “WE DISRESPECTFULLY DISAGREE” OVER AND OVER AGAIN”)… WE SHALL REVISE OUR SCORE USING YOUR PENALTY INSTEAD. WE SUGGEST THE FOLLOWING FORMAT WHICH, IN OUR TRADITIONAL BUREAUCRATIC STYLE, SHALL ACTUALLY BE MANDATORY:

PENALTY: SO AND SO (A MILLION CLICKS).

REASON: I LIKE CHEESE.

RECOMMENDATION: 0 CLICKS.

REMEMBER: YOU FIGHT FOR THE DISHONOR OF YOUR CITY!!!!! SO BE ON NOTICE, CITIZENS OF WORCESTER… AND ACROSS OUR QUASI-GREAT NATION… BECAUSE YOUR CITY WEBSITE MIGHT ACTUALLY SUCK MORE THAN OURS.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

3 thoughts on “YOUR CITY WEBSITE SUCKS — PART 1: WORCESTER, A BENCHMARK OF MEDIOCRITY

  1. Via the city’s website, try to find out if you’ll need to feed a meter on a Monday holiday. I dare you. Go ahead. Try.

  2. Something Italian or Irish says:

    Worcester sucks. NO MERCY!!!

HAVE A COMMENT??? AMUSE ME OR SUFFER!!!!!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: