YOUR CITY WEBSITE SUCKS — PART 4: SPRINGFIELD, LIKE WORCESTER EXCEPT MORESO

WE HAVE REACHED THE HUMP DAY PORTION OF OUR “YOUR CITY WEBSITE SUCKS” TOUR, AND WHAT BETTER PLACE TO FIND A HUMP THAN A VALLEY???? PIONEER VALLEY, THAT AM!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY REFERRED TO SPRINGFIELD AS NOT SO MUCH A SISTER CITY, BUT A RED-HEADED STEPCHILD CITY. THIS DESPITE STRIKING SIMILARITIES: A NUMBER OF HISTORIC FIRSTS, INCLUDING GIVING BIRTH TO A SPORT ONLY CARED ABOUT IF THE RED SOX AND PATRIOTS BOTH SUCK THAT YEAR. A RESPECTABLE ALBEIT MONOLITHIC HEALTHCARE NETWORK HUB. A MAYOR WHO RECENTLY WON BY A LANDSLIDE DESPITE HAVING GONE ALL-IN WITH THE MGM CASINO (TOOK US DAYS TO COME UP WITH THAT ONE) IN ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL MASSACHUSETTS URBAN DEVELOPMENT DECISIONS THIS SIDE OF THE WORCESTER GALLERIA.

THAT NOT BEING SAID, NONE OF THAT REALLY MATTER RIGHT NOW. WE SIMPLY HAVE ONE QUESTION: DESPITE ANY OF HIS FAILINGS, HOW COULD HE HAVE POSSIBLY LOST TO THIS GUY?

OH, AND WE ALSO WANT TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT THEIR CITY WEBSITE SUCKS.

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.

SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

GENERAL

APPEARANCE

SPFLD_MA

  • OVERALL IMPRESSION: A PERFECTLY CROMULENT WEBSITE FOR 2002. LAYOUT UNCHANGED SINCE 2008.
  • MOBILE VERSION: SQUASHED VERSION OF THE MAIN PAGE WITH UNREADABLE TEXT IN THE MARGINS BUTTONS.
  • FRONT PAGE HIGHLIGHTS: SOME LILIPUTIAN MENU BUTTONS AT THE TOP, AND A LARGE PICTURE OF THAT GUY FROM WESTWORLD AND THE SUNSHINE BOYS.

FUNCTIONALITY

(ALL TASKS ATTEMPTED BY FOLLOWING DIRECT LINKS FROM HOMEPAGE. WE STOP AT TRANSFER TO THIRD-PARTY WEBSITES.)
  1. CONTACT CITY HALL: 0 CLICKS (ON MAIN PAGE).
  2. FIND OUT WHERE TO VOTE: 2 CLICKS
    1. CITY DEPARTMENTS, “Voter Information
    2. Check Voter Status” (DEFERRED TO STATE SECRETARY’S WEBSITE)
  3. VIEW MUNICIPAL CALENDAR (AND OBTAIN ICS FEED FOR USE IN MICROSOFT OUTLOOK, ETC.): 2 CLICKS
    1. CALENDAR
    2. Subscribe & DownloadҤ
  4. PAY PARKING TICKETS: 2 CLICKS
    1. Pay City Taxes, Fees & Tickets Online
    2. Pay Springfield Parking Tickets online
  5. OBTAIN A BIRTH CERTIFICATE, WITH CONFIRMATION IN SYSTEM: 3 CLICKS
    1. GOVERNMENT
    2. CITY CLERK, “Vital Records
    3. Birth CertificateҠ
  6. FIND INFORMATION ON PARKING BANS: 1 CLICK
    1. Parking Bans
  7. REQUEST REMOVAL OF RESIDENT NUISANCE BEAST: 3 CLICKS
    1. 311
    2. DPW, “Streets
    3. Q: How do I report a dead animal?“‡
  8. FIND SCHOOL CLOSINGS: 2 CLICKS
    1. CITY DEPARTMENTS, “Schools
    2. Visit the Springfield School Department Website“#
  9. FIND YOUR SCHEDULED TRASH DAY: UNABLE TO FIND ON CITY WEBSITE.%
  10. FIND THE CURRENT COUNCIL AGENDA: 3 CLICKS
    1. HELP AND ANSWERS, “City Council
    2. City Council Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Video
    3. SELECT THE TOP ITEM ON THE CALENDAR.
  11. REVIEW PREVIOUS COUNCIL MEETINGS: 4 CLICKS
    1. HELP AND ANSWERS, “City Council
    2. City Council Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Video
    3. Full Calendar
    4. SELECT YEAR.^
  12. OBTAIN A LICENSE/CERTIFICATE FORM FOR YOUR BUSINESS: 5 CLICKS
    1. BUSINESS
    2. Guide to Starting a Business
    3. http://www3.springfield-ma.gov/cos/clerk0.html
    4. Business Certificates
    5. Download an application for a business certificate“Δ
  13. OBTAIN INFORMATION ON APPLYING FOR A LIQUOR LICENSE: 4 CLICKS
    1. GOVERNMENT
    2. Departments
    3. Law
    4. License Commission“◊
  14. APPLY FOR A JOB WITH THE CITY: 1 CLICK
    1. Employment Opportunities
  15. FIND THE LATEST BUDGET: 2 CLICKS
    1. HELP AND ANSWERS, “Budget
    2. SELECT THE TOP ITEM ON THE LIST TO THE RIGHT.
  16. FIND AUDITS: 4 CLICKS
    1. CITY DEPARTMENTS, “Audit (Internal)
    2. Reports
    3. SELECT A CATEGORY.
    4. SELECT A REPORT.↕
  17. FIND RECIPIENTS OF CITY-ISSUED CHECKS: 4 CLICKS
    1. GOVERNMENT
    2. Departments
    3. City Comptroller
    4. OTPS Checkbook (Other Than Personal Services)
  18. FIND CITY-AWARDED GRANTS/TIF AGREEMENTS/ETC: 2 CLICKS
    1. Disaster Recovery
    2. Procurement Notices and AwardsҦ
  19. CONFIRM AND CONTACT YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES: 2 CLICKS
    1. Government
    2. City Council“*
  20. OBTAIN CURRENT WEATHER CONDITIONS: 3 CLICKS
    1. 311
    2. Weather
    3. What is the weather forecast for Springfield?

TOTAL CLICKS: 49

PENALTY CLICKS

  • § – ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF GOOD CALENDAR-FU. WE DEDUCT A -2 CLICK BONUS FOR OFFERING DOWNLOADS BY CATEGORY.
  • † – “The City of Springfield does not accept credit cards or online orders; however, for your convenience, you can process online requests through an independent company that we have partnered with to provide you this service; VitalChek Network, Inc. VitalChek can be reached through its website, http://www.vitalchek.com. An additional fee is charged by VitalChek for using this service […]” TRANSLATION: UP YOUR NOSE WITH A RUBBER HOSE. 15 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ‡ – WE WERE UNABLE TO FIND ANY MEANS OF REPORTING THIS ONLINE, AND NO REFERENCES WHATSOEVER TO THIS APPEARED ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE DPW PAGES THAT WE COULD FIND. ADDITIONALLY, WE NOTE THE WEBSITE’S NAME: “possum”. WE FIND THIS PREJUDICED AGAINST DECEASED SQUIRRELS, CATS AND CRABS. 15 CLICK PENALTY, YOU HORRIBLE BAKE SALES!!!!!!!!!!!
  • # – WE FOUND THE SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL WEBSITE’S POLICY ON SCHOOL CANCELLATIONS HERE WITHIN TWO CLICKS. ADDITIONALLY, THEY STATED THAT THE WEBSITE WOULD LOOK LIKE THIS IN THE EVENT OF A CANCELLATION. WITH SUCH DEFINITIVE INFORMATION PRESENT, WE SEE NO NEED FOR FURTHER PENALTIES.
  • % – WE FOUND THIS, BUT COULD NOT LOCATE ANY DEFINITIVE MAPS OF ANY KIND. ALTHOUGH WE PRESUME INFORMATION ON A RESIDENT’S TRASH DAY WOULD BE MAILED TO THEM, WE QUESTION HOW WELL THIS WOULD BE REMEMBERED AFTER A TWO-WEEK VACATION OR CURFEW VIOLATION ON THE TOWN. 20 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ^ – WE NOTE EACH CALENDAR ITEM TO INCLUDE AN AGENDA, MINUTES AND A SUPPLEMENT FOR EACH. ADDITIONALLY, WE FOUND SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SPRINGFIELD’S VIDEO PLAYER AND THAT OF TEMPE. DESPITE THE DREADED PROPRIETARY VIDEO FORMAT OF DOOM, WE FOUND THIS WEBSITE TO BE REMARKABLY EASY TO USE AND THEREFORE RESCIND ANY PENALTIES WE MIGHT HAVE CONSIDERED. WE WOULD, HOWEVER, SUGGEST SPRINGFIELD OBSERVE TEMPE’S USE OF AGENDAS AS INDICES FOR THE VIDEO AND CONSIDER DOING THE SAME.
  • Δ – WE HAVE NOTICED CITY WEBSITES FALL INTO TWO CATEGORIES: THOSE WHICH CLAIM TO BE FRIENDLY TO SMALL BUSINESSES AND THOSE WHICH ACTUALLY HAVE EASILY ACCESSIBLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR FILING APPROPRIATE PAPERWORK. THIS WOULD BE THE FORMER. 10 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ◊ – WE WERE PLEASED TO SEE A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF ITEMS HERE, BUT WE DID NOTE THE FILES TO BE IN .DOC FORM AS OPPOSED TO THE MORE EMINENTLY PRINTABLE .PDF FORMAT. HOWEVER, BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THIS TO BE SUCH AN ABSURD NITPICK EVEN BY OUR STANDARDS, WE SHALL ONLY ASSESS A 1/2 CLICK PENALTY.
  • ↕ – WE NOTE THE REFERENCE TO A FAVORABLE REPORT FROM SUNSHINE REVIEW, WHICH WOULD BE MORE FAVORABLE HAD IT NOT BEEN ABSORBED BY BALLOTPEDIA AS OF 2013. WE DO, HOWEVER, ALSO NOTE THE FRAUD HOTLINE AND THEREFORE AWARD NO ADDITIONAL PENALTIES.
  • ↑ – WE WOULD AWARD HIGHER PENALTIES, BUT SINCE WE WERE IMPRESSED BY THE ITEMIZED LIST, WE THEREFORE ONLY AWARD THE USUAL 2 CLICK PENALTY FOR THE ANNOYANCE OF FINDING SAID OPEN CHECKBOOK.
  • – WE FOUND THIS PAGE UNDER “DISASTER RELIEF”, AND WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT TO BE AN ACCURATE TITLE BASED ON THE CONTRACTS LISTED AND DATES. WE DO, HOWEVER, CONSIDER WHAT MAY NOT OR MAY BE A MISPLACED ARCHIVE TO FLY IN THE FACE OF OPEN AND ACCESSIBLE GOVERNMENT. ALTHOUGH TO BE FAIR, WE CONSIDER THIS PAGE TO BE A COMPLETE DISASTER. 20 CLICK PENALTY.
  • * – A CAREFUL PERUSAL OF THIS PAGE WOULD REVEAL WE FORGOT ONE LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIAL: MAYOR DOMENIC SARNO. WE COULD NOT FIND ANY CONTACT INFORMATION WHATSOEVER FOR HIM OR EVEN HIS OFFICE ON THE CITY WEBSITE. SHOULD WE TRY THE MGM SPRINGFIELD OFFICES INSTEAD? 20 CLICK PENALTY.

WE AWARD AN ADDITIONAL 15 CLICK PENALTY FOR A POOR MOBILE VERSION WITH ONLY HEADLINES CLICKABLE. ADDITIONALLY, THOSE WHO SAW US CHAINSAW THROUGH WORCESTER’S CITY WEBSITE MIGHT NOTE OUR HATRED FOR DROP-DOWN MENUS. WITH SEVERAL SITES SEEMINGLY ACCESSIBLE ONLY THROUGH SAID DROP-DOWN MENUS, WE AWARD AN ADDITIONAL 37 CLICK PENALTY, TO BE CANCELLED ONLY THROUGH THE 37TH ITEM ON A 200-ITEM LIST.

LASTLY, WE TOSS ON ANOTHER 50 CLICK PENALTY BECAUSE REALLY??????? A MAYOR’S OFFICE IN 2016 INACCESSIBLE VIA THE INTERNET????????????? OR BY PHONE!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? DID ANYONE FIND A CARRIER PIGEON SERVICE PERCHANCE??????????????????????????????? PERHAPS WE CAN DELIVER A PAPYRUS TO THE MAYOR VIA COURIER BLESSED BY HERMES????????????????????????????????????????

EVEN WE CAN BE EASILY REACHED VIA EMAIL!!!!!!!!!!!! WE USUALLY PREFER TO SEND CARDS BEARING THE WORDS “WE KNOW” UNDER A BLACK HANDPRINT, BUT SHEOGORATH THREATENED TO SUE US FOR COPYRIGHT NON-INFRINGEMENT.

TOTAL PENALTIES: 202 1/2

FINAL SCORE:

251 1/2

CONCLUSION

WE WERE INCENSED TO FIND THE TOTAL LACK OF ONLINE ACCESS (OR EVEN PHONE ACCESS) TO THE MAYOR. EVEN IN WORCESTER, YOU CAN ALWAYS GET TOLD OFF BY THE MAYOR’S OFFICE*!!! JUST CALL AND MAKE YOURSELF A NUISANCE*!!!!!!! WITH THIS WEEK BEING ALL ABOUT ACCESSIBLE AND OPEN GOVERNMENT, THE LAST THING WE WANT WOULD BE A MAYOR’S OFFICE ONLY ACCESSIBLE VIA SEMAPHORE.

WE ACTUALLY DID NOT PLAN TO HAVE WORCESTER BEAT SPRINGFIELD BY HALF A POINT WHEN ASSESSING PENALTIES, BUT WE WOULD NOT CONSIDER THIS A VICTORY IN ANY SENSE. THEY SHOWED SUPERIORITY IN SOME CATEGORIES, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO DISSEMINATING COUNCIL AGENDAS AND VIDEOS. BUT THEY ALSO SHOWED SIGNIFICANT AGE AND, LIKE WORCESTER, CANNOT BE USED WITH ANY DEGREE OF EFFECTIVENESS VIA MOBILE PHONE. IN THE END, THEY MIGHT HAVE AT LEAST BEEN A PASSABLE SITE HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR — AND WE STILL CANNOT BELIEVE THIS — THE LACK OF ANY MEANS OF CONTACTING THE MAYOR’S OFFICE SHORT OF TOSSING AN ALBATROSS THROUGH THE WINDOW WITH A NOTE IN ITS MOUTH*.

* BIZARRO NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS.

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.

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