Note (July 2017)
Thanks all for a great response to the Social Media Test Suite survey – in just over a week, 55 people helped out sharing data about the internet access policies of 35 different UK publicly-funded organisations. I’ve excluded duplicate responses from organisations for analysis purposes here; it’s worth bearing in mind the caveat that different users in the same organisation may have different experiences.
First, the good news: apart from social networking sites and webmail, over 80% of respondents are able to access the rest of the social media sites in the test, including 100% able to see LinkedIn, forums like NetMums and 97% confirming they could see Wikipedia and perhaps surprisingly, the social bookmarking service Digg:
|YouTube (able to see well)||63%|
The key problem areas then seem to be:
- Online video: more than a third are unable to view YouTube videos correctly
- Social networking: nearly half are unable to access Facebook
- Webmail: two fifths have access to Gmail blocked, perhaps for justifiable security reasons
|Flash||86%, virtually all version 9 or better|
But these numbers belie a more complex picture, as some of the comments highlighted:
“Although we can access most sites well enough, we can’t interact with them… The issue here is to do with blocked (or just not actively permitted) technologies, not blocked domains. Anything AJAXy is pretty much non functional. We can get sites whitelisted but it’s a case of asking for them one at a time, and being prepared to wait a while – CLG”
“We have just been informed that access to social media sites has been restricted further on the grounds of time wasting – Home Office”
“Worth also checking blockage of short URLs in govt. They are invaluable, and increasing in prevalence. DWP block tinyurl, but let is.gd through”
“I was asked to carry out a quick analysis of the reactions in the ‘blogosphere’ to the Gaza crisis- because I can’t use any aggregation or feed reading tools or use any web-based automated analytics tools it made this a very laborious task… We do have a standalone PC and this is on my desk, but the other 36 people in the unit have to use it too and its not really a viable or acceptable alternative.”
One of the emails I received (anonymised, since that seems only fair), demonstrates the limitations even of the test suite approach:
“Our IT system deliberately crashes the browser when getting to an outlawed website (such as your second test – Facebook) and won’t proceed further, so I can’t tell you which other sites we can (and can’t) view!”
From a quick scan of the results, it looks like the main blockers (in no particular order) seemed to be:
- Directgov (DWP)
- Surrey County Council
- ‘A north east council’
- Environment Agency
- Home Office
Does DIUS or Cabinet Office have staff any more or less likely to waste time than the Home Office or DWP? Is ‘security’ more important in Surrey than Devon? Might the good burghers of Directgov benefit from a bit more exposure to the social web? Would people at FCO tasked with engaging around the world be helped by being able to view more of the World Wide Web?
You decide. Or you could always pop your CV on LinkedIn to find an opening somewhere that actually lets you do your job?