Sunday, May 16, 2010

How Not to Seek Input

A while ago I signed up on the New Brunswick Information Technology Council LinkedIn group because I have a fairly obvious interest in the subject. The other day, I received a link and a request for comments on the new NBITC website. I was happy to oblige.

Normally, I would post such comments to this blog as well as to the forum, but my comments were pretty negative, so I decided to send them to the LinkedIn forum alone, keeping a copy for my own records (I have learned to always do this). No need to spread negativity about, and better to just keep it in-house for now.

I shouldn't have bothered. Within a day or so, NBITC Executive Director Larry Sampson came on and deleted the discussion, lock, stock and barrel. I sent an email asking about the deletion, which was ignored.The strategy appears simply to be to erase the comment and pretend it never happened.

This is not how to seek input.

For the record, here are my comments on the website :


- the site should be in HTML, not Silverlight -- there is utterly no reason to use Silverlight, and it makes it inaccessible to a large number of people

- related - links should open to new web pages, not popups - notice there's no way to cut&paste from the popups, making it difficult for the site to be quoted

- instead of simply offering points of view (eg., in the innovation sectiopn, I'd quote it, but...) you should offer points for discussion

- The 'exports' graph is pretty standard for NB - but it's misleading. We have such a large energy export because we are such a large energy importer - we're a refining province. I'd rather see 'net exports' - stuff we actually *produce* here that we export

- 'latest news' should not consist of one-word headlines, which are meaningless - items should have proper headlines, short descriptions, and open to article pages that can be cited - news should also be supported with an RSS feed (with autodiscovery)

- and where are the links? A 'news' item consists (in its entirely) of "NBITC launches membership program" with no link to information or how to become a member - this is truly dysfunctional

- the 'membership' link opens yet another popup, no link to a form, etc., and an email address that cannot be copied into an email client. The first thing it tells us is how much it costs, which is not how you lead a sale.

- it appears that board memberships are for sale, rather than some more democratic process - is this really the image we want to offer?

Overall, this is a very light site, not particularly well designed, generally user-hostile, and not consistent with a message of collaboration and innovation.

You can see why I wanted to keep it in-house. It's not a positive evaluation. But if you go to the site (and if you have Silverlight) you'll see what I mean. My criticisms are not spiteful or unfair. They're just a brutal evaluation of what is a brutal website.

Frankly, I think that instead of taking my criticism down, they should have taken the website down.

I will continue to support the NBITC and will continue to comment on the LinkedIn discussion list. But I will not be censored, and I will not accept uncritically presentations about New Brunswick that are inept and amateurish. They do not serve well the very real talent that exists within this province.