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Speaker: Properly Public: It's our information

103 Responses

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  • slarty,

    I suspect it is a sign of a truly sad mind, but this made me laugh out loud [cos it's interesting and well written]

    Amazing how many agencies whisper to their staff that "stamp it with draft so it can't be released under the OIA"...

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    They need to hire one or more Technical Writers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_writer the tool I use is very good and made here in NZ, http://www.author-it.com/
    Scanned pages and locked .pdf's pfffft wooden wheels ;-)

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E,

    Readers of this blog might also be interested in John Edwards' recent post on the BIMs.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley,

    All I do with scanned docs and pdfs that try to control content is upload them to Google Docs and let Google do the work - Tried this the CERA and AG BIMs and Google extracted all the text in both.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • megaphone,

    Those government web guidelines appear to have disappeared. From my past research that disappearance was about the time that Government Technology Services moved to the Department of Internal Affairs.

    wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to John Holley,

    All I do with scanned docs and pdfs that try to control content is upload them to Google Docs and let Google do the work - Tried this the CERA and AG BIMs and Google extracted all the text in both.

    Ah, I didn't try that, John.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to slarty,

    Amazing how many agencies whisper to their staff that “stamp it with draft so it can’t be released under the OIA"…

    Except that draft documents are OIA-able, as are hand-written meeting notes, audio recordings, photographs, even making officials reconstruct discussions and thought processes. Not a lot of people realise that.

    Also, material received by government agencies becomes 'official information' as soon as it arrives.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Andrew E,

    Readers of this blog might also be interested in John Edwards' recent post on the BIMs.

    Thanks, Andrew, I hadn't seen that. I concur completely. The OIA is a poorly understood beast by government agencies and ministers, and the public as a whole.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to nzlemming,

    I did this by uploading the PDFs to Google Docs. I have the option set to grab text and OCR scans - so it produces a google doc with the image on one page and the extracted text on the next (repeats for each page). Want me to send you the examples?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to John Holley,

    No, I did know you could do that to scanned docs and have done so. I hadn't realised it would also bypass the document security settings, though it's obvious in hindsight. It doesn't invalidate my point, though: why do we need to do this to get at our information?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to nzlemming,

    I had that argument with the ATA with the SuperCity where they thought "Draft" meant you didn't have to release it. They never read the OIA legislation or the Ombudsman's guidelines. Mind you, many of the ATA senior staff were from Watercare, and they were use to running behind a screen of anonymity!

    I absolutely agree that we seeing a move to more secretive central and local government - contrary to the intent of the OIA and LGOIMA.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Holley,

    Who would you OIA now for ATA docs?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    more secretive central and local government

    Compulsory Twitter might get em used to having conversations in public.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    Still be LGOIMA to the Auckland Council, I think

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    or might be DIA?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    Oh, you thinking Archives? I suspect that Auckland Council will have inherited all the previous records for the component councils, including COCs

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    ATA was overseen by DIA is all. But enough chat about that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • jungle pickle,

    The following comment will not apply to all organisations, but with staff and funding cuts all over the show, this may be a contributing factor:

    BIM's are publications and should be prepared by various appropriate advisors then passed to a Comms team for formatting, checking and publication. I've recently found that a number of these teams either do not do this work anymore as they are understaffed, or they use software that does not easily give them HTML output.

    Joe advisor is left to take care of it and is probably using Word to prepare the BIM and only knows how to "Save as PDF". Or in many cases, print the sucker then rescan it to get a PDF.

    BIM's are just the tip of the iceberg. Government Departments are required to produce all sorts of official documents, and more and more back office services are being stripped away, leaving Joe advisor to try and figure out what to do. Of course, Joe doesn't get trained to do these things properly, or get provided with the proper software, so we end up with a growing mountain of paper and inaccessible documents. Google may be fine for some things, but it sure is not a replacement for good process and systems.

    Kapiti • Since Feb 2012 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to jungle pickle,

    That is very interestring. Live & learn. I am sure others on this thread will have cogent comments-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to jungle pickle,

    Oh, absolutely. But I don't know that I could have covered all of that in one blog post. ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Once that would have had me banging my head on the table, as PDFs have regularly been used as electronic versions of paper documents, rather than as containers of information. Don't get me wrong, I'd still prefer to see HTML/CSS documents, but at least the current crop is largely accessible, i.e. they can be read in a text-to-speech (TTS) reader.

    The PDF is the main mode of communication for scientific publication these days, and my standard for acceptability is basically "will Mendeley Desktop read it into its database correctly and let me highlight stuff"? Because, sure, I can hand-type in the author and journal and so on, and I can print it out and highlight the interesting bits by hand. But it's the 21st century. I shouldn't have to.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    How are you finding Mendeley? I tried it once and couldn't get my head around it at the time (probably because what I wanted was something that would parse a document and auto-create an abstract more than just do bib work).

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1768 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    If I had to pick an agency that did it best, I'd probably say Treasury.

    Knowing some of the IT and publications staff within Treasury, I know they'd appreciate that the effort for getting the systems for this in place has been noticed, because it wasn't a small effort. I imagine it's a similar problem for most departments.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Having a properly structured source document without little text boxes and whatnot increases the chances a PDF made from it will be readable by other software, including research tools like Mendeley and the screen-readers that blind people use.

    Here's one I made that DIA's standards team regard as a good example (PDF, 1.3MB).

    Making all text left-aligned is really helpful for people who use screen magnifiers, and regular text spacing makes reading easier for all - 'justified' alignment is not our friend. Making content and structure easier to grasp helps everyone too. Plain language is hard to write but is gold.

    Compulsory training of all public servants producing material for publication would help more than most current wet-bus-ticketing about standards. People want to do a good job. And they want to be able to read material made with their taxes (and rates). We all deserve that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

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