Monday 20 April 2015

@gdsteam, the first casualty of war

Here's a selection of GDS posts and a film in the week leading up to purdah:

Janet Hughes
Chris Mitchell
Janet Hughes
Janet Hughes
Janet Hughes and Stephen Dunn
Mike Bracken
David Rennie
Mike Bracken
Mike Beavan
Mike Bracken
Mike Bracken
Mike Bracken
Liam Maxwell
Martha Lane Fox

Six-fourteenths of our way through the review of the pre-purdah posts, and a surprising theme is developing.

We noted in our review of Chris Mitchell's 25 March 2015 offering, Ready for Live: Digital Self-Assessment, that the Government Digital Service (GDS) were potentially misleading the public.

They claimed that their work, in connection with UK tax returns, "will make self-assessment fully digital for about 10 million people". In fact, digital self-assessment has been available from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) since at least 31 January 2008, long before GDS existed.

Far from creating the digital self-assessment service – which is the impression given – all that GDS did was to add an email facility which cuts out some of the letters which have previously been sent.

"Perhaps GDS simply didn't notice the ambiguity", you may say.

But they did. We know that from the Service Assessment which was conducted by GDS and published on their blog on 21 March 2014, over a year ago:
... the assessment team did agree that the service in its current form is a feature of “Your tax account”, rather than a service in its own right.
It looks as though GDS have knowingly allowed their potentially misleading reports to persist for over a year.

We noted in our review of Mike Beavan's 27 March 2015 offering, Looking back at the exemplars, that there is some deception when it comes to how many of GDS's 25 exemplar services are live. Figures vary between 8 and 20. Which is it?

"It's only DMossEsq who finds this deceptive", you may say.

Not so. Look at the comments on Mr Beavan's post:
Peter — 02/04/2015
Hi Mike [Beavan],

this blog says:

"Of the 25 services, 20 are publicly accessible. Fifteen of those are fully live and the rest are in beta "

I've clicked through the services and of the 15 that are stated as "fully live". 5 seem to be in public Beta whilst one, digital self-assessment, appears to only be a redirect page. List below:

+ Visas
+ Make a claim to an Employment Tribunal
+ Find an apprenticeship
+ Digital self-assessment
+ Your tax account

Could you clarify what is meant by "fully live"?

There follows 10 days of deceitful-looking prevarication in the comments section of the blog about the meaning of "live" and a questionable claim that GDS's hands are tied during purdah ... but no satisfactory answer to Peter's question.

Social media house rules
GDS say:
We will block and/or report users on Twitter who direct tweets at us which we believe are:
  1. Abusive or obscene
  2. Deceptive or misleading
  3. In violation of any intellectual property rights
  4. In violation of any law or regulation
  5. Spam (persistent negative and/or abusive tweeting in which the aim is to provoke a response)
Presumably what applies to Twitter applies just as much to GDS blogs. And presumably what applies to users applies just as much to GDS themselves. Including rule #2 above, about being "deceptive or misleading".

And now, on with the review – eight more items to go.

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