I Felt The Need To Write to the Chilcot Inquiry

Sir John Chilcot

Earlier this week I wrote to the Iraq Inquiry team about the forthcoming report.

I note that the Inquiry report will be published in July. May I ask in what format the report will be published? I assume that physical paper copies will be available, and also a PDF.

However, neither of these are optimal for public discussion and citation. May I recommend that the report is also published in an HTML format?

I draw your attention to my project The Leveson Report (As It Should Be) at leveson.robertsharp.co.uk.

This is not a rewriting of Lord Justice Leveson’s report but instead a re-setting of the report in HMTL, a format that is far more convenient for students, journalists, policy makers and the public. Each paragraph and chapter carries its own anchor link for easy citation.

It is imperative that Sir John Chilcot’s report is published in a similar format. Ideally, transcripts of and written evidence that the Inquiry makes public should be presented in that format too.

An organisation that has has done significant work in this area is MySociety. I urge the Inquiry team consult with MySociety and other organisations who work in this area ahead of (not after) the report publication, to ensure that modern web design and coding/markup techniques and ‘best practice’ are applied.

The report of the Inquiry is of huge historical, constitutional and political significance and the actual formats in which the report is made available should reflect that. The medium is part of the message of transparency and clarity that is at the heart of the Inquiry.

Continue reading “I Felt The Need To Write to the Chilcot Inquiry”

Cite Bite – Filling the online citation gap

One of my bugbears is the widespread failure of website creators to construct their code (well, technically markup) properly. Back in 2005, Creative Review awarded me ‘Star Letter‘ for my critique of the pretty but entirely inaccessible websites that were being held up as the pinnacle of design. “The web is a medium in itself, not a metaphor for print.”

In particular, I am continually dismayed by sites that present long screeds of text without anchor links that allow linking to a specific part of the text. I wrote a WordPress plugin that adds these invisible bookmarks to the underlying markup.

That’s all very well for my site, but what about other sites? You cannot edit someone else’s content to add the links you want. Continue reading “Cite Bite – Filling the online citation gap”

The mess under the bonnet of the Houses of Parliament website

Parliament, 17th December 2012
Parliament, 17th December 2012

Excuse me if I go off on a technical rant for a moment.  I find it very irritating when people don’t use HTML mark-up properly.  I can forgive the occasional user, or those relying on WYSIWYG editors, but for large, professionally coded websites, there is no excuse for mark-up which does not apply standards correctly.

What has vexed me so?  The Houses of Parliament website.  In many ways this is a great resource.  They offer video of parliamentary debates, and the Hansard of the previous day’s proceedings is posted promptly the following moring.  However, the underlying mark-up is flawed. Continue reading “The mess under the bonnet of the Houses of Parliament website”