19 April 2012

Drip / droop / drupal - what's the difference?

One Barnet is suffering a bit of droop that is for sure. What is Mr Mustard on about? The new website, such as it is, that's what. Tonight Mr Mustard defended the website saying that just because £640,000 has been spent you can't expect it to be fully functional from the off, or can you? When we say website we are talking about the CMS / Content Management System.

Let us wind back to the marking for the "new" website. Here it is, courtesy of Mr X.

Website tender Scoring

Drat. It is sideways. Let us have the cost scoring  in a neat little table with the 4 free providers grouped together and the two that have to be paid for to the right.

Open source = free Commercial

Who Nomensa Portsurf Squiz RR 2e2 JADU
Life cost Lambert 5 15 15 15 15 15
Grice 10 15 10 15 15 15
? #1 10 15 10 17 12 15
? #2 10 15 10 15 15 15

Schedule Lambert 10 10 10 10 10 10
Grice 10 10 12 15 10 15
? #1 10 10 12 15 10 15
? #2 10 10 10 10 10 10

Total Lambert 15 25 25 25 25 25
Grice 20 25 22 30 25 30
? #1 20 25 22 32 22 30
? #2 20 25 20 25 25 25

Totals 75 100 89 112 97 110

The names of two of the people who scored the project were secret because they are too lowly to allow their details into the public domain. They are however important enough to decide how £600,000+ gets spent. Do you find that strange?

Look, Grice, he of the rapid transfer to BT, and A N Other #2 scored the whole life cost identically for all 6 potential suppliers. Anyone would think they had been sitting together.

Then for the cost schedule we have two pairs of identical scores. The four of them must have been sat around a table with 2 people sat each side. No cribbing thank you.

A very small range of numbers used for this scoring, was there not?

Then what is really weird when scoring for cost is that JADU which cost £600,000+ in total to buy and implement scores only 2 points less than RR ( which is called Reading Room, and is based on Drupal) which is open source software and so costs nothing to buy.

Nomensa is also free software and yet it gets the lowest score. The scoring all looks very odd.

Here is what the scorers said about the various systems.

Scoring Notes
You will already have noticed the glaring error. Scoring for cost has been done based on 30 points and yet the summary says it was out of 40 points. 

Look, Squiz could have delivered in March 2010. That is 2 years ago. We could have had a working website by now for next to no money. Not good enough for the One Barnet consultants who have made a pretty packet out of the current wobbly website.

The FOI request

The above information came from an FOI request. Here is part of the exchange.

Council web site
Please be kind enough to supply details of your software selection studies and reports, regarding the Authority's forthcoming replacement web site.

This should include comparisons, including features, maintenance costs and risks, of the chosen JADU software with rival content management systems, including open source ones.

Please also provide details of resources, including costs, to develop, install and maintain the software, and train users.

Finally, please indicate how access to archived material on the current site will be maintained.

Mr X

The majority of our software selection detail is Commercially Sensitive and therefore cannot be released. The detail which is available is already in the public domain via the DPR authorising the award of the contract. This is available on the council website, but is also attached here for convenience.

Resourcing for the Website Transformation project is included in the attached spreadsheet.

Can you please clarify what you mean by archived material. If this relates to web content we currently only hold and make available current web content and this will be the case with the new website. If this relates to Committee papers, although out of scope for this project a new system is being implemented and that will maintain access to all of the archived material that the system currently holds.

Yours sincerely,

Mohsin Abbasi
Business Support Officer (added by Mr Mustard as this shy individual never puts his title on emails - is he not proud to be a BSO?)
One Barnet Programme Office

Thank you for your email.

What is the answer to my question on open-source software, please? Has it been considered?

By definition, open-source software cannot be commercially sensitive.


Mr X

Dear Mr X

The council considered using open source software early on but it didn't meet our full needs and therefore the decision was made to competitively procure a CMS provider.

We do however use some open source software where appropriate and currently run an ideas site in droop le (sic) for instance. The council’s intranet was also developed with open source software.

Yours sincerely,

Mohsin Abbasi
Business Support Officer
One Barnet Programme Office

Thank you for your prompt email in reply.

Your consideration of using open source software "early on" is no doubt fully documented, and is therefore legitimately part of my original FoI request.

Please therefore be kind enough to supply that information.

To be clear: please supply your full analysis of open source (including names of "brands") against commercial software, in terms of functionality, cost, training, migration, maintenance, and whatever other criteria you used.

Mr X

Dear Mr X

I am writing in response to your request under the Freedom of Information Act, as detailed below. Please find attached a summary of the tender comparison documents which have been redacted for commercially sensitive information. I am sorry that this was provided out of time. I am afraid I have only recently taken over as project sponsor for the new website and have hence had to search extensively to find this.

The council was initially keen to use a system like Drupal for the new site. This should explain why not. We have used Drupal for a series of other purposes. The council’s current “Ideas website” is based on this system.

Sent on behalf of Chris Palmer, Assistant Director, Communications

Johnathan Schroder Internal Communications Manager


1. Obtaining information from Barnet Council isn't only a sloppy, inadequate,  drawn out and unsatisfactory experience for Mr Mustard. Everyone who asks something suffers. 

2. This question was not answered at all. "Please also provide details of resources, including costs, to develop, install and maintain the software, and train users." Too difficult perhaps? Barnet Council can expect to hear from Mr X. asking for a review.

3. Mohsin Abbasi is content to write "droop le" which is obviously complete nonsense. You have a computer on your desk. If someone gives you a word or phrase you have not heard of then go and look it up rather than parroting rubbish. "Drupal" was the word that you wanted. In case you are interested Mr Abbasi, and why does Mr Mustard doubt it, Portsurf and Reading Room are Drupal based systems. 

4. Chris Palmer aka The Tooting Twister but officially the Assistant Director of Communications (but not on the town hall payroll) is in charge of this project. Is he a secret computer expert? The job description that he has does not mention any expertise being required in web development so, and based upon the results so far, it doesn't look like he is. Only a sad little Johnny no-mates would be an expert in computer coding eh Chris?

5. Drupal - "It didn't meet our full needs". Really? and yet it meets the needs of Sony, data.gov, symantec connect, Proctor & Gamble, Virgin Radio, Le Figaro, london.gov.uk and on and on (just search for drupal sites on google). As usual the council have issued a statement that takes time to pick apart as you have to find out exactly what their full needs where but which appears, on the face of it, to be absolute bunkum. A better reply would have set out the specifications X,Y & Z which the council felt were not met by using Drupal but as usual they were in a terrible hurry to get the FOI question off their desk with a half-hearted reply.

live link to drupal.org

If this posting is not up to scratch then my visit to the Strangers' Bar at the House of Commons yesterday evening must be to blame (self-inflicted and many thanks to my host for the experience and the beer). I managed not to thump any MPs (google Eric Joyce MP if you don't know what I am on about) and I was in a small group with Mrs Angry that bumped into Mike Freer MP (he was pre-occupied with sorting out the finances of the country so appearing to be less than over-joyed to see one of his constituents can be forgiven). Mr Mustard also had the great pleasure to speak to David Hencke in person, a real life Westminster journalist.

Time to do some work which will keep Mr Mustard in beer money.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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