Saturday, August 16, 2008

£100K but where was the QA?

Not content with grabbing a freebie theme for the Number 10 Wordpress site and then seemingly leaving references to the original designer without making a nod to his copyright, it turns out the company behind it, New Maze Media are quite proud of "their" handiwork.

The "handiwork" according to Jimmy Leach of The Independent in a Sky News interview, cost "just under 100 grand", which is pretty incredible considering its still only in "beta". In fact it should not have even gone live in such a state frankly, it sends a message that the highest office in the land is a quick bodge job.

What I found more amusing was the comment over on Puffbox by Jon Worth (builder of Harriet Harman's site which got totally owned) saying
Good work! Pity about the glitches today, but that’s normal… All the usual whingers are having a go at it (Dizzy, Guido) but it’s ace that the Number 10 site has been built with open source software.
No Jon. Glitches like the ones that occurred are not "normal" in professional live operational project, that's why you have QA, so that you're only bugs are functional ones that are not considered stopper to a project.

This is particularly the case for a site that will receive traffic on the scale of the Downing Street website. Ever heard of performance testing? That's not a "whinge" its a professional opinion of an Ops sysadmin that maintains full scale enterprise scale web servers and J2EE application servers.

Your attitude Jon is actually the typical "dev" attitude. That's the "ooooh look isn't it pretty, let's not worry about whether it can handle the pressure, or if it's full of holes and really silly coding mistakes". Let's take for example the "feeds" on the site, go adn have a look at them, all the links point to RFC1918 addresses, specifically

Besides the fact that it means it won't work for anyone other than someone on that restricted network. It also, potentially, leaks out information about the set-up of the Government Secure Intranet (GSI), assuming that the address is an internally bound interface on the box. It could of course just be the IP of the development host, either way it's a universally stupid mistake should not have got past QA.

Given the fact that the site has been problematic, and has pretty basic coding mistakes pointing Internet users to non-routable addresses, it seems pretty clear that operational QA has been non-existent. That is not how a professional £100,000 project should work. It's pretty obvious it's launch was driven by politics, and the so-called "fightback" rather than sensible release management processes.

As I said above, the "glitches" are not "normal" when you're spending that sort of money. Frankly, if I was one of the admins behind this I would be thoroughly embarrassed of being associated with it. Of course, I'm assuming that there actual admins behind it and not just devs hacking their way through and making stupid mistakes (more likely).
Hat Tip: Mike Rouse for the cost.


Obnoxio The Clown said...

Dizzy, I wish I could agree with you about people going live with better quality code outside of Number 10. But I can't.

dizzy said...

Hahahaha you;re actually making the same point I am making about Developers in general. It doesn't always happen though, it all depends on whether you have have Ops people around to say "err that's fucking stupid"

dizzy said...

Having said this, on the point about Agile, I've seen it work, the big problem is when it leaked outside change management processes, again it all comes down to strong willed BOFHs

Anonymous said...

It's a joke from start to finish. People like Worth and Leach show where the left's mentality on things like this is. They're happy to be ripped off and have a poor technical job done. Makes you wonder where else they are happy for things to cost a fortune and not be done properly... oh wait, that's pretty much every part of Government!

Jon Worth said...

I would like to point out the cost of the Harman site for the Deputy Leadership was ZERO. Yes, nil. Niente.

£100K for a website is more than I earn in 2 years as a freelancer. The quality of the site you should be able to get for that amount of cash should be a hell of a lot better.

Plus I would also like to point out that the blog wasn't hacked as such, it's that someone couldn't remember complex passwords (as she admitted on Sky News).

Anonymous said...

Well spotted Diz, that's priceless. Have they not heard of DNS?

Oh well, when the BoFHs rule the world, it'll change.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much the attitude that applied to HMRC websites and online filing which fall over all the time

Anonymous said...

You should ask how the supplier was chosen - what was the competitive process, and did it follow EU and Treasury procurement regulations and guidance.
At this level of spend, there should have been some serious competition, possibly even a full EU tender, or an 'approved' supplier chosen from an existing framework (eg
FOI if you don't get a straight answer.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they rushed it because gordon wont be around long and they wanted their cash.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any of this could be translated into English for those of us wrinklies who do not understand the language of tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

I think the government just wanted to look hip by employing a East London type media agency to build their site.. be down with the web 2.0 innit.. and 100k is pretty cheap for a government who's used to spending millions on projects that don't appear...

Imagine the meeting if you can..

no:10 .. We want some thing fresh.. down with the Facebook / Bebo / twitter crowd.

Agency: We can get you integrated to every social platform out there. fresh.. well we have done some stuff for Hollywood recently

no:10 .. Hollywood you say?

agency: yes Hollywood, films movies etc, big shinny, cool stuff.

no:10 .. Ok how much?

Agency: 100k for the lot..

no:10 .. Bargin we will have two, how quick can you produce it.. brown needs that "in-crowd touch" fast.

Agency: if we do some creative resourcing we can get it to you say buy Aug..

no:10 .. deal!

Agency: yes, yes, £££, this one is gonna look good to future clients.

Agency project manager: what! your kidding.. do u know how long these things take to build and test?

agency money man : i don't care, beg, steal do what ever you can.. 3 weeks ok with you,testing we will do that when it's live.

agency: dev, after hearing brief.. "sigh" Clicks on to SEARCH types how to build a site quickly using cms technologies.

just a little musing.