back to article Openistas question UK.gov's £300k crime-mapping website

Open data advocates are questioning why the Home Office splurged £300,000 on its shiny new police.uk crime-mapping website, which launched this morning. Sort of. The portal has been struggling to stay stable over the past few hours since the government hit the live button on the site. A Home Office spokesman told The Register …

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WTF?

Sorry, we couldn't find a policing area that matched your search

Is that a good thing or a bad thing... and who is driving that police car that hangs around if not a police man/woman ???

time to put another bolt on the door.

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FAIL

Epic Fail

I just tried it, and got told "Sorry, we couldn't find a policing area that matched your search".

Tried searching by post code and then by town name, but there obviously is no crime round here!

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Vic
Silver badge

I don't know what you're talking about...

I typed my postcode into the shiny new website, and it went away and thought for a while.

Eventually, it told me "Sorry, we couldn't find a policing area that matched your search" in a big red box.

Does this mean I can get a refund on my Council Tax? If I'm not in a policing area, I don't think I should be paying for it...

Vic.

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FAIL

Same Here

I got the same response - apparently if the site is overloaded and can't handle your request it just pretends you don't exist. As my bank account is overloaded, I'll do the same with my next Council Tax bill...

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FAIL

Learning from past experience

The civil servants need to get a 0% pay rise for this fiasco. As if they didn't realise that a prime spot on News at 10 and in the meda this morning would not cause issues...

IBM "on demand" and extra bandwidth on demand for the first few days would have been beneficial. Alternatively, don't go showing off all at once, target the media in phases for the first few days (e.g. get into newsprint first !).

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Vic
Silver badge

Balance where due...

> IBM "on demand" and extra bandwidth on demand for the first few days

To be fair, they have put the site up on Amazon EC2. That *should* have given them the bandwidth they needed.

Unfortunately, the backend DB seems to be hosted somewhere with insufficient grunt; the 503 messages I get[1] from the front end claim that it is a backend issue.

So it would appear that the webby front end has loads of power and bandwidth, but someone is running the backend somewhere where the best connectivity is a bit of wet string, or running it on something with the throughput of a constipated hamster. Or maybe both.

Vic.

[1] wget is your friend :-)

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Flame

£300k

When I put my postcode in I get "Sorry, we couldnt find a policing area that matched your search" I guess crime is a towny thing......

At only a couple of hours worth of borrowing to service the national debt. Maybe its value for money to give all those twatters something to talk about, keep them occupied instead of plotting riots...obviously subsidised by rural-teers.

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Anonymous Coward

TLD

Where can I get one of these .uk (sans .co) domains?

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Silver badge
Happy

If you want a .uk TLD you have to own the govt

Ask Rupert Murdoch, he may be able to sort you out.

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zb

It is only for the big nobs

Ask parliament.uk how they got theirs.

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WTF?

A few questions

1. 300k? Seriously? I've built similar sites/apps for a fraction of that. Does the Gov. automatically go to the highest bidder or something?

2. As it obviously doesn't work, will the Home Office be getting any of OUR money refunded from the useless company they hired? Aside from the fact that it doesn't work, how could they not anticipate and plan for the massive amount of interest something like this will have on day 1?

3. When will someone be getting fired for this?

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Anonymous Coward

The devil's in the detail

Don't forget that there's a load of overheads to this sort of project. Regular stakeholder meetings, various levels of reporting, requirements to build in superfluous features which will never actually be used. Then there's the procurement process itself, which adds to the cost. I'm not saying that these are useful costs, but they are valid reasons why these projects are more expensive than they should be.

I also assume that the system /does/ work, but is just overloaded due to the launch publicity. I agree that someone should have planned for this, but the development company can only work within the constraints imposed by the contract. If they have delivered what they were asked to deliver, then they have done what they were paid to do. It was down to the Home Office project management team to ensure that the delivery requirements were appropriate.

I agree that government projects are overly expensive, but to lay the blame at the development company is not necessarily the correct place for it.

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Only following orders excuse ...

"I agree that someone should have planned for this, but the development company can only work within the constraints imposed by the contract". "If they have delivered what they were asked to deliver, then they have done what they were paid to do."

That's not really professional and quite a risky strategy. Firstly , as a designer, you have a duty to inform the client of potential risks to the product, especially if there are potential liability issues (maybe not in this particular case). Secondly, you've opened a massive door for litigation and damages on the basis that you've knowing delivered a non-working product even if it is strictly according to contract. "Nobody asked us to make a system that works with more than 3 simultaneous connections" isn't going to wash with anybody when any professional worth his/her salt knows better.

Just a pity they didn't have anybody competent negotiating from the government side. Stick a couple of seasoned commercial supply chain people into the goverment team and they'd never have to pay for this sort of work again.

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Thumb Up

It works...

... if you go to http://maps.met.police.uk/. Perhaps the 'police.uk' web address isn't working yet?

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Anonymous Coward

The early bird...

Worked just fine about 7.10am, when it was first mentioned on R4 Today.

It's just overwhelmed. By 8.30, they were interviewing somebody about it and asked why it was "already" broken. Apparently there'd already been 4.5m queries. Quelle surprise.

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Vic
Silver badge

No it doesn't

> if you go to http://maps.met.police.uk

I went there and put in my postcode. It told me that there is an average crime level in my ward of South Norwood, Croydon.

The postcode I gave it is in Southampton...

I suspect the "met.police.uk" domain might give it away as being a Met-only feature...

Vic.

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Silver badge

Shopping

"Reports on Twitter suggest the site is largely failing to cope with all the interest it is currently receiving from UK residents keen to see how much crime is taking place on their doorsteps."

Or "Where is the best place for me to go for Class A"

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FAIL

Not a surprise

Having spent some time within NPIAS's IT group, at several levels, I suspect I can explain what happened:

• an original project, very lightweight and set up as a quick experiment turned out to be far more successful than thought (and it really has done - for all the 'oh god is there that much crime' there appear to be ten 'there is much less than I thought' with subsequent benefits for public confidence)

• an inhouse project was encouraged to scale it up (and just in case the openistas complain about costs here - there is a little issue of using the google service for large numbers of invocations - you pay and boy will there be a large numer of invocations)

• the system was sized based on expected averages and a discussion was held with the (non technical) senior management about loading - startup, mean, peaks - who did not understand it

• someone warned them of a similar problem with the UK census online (qinetiq I believe screwed that up) and someone suggested it would be a good idea to either use an admittance system or simply roll it out county by county over several weeks/months to avoid this type of loading failure

• the bean counters in alliance with the 'marketing department' (yes NPIA have one) ignored them

• the results are there for everyone to see - and it will be the architects who warned about this - who will be blamed and another public sector service gets unnecessary shtick on a failure that should never have happened

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FAIL

Epic Fail

The site doesn't work, apparently I'm not in a policing area, goes to show that the police station that's half a mile from my house really is useless. So it begs the question why even bother making a website if your data is incomplete? As for the cost of the website it's obviously just corruption they shouldn't have paid a penny over £15k at the most!

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Just come back tomorrow

Maybe they should have handled the launch, and they have certainly spent too much money, but to be honest does it really matter if the site can't handle what will probably be 99% of the years traffic in a single day. The initial launch load is likely to be many orders of magnitude greater than what they are likely to be seeing tomorrow, let alone 2 months time when everybody has checked their crime rate and promptly forgotten about it.

The only people I can see continuing to use it are people looking to move house, and criminals to keep score on how big an impact they are having.

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all that is needed

export .csv

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Same here.

No doughnut shops near me either..

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FAIL

unlikely the figures could be released "for commercial reasons"

Apart from open data which they've failed on, the other things they go on about is open procurement and spending on things like websites.

Bit of a fail really

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Anonymous Coward

Open data is OPEN

"A spokesman said it was unlikely the figures could be released "for commercial reasons"."

The irony might actually kill me.

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Anonymous Coward

awesome website. Well worth the money !

awesome website ! Its invented a whole new sport: calling the police out on prank calls such that it draws a smiley face / willy.

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FAIL

Crap

You have to laugh. I had a look at the source of the home page. Great big plug for the folks that developed it http://www.rkh.co.uk

More fun when I validated the page. http://validator.w3.org/check?verbose=1&uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.police.uk%2F

7 errors, and this is from supposed professional web developers?

Total waste of money. All that was needed is some data export (csv, json etc) and let us analyse the data however we want, not some spoon feed BS from civil servants.

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Vic
Silver badge

*Really* crap.

> supposed professional web developers?

"Professional" means very little. It stems from the latin verb "profieor", which means "to hold forth". A Professional is actually only someone who shouts his mouth off about something...

But this site is *dire*. It looks up my postcode, then redirects me to a URL with the postcode lookup encoded as a GET parameter - but they haven't actually bothered encoding it; the address is just pasted into the URL, spaces an' all.

This is awful. But I note that the RKH banners have been removed from the source of the "website is borked" page...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh noes!

Seven errors that don't matter in the slightest, call the internets police

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Vic
Silver badge

Typo.

> "profieor"

"profiteor", obviously.

Vic.

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*sighs*

7 HTML errors - if you can't even get HTML right you shouldn't be building a web app.

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Anonymous Coward

@Tin Foil Hat

But most of the people who are going to use this site won't want to dick around with Excel or anything else. they just want to type in the postcode of the house tehy are looking to buy and see a simple result.

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Bronze badge

Not all removed

> This is awful. But I note that the RKH banners have been removed from the source of the "website is borked" page...

It's still in a few pages, from that I'd guess the code is copied and pasted

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Coat

I was told that...

Apparently somebody typed in "SW1A 0AA" and the system tried to return a number greater than MAX_INT.

It has the expenses form in the pocket.

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Good Idea..

If only the government put Google Ad words onto the site.

The 3-4 million hits an hour could help us with our budget deficit!

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Silver badge
WTF?

'unlikely the figures could be released

' "for commercial reasons"'

Or perhaps because, once again, it would only reveal how incompetent these people are at negotiating a proper contract instead of saving the tax payers from being screwed...

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FAIL

Self-inflicted DOS attack

This happens every time, doesn't it? The self-inflicted denial-of-service attack.

Back in November HMRC sent out a mail shot that read "We have published a critical November update which includes amendments to the guidance and calculators. It is important that you download this to your CD-ROM so you can benefit from the update." It crashed their server, of course.

So when I heard it on the news this morning, I turned to my partner and said "I bet it crashes their site". It's so predictable, I guess you were already writing this story yesterday?

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Paris Hilton

The man from Del Monte says: NO!

Blimey, this website takes longer to respond than the Police do to an actual crime!

/bangs head on desk, what a load of dribble.

Paris, because her stats make for better viewing :)

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works for me

I tried it last night after the news and it was fine.

Actually, a well made and useful site. Of course it'll suffer on the first day with that amount of publicity.

Get a grip and wait a few days for the hubbub to die down.

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IT Angle

when it's fixed

I wonder if it'll pick up a £300k theft from the taxpayer in the Leicester vicinity

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Anonymous Coward

A bargain compared with...

http://www.beighton4life.co.uk what you see now is a cut down and slightly less nasty version, now it's been taken iover by volunteers. The original allegedly cost over £300K of public money - looks like Vantage Technologies may have been the main beneficiary. It might just about have been excusable had it cost £3000.

As for the police site - what it reports for my area looks credible, none of the reported anomalies - I recon thats a matter of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) i.e. it reflects the attention paid to accuracy on the part of whoever logs the system with the raw crime reports - if no post code specified on the crime report but the system requires one, what does the operator do? Correct response: "Find out" - problem is that takes time and effort, probable response "guess". Maybe the system even allows input of just the first part of the postcode and PAF logs the crime at the centre of that larger area e.g. crime at El Reg recorded at W1B rather than W1B 5DG (looks a dodgy area to me).

When I enter my full postcode I get 78 results but if I just use the fiirst part I was expecting a superset covering the wider area, in fact I got fewer results (9). And search for W1B gives "Sorry, we couldn't find a policing area that matched your search."

Also need some kind of data age. It says "Street-level crime and ASB in December 2010" what about all 2010 or trends over months and years? Just December doesn't give me a useful overview - think about those little holiday towns where the population grows by an order of magnitude in summer.

So... they should have labelled the site as a Beta test and had the testing done by real people rather than stakeholders in the project.

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FAIL

Who - what

Rewired State who? Emma who?

Bit of a non-story - someone develops an app; someone says they could have done it cheaper (but didn't bid for the work) and the open app community - predictably - says we would have done it better, for less and faster.

Sounds like every web project that has ever existed.

Shouldn't bother with an update if I were you!

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Unhappy

it works...

but there's a burglary missing from our area... which happend last month...

Probably swept under the... elementary my dear magic carpet.

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