Lane Fox review hints at further rationalisation

Martha Lane Fox’s review of Directgov appears to have taken a slightly wider view than simply how well everyone’s favourite orange website works. Speaking at a conference in Birmingham, Cabinet Office director of digital delivery Graham Walker said:

We’ve been doing a review of Directgov and most of government on the web. We can see that there is a need to massively simplify it, with a lot more rationalisation and to improve the user experience.

Most of government on the web? More rationalisation? I’ve been hearing rumours that Ms LF’s recommendations may include a stronger role for Cabinet Office in departmental / policy publishing, much as it already has (through Directgov) in citizen-facing material. Are we looking at a single super-site for departments?
On a superficial level, that’s a return to the Dark Ages of 1994, when departments used to send floppy disks in the post to Norwich, where someone from CCTA would mark them up into HTML, and FTP them over to the Government Information Service (aka open.gov.uk). It’s also a return to the expensive and ultimately unsuccessful notion of The Club / DotP, which would have seen all departments running on the same (bespoke) CMS as Directgov and DH.
But a lot has changed in the past year or two – and it’s possible to envisage more modern publishing infrastructures, based on a managed multisite approach. You can look at what we’ve done on WordPress for Defra as an example: a centrally controlled environment, with the root level defining aspects like primary navigation and plugin selection, but with a high degree of flexibility and freedom given to the various child sites.
So yes, I can see why such a move would seem desirable – Directgov has been a success, at a very high price of course, and consistency of presentation and UX wouldn’t be a bad thing. (Indeed, I’ve written here previously, in praise of greater presentational consistency.)¬†And yes, I believe it’s now technically realistic, in a way it never was before.
The precedents give plenty of reason to be pessimistic, though.

New Cabinet's online footprint


I make it seven members of the new Coalition cabinet with Twitter accounts: although of course, some have been more personal than others:

It’s worth noting that only Hague and Pickles have been active since polling day; and judging by one recent tweet, Pickles seems intent on maintaining pre-poll levels of activity. I wonder how many others will restart… has Twitter served its purpose, now they’ve been re-elected?
We also have a few bloggers:

Some of the senior Tories have made frequent contributions to the Conservatives.com site’s Blue Blog – among them David Cameron and Eric Pickles.
The case of Sir George Young is worthy of special mention: his ‘on a lighter note’ writing goes back as far as 1999. And whilst it wouldn’t really meet the definition of a ‘blog’ – no feed, no commenting, etc – he surely deserves some credit for getting started so early. And indeed, for publishing his full constituency diary, ribbon-cutting by ribbon-cutting!
Update: Although not strictly Cabinet, it’s also worth noting reports that the Conservatives’ head of press, Henry Macrory is to take ‘the same role at Downing Street’ (although his Twitter biog hasn’t yet been updated). Henry has been a prolific tweeter, and as you might expect from someone in his position, they’ve usually been rather partisan in nature. Can’t quite see that continuing somehow, especially not the anti-Clegg stuff.