A mere ten months late, I bring you news that the Army has started running a group blog at wordpress.com. It’s quite a busy site, with 39 posts during November alone, although 10 to 20 per month is a more normal figure. There’s a steady trickle of comments on each post; and most posts – but not all – are commentable. The theme is fairly run-of-the-mill; a standard wordpress.com free site with the ‘custom CSS’ upgrade, costing roughly £10 per year.
I’m also told that the Navy’s JackSpeak blog, which disappeared offline when the Navy’s site got hacked in early November, may be making a return at some point, possibly also at wordpress.com. The Navy’s site was initially taken completely offline, with visitors being sheepishly redirected to the most recent National Archives copy of its careers information for a good couple of weeks or more; it’s now back more-or-less as-was, minus the JackSpeak site.
The Romanian hacker responsible for the attack quoted his method as ‘SQL injection’, and published details of usernames and (encrypted) passwords for three databases on the server: one of which was the WordPress-based JackSpeak. However, it seems as though the globalops area of the site, which shows monthly updates of Navy fleet deployments, had an admin account with the password ‘ppp’ – making you wonder quite how tightly that particular section of the site had been secured.
There’s a delightful exchange of comments on Slashdot on the subject:
The RAF, meanwhile, has its own blogging initiative of sorts: but it’s a baffling attempt to force (very) occasional ‘blog’ content into its main ColdFusion CMS. Meanwhile, back at HQ, the MOD runs a few blogs in a Typepad account: its Defence News and Afghanistan blogs are very active, with multiple posts daily, but are really just press briefing and news aggregation channels.
It’s a rather chaotic picture in terms of technology platforms, which isn’t great as a matter of principle – but given the rock-bottom costs involved in, say, a Typepad account, it can’t be high on the priority list for rationalisation. And if it works, it works.
PS: Please don’t be shy about sending me tip-offs, if you’re doing something – or indeed, anything! – with WordPress in government.
Defence green paper on WordPress
Delighted to note the Ministry of Defence’s decision to publish its new green paper in commentable form, using a restyled version of Steph‘s Commentariat theme for WordPress.
The MoD have been doing some excellent, if a little underpublicised, work with blogging tools – Defence News and a blog from Afghanistan, both running on a Typepad account; and Blogger-based initiatives from Basra and Helmand; not to mention efforts around YouTube, Facebook and so on. But I think this is their first WordPress-based work.
Looks to be sitting in ultra-cheap hosting space provided by Hampshire-based Justhost.com – £2.95 a month for unlimited disk space and bandwidth; although I think the server itself is in California.
Depending on your definitions, I think that’s now a majority of central government departments – or certainly very close to it, anyway – who have run public-facing WordPress-based websites.
MOD's news blog duplication
It’s just over a year since the MOD launched ‘Defence News: official news blog’, not to be confused with ‘Defence News‘ on its main corporate site.
The main ‘Defence News’ site is a full-on news service, publishing 3 or 4 substantial articles each day. There’s a proper (editorially arranged) ‘front page’, with articles tagged by topic and service… and each of those has a proper ‘section front page’ too. And an RSS feed. (Two in fact, although I think one’s just got more items in it than the other. Shouldn’t be necessary.)
The code doesn’t reveal the technology they’re using, but there’s more than a hint of ‘blog platform’ about it. I’m really, really impressed.
So it’s a little curious to have the ‘official news blog’ alongside. Hosted at Typepad, the same three elements appear every day: ‘Defence in the Media’, ‘Image of the Day’, and ‘Defence Diary’. Other categories – such as ‘For the record’ and ‘Pick of the web’ – seem to have been effectively abandoned.
‘Defence in the Media’ is a press summary: sometimes there’s a link to the originating article, or the source material mentioned in the report(s); more often, it’s a link straight over to the main Defence News site. There’s also a curious ‘Defence News Feed’ pointing to stories on external news sites: again, I can’t quite tell how it’s working, but there are signs of both automation and editorial selection.
A PQ yesterday from Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox seems to be hinting at duplication of effort… and I’m inclined to agree. I don’t see much in the ‘news blog’ which couldn’t form part of the main Defence News site – to mutual benefit. And whilst the separate blog site should allow for greater experimentation, there’s no sign of it. (No use of comments, for example.)
Meanwhile, also on the same Typepad account: two excellent ‘on location’ sites – one in Afghanistan, launched late last year; the other in Basra, launched in March. Again, it’s good use of cheap technology… and although the content can sometimes be a bit dry and ‘factsheet’-esque, I bet ‘the folks back home’ value the ability to see a glimpse of what’s happening whilst loved ones are away.