Sunday, 16 September 2007

Attlee spelling update

On 6th September I complained about the inability of the 10 Downing Street website to spell Clement Attlee's name. Or is it Atlee or Altee? The next day I received a reply from their webmaster, or "Web Master" as they quaintly put it, telling me they'd fixed the errors.

Well, yes and no. What they had done, in fact, was to fix the specific errors that I had listed for them: in other words, as long as I was actually doing their job for them it was fine. On the other hand, one wonders if they might perhaps have taken the initiative a little and looked for other instances. Er, no, they had not. Indeed, I had mentioned that it might be instructive to search the whole site, and when I'd listed specific instances I had said things like "at least two places". However, these rather broad hints do not seem to have constituted doing their job quite enough for them, so they didn't bother.

Earlier this week I wrote again, trying hard to be polite, and pointed this out.

The current state of play is that they have now fixed all the screaming, horrible, obvious errors, so you can't find a misspelling of "Attlee" directly visible on any page nor in the filename of a graphic. Which is good. On the other hand, they still haven't checked comprehensively, as the spelling "Atlee" is still used, twice, in the meta data for the "Arabic Clement Attlee" page. So at the time of writing if you go there and do "View Source" then it's still in there, spelt wrongly. Not major (haha, no Attlee pun intended), but wrong and annoying.

Ah yes, and in this horrible sentence on the main Attlee page:
"He developed an interest in helping a Stepney boy's club sponsored by his old school, and through his work there he discovered the reality of poverty, unemployment and squalour in Londons working-class East End."
- they've now fixed one apostrophe problem but ignored the other, and haven't bothered with the spelling of "squalor". This seems like a fairly sad performance to me.

I mustn't rant too much and it is probably better for my health to give up right now and go to bed. But in closing I just wanted to say:
  • I do not claim to be so wonderfully great at my job that I am above criticism. Far from it. Indeed, quite a lot of what I do is probably a bit rubbish despite (or because of?) my best efforts.
  • However, if you wrote and pointed out that I had, say, a key word from the history of my site's subject wrong, or, I don't know, some medical term or historical figure or something ... well, I'd be pretty ashamed, and I would act pretty fast to make sure I had tracked down every instance of the wrong spelling, and a few variants besides. You'd go back 24h later and I promise you would not find one place where it was still wrong, because I'd have been devastatingly embarrassed and I would have made very very sure that your criticism was dealt with. You would not have needed to write again. You would not have been able to write a blog entry like this where there are still uncorrected errors more than a week later.
  • 10 Downing Street did not behave like this ...
  • ... but maybe this just proves they are better-balanced or busier than I, or both?
  • I wouldn't like to speculate about their motivation, skills, attitudes, workload or anything else much. All I can say is that from my uninformed position, their performance in this matter seems to have been pretty pathetic.
  • Maybe it doesn't matter. Attlee's just some old dead guy after all, and even though their own site says "In 2004 he was voted as the most effective British PM of the 20th century in a poll of political academics", maybe spelling his name correctly in this, ah, thrusting new era just isn't that important. I think it is, of course, but your mileage may vary. I think that their having it wrong, and then their failure to deal properly with it, has a broader meaning. But you may not.
I don't think I will bother to write to them again. Maybe someone from the site will see this blog and comment on it one day. I would be interested to read that, and if I have been unjust then I will apologize most prettily. Till then, I remain annoyed by this sorry performance from the very heart of government, and by its implications.


Strawberryyog said...

I just spoke to my Bruvver, who is cleverer than I in all matters and to whose view I normally defer in about 98% of all cases, though not of course including questions of strawberry yoghurt or the playing of the trumpet.

He thinks it's a bit cr*p too. So that's a very statistically significant 100% support so far.

Josie said...

I think there's only one logical conclusion to be drawn from this.

Vogel for PM!

Strawberryyog said...

Ha! Thanks. History's likely verdict: "Well he was a lousy PM, but at least he knew how to spell Altee. Er, Atlee. Atllee I mean,"