Sunday, December 22, 2013

Available but not accessible

Earlier this year I came across an MSD fact sheet "Children's contact with MSD services". The title of the paper  had been given to me in advance of its publication by someone outside of the Ministry. Periodically I had been searching the MSD website for it but nothing appeared. At some point I decided to search for it on google. To my surprise it appeared at the MSD website.

(I then wrote about the flawed analysis and skewed findings here. Rodney Hide wrote about it in the NBR).

What  intrigued me was that the fact sheet was un-indexed and unsearchable at the MSD website. It remains so as I write.

Ministry of Social Development.

 Your search - Children’s contact with MSD services - did not match any documents.
No pages were found containing "Children’s contact with MSD services".


  • Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
  • Try different keywords.
  • Try more general keywords.

So I asked MSD why. They responded by saying that the fact sheet was available and providing the url. Also,
The Ministry's website is updated regularly with brochures, forms, fact sheets, media releases, publications and reports. We endeavour to ensure all our information is accessible (my emphasis) and if there are any publications not available  on the website that should be, we appreciate any feedback about  this.

I responded:

"I realise it is available.  My question asked why it isn't indexed. There is an important distinction. Under 'Publications and Resources' the fact sheet neither appears under 'C' nor the year of publication. Furthermore, a search of the site does not produce it. Therefore it is effectively inaccessible. Why is that the case?"

Here's their latest statement:

With regard to your question about why the “Children’s contact with MSD services” fact sheet is not indexed on the Ministry’s website.  As you will be aware, the Ministry have a number of publications and brochures across its various services and therefore it is not reasonable to index all of these on the Ministry’s website.  Publications like this are available in the Publications and Resources section of the Ministry’s website and “Children’s contact with MSD services” is a searchable phrase through various website search engines.

So there you go. If you just happen to hit on the right 'phrase' you will find the paper. But not if you look for it at the MSD website. It is effectively buried.

MSD does not understand the difference between 'available' and 'accessible'. Or perhaps they do.

I also asked for the associated spreadsheets on September 24, 2013. 

Do you think I've received them almost three months later?


Psycho Milt said... is not reasonable to index all of these [Ministry publications] on the Ministry’s website.

Please allow me to record for posterity that, as a trained librarian, I find that statement profoundly offensive.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Psycho Milt, If I come across a book at the library that is not in the right place, I relocate it. Out of place, it isn't a blind bit of good to anyone (I only look at non-fiction).

That's what this paper is currently like. A book randomly put on the shelf effectively lost to anyone interested in the subject.

S.Beast said...

The Ministry has a number of interconnected websites, few of which are friendly to navigate...One could almost conclude that they don't want the information to be found.

Take for example the Ministerial Directive on Disability Allowance which is somewhere on the WorkandIncome website - just not searchable. Too bad if you are a member of the public and don't have a good 30 mins of searching time to spare.

Psycho Milt said...

Out of place, it isn't a blind bit of good to anyone

That's exactly it. If the local library piled up its collection in a big room and said "it is not reasonable to index all of these," the council would be looking for new library management.