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Comments on the COE web/communication services

Comments on the COE web/communication services

a draft paper by Csaba Madarász


madarasz.cs@ceecn.net

Central and Eastern European Citizen's Network

2008.07.26.

The Council of Europe website is producing various types of materials for a big diversity of interest
groups. From this point of view, it has to serve different needs with information.

Today, when the Council of Europe is targeting with several activities the better use of internet
technology it is undoubtly high time, to put a deeper revision to it's website, and web services.
My opinion is, that although a several changes can make a big difference to the end users of the COE
websites, but for some part, a deeper change is needed to better complete the tasks, that the COE
various entities has to dealt with.

As a quite newbie user to the COE website ( I have gained my experiances in 6 months) and one of the
INGO representatives of the CAHDE workgroup (just as well a professional in e-democracy/governance
area), I summarize my opinion in a form of a draft paper, in which I was trying to incorporate Nigel
Warner's comments.

The basics

Service and news service integration is an essential concept for improving the usage of COE
websites.
From the current view, COE sites have been created independently, when there is a bunch of service
which is appearing at some of the core entites (for example the left section at the Commitee of
Ministers website) others are lacking it, although, they work is nearly done by the same procedure!
By deeper observation, it has become clear, that the INGOs website has been created as an activity of
the COE. Although it might be one, but by it's working method and the quality of work it does add to
other COE entities, it has to have the equal web services to the PACE and CLARE.

If we look at the conference of INGOs website, there is no real sidebar functions that could be
demanded, and it is also lacking the color and separation features.
This kind of inequality on the service level of different COE entities are mostly affecting the INGOs site.
Maybe it has been a communicational policy or not, it is obvious for those, who know a bit from
communication and the COE.

By following the recent political happening inside the PA and the CLARE in relation with the INGOs, it is
clear, that INGOs are getting more rights, tasks and their work's importance is raising. This
requires a general revision of the communicational policy and strategy for the web, just as

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the revision of some of the services and procedures.


It is highly recommended, that the Web Focus Group contact and ask advice from the DG of Good
Governance in the Information Society.

If we take a look at press policy section: the central page is only showing the news by timing, and there
is not even a search facility to look at the same site for different COE entiteis latest news! They are just
feeded to their central page, with other articles, unseparatedly! This creates a chaotic mess feeling and
reflects and unbalanced communicational policy!

The CM website is a good example, how to integrate sub-navigational feature at the site (for example at
the Meeting schedule with links http://www.coe.int/t/cm/WCD/meetingSchedule_en.asp#) this is
essential for all of the entities, where similar working procedure is happening.

The challenge of navigation is how to reflect the diverse parallel works of different entities inside the
COE, and their different roles in these works, that they are playing in various tasks. It is also a general
challenge, to reduce unnecessary browsing time, originated from bad structure and the lack of service
integration.
For example: there is no integrated news service (where I can select and see all the news/activities,
that are related to an issue, or country, or even an entity). The need for having a central news
station in a form of an RSS feed channels is essential now to provide all the value and information
that is created under the various activities of different departments, united with the the flag of the COE.

The embeddable videos and audio files are also a must in this kind of services - targeting press,
individual newscasters/journalists and of course most of the users!

Acesssibitlity

Coloring of links and websites


It is obvious at the first page, that the site creators did an effort to separate the different entities by
colors, but it has been eroded, when we reach to the sites of the core entitites. It would be a help, if a
special color theme would be created for the core websites or themes, that are kept across all the sites.
The coloring of links and separation of different content types (meetings, documents, links, calendar
etc) are lacking this quality of accessibility and would also give a lot to the general
navigational/accessibility improvements.

Search - integration of different websites


However, most of the people knows where to find what, it is widely accepted practice among
institutional websites to provide integrated search facilities.
In the COE case, it is a needed norm to have an option from each search facility to reach all the sites
that are connected to the COE.
The other solution could be to have a totally separate search function, and to have it embedded in all
the sites, where it is needed (the issue is, that I want to find out, what kinds of documents are
appearing, if I am interested in the case of democracy in Belarus, I do need all the available documents
from the INGOs, and as well from the different group meetings, and of course, the Commitee of
Minister and the CLARA as well.)

This will not only give better results, but also reduce the time and highlight the COE various entities
work.

Calendar of events
The online calendar services now days widely used and offering the possibility by it's standard based
communication to be synchronized with mobile phones, mail programs. It is more than obvious, that
being up to date with the happenings of each department, topic or group is the best way to use online

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calendar based event handling.

Link checking
Annoying and embarrassing the number of links, that are not working ,sometimes from the frontpage
as well.

Improvements in standardized accessibility


To improve site accessibility is necessary - right now it shows a false image. There are couple of
guidelines, that can help ensure, that browsing the COE websites is based on equality - offering the
needed information for visually impaired as well.

Specific cases - the INGO's website


As I have outlined above, it is really under supported with functions and design compared to other
institution's or departments websites.

Some of the strong weaknesses:


● no central place, to look and find all the documents, that are related to INGOS (drafts, adopted
texts, resolutions, summaries etc)
● no central place for events
● really bad highlighting and coloring of different sections/topics
● no central place for news
● there is great need among the organizations representing themselves on the internet, to add
extra widgets to their webpages. This is might seem unnecesarry for many of the people, but
this is just because they just don't understand the importance of sharing and some part of
internet culture.

Contacts

Making contacts easier - finding the right person at the right time
An organigram is essential for each department. It is also true for specific tasks (let's say a campaign,
or a call), where displaying the responsible people will fasten the connection time for others, and will
reduce unneceserry e-mails and phonecalls arriving to different departments.
The basic contents should be the name, department, place, telephone number, email.
(It could be easy done, to have a personal contact information with the details mentioned above
created to all the COE workers - so these coud be embedded to the places automatically.)

It is also essential to provide a facility to reach the webmaster. (Once I have found one of the COE
websites attacked by a Turkish hacker group on a Monday morning, and the only person whom I could
write was the Head of Good Governance in the Information Society.

It would also be a help to point to problems, if the information of who is updating that specific section
of the websites could be available.

General communicational policy issues


It is showing a wrong image, that the INGO's don't have a fixed section on the frontpage of the
COE site.
This should be changed.
At the central files section at http://www.coe.int/t/dc/files/default_en.asp there is also no INGO topic or
files in the central database.

Language issues-
the return and handling of the different translations is certainly a factor, that can improve the
website. By browsing the web, we can see documents (sometimes translations of COE texts) on
national websites, but they are not feeded back to the COE sites. This is reducing information
accessibility.

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Specific INGO issue


There is no real possibility to maintain and develop a relationship among the INGOs themselves through
the web. This must be improved - the INGOs are the only players, who's travel expanses are not
covered by any part of the COE to their sessions, and there is no real opportunity - except these
meetings - to get know each other,the works and interest, characteristics better.
A closed social networking feature of INGOs could serve this as a more democratic model to
strengthen the vital dialog and connection between the INGOs

Sitemap:
http://www.coe.int/t/e/general/sitemap.asp
no INGOS - no organ, very chaotic

LOREG
needs to be poplulated more http://www.loreg.coe.int/
regarding Loreg, it is also not clean, who can put and what to the library. This needs to be clarified.

Campaings
Campaigns are really important tools of the Council, although, they seem to following an old fashioned
way. Without going much to details, the whole campaining support should live up to the demands of
thet web2.0 world, where embeddable videos, widgets, banners are essential.
However, there are big differencies in relation to campaings – the All different all equal campaing is a
fairly good example for using the web well.

At the end, here are some screenshots with small comments, highlighting issues.

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