Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Joh Brumby strikes again

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-10-01

Joh Brumby’s government has done another, and entirely unexpected thing to diminish the possibility of open government in Victoria.

I just looked through the submissions page for the inquiry into Melbourne’s Future Water Supply and found that the PDF files were bit-mapped, even though I know my own submission was in text-based PDF.

Now, this took a little bit of effort by Victorian Parliamentary staff, and achieved the following:

  1. The size of files was dramatically increased (the 80,013 byte PDF I sent became 2,491,799 bytes, a thirty-fold increase). This decreases availability by increasing download times.
  2. Rendering the files as bit-maps prevents cutting-and-pasting text from the document.
  3. Bit-mapped files cannot be searched using Google, and certainly not with the useless search capabilities of the parliamentary site.
  4. Metadata is removed from the original file, again making document discovery much more difficult.

This is in marked contrast to federal parliamentary inquiries (see an equivalent submission of mine here), where published PDFs (unless scanned from a paper document) are kept in text format, metadata is maintained, and searching for relevant documents is trivial.

Luckily, Lindsay Tanner’s office is working quite hard to improve the participation and openness of consultations between agencies of government and the community, and I applaud him for it.

However, when questioned by his friendly and competent "hollowmen", the active destruction of the utility of documents submitted to inquiries never occurred to any of us!  Indeed, improving the quality of metadata and searchability of documents was a significant part of our discussions.

I guess Joh Brumby’s mob are more inventive than I gave them credit for…. damn them!

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4 Responses to “Joh Brumby strikes again”

  1. A H said

    If I had the hosting and time I would run the bitmaps through an OCR and enter the text into a CMS that allowed for proper searching based on meta-data and user-generated tagging.

  2. Jacques Chester said

    What has almost certainly happened:

    * Submission is printed off.
    * Submission is scanned back in.

    Probably due to some rules about the format of submissions — not being in .doc, or being sent to the archives first or somesuch junk.

  3. Dave Bath said

    I’d agree with you it possibly relates to printing first and then scanning, but this is simply a dumb process that reflects badly upon parliamentary information managers, especially as the federal parliamentary site
    (1) Leaves metadata intact
    (2) Leaves PDFs as-is

    Besides, a “print/save to PDF” capability, that preserves the ability to cut-and-paste text inside the document, exists if not inside the typical Office application (such as OpenOffice, but not standard MS-Office), but as a number of Windows “Printer” drivers.

    As to archiving, it’s worth noting that XENA (created by and given across to munges EVERYTHING into OpenOffice format for digital preservation!

    Thus, the Vic parl does MORE work, and decreases the utility of the products as a result of this work.

  4. […] projects that everybody is against (here) started well before an inquiry even started taking […]

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