Make Government easier (part 1)

The other week I had the pleasure of giving a keynote at the annual DPI conference – put on by the Association of Public Service Professionals. (I’m hoping to slidecast the presentation soon – just trying to get my hands on a recording ofthe presentation).

In the audience were something like 800 IT professionals from the Public Service – a great group of people – many of whom I’m had a great time connecting over email with this past week.

direct.srv.gc.ca_direct500_images_english_titleObviously, I spent some time talking about social networking in a government context – Facebook.gc.ca as I’ve come to refer to it. As many people know (but don’t think about in these terms) the government does offer a social networking piece of software, its called the Government Electronic Directory Service or, for short, GEDS.

As I’ve mentioned before GEDS has limited functionality, it only helps you find someone whose name, phone number or title you already know. But that can still be useful and so a ton of people – both within and outside government. However, after talking to a number of people, I’ve discovered that not one person I’ve met actually knows how to get to the GEDS website. They all have to search for it in Google to find it! Talk about making one of the best IT tools within government difficult to find/use!

Why is that?

Because the GEDS URL (or web address) is the easy to remember:

http://direct.srv.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/BE

Really? Why did the people who created this IT directory simply not make everyone’s life easier and make it:

http://geds.gc.ca

Now, while I think GEDS should be replaced but something more sophisticated, I nonetheless bet that its usage would be much higher – or at least, its users would be much happier – with this little address change.

It’s a simple change – but exactly the kind of thinking that applied more broadly, could make our government run just a little more smoothly.

20 thoughts on “Make Government easier (part 1)

  1. Veronica

    I always figured GEDS was so hard to find because people don’t actually want to be contacted by random strangers – they’d rather you called the info line! I use it all the time, though, mostly to figure out how a particular unit or person fits into the bigger structure of a particular department.

    Reply
  2. Veronica

    I always figured GEDS was so hard to find because people don’t actually want to be contacted by random strangers – they’d rather you called the info line! I use it all the time, though, mostly to figure out how a particular unit or person fits into the bigger structure of a particular department.

    Reply
  3. Karen

    I have a friend who studied tools for locating expertise within the enterprise for her Master’s dissertation (with a focus on IBM – 300,000+ globally distributed employees makes for a good complex case). The convolutedness of this tool based solely on the URL sounds staggering, but the potential for improvement and refinement is also huge.

    Reply
  4. David Eaves Post author

    Peter – you misunderstand the post. I”m not suggesting google is hard to use. I’m pointing out that what should be a simple (and intuitive) one stage process (going directly to geds.gc.ca) becomes a two step process.
    First, you go to google, figure out the right search parameters and then proceed to GEDS.
    If URLs didn’t matter than CNN wouldn’t mind being located at http://www.new.sr2.com. But I bet that if everytime you wanted to go to CNN you had to first go to google, you’d get pretty exasperated – especially if you wanted to visit it frequently. (This also explains why brand name URL’s are often worth a small fortune).
    The point is no one remembers direct.srv.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/BE or even direct.srv.gc.ca
    I strongly suspect that the easier a tool is to get to the more likely it will not only be found, but that it will be remembered by its users. Thus, GEDS would get a lot more use if it had a simpler URL – one that perhaps reflected its name.

    Reply
  5. Karen

    I have a friend who studied tools for locating expertise within the enterprise for her Master’s dissertation (with a focus on IBM – 300,000+ globally distributed employees makes for a good complex case). The convolutedness of this tool based solely on the URL sounds staggering, but the potential for improvement and refinement is also huge.

    Reply
  6. David Eaves

    Peter – you misunderstand the post. I”m not suggesting google is hard to use. I’m pointing out that what should be a simple (and intuitive) one stage process (going directly to geds.gc.ca) becomes a two step process. First, you go to google, figure out the right search parameters and then proceed to GEDS. If URLs didn’t matter than CNN wouldn’t mind being located at http://www.new.sr2.com. But I bet that if everytime you wanted to go to CNN you had to first go to google, you’d get pretty exasperated – especially if you wanted to visit it frequently. (This also explains why brand name URL’s are often worth a small fortune).The point is no one remembers direct.srv.gc.ca/cgi-bin/direct500/BE or even direct.srv.gc.caI strongly suspect that the easier a tool is to get to the more likely it will not only be found, but that it will be remembered by its users. Thus, GEDS would get a lot more use if it had a simpler URL – one that perhaps reflected its name.

    Reply
  7. Patrice Collin

    Hi David,
    I attended your presentation and loved it….Could you post both the Mock-up of GEDS as Facebook and also the Mash-up you made of the governement buildings on this site?……those had the most impact and got a lot of the government folks in attendance talking.

    Reply
  8. Patrice Collin

    Hi David, I attended your presentation and loved it….Could you post both the Mock-up of GEDS as Facebook and also the Mash-up you made of the governement buildings on this site?……those had the most impact and got a lot of the government folks in attendance talking.

    Reply
  9. Steph D

    While a URL change would be a great step (and yes, as Jeremy points out, would have to comply on the bilingual acronym in the link) I wonder why it isn’t a standard fixture on each and every .gc.ca Intranet page.

    If changing from an incomprehensible URL to a memorable one is a step in the right direction, how about making it even simpler by making it a simple click?

    Still, I hope in my lifetime as a federal public servant, I see the arrival of the GEDS/Facebook application. So much potential!

    Reply
  10. Steph D

    While a URL change would be a great step (and yes, as Jeremy points out, would have to comply on the bilingual acronym in the link) I wonder why it isn’t a standard fixture on each and every .gc.ca Intranet page.If changing from an incomprehensible URL to a memorable one is a step in the right direction, how about making it even simpler by making it a simple click?Still, I hope in my lifetime as a federal public servant, I see the arrival of the GEDS/Facebook application. So much potential!

    Reply
  11. Patrice Collin

    Caught this article in the Globeand mail this morning and made me that think: these are the type of issues that make government’s gun-shy about social networking! Even if there is some validity to some of the privacy concerns…this only adds to the hysteria of why the government can’t share more information amongst themselves.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RT

    Reply
  12. Patrice Collin

    For those of you who this interests and can make it…a bit steep to attend (2K) There is a Government Web 2.0 and Social Media Conference June 17th and 18th in Ottawa.

    I believe you are travelling already David…but you would have been a Prime Candidate to present…especially with the GEDS/Facebook Mock-up!!

    Here is the link to the event:
    http://www.infonex.ca/829/overview.shtml

    Reply
  13. Patrice Collin

    For those of you who this interests and can make it…a bit steep to attend (2K) There is a Government Web 2.0 and Social Media Conference June 17th and 18th in Ottawa.I believe you are travelling already David…but you would have been a Prime Candidate to present…especially with the GEDS/Facebook Mock-up!!Here is the link to the event:http://www.infonex.ca/829/overview.shtml

    Reply
  14. Vanessa

    Thank goodness for your post because that's what came up in Google first. I never would have found the GEDS address for a contact even googling it. So ridiculous. It used to be on the gc.ca webpage, but it is no longer there. Cheers!

    Reply

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