In a single sentence: 4M quid spent, no stats on usage.
The Irish Times today has a story on Mobhaile, which was a website created so county councils and community groups could have an online presence. My first interaction with the site was via blogs that it hosted for a time. I was reminded of it a few years ago by a fellow blogger and then saw mention of it last year too, so in December 2009 I did an FOI about it after reading Dáil transcripts pointing out at least 2M was spent on it. In turned out to be 4 Million.
The expenses for this system are below. Was it a success? Well they spent 4 million quid and then shut it down and how did they measure success? Well they didn’t know the number of visitors or logged in users as they never enabled logging of this information. That’s right, the most basic form of measurement of a website was shut off.
And the excuse:
“To put in Webtrends licences on each of those sites was an expense that we couldn’t have borne,” he said.
Which kind of conflicts with:
He added that the project saved a significant amount of money by moving to open-source software during its development.
Where are the log files? These are records under FOI. No records I was told. It’s perverse that with 4M quid of taxpayer money being spent, money on stats is deemed too expensive.
A huge issue here for me is where was the oversight? 4 Million quid, boom times or not (great excuse that), this is a serious amount of money. That would fund a huge amount of startups that could build something that lasts more than 3 years. Also, despite the site being shut down, hosting is still happening and being billed for?
All this information was required via FOI. Here are the released docs as PDF Attachments 1, 2, 3. OCRd Word docs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Please do go through them and share your thoughts.
LA Claims paid out-eChampions/elnclusion 629,129
Travel & Subsistence 25,318
Training & Conferences 19,908
Development Costs 1,482,092
Computing Costs 1,275,878
Accommodation Costs 48,426
Administration Costs 11,298
Hosting 2006 58,661
Hosting 2007 ¦ 75,119
Hosting 2008 86,940
Hosting 2009 70,583
Hosting for 4 years: 291,302
Grand Total: 4,231,848
I asked for stats:
Details of the usage of the system from launch including number of logged in users, number of accounts/websites/subsites created and website statistics (unique visitors, pageloads) yearly from inception to the present.
And got back:
Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with that information as the web-trending software wasn’t configured to provide statistics on Mobhaile sites
“Web-trending software not configured” is a bit different to: “To put in Webtrends licences on each of those sites was an expense that we couldn’t have borne”
I asked a technology bloke about the hosting and he said:
It’s all hosted by the LGCSB, who for some reason have their own AS number (which they do not need, but gives them 7000 IP addresses that I doubt are being used :P). This is pretty darn expensive, since they end up having to peer with higher ISPs (they seem to be peering with C&W as a level 2 provider, which would not be cheap at all)
Here’s a Silicon Republic interview with Ray Rochford about it. Dial down the sensitivity of your bullshit meter.
Here’s where some of the money went.
Read through all the docs and see how this project changed numerous times. More costs. What I find amazingly interesting is the final document that was sent on, to me, reads like it’s explaining how 4 Million can be spent on something that’s now shut down and somehow was ahead of its time and opened the gate for iPhone and other buzzwords:
Finally, would the Mobhaile project be initiated again, if funds permitted? Yes, but in a different fashion. The toolsets available now for Communities are far easier to source, understand and maintain that they were even 3 years ago. The evolution of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and OpenID are three main areas of work that the Mobhaile team developed solutions for transitive Identity across all community sites and the idea of single sign on. In the current web2.0 environment where many of the toolsets provided by Mobhaile are now available for free (albeit with Advertising attached in some instances), I believe that there still is a role of co-ordination, training, understanding the different toolsets and harnessing the power of the internet for those who are less well off in the internet economy .The role (for someone) to help those less well off (in different terms) to learn, understand and harness the power of the internet-there still is a role to bring the disenfranchised in – or maybe to carry the franchise to them.
This is the Archive.org copy of Mobhaile.
Mobhaile, mo problems.
Update: Six years ago people were questioning this whole project.