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September 13, 2018 How To Get More Website Traffic

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Newspeak WARNING – The Hale CPZ ‘upgraded’ with ‘new parking signs & lines’
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26 April 2009.  Left click here to view large and read the wording of the notice.


George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four
was first published in 1949.

Orwell wanted English written with clarity.
He said “Good prose is like a window pane”.

In his bleak fable of a totalitarian future Orwell imagined English replaced by “Newspeak”. "… the special function of certain Newspeak words … was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them.”

Sixty years later, "Newspeak" has been reinvented as "Spin", "Narrative", and other variations of deceptive and manipulative news management.


A Warning and an Upgrade

On the weekend of 25/26 April 2009 laminated cards headed: ”WARNING NOTICE” were tied to columns in the streets of Tottenham Hale Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). They announced "New parking signs and lines"; and that "Parking signs and road markings have been programmed to be upgraded".

I talked to some of my neighbours looking at the notices. What did they make of this "warning", with a promise of something "new"? What exactly was this particular "upgrade"? They didn’t know. I don’t expect many local residents did know

Stripping away spin and obfuscation, this was the work done.
► Some faded yellow and white traffic and parking lines were repainted.
► Hundreds of lines were corrected because they were unlawful and did not comply with the Statutory Regulations.
► That’s it!

In 2009 having parking lines which did not comply with the law wasn’t a problem unique to Haringey Council. Click here to read about the mess which many local authorities across the country made of their traffic lines and signs. (Use the ‘Back’ button to return.)

Haringey’s Parking and Highways Service – under the ‘leadership’ of former Labour councillor Brian Haley – was slower than many to come out of denial, admit they were doing it wrong, and agree a programme for repainting lines and getting them right.

Wording of the Temporary Notices

Does the wording of these notices really matter? After all, the work was finished within three weeks, when most of the temporary laminated cards had gone.

In my view, it does matter. How local councils inform and explain things to residents is a vital issue. "Warning" them and promising a spurious "upgrade" is a symptom of a diseased, secretive culture.

"The highest standards of propriety and accuracy"

Haringey’s website has a page headed: Setting the Record Straight. It includes this paragraph.

"But in spite of our best efforts, media reports are not always accurate. People have a right to reliable information, just as we have a duty to provide it. That is why we introduced this section to the site. The information we provide is subject to a Code of Conduct under the Local Government Act 1986. This means we are bound by the highest standards of propriety and accuracy in providing information.

My request to Dr Ita O’Donovan

In the spirit of these golden words on Haringey’s website, on 28 April 2009 I wrote to Dr Ita O’Donovan, then Haringey’s Chief Executive. I asked for her help in getting the laminated cards replaced with notices which were simple, clear and truthful.

I proposed the wording: "We are correcting some errors in the existing white and yellow traffic lines and repainting lines which are faded".  I suggested that the words: "We apologise for any inconvenience", would have been welcome.

Dr O’Donovan’s reply on 14 May, over two weeks later, was almost wholly negative. She wrote:

"I have looked into this matter as you have requested. I feel that there is little difference in the message of the notice currently being used and that which you propose. Given that these works are due to be completed within the next two weeks I do not feel it would be an effective use of the Council’s scarce resources to reprint and put up fresh notices."

"The work itself will result in minimal inconvenience to residents but I do accept that an apology for any inconvenience could have been included on the signs. I will arrange for this to be included in any future signs of this nature."

I emailed back, agreeing with Dr O’Donovan that it was by then too late and would waste resources to put up truthful signs. But I pointed out this wouldn’t have been the case if she had acted immediately when I raised the problem with her.

I suggested that a few dozen laminated A3 cards and some nylon tape are not prohibitively costly. Probably no more than Haringey Council was then paying for a few minutes of the time of one of the numerous consultants it then employed.

I quoted the words of the (then) Prime Minister, Gordon Brown on 11 May 2008. "We must show we have the highest standards for our profession. And we must show that, where mistakes have been made and errors have been discovered, where wrongs have to be righted, that that is done so immediately."


A chance to understand public information

All bureaucracies try to hide behind a curtain of jargon. Local government is not immune. And this is after decades of campaigning by the Plain English Campaign with its highly prized ‘Crystal Mark’.

In 1971, its founder Chrissie Maher asked: ‘Why isn’t the public given a chance to understand public information?’ She gave the answers: ‘To keep them in the dark.’ ‘To stop them claiming what is rightfully theirs.’ ‘To stop them interfering in things they wouldn’t understand’." ( Source: Chrissie Maher’s book "Born To Crusade")

Though some people in local government do ‘get it’.

”Without explaining what a council does in proper English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them or why they should bother to turn out and vote. Unless information is given to people to explain why their council matters then local democracy will be threatened with extinction.”

“ . . . we can not, must not and should not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide." .
(Source: Two quotes by the late Simon Milton, then Chair of the Local Government Association.)

For an individual or an organisation, admitting your mistakes can be embarrassing. It’s tempting to fudge and obfuscate. Though for local councils who have had non-compliant traffic lines and signs for many years, the worry may not be public shame, but public finance. In other words, it may open the door to claims for PCNs (fines) to be repaid.

More from the Wisconsin Capitol Building
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View Large on Black at!

I have a special treat lined up for tomorrow’s post – let’s just say that the throngs of thousands that made driving north on State Street between Washington and Randolph a 20-minute ordeal this afternoon might feel that it would have been easier just to visit tWp on Monday the 14th!

I am hoping to do something of a twelve days of Christmas here on tWp between now and the 25th, though I don’t think I have 12 Christmas themed images lined up – we’ll see how it goes and maybe I’ll just pepper the coming weeks with a few holiday images here and there. I sent out a tweet (from @thewindypixel) about a particularly inspiring landscape photographer, Tim Simmons, whose website can be found here. I highly recommend checking out his work – follow @thewindypixel to get updates on all sorts of cool stuff like Simmon’s work.

On another note, I continually receive requests for free usage of my images in commercial applications, as you might imagine this is incredibly flattering, but I am of the opinion that if my imagery can add to your commercial value, then it is worth something greater than free. I license all of the work you see here under the Creative Commons – which means any non-commercial usage is free and you can freely redistribute or re-post with credit. I think this model is great as it allows people to use and share my images (which is really humbling and drives traffic to this site and my flickr page), but I draw the line at commercial applications. I don’t do this to make money – I am most interested in the process of taking images and sharing images; but if you want to make money using other people’s photographs, you should expect to pay for that usage. Anyone out there had a similar experience? I know the stock photography business has been rattled to its core by micro-stock and such, but it seems silly for people to expect to put together entire textbooks or commerce publications with a photo budget – you get what you pay for people. Alright, rant off.

Here’s more from the Wisconsin Capitol building for today – I love the symmetry of this place and all the different light sources that bounce around. In the alcoves the light is all tungsten, but the closer you get to the rotunda the more beautiful natural light filters in.

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