September 2006 Archive

« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

September 28, 2006

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

@ 6:34 PM

A book in 10 instalmentsBlether started life as a book review site back in 1999, and stayed that way until the summer of 2005. During that time I established a lot of contacts with publishers, authors and readers, and I still get offered books for review on a regular basis. Although I'm working on a new book related site (details coming soon), I've been politely declining these offers. Until now.

In an unnamed city, an heiress, a killer, and a spy forge an unlikely alliance against a perilous conspiracy employing unnatural science and raw sensuality to colonize the very imaginations of their victims. THE GLASS BOOKS OF THE DREAM EATERS is an epic genre-defying mystery-science-fiction-adventure, an exuberant return to the classic, and classically lurid, penny dreadfuls of the 19th century, but spun with a wickedly modern sensibility. A scrupulously realized Victorian world is the setting for a contemporary rollercoaster of action, suspense, and richly fevered dreams.

A few weeks back I was contacted by Penguin to ask if I was interested in reviewing The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. When I read the synopsis I was immediately hooked, and knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. The novelty of receiving a book by instalments, the promise of high Victorian adventure, the beautifully presented website (external link) - all these things promised a unique reading experience.

So I'm signed up, have the first issue in my possession (electronically, I look forward to getting my hands on the real thing in October), and will start reading tonight. There will be ten weekly issues in all, starting on 16th October, and the print run is limited to 5,000, so if you want to subscribe and join Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang, Dr. Svenson and my good self in this adventure head over to the official website (external link) (requires Flash, for more accessible information see the Penguin Books site (external link)) by 6th October and cough up your £25. A full review will follow when we reach the end, and I can't rule out the occasional effusive post here.

September 19, 2006

DTI Internal Review

@ 9:15 PM

I've finally had a response from the DTI on the internal review I requested into their decision not to honour the follow-up FOI request I made in July. In short, the Chief Operating Officer at the DTI has decided that the department were justified in declining to answer the questions set out in that request. Can't say I'm surprised.

If I wanted to pursue the matter the next course of action would be to appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office. I'm not satisfied with the DTI's answer, which (apart from being poorly written) consists of little more than platitudes and half-arsed excuses, but for now I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and sit back and wait to see the fruits of their labour.

Here's the full text of the response I received by email, retyped by my own fair hand since the PDF attachment it was contained in consisted of a scanned letter. Good job I'm not blind.

Dear Mr Champion,

Thank you for your email of 26 July 2006 requesting an internal review of the Department's decision to decline your request of 25 June made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In line with Departmental policy this matter was passed to me for consideration as Director-General with responsibility for the website policy area.

I have now had the opportunity of reviewing this matter. After giving full consideration to your request and the information provided by the E-Communications team I am content that the s12 and s5(1) justification for declining was valid in this instance. Having reached that conclusion, I set out later in this letter the steps we will take that may help with your enquiry.

The nine requests totalled 51 separate questions, 27 questions were asked in the first tranche of requests (which we answered in full) and 24 were asked in the second tranche of requests. In calculating the cost of answering these questions the following elements were taken into consideration:

The volume of questions, combined with the breadth of information held, would have taken us over the £600 threshold.

Having considered your request for review, I have also considered the other action we can take. We are preparing statements that we can publish on the website explaining the current position on accessibility and the background to the procurement. That may help you to refine your request to bring it below the financial threshold. The statement will explain that we are carrying out an audit and we would aim to be in a position subsequently to explain the action we are taking on accessibility.

I recognise that the position on accessibility of the site is unsatisfactory - it is unfortunate that this was the outcome of the procurement. There was undoubtedly a failure to ensure that it was compliant with the accessibility guidelines. The development of the site was a long and complicated process that took place over several years and involved numbers of different people in DTI and its suppliers. We certainly aim to learn lessons from it but a detailed investigation of it would be time-consuming and probably would not provide complete answers to the questions you have raised. Our focus at present is on the action required to bring the site to an appropriate standard of accessibility.

Hilary Douglas, Chief Operating Officer

The DTI site's accessibility page (external link) does now have a notice which includes this passage:

An accessibility audit is being carried out by a specialist independent agency. The audit will identify where the site fails to comply with relevant accessibility standards. The recommendations will be used to draft an implementation plan.

If there's anyone willing to submit an FOI enquiry asking which specialist independent agency they've employed I'd be very interested to hear the answer.