Category Archives: How Delib gets stuff done

A bit of ‘behind the scenes’ at Delib – how we get stuff done: our tactics, our thinking about how to work, and the tools we use.

2016: our year in review

Tonight’s the night of the Delib Christmas party, which means only one thing: the hotly-anticipated Secret Santa gift exchange! (I’m hoping for some kind of novelty mug.)

Oh, OK, it means two things: it’s also time for our annual look back at how the past year has gone.

So: 2016, eh? Let’s leave world events to one side for a moment – there’s been no shortage of those this year (both the events and the leaving of them to one side to focus on oneself, you might say) – but that’s for other people to cover. Here’s a few snippets of what 2016 has looked like for us:

Some numbers

We’ve hit some pleasing milestone figures – including:

For us, these are encouraging signs that – even in the midst of incredibly stretched budgets and unpredictable political climates – public bodies remain committed to involving people in the decisions that affect them. And that ‘digital’ continues to become more ingrained as just an obvious and important channel for public involvement (you might be surprised how much this is not to be taken for granted!)

Some consultations

We love seeing the huge range of topics that are consulted on using our tools. From headline-grabbing national issues to hyperlocal pilot schemes; entire city spending priorities to early experiments in participatory budgeting – whenever there’s a decision that matters to people, we’re proud to see it opened up on one of our platforms.

Here’s a smattering of examples from this year:

Austin Texas Budget Simulator
The City of Austin, Texas asked for public input on spending priorities using Budget Simulator

 

DoH consulted on how to improve support for carers
The UK Department of Health used Citizen Space for their consultation on improving support for carers

 

 

The Environment Agency's consultation on a new nuclear power station design
The Environment Agency used Citizen Space for their (bilingual) consultation on a new nuclear power station

 

TfL consults on individual bus routes
Transport for London make extensive use of Citizen Space – including for consultations on a host of proposed local route changes

 

'Shall we put a new ramp here?', asks the Canal and River Trust
The Canal and River Trust started using Citizen Space in 2016, with an excellent consultation on Better Towpaths for Everyone

 

Motorcycle security trial in Southwark
Southwark Council (UK) use Citizen Space for a host of consultations, including this one on a trial scheme about motorbike anchors

Some development

As every year, we’ve continued to work on improving our products. The biggest development for us in 2016 was probably the release of Citizen Space v3. A huge amount of work went into this major overhaul, which makes it more responsive, more customisable, easier to use and just straight-up prettier. The vast majority of our 100+ Citizen Space customers are now using the new and improved v3, and it feels good to see their sites looking great and being well-used. Celebratory tapas were had.

Some events

We had our first Dialogue user group in April, up in Scotland. We also had a whole round of user groups for our Citizen Space customers in Australia and New Zealand.

We got to go to some excellent events and meetups – including, but not limited to, Demfest, GovCamp Cymru and the DigitalNI consultation event.

And, of course, that whole Boaty McBoatface thing happened – without dampening our enthusiasm for public participation. 

We also picked the hottest few days of the year to have our annual team holiday in Dorset (who said 2016 was short on reasons to be cheerful?!)

Some thanks

Lastly, a quick thank you to our customers. There’s been plenty of despair and vexation washing around about politics, government, democracy and so on – perhaps more so this year than usual. Be that as it may, we do lots of work with public bodies and government organisations and the vast majority of our experience – with civil servants, local government officers etc etc – is of people who are deeply dedicated to their work, to serving the public and the common good and who work hard to improve government and civic life generally. So thanks especially to them, for keeping our chins and general levels of optimism up 🙂

Here’s to 2017…

An end-of-secondment reflection

Written by Eric Lui – secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream

I’ve come to the end of my 6 month secondment here at Delib. It’s been an eye-opening opportunity, working outside of central government – and certainly a good learning experience. Here are just a few things I’ll take away with me:

Digital democracy is less about the tools and more about the people.

Delib work really hard to make digital engagement tools of the highest quality and they’re constantly looking to refine and improve them. Their mission is focused on building digital tools to improve the dialogue between government and citizens, all under the banner of digital democracy. This has been encouraging to witness, not least because Delib is a for-profit social venture sitting outside of government.

Looking forward as I step back into government, I am well aware of government’s mantra that ‘open policy-making is better policy-making’. What has been interesting to see first-hand, and which has brought the challenge of ‘open policy-making’ into the cold light of day, is that the challenge is not in the tools available but rather the people. More specifically, the real change needs to occur in the culture and mindset of policy and decision-making that permeates in central and local government.

I’ve seen some truly excellent consultations being run on Citizen Space, most notably on the future of the BBC and the devolution of Sunday trading hours. However, I’ve also seen a number of online consultations which are rather less impressive – not because of the technical delivery, but because the exercise as a whole has set off on the wrong foot. If a consultation is treated as just an ‘afterthought’ in the policy cycle, if citizens are ‘consulted’ on decisions which have effectively already been made, or if communication and promotion plans are poor, it’s going to be a disappointing consultation, whichever platforms are used in its delivery.

Digital tools can offer a fast and cost-effective way to not only run consultations but also to feedback to citizens the impact of their input. However, they need to be embedded in the process of policy and service delivery. Only then is the power of digital democracy truly grasped.

Furthermore, with devolution of powers and resources to local councils high on the agenda of this government, I think it is imperative that local councils galvanise around improving the way they converse with their citizens. I believe strongly that public services which have been designed with the public’s input are stronger and better.

There is still some way to go for ‘digital by default’

Rowena, one of the account managers here in Delib, wrote some thoughts on this subject a few weeks ago. She noted that although there has been real progress with GDS, the lack of basic digital skills in some parts of government can be quite stark. To a certain degree, I agree with her assessment.

Firstly, in relation to skill level, I do think more can be done to train civil servants in basic digital skills and more to encourage their them to adopt the digital tools and habits they have in daily life in the workplace. My own experience within the civil service has echoed this and I do believe an attitude change needs to occur. People must be encouraged and given more confidence to use digital tools and in particular the attitude that ‘digital is just for the millennials’ needs to be shed. Only then can the civil service hope to push forward with the digital agenda without leaving the majority behind.

Secondly, perhaps even more broadly, ‘digital’ needs to be conceptualised differently. It is no longer acceptable for digital to  only be done by ‘digital experts over there’. In the 21st century, digital must permeate throughout the way we work, communicate and design public services. It is not a thing to be done, but rather a way of thinking.

Working in an agile fashion – can it be applied to policy making?

One of the main takeaways from the last 6 months will undoubtedly be living, breathing and working in an ‘agile’ environment. I’d be foolish to say that it wasn’t alien to begin with; the myriad fluorescent post-it notes was a bit daunting at first! However, I’ve learned to appreciate this way of working and there are two core principles which I’ll be looking to take back into my next policy role.

The first is to always start with user needs and the second is to ‘iterate wildly’ (fail small and fail quickly).

These are not new principles and they’ve been preached time and time again. Even within government, the GDS lives by these principles. The former head of the GDS Mike Bracken had some inspired things to say on the topic of policy and its interaction with ‘agile’ principles. There’s a lot to be grappled with in his speech but broadly I agree with him. Working in a small agile business which relies on a niche market has definitely reinforced this. What the user needs is core to delivering a useful product, and iteration in software development is a given. I can’t say for sure that agile can be applied wholesale to policy-making but I’ll definitely be trying to formulate my thinking and that of my colleagues around those two principles.

Challenges of a small business

The opportunity to come to Delib on secondment came about from the development programme I am currently on with the civil service, the Fast Stream. The scheme is focused on developing the future leaders of the Civil Service and secondments have only recently been added to the scheme. From my own personal experience here, I think secondments are a huge benefit to the scheme. Being able to observe how a small business attempts to lead the market, navigate the (sometimes unnecessary and frustrating) levels of government bureaucracy, all whilst holding onto its principles has been enlightening.

Leadership coupled with a strong vision is definitely prevalent here, even in such a small company. I have been grateful for the opportunity to see a successful small business from the frontline and I’ll definitely be taking many personal development points away. I do wonder though, on a more hypothetical note, whether it’ll be possible to expose current civil service leaders to the risks and challenges faced by a small business. I am certain it would be beneficial and hugely rewarding for the organisation.

I am thankful to all the wonderful people here at Delib for accommodating me in their digital democracy journey. Hopefully I’ve also contributed something to the cause!


From next week I’ll be back in government, working on assessment policy at the Department of Education. I have Twitter and Linkedin, so feel free to connect with me.

We’ve some important work going on behind the scenes….

Over the past couple of months we’ve been focusing our development efforts on improving our hosting and associated product environment via an appropriately titled ‘production infrastructure sprint’.

Although this doesn’t sound as exciting as adding features to our products, it’s a vital part of Delib’s service to our customers, as it helps to ensure that we continue to meet our uptime and performance commitments.  Here’s a little overview of what we’ve been up to.

Photo of our sprint calendar

What we’ve been doing

Up until recently we hosted all our customer instances on large multi-tenancy servers. ‘Multi-tenancy’ means that several Delib customer sites run side-by-side on the same machines, although all their data is stored in separate databases.  These servers live in secure data centres, physically located in the same territory as the customers they serve.  The data centres are responsible for providing Internet connectivity for the production servers.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been moving customers slowly and carefully in batches from our current hosting providers to new providers who can better meet our service and uptime requirements.

Why we’re changing our hosting infrastructure

The reasons for migrating to new hosting providers are threefold:

1. Improvements in availability

In the UK, we are moving all our hosting to Rackspace, the market leader in cloud hosting, which offers a 100% uptime guarantee.  Since our uptime is necessarily bounded by that of our upstream providers, it’s important to use the best that we can get.  We are researching the best providers in other territories, to ensure that we continue to meet and exceed our commitments for all our customers.

We use a server monitoring service that notifies our account managers and developers by text message whenever a customer’s instance is unavailable for any reason (even if it’s in the middle of the night) so we’re all keen to ensure that these improvements pay off as soon as possible!

2. More hosting options for customers

After migration, every Citizen Space and Budget Simulator instance will live on its own virtual machine.  This allows us to offer different hosting packages for different usage patterns: we can now tailor the system specification (RAM, disk space, number of processors) to the requirements of the customer.  Furthermore, large spikes in one customer’s traffic can no longer adversely affect the response times of other customers’ sites.

Dialogue App instances will continue to run on a multi-tenancy setup by default.  However, customers with heavy usage requirements (eg large, heavily-publicised national dialogues), will have the option to host their Dialogue App instance on its own machine.

3. Consistent configurations and automation

As our number of customers grows, our developers have been spending more and more time engaged in administrative tasks such as rolling out new instances and upgrading existing customers.  While this is vital to the business and to our customers, developers would much prefer to spend their time developing new features and fixing bugs in the products.

At the same time as moving customers to the new hosting infrastructure, we’ve been improving our suite of developer tools so that more of the day-to-day tasks can be done without developer intervention.

For our customers, this means that planned maintenance should soon be able to take place, as far as possible, outside working hours.  It also means that developers will have more time to spend on improving our products, resulting in a better user experience for our customers and end users.

Find out more

If you are interested in finding out more about the improvements we are making please feel free to get in touch with either Louise or Rowena.

Introducing Matt Hornsby

At Delib we’re always keen to help support and improve government’s undersMatttanding and use of digital, so when it was suggested that we had a Civil Service fast streamer seconded to us for 6 months, we embraced the Del Monte school of thought and said ‘yes’!

Matt’s going to be helping with, and learning about, all aspects of our work, so here’s some quick fire questions with the man himself.

What’s your name and where are you from?
Matthew Hornsby, from London

What’s your professional background?
I’m in my second year of the Civil Service’s fast stream development programme. For the last 6 months I’ve been a policy adviser in the office of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, before that I worked in the Department of Health, managing public health programmes. Prior to joining the civil service I was a ‘secondary raw materials trader’ (kind of a glorified scrap dealer), at Hanwa Co. ltd, a Japanese trading house, for 2 years. I’ve also been an English teacher in Japan and in Spain.

What made you want to be seconded to a digital company/ Delib?
I wanted to experience an atmosphere that’s really quite different from what I’ve got used to in government, and I think 6 months at a small(ish) tech firm with big ideas like Delib will be perfect to put the sometimes rather staid and unambitious attitude you can encounter there in perspective. One of the big tasks for government over the next few years is to learn from the digital sector how to do things better. People are already wondering why they can order an air freshener off amazon in two clicks but need to fill out 5 different pieces of hard-copy paperwork to claim back taxes, apply for a passport or register at their GP.

What are you most looking forward to learning about?
Seeing things from the other side of the fence – so as a ‘supplier’ to government, rather than the one doing the purchasing, will be really interesting. I find everything to do with digital really fascinating – the business model of the company, some of the real technical stuff about how the apps and the web work, the AGILE project management techniques. I’m particularly looking forward to developing a good ‘tech’ vocabulary, so that I can go back to the civil service and dazzle senior colleagues into submission with a lot of acronyms they don’t understand…

Your house is on fire, what do you save?
Myself! I have an exotic banknotes collection which I’d grab if it was handy. Everything else is replaceable, more or less…

Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
Normally leave it, due to a fear of crumbs in my tea.

Favourite band and / or artist?
Too tough to answer! My two most listened of all time are probably Billy Bragg and the Smiths, which is sad because my dad also likes both. Recently I’ve been listening a lot to Ethiopian jazz maestro Mulatu Astatke, which is a bit cooler.

Bristol – historic, vibrant city or regional backwater?
So far I haven’t met anyone with a bad word to say about the place! Looking forward to exploring and getting to know the city.

Anything else to add?
Delighted to be here and can’t wait to get stuck in!

New Budget Simulator Lands in Liverpool

It’s Here! Budget Simulator v2.0 made its debut this month having been adopted by Liverpool City Council. The Liverpool team have been an absolute pleasure to work with (like all of our customers!) In particular it’s been a joy to have Mayor Joe Anderson personally champion the project from the very start; in fact it was his idea to run a mobile budget consultation…

Screen shot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator welcome page

Screenshot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator interactive page

Mayor Joe at the Heart of Participation

All over the UK , councils are facing financial cuts from the Government, some more than others. Liverpool City Council has been particularly hit hard, having the difficult task of finding £156 million of savings of over the next 3 years with £45 million of this in 2014/15.

photograph of Mayor Joe

Amongst other appearances, Mayor Joe has been seen on BBC North West news and the BBC Daily Politics Show speaking out on the importance of this consultation;

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

v2.0 Optimised for Mobile

According to a recent summary from the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, rising from 24% to 53%, so the importance of enabling participation through these platforms is more prevalent than ever before.

With this in mind, Mayor Joe specifically wanted to run a mobile budget consultation to ensure engagement with as many of Liverpool’s 470,000 residents as possible. Budget Simulator has recently been rebuilt from the ground up to work on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, so was the perfect solution.

Graphic of desktop computer, mobile phone and tablet computer

We are approaching the fourth week since the Liverpool Simulator went live and it has received over 4000 visits, of which 28% have been from a mobile phone or tablet and 72% from a desktop. 920 of these participants have submitted responses; a real win on the side of engagement.

Understand Through Engagement

The Liverpool team had a second key goal for this consultation: to inspire an understanding from residents of the challenges they were collectively facing as a community. Budget Simulator uses consequences and service descriptions to do just that. By presenting background information, the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations while gaining a real insight into the reality of the task.

Screen shot of Budget simulator, the word 'consequences' is circledThe understanding gained through this project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

Embracing the Principles of Consultation

The simulator sits within a wider scheme of events and promotion, all geared towards understanding what really matters to the people of Liverpool. The campaign is transparent and accessible, for example the Mayor’s Budget page is a simple and clear port of call for all important dates, how to take part in the consultation and easy access to supporting information and reports.

This is such an important facet to Liverpool’s approach; making it easy for people to participate and clear how their input will make a difference. The concept of government consultation sometimes comes under scrutiny where the public feel their contribution makes no difference to the outcome. The government consultation principles document highlights the importance of reforming this perception;

‘It [the consultation guidelines document] is not a ‘how to’ guide but aims to help policy makers make the right judgments about when, with whom and how to consult. The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than merely following bureaucratic process. ‘

Consultation principals: guidance, 2013

Mayor Joe represents an increasing number of visionary leaders making steps towards consultation practices which connect them to citizens in meaningful ways. Delib’s online tools facilitate these connections by enabling policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Digital tools at the centre of Mayor-led engagement projects

Liverpool Showing Us How It’s Done

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator has been such a successful project so far. The tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, Liverpool’s fantastic approach to promotion and transparency, along with their clear commitment to ensure insight gained from responses will inform the outcome.

It’s likely to be a combination of all these factors, but one thing is for sure, the Liverpool team have set the bar high for engagement and best practice, and we couldn’t be more proud of how they have showcased the capabilities of shiny new Budget Simulator.

» Find out more about Budget Simulator


Delib goes agile(r)

Back in May Rowena posted about her experiences at Blue Light Camp and noted that she is a qualified Scrum Master. In fact, we have three Scrum Masters in our team, but how do new Delibbers (like me) fit in to a lean, agile structure?

Simple, we get trained. Recently, a few Delib employees were trained by agile guru Paul Goddard of Agilify, along with some of our friends from Aardman and Mobile Pie, as well as some Team Rubber colleagues.

Agile is a set of practices which aim to make teams deliver better work, faster, and in doing so make our clients happier. In the past year, Delib has grown rapidly, and has incorporated people with no prior agile experience. Many businesses use older, more established methodologies, because this is what they are used to. But are industrial revolution era practices really applicable to small, nimble digital media companies?

One of the core agile principles is continuous delivery of valuable software. This means that we don’t work for a year and then give our customers a large number of new features while crossing our fingers that they like them. Instead, we deliver “pioneer” features to some customers, and get feedback regularly before releasing them to our whole user base.

Paul illustrated the benefits of this with a seemingly simple exercise – taking a bunch of spaghetti, some rope and some sellotape, who can build the highest structure which can hold a marshmallow on top? The winning team was the one which tested whether their tower could hold the marshmallow after every change, and the losers built a huge tower which promptly fell down right at the end when the marshmallow was placed on top.

Adam with his spaghetti tower with a marshmallow on top
I tried not to look too smug after a comprehensive victory

We’ve returned roaring with enthusiasm, and ready to deliver our clients even more top-notch software and services. Our customers’ satisfaction will continue to be our highest priority day in, day out, and not the marshmallow under which our towers collapse at a crucial moment.

Introducing Delib’s new Australian Consultant – James Aiken

After working with James for a couple of weeks now, it seems an appropriate point to introduce him to the wider Delib family ;). In the standard Delib AU new starter format, we asked him a few questions about himself:

The Delib consultancy dream team Ben & James

When did you first use the Internet and what did you use if for?

I am definitely a late bloomer when it comes to the internet. I would say the first time I used it was around the time I moved out of home in the late 90’s. Being a late teen single male, I used the internet for it’s obvious purpose of researching the Neotropical migratory birds fact sheet; oh and lots of gaming.

What is the most awesome engagement project you have worked on?

I think the project that I was most proud of was in my last job when I was tasked with creating an open dialogue between one of Australia’s largest petroleum companies and the company I used to work for. Over the period of 6 months we went from a yearly top line meeting process to creating a relationship that saw all levels of both companies meeting quarterly to discuss common goals and business strategies. This resulted in better service to their company and an improved sales and presence in their service stations.

What’s your top community engagement tip?

Engaging the community effectively will generate ideas and strategies which Government probably hasn’t considered before. Of course, these will be positive and negative, but ultimately the majority of great ideas or strategies will come from collaborative thinking and not just one individual. By providing the greater community with an opportunity to share their ideas, it helps ensure they feel a sense of responsibility to the community they live in. In turn, organisations are rewarded with a point of view that has been unaffected by your organisation’s internal environment and hierarchy. (I may be a little idealistic 😉 ).

James Aiken is now firmly part of the Delib AU team alongside Dan Hoban (Client Development Manager), Craig Thomler (Managing Director) and temporarily over from Delib UK; Ben Fowkes (Senior Consultant) and Rowena Farr (Account Manager).

In true Delib style, strategy was discussed over lunch

In order to get in touch with James please call him on 0429 996 863 (International: +61429 996 863) or email james.aiken@delib.net.

48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.

I’ve just added more RAM to our testing machines

Here at Delib, we use a little XenServer 6 cluster for continuous integration. We have programs that act like users of each of our online applications and put them through their paces, which we write using a framework called Selenium. We use these automated tests to demonstrate that the entire software stack under each of our applications all works together, before we roll out changes to any individual part of it. These are full end-to-end tests, demonstrating all of the layers from our application code through to the operating system that they are running on.

The XenServer cluster is a small group of physical computers that work together to host a larger group of virtual computers. This makes running our tests on different versions of operating systems much easier than if we had installed them directly onto physical computers, because we can do things like clone virtual machines or roll them back to a specific point in the past with just a few clicks (or commands).

Virtualisation is an enormous help for testing how our software interacts with its operating systems, but it has one very small downside: you end up needing a lot of RAM to run a large number of virtual machines. Each physical computer needs to have as much RAM in it as all of the virtual machines that it is hosting, added together. We’re not big fans of spending our lives manually shuffling things around to fit within limited resources when they’re cheap, so the first alteration that we are making to our QA cluster here is to double the amount of memory in it.

48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.
48GB of DDR3 memory, in individual 8GB sticks.

This was a stack of sticks of plastic and silicon to the immediate left of my desk, when it had just arrived this morning from Crucial. I’ve just installed them all into the physical computers, and we should be up and running and making use of this soon. This upgrade should, as soon as we’ve reconfigured everything to take advantage of the extra memory, make the time that it takes to complete one of our test runs at least a little shorter, which makes me happier.

Quick Consult helps NHS practitioners give their views

Quick Consult consultation for the NHS

The Health & Social Care Act requires all general practices to become members of a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). CCGs will manage the commissioning of NHS healthcare from April 2013, when Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities become defunct. The Department of Health has published a model constitution and recommends that CCGs incorporate its guidelines into their aligned practices.

As a part of this incorporation, NHS Swindon Shadow Clinical Commissioning Group used Quick Consult to run a one-off survey. The consultation was aimed at getting feedback and insights from practitioners and stakeholders about the proposed structure and constitution of the Shadow CCG.

The survey ran from 21 May to 10 June 2012, and had 50 responses. The survey was created by the Delib team in collaboration with the Chair of the Shadow CCG, Dr Peter Crouch. The questions included:

  • How happy are you with our proposals for the new Clinical Commissioning Group?
  • How well do you think the proposals reflect the views of local people?
  • Do you think this plan is enough of a shift towards GP-led commissioning?
  • How happy are you with the balance of different clinicians on the Board?
  • Do you think the proposed CCG is sufficiently transparent?
  • Are you happy with the arrangements for handling conflicts of interest?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improving our plans?


The engagement exercise revealed that approximately 80% of respondents were either ‘very happy’ or ‘happy’ with the proposed changes. Around 78% of people felt the proposal reflected the views of local people. The full report is available here. The results will help Swindon CCG move forward with confidence in their plans.

Dr Crouch says, ‘we would like to thank Delib for the highly professional way that they handled the creation of the consultation with Quick Consult. They delivered precisely what we wanted, comfortably and within the challenging timescale we were operating within. We would highly recommend their services.’

Cookies, Delib and the EU e-Privacy Directive

“The Cookie Law” has been extensively covered elsewhere. If you’re not familiar with it, the website of the Information Commissioner (ICO) is the best place to start.

The e-Privacy Directive is broadly intended to prevent abusive, invasive and malicious behaviour by website operators, where information is gathered about individual website users without their informed consent. This is a worthwhile goal. As a side-effect, the law also prevents website operators from using practices which are widespread, and undertaken with no malicious or abusive intent.

Compliance with this directive is a process, and ICO guidance has been clear on what steps need to be taken by website operators. Here’s what we’ve been doing about it.

Recognition that is both a technical and legal process

We have:

  • – Taken legal advice about this.
  • – Read the law and the ICO guidance for ourselves.
  • – Looked at the technical implications.
  • – Made a plan for compliance.

 

How we’re tackling compliance

Steps we’ve taken or are taking include:

  • – Audit for cookie use of the apps we build and operate on behalf of our clients.
  • – Audit for cookie use of our own Delib-branded websites.
  • – Automation of auditing, to ensure we remain compliant over time (this is particularly important when 3rd party services can be embedded in to sites).
  • – Making it clear how cookies are used in our apps via their privacy and cookies statements.
  • – Technical work which helps our clients comply when embedding content from 3rd party services which may set cookies (for the end user we wrap an explicit ‘accept this embed’ choice around embedded content).
  • – Removing services on our own sites that set 3rd party cookies. We have already removed Google Analytics from a large number of our pages, and we’re working on removing further services that set cookies. For complete compliance, we are also planning to add an explicit cookies notice, similar to the solution implemented by the BBC.

We’ve chosen to see compliance with this directive as something that needs to be achieved and maintained, not simply a nuisance that might go away if ignored (as some website operators hope).

This work does use up limited time and money which could alternatively have been applied to features which help our clients, and to competing with other similar businesses around the world. However there’s a good case for users being informed about the use of cookies and similar local storage. Our practices are not abusive and malicious, but the prevention of those that are is important.