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December 26, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Wake County polling places list

PolllistexcelCheryl Smith points out:

Wake County in North Carolina only lists precincts with polling places in Excel format. Why couldn't the list be in html format so a voter could  immediately view and print the polling places?


It seems very likely that the person who wrote/maintains the list barely knows how to use Excel, never mind knowing how to export an Excel spreadsheet to HTML. It seems that they need to improve the staff, but, being government, it may very well be a patronage job.

Posted by: Glenn Lasher at December 26, 2006 08:45 AM

Well, having lived in Wake County until about a year ago, I can say they do that with a lot of their forms of government. I haven't really seen anything that they did that really seemed efficient to me.

Posted by: The Trekkie at December 26, 2006 11:20 AM

It is a lot easier for a non-techie to maintain an Excel spreadsheet (or an Adobe PDF file) than an HTML document. Of course, if you want the government to waste your tax dollars to have a programmer create a page that will dynamically render the spreadsheet as HTML, that is always an option....

Posted by: shalom at December 26, 2006 11:37 AM

I'm kind of saddened by these comments. This was my submission, but I never expected it to turn into government-employee bashing. I was a local goverment web developer for 7 years. Most of the people I met were passionate professionals. I never met anyone who was in place as a incompetent political appointee! This particular thing is a mistake on someone's part; mostly because it assumes everyone has Office. That's not an uncommon mistake for not just government, but for small businesses to make as well. It's our job as professional developers to educate the client in these cases.

Posted by: cheryl at December 26, 2006 02:27 PM

Guys, Google can render an Excel spreadsheet as HTML. The HTML rendering of the list of precincts in the submission is at:

Posted by: Simon at December 26, 2006 02:45 PM

>>> This particular thing is a mistake on someone's part; mostly because it assumes everyone has Office.

BINGO! It's a simple matter of not understanding your target audience. Seriously, how many home computer users have shelled out a few hundred dollars for Microsoft Office?

A quick html conversion (which I'll bet is a Save As. . . option in Excel) puts it into a obvious standard that everyone with a browser has access to.

Posted by: Nutsy at December 28, 2006 04:29 PM

Nutsy: Yeah, not everyone can afford to use Google... It's not as if it's *free* or anything...

Posted by: Simon at December 29, 2006 07:02 AM

Office applications generate horrible HTML. It's possible that the admin tried to save the document in HTML format, saw that it created an unusable mess, and threw up his hands.

I've been in that position myself; the choices are either to offer a document in an Office-only format like XLS or DOC, to offer Office's ridiculously broken version, or to spend hours manually repairing the code that Office shat out.

Posted by: MattyMatt at December 30, 2006 02:51 AM

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