Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another point of public contact hobbled

David Pugliese has a timely piece up in the CanWest papers today about Combat Camera. For those who aren't aware of what Combat Camera is, or what it does, you can read more than you probably wanted to know in a post I did in February of this year.

The long and short of it is that the site has been taken down:

The Defence Department has shut down its website featuring photos of Canadian military personnel after receiving a complaint that on-screen commands used to download the pictures were not in both official languages and information regarding the images was poorly translated into French.

The Combat Camera website, which contains thousands of images of Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel is one of the most popular sites for the Defence Department. It receives between 3.6 million and 5.6 million page views a month from the public, according to figures supplied by the department.

But the site was shut down last Friday after a complaint from NDP MP Yvon Godin that the commands on how to download photos were in English only. He also complained that there was poor use of the French language in the photo captions, which are in French and English.

I was told about this days ago, and simply haven't had time to post about it. I normally browse through the newer photos once a week or so, and noticed awhile back that the captions had all disappeared, so you didn't know what exactly you were looking at. At that time, the site indicated that captions would be back up when they could be made fully bilingual.

But instead of putting some resources towards doing that, the direction from the MND's office was to shut it down. And so we have yet another point of contact between the CF and the Canadian public taken away. Just before Christmas, too, so neither the families of the deployed soldiers, nor ordinary Canadians who wanted to see images of their military men and women can do that.

I obviously know people who have worked on the Combat Camera team, and they're understandably upset about this. Especially since the problem was apparently identified several years ago internally, requests went in for extra personnel in the translation department, but those requests were never filled.

So much for informing the public.

Update: As of 20DEC, it looks like the site is back online, sans captions. Which is how it should have been handled in the first place, pending improved translation efforts. I wonder now if they'll have the good sense to load the captions as they're completed, rather than wait until the entire backlog is cleared before uploading the text.

It shouldn't be this tough, folks.


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