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What are we doing about… access permissions?

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As work progresses on the Inside Government publishing platform, Neil Williams, Product Manager, explains some of the thinking behind using a 'noise not restriction' approach and asks for Departments input on where restriction might be necessary.

Right now, anybody who has a user account for the Whitehall publishing tool can see and edit anyone else’s draft content.

“WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?” we hear you cry. Actually, it’s a deliberate strategy.

Noise not restriction

In the Inside Gov team we have set out to create a tool which is open and flexible, and which fosters trust and collaboration between editors across government.

We have a mantra in our team of ‘noise not restriction’ - by which we mean that we want to encourage good practice using help and warning text instead of limiting what users can do with their accounts.

Restriction, in our collective experience of many a CMS, leads to frustration and - at worst - dodgy workarounds like people sharing their account details. Plus every feature we add creates bloat and complexity in the user interface.

Joined up writing

More importantly, though, we need editors across government to be able to see and edit each others’ content so that, for example, we can have a single policy on Afghanistan maintained by MOD, FCO, DFID and other contributing organisations in collaboration with each other.

Restriction as a last resort

However, we also understand that restriction will sometimes be unavoidable, and we will need to limit who can see certain draft content.

We are already working on the first aspect of this, which is to restrict who can see draft statistical publications in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics (protocol 2, paragraph 7).

We will iterate to restrict other things, as and when there is a real and pressing need and/or statutory requirement to do so, but in order to do it well we need to fully understand:

  • what needs to be protected?
  • from whom?
  • under what circumstances?
  • or else what bad thing could happen?
  • and who needs to still access in order to create and publish it?

Colleagues in departments, please help us to answer these questions so we can meet your needs while still supporting collaboration and trust.

Image credit: Mark Morgan Trinidad A via 

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  1. Comment by Emma Cleary posted on

    I'm Emma from Wolverhampton City Council. We are making some drmatic changes to the management of our website and most in following of central government! We are reading your blog posts with interest! It's all to do with improving customer experience and giving them content they are looking for in a focussed way. Part of this is the publishing model which we have recently had sign off to centralise. I would really like to chat to you if possible about what is happening in central government, how you have done it and what the benefits have been when it comes to web experts manging the web rather than service experts. Please if you have some time can you give me a call or email me to chat. 01902 556136