Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
INL's online news website Stuff.co.nz
went live with a new(ish) look and some extra features yesterday.
Unfortunately the result was probably not what management were hoping for.
Instead of visitors getting a slick, content-rich, feature-filled, easily
navigated site -- they got pages which wouldn't load, others containing broken
graphics and a raft of "not found" errors.
the general manager of the Stuff site, Fiona Reid as saying the problem
was due to an overloaded server.
Whose lame-brained idea was it to relaunch the site after extensive changes
without doing some capacity testing?
Okay, so maybe I'm being a little harsh right? After all, anyone can make
Well that might be true -- except for the fact that they also seem to have
forgotten to bolt the security doors during the launch.
Yes, anyone with a browser could snoop through
parts of the site that surely
weren't supposed to be publicly accessible.
Before I continue I need to ask readers a question:
What is "hacking"? (in a contemporary context)
I'm sure someone with limited IQ will claim that I must have been hacking
the Stuff server in order to bring you the information I'm about to reveal.
My response is to ask whether it's hacking to simply click on hypertext
links published to the Net?
That's right, none of the screenshots that follow required me to do anything
but click on a link to call them up. I was never required to enter a password,
type in a URL (other than the simple starting point), or do anything else that
isn't a part of one's regular websurfing activities.
I assert that through incompetence and/or oversight, INL published this information
to the Net in a manner that made it visible for anyone to access.
So what was Stuff serving up instead of news?
Well there were some interesting insights into the internal workings
of the code being used.
What's more -- there was even plenty of that
on display if you clicked around enough.
Feel like managing a little content?
Well if you can come up with the right name and password then you can
publish your own newspaper perhaps.
Ever wondered about how many click-throughs
you'd get if your site advertised on or was linked from Stuff?
Okay, there's lots more but I think I've made my point.
Is it just coincidence that Stuff is owned by INL
who also have a big stake in Pay TV operator Sky TV -- the company responsible
for this unresolved fiasco.
And why, oh why is it that those sites who can most afford to get an independent
third-party site survey done before launching or relaunching seem to be
those least inclined to do so?
Am I talking to a brick wall here? Do some companies reach a point where
they think they're "perfect" and no longer need to adopt the commonsense
rules of good website design, implementation, testing and commissioning
that the rest of the industry does?
Even Air NZ failed to follow the simple advice I give on the very first page
of my Online Marketing feature when
they found their online ticketing system fell on its face with the announcement
of the new low-cost fare structure.
Sometimes I despair!
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