Weblog entry #62 for dkg

NYC SYEP still requires Microsoft Software
Posted by dkg on Wed 19 May 2010 at 19:44
A year ago, i wrote about how New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) requires the use of Internet Explorer to apply online (and it even appears to require IE just to download the PDF of the application!)

Sadly, the situation has not changed, a year later. Today, I'm writing to Dan Garodnick, Chair of The City Council's Committee on Technology (and the rest of the committee members), Carole Post, Commissioner of DoITT (the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications), and Jeanne B. Mullgrav, Commissioner of DYCD (the Department of Youth and Community Development, which runs SYEP).

Here's what i wrote:

For the last two years at least, the DYCD's Summer Youth Employment Program
(SYEP) has been only available to users of Internet Explorer:


Internet Explorer (IE) is only made by Microsoft, and is only available for
people running Microsoft operating systems.  Users of other operating systems,
such as GNU/Linux, Macintosh, or others cannot access the SYEP application
process.  Even users of Windows who care about their online security or simply
desire a different web browsing experience might prefer to avoid Internet

Not only is the online form inaccessible from browsers other than IE, even
retrieving a copy of the PDF to print out and fill in manually is unavailable
for web browsers other than IE.

What is the city's policy is on access to government sites?  Is it city policy
to mandate a single vendor's software for access to city resources?  Should NYC
youth be required to purchase software from Microsoft to be able to apply
for the Summer Youth Employment Program?

The sort of data collection needed by such an application is a mainstay of the
standards-based web, and has been so for over 15 years now.  There is no reason
to require particular client on an open platform.  I can point you toward
resources who would be happy to help you make the system functional for users
of *any* web browser, if you like.

I raised this issue over a year ago (see nyc.gov correspondence #1-1-473378926,
and a public weblog posted around the same time [0]), and got no effective
remedy.  It's worrisome to see that this is still a problem.

Please let me know what you plan to do to address the situation.



[0] https://www.debian-administration.org/users/dkg/weblog/47
Feel free to send your own message to the folks above (especially helps if you live in or near NYC)

Finally, Carole Post, the head of DoITT will also be present at a panel tonight in Soho, which i'm unfortunately be unable to attend. If you go there, you might ask her about the situation.


Comments on this Entry

Posted by dkg (216.254.xx.xx) on Wed 19 May 2010 at 21:34
[ View dkg's Scratchpad | View Weblogs ]
Just as an example of the failures of this web site: the SYEP page titled Required Documents contains code like this:
<span id="Order" class="font-fake-link" onClick=Download_It("\Documents\SYEP_2010_Participant_Applic ation.pdf")>Full Paper Application</span>
where the onClick target is actually a chunk of VBScript!
<script language="VBScript">
Sub Download_It(cDocument)
  HitCountXML.selectSingleNode("values/Item").text = cDocument

  Set oXMLHTTP2 = CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP")
  oXMLHTTP2.Open "post", "HitCountXML.asp", False
  oXMLHTTP2.Send HitCountXML.XMLDocument
  Set oXMLHTTP2 = Nothing
  window.open cDocument
End Sub

All of this could have instead been handled the same way for every web browser ever since 1994:
<a href="/Documents/SYEP_2010_Participant_Application.pdf" >Full Paper Application</a>
Which would produce a link like this:

Full Paper Application

Concerned that the "HitCountXML.asp" won't trigger? If the site admins can't read their web server logs to count the number of hits for some reason, there are still have many standards-based methods that would let a site operator to gather this kind of statistics without breaking every non-VBScript browser out there.

There are occasionally really fancy reasons to optimize a site for superior experience in one browser over another. None of them are relevant for this site, and none of them justify completely breaking simple, standard functionality like hyperlinks or basic forms.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (86.63.xx.xx) on Wed 19 May 2010 at 21:56
Adding iPhone and BlackBerry and 'any other browsers designed for mobile platforms or for people with impaired vision' would add even more power to your message.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by mcortese (20.142.xx.xx) on Thu 20 May 2010 at 10:49
[ View Weblogs ]
What is the city's policy is on access to government sites?
A typo?

Your HTML snippet about "how it should have been done" would be perfect if you also added a target, in order to have the PDF open in a new window.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (190.204.xx.xx) on Fri 21 May 2010 at 03:52
LOL First time in my life that I see a site made with VBScript

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (128.122.xx.xx) on Fri 21 May 2010 at 19:13
I saw this post via Advogato.. I'd recommend sending a hard copy letter if you want to get anything done. I'm also a resident of NYC and have siblings and family members who are city officials.

That's the only way to get anything done. Also, i'd recommend if possible bringing this up at the community board district where the program is run. That will also most definitely help to make it visible and because it looks like an easy win you should be a go.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (71.63.xx.xx) on Sun 23 May 2010 at 19:30
I would have to admit, I am having the same challenges with government officials elsewhere in other cities. In DC, we built an Open Source application from scratch that worked perfectly on the L.A.M.P. platform. The new Director (Joseph Walsh), that came in knows nothing about how to run a program let alone setting up the platform to be 'mission critical'. They actually run the payroll of over 20,000 people on Quickbase (swiss cheese)! Debian would clearly be the best choice, but you may get to retirement before you'll actually convince anyone in middle management to see the light. Nice to see people keeping the faith though.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (151.204.xx.xx) on Tue 25 May 2010 at 06:17
I can post it to nylug.org nylug-talk ML if you like, or you can. Folks there will want to help. Just provide the info as to what to write and to whom.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (77.89.xx.xx) on Mon 7 Mar 2011 at 09:21
The site is still exactly the same now as when this was first observed :(

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]