Why SocITM surveys are destroying council websites and how to block them

If you’ve visited a local council website in the last few years, you’re very likely to have encountered a request to fill out a survey on how useful the site is to you.

It’s great that councils and other public bodies are seeking feedback on their online services, but unfortunately, many of them appear to have been misled into using the most awful and intrusive methods of doing so.

The main offender seems to be SocITM: an obscure and stuffy sounding body that describe themselves as  the “professional association for public sector ICT management”.

SocITM provide some kind of turnkey feedback service that can be slotted straightforwardly into the code of council websites. Presumably, they then manage the reporting and feedback to council staff. Unfortunately, it is the most annoying and ugly method for collecting user feedback that I’ve encountered in recent years.

The problem is, no-one ever visits a local council website simply to browse around it for fun. They visit it to rapidly find out information, like when to put the bins out or complete some kind of task, like paying council tax. To be presented with a screen where the content is completely obliterated and ugly, poorly-styled and composed text demands you provide “feedback” is tedious as hell. No: I am not going to feedback to you on your site right now and you should be lucky, because I’d tell you it’s crap.

Much better, to provide an unobtrusive feedback link on the right, a la UserVoice or at the completion of transaction. SocITM are doing their clients as massive disservice by insisting on the installation of ugly wrapper code to then ask for poor quality feedback.

What’s worse is that, despite repeatedly saying I don’t want to provide feedback, I continually get hassled for it as the code appears to move around different pages on the website.

How to block SocITM surveys from interrupting your browsing

Anyway, I’ve had enough. If you’re using Google Chrome, you can permanently block scripts provided by SocITM (or their partner Govmetric) from running on your computer again.

The offending script (pulled from this page) is here. To block it, you simply need to add an exclusion for the domain from which the script runs – in this case, govmetric.com.

In Chrome, click the wrench menu (top right). Choose ‘Under the Hood’ and scroll down to Javascript settings.

Choose ‘Manage Exceptions…’. Then simply add govmetric.com as an exception. Make sure you set the “Behaviour” to Block.

If you have Google Chrome syncing turned on, this should then reflect across all installations.

Boom! No more SocITM surveys or, in fact, any powered by usability-hating survey house govmetric. Sad smiley faces all round!

UPDATE: Adrian Short has produced a beta Google Chrome extension that will do similar by adding a cookie but it’s a bit buggy at this stage. Feedback on both methods would be welcome.

UPDATE 2: It seems SocITM surveys are now polluting search engine results on Google:

SocITM screen grab from Martin Wright.