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Downing Street's website, the e-petitions hit tart

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Number-10.gov.uk, the stultifyingly dull home to Downing Street's idea of news and absurdly astroturfed 'webchats' with our leaders, has released its visitor numbers for the year so far, showing an amazing increase in traffic over the previous year. Or alternatively, suggesting it's been going nowhere for most of this year.

How could that be? The published figures show a total from January to October of 73.8 million pages, against a total of 11.5 million for the same period last year, while October 2007 saw 5.1 million, while October 2006 chalked up 1.2 million. So that's good, isn't it?

Well, in November 2006 Downing Street began running e-petitions. We'll charitably assume that Downing Street's failure to break out the November 2006 numbers is merely a calendar thing, not shiftiness. Stats for 2006 as a whole, though, were 17.1 million, which indicates a nice spike in the last two months, particularly as December will have been quieter, as is the case for all things Web.

Looking at the 2007 monthly figures, we see January and March going like trains, and February clocking up a stupendous 22.6 million - what happened there then? Ah yes, the road pricing petition. And by April the stats were bumping along around the 5 million level, spiking a tad in July (Tony resigns), and then nosediving in August and September (Parliament on holiday) before reviving to 5.1 million again in October.

Unsportingly, Downing Street doesn't break out the effects of the e-petitions, and (tut) doesn't even say who conducted the audit (if, indeed, what one would term a proper audit has taken place). But it seems pretty clear that even including e-petitions, Number 10 (go on, have some free clicks) has at best a quarter of the impact of some of the better tech sites we could mention,* and really only starts motoring (wrong word, perhaps) when lots of people badly want to abuse the Government. What do you call that, dialogue with the citizens? ®

* Should we mention quality of visitor? The spelling in some of these petitions really is appalling...

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