Monday, 5 July 2010

About power outages, again

So in case you aren't in Toronto, we had a little bit of a power outage. Downtown, power went out about quarter to 5, though it didn't affect my work's building. But then when we got back home and I was watching Jeopardy!, the power went out in our area too. And it was out for about 1.75 hours, which I think is the longest (local) blackout I've experienced in Canada (barring the day-long one in 2003).

Now I'm sure you remember that previous post about power outages I made. The problem, of course, was that the Hydro One site didn't cover Toronto. Well, things have changed. Toronto Hydro now has a site for power outages.

Of course, there's a different problem now. It's totally broken. Or is it? I could access it with IE7 (which we're stuck with at work), but then it didn't work in Firefox at home. For me, that's basically broken. Had I not tried it at work, I would have dismissed it as useless.

Having peeked at the source of the website, I'm quite unimpressed. "JavaScript" / "javascript"? Capitalized HTML tags? <meta content="MSHTML 6.00.6000.16788" name="GENERATOR" />? Hello, Toronto Hydro? It's 2010. Who writes real websites in MS software? I'm surprised they even managed to get Google Maps there, with the junk they have for the rest of the site.

So apparently, they haven't heard of case-sensitivity (a symptom of living on Windows). The link on the main page uses ALLCAPS, which IE7 will ignore and lowercase, but Firefox doesn't. Then for whatever reason, their horrible JavaScript fails to load the Google Maps API. Sometimes it will pop up an error, but usually it just sits there with a big blank space where the map should be. If you lowercase the URI and go to that in Firefox, then it all loads fine (the link above is already corrected.)

And then you go a little further through the source... and what's this? The map data for outages is inlined in the webpage? That explains why it goes and refreshes the entire page every once in a while. You wouldn't do that with proper AJAX.

Technical reasons aside, is it any good? Well, after seeing the HydroOne site, I wouldn't say so. It'd be nice to see the border of Toronto Hydro's jurisdiction, but that's kind of minor. Really though, it's just a map with some patterns on it, which tells you whether it's a big or small problem, but not much else. It says the "start of the outage", but not when it was fixed, or even if it was fixed. Unlike the HydroOne site, there's no indication whether repair crews have been dispatched, or whether the cause is known. Even better would be an estimate of how long it might be till the problem's fixed, though the HydroOne site doesn't seem to have that either. (I'm a bit jaded from the horrible code.)

Someone needs to go hit them on the head with some real Web 2.0 design, and then maybe think about what someone might want to know when the power goes out.

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