“You have to take the data with a pinch of salt, especially as the second referendum petition was affected by bots,” said Andy Cotgreave, Technical Evangelist and Senior Director at Tableau and author of the Big Book of Dashboards. On discussing the Revoke Article 50 petition, but then again, he wasn’t dismissing it either
Cotgreave explained: “At three million plus and climbing, it looks like the Revoke Article 50 petition is getting close to equalling or overtaking the biggest parliamentary petition so far. That petition for the second referendum clocked up four million signatures and this week’s Revoke Article 50 petition now has three times as many signatures as all the pro-Brexit ones put together.”
The whole Brexit debate has involved a great deal of data info wars and, when this decision ever concludes, it will be sensible to review how data has been used and misused in a hugely important political debate.
That’s seem like a compelling case, but then Cotgreave warned: “Of course you have to take the data with a pinch of salt especially as the second referendum petition was affected by bots.”
Does that mean the data is not much use, that the Revoke Article 50 petition is not helpful? Cotgreave said: “Nonetheless, the data available to us and how rapidly the petition grew reveals how much people are willing to engage in the political process in huge numbers digitally. The whole Brexit debate has involved a great deal of data info wars and, when this decision ever concludes, it will be sensible to review how data has been used and misused in a hugely important political debate.”
Steve Barrett, head of EMEA at PagerDuty, on the other hand, was vexed by the issue of the Revoke Article 50 petition website being down for extended periods.
“Regardless as to why the Revoke Article-50 petition page went down, it’s safe to say that behind the scenes, an IT team would have been battling furiously to get it back online again.
“All IT incidents are stressful but when they are as high profile as this, the pressure’s really on. That’s why it’s imperative that organisations have clear plans in place which ensure that everyone on the team knows exactly what their role is as a first responder so that vital minutes aren’t wasted panicking about what to do.
“This way everyone can be focused on finding the problem and fixing it as quickly as possible. Incident response shouldn’t stop once the problem is solved.”
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Barrett then gave the House of Commons Petitions Committee some advice for the future: “Before the dust settles, it’s important that a full post-mortem on an event like this is carried out so that any kinks in the process can be ironed out before the next incident comes along and tests everyone again.”
The petition committee did, however come up with a possible, and simple solution to keep the Revoke Article 50 petition running:
It tweeted: “To reduce demand on the site, signature counts will not update automatically. Signatures are still being recorded. For the time being, the count will update every half hour or so.”
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At peak traffic, 2,000 signatures a minute were flooding through the site and whilst trying to keep things running the Petitions Committee’s twitter released a constant stream of updates.
Thanks so much for your patience. As you can tell, people are signing petitions really quickly. The sudden spikes in usage are
causing intermittent problems, but we’re doing everything we can.
— Petitions Committee (@HoCpetitions) March 21, 2019