Census night is coming

The census delivery chick turned up and offered us the option of paper or electronic form.

Two programmers looked at each other, thought about how they value their time and the response was a no-brainer:

“We’re programmers,” I explained, “we’ll take the paper form.”

“There’s a phone number you can call if you have any trouble filling out the electronic form” reassures the collector.

Cathy thinks: “Sure, that line won’t have any trouble when twenty million Australians simultaneously log into the web site to fill in the forms via a broken SSL link, using IE specific controls (that only work under some versions Windows assuming they’re correctly patched and have the right libraries loaded), demanding full round-trips to the underspec’d Windows servers to populate unnecessarily complex custom controls, some of which will no doubt demand Flash or COM. Come to think of it, it probably won’t even be web based, and we’ve only got two Windows boxes, one of which is tucked under a table (Yay! Census night on the floor swearing at the ABS’s programmers!) and the other has a screen resolution that went out with buggy whips (I’ve had programs barf and refuse to run because the resolution was unacceptable).”

We chose paper. For another view of the world, I’m looking forward hearing to how census night worked for Daniel…

12 thoughts on “Census night is coming

  1. Ken

    Actually – it works just fine – I did mine in Safari – You can do it in advance..

  2. Anonymous

    Just received our Census info. The eCensus site site “has been designed to work with a range of Internet browsers including [sic] Explorer (version 7 or later is recommended) Firefox, Safari and Chrome.”

    Bad proof reading aside it looks fine. It’s web based, the SSL cert is okay, you do need javascript (but for most people I’d reckon this simply isn’t an issue)and no demands for Flash.

  3. Philip

    We’re doing ours online because we know the ABS is far better at this than the Tax Office, and we did it last year. And my wife is a census collector and knows that it’s far more efficient for you to do the form online, any time between when you receive it and census night, than for her to have to visit your house five times to try catching you at home so she can collect the form.

    It does work in Safari, it works on a Mac, it probably even works without Flash but I haven’t checked that. In short, it’s everything the tax return should be but isn’t.

  4. Tony

    Done on a Windows lappy using Chrome. No Flash required, just javascript, and worked like a charm. So much easier than a paper form.

  5. daniel

    Wot he said. Quick and easy. I used Chrome.

    For a site so busy tonight, they’ve obviously done well on ensuring it was well-resourced, as the response time was excellent.

    The guff on system requirements says:

    “To maintain the security and confidentiality of the information you provide to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the eCensus has been designed to work with a range of internet browsers. Most common browsers should work successfully with the eCensus, providing they support 128-bit SSL encryption. If your browser does not support 128-bit encryption you will not be able to complete your Census online. For information on how to enable 128-bit encryption click on the link to Technical Help.

    The eCensus uses JavaScript to make the form easier to use. Most browsers have JavaScript enabled. If you are not sure whether your browser has JavaScript enabled and would like to check, please click on the Technical Help link. If you require further information please consult the ‘Help’ function in your browser.”

    The technical help page has some other details. http://stream0.census.gov.au/eCensusWeb/technical_help.html

  6. Philip

    They’ve done the opposite of what the tax office does, haven’t they. They’ve tried to make it usable by everyone!

  7. josh Post author

    33% of users failed to use correctly, going to show that something that’s been reportedly well designed still fails to work when confronted by first time users. Having said that, our census form got filled out on Wednesday at the breakfast table, in somewhat of a rush; kids and diligent paperwork don’t seem to go hand-in-hand. A JavaScript enabled web-form would have caught a few of the mistakes made in the breakfast time rush.

    I note that the instructions for using eCensus talk about configuring FireFox 3 (current version: 5), using directions that are wrong under Linux. And they don’t allow for NoScript, although admittedly someone savvy enough to be running NoScript is going to know how to turn on JavaScript for abs.gov.au

  8. daniel

    I was surprised so many failed to submit, since it was fairly obvious to me that you had to do it, but that might be because I went back and reviewed some of my answers first. Once submitted it returns a receipt number you can write on the card with your eCensus number on it.

    I mean to write a blog post about Firefox’s almost ridiculous version numbering/upgrade path, but the instructions on the site for enabling Javascript are in fact still the same in FF5, apart from the first step of finding the Tools menu… which is actually really difficult to do unless you know to press Alt to get the main menu. (I can’t see any other way.) At least in IE9 you can click the Cog to do it.

  9. MD

    Ahh .. I have javascript enabled and cannot get this to work on my home desktop (ie or chrome) or my new laptop (ie or chrome). However … I got it to work on my work laptop which appears to have the same browser settings!

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