— By Domani Spero
This is a topic almost as old as this blog. In 2008, we wrote that the Foreign Service Grievance Board website was like a relic from an Internet cold war. All the documents were still posted in MS Word, the search function was not terribly helpful and there was no option to search/browse its pending or resolved cases.
- 2008 Annual Report on Foreign Service Grievance Now Online
- 2009 FS Grievance Board Annual Report, Fresh from the Oven
- Snapshot: Foreign Service Grievance Board 2011 Statistics, Up 25% from 2010
- Foreign Service Grievance Board 2012 Statistics — Up/Down Whatever Percent From 2011
Last week, one of our readers gave us a heads-up that fsgb.gov website has gone missing and the web search is returning an error message. It was. We found the one below from the Wayback Machine:
About 48 hours later when we look again, we found this!
The new website is certainly an improvement from its ancient version. Some of the more apparent changes:
- “Browse Grievances” is now available by year. By far, 1996 was a banner year for grievances with 175 cases listed.
- The posted cases from 2012 are available mostly in pdf files, making it accessible to read even without MS Word installed.
- New decisions issued by the FSGB now include the names/signatures of the panel members hearing the cases. Previous cases did not always have the names of the FSGB members or their signatures.
- The Annual Reports have been updated to include the 2012 report which was submitted to Congress in March 2013, but did not make it online till now (2012 report will be in a separate post)
- The contact page includes two email addresses and the Executive Secretary’s telephone number. Have yet to test if either or both respond to inquiries.
The FSGB told Congress on its 2012 report that the Board was “not able to advance to an acceptable stage in the refurbishing of our outdated and overburdened website, but we have managed to continue to post grievance decisions and other essential information both for the public and for use by the members.” Apparently, at the beginning of 2013, the FSGB finally entered into an agreement with State Department’s IRM which made the website changes possible. Not sure why it took so long but —
The one thing that still needs attention on the FSGB website is the “Search Grievance” function which does not appear to work as well as it should. You can search by year and by specific Record of Proceeding (ROP) and it will return the appropriate records. But if you do the “Document Search” field for instance, on records pertaining to “EER,” “discipline,” “financial,” or “separation” — the top cases filed within the Board, the new website returns a “no match” result. We’ve used “OR”, “AND”, double quotes, and a wildcard “*” with the same “no match” results.
We suspect that providing a better end-user search experience was among the top justifications for migrating the old website to this new Sharepoint site. But the FSGB cases do not use meaningful file names and titles, so while browsing the cases is available, it does not make locating the files any more easier or quicker. It also does not look like the cases have been tagged or use metadata; both if used would help tremendously in improving the “findability” of the cases in the new website.