Here are some quotes from our users.
Jo Brodie, Science Information Officer & Islet Project Coordinator, Diabetes UK:
"TheyWorkForYou.com contributes to my 'current awareness' of what is being said about diabetes and insulin (access to treatment, statistics etc) and other related health topics (for example organ transplantation and stem cell research as that's very relevant for diabetes and its complications too). The email alerts and RSS feeds mean the information lands rather helpfully in my intray.
"The Science Information Team at Diabetes UK occasionally gets asked stats questions on the numbers of people with diabetes, or a particular complication of diabetes, in a specific location. We don't have access to this sort of data but the top statisticians in the Department of Health do, so it's often worth our while having a quick search to see if something's been asked and answered.
"Even if a question results in "information of that nature is not held centrally", that's useful because we can demonstrate that there isn't a good answer and this will save the original enquirer spending time on a fruitless search.
"If information is forthcoming there is often a reference or info about the way in which the evidence was collected - if this is publicly available then we can use that resource to find other things. (I think this is how I found out about the Prescription Pricing Authority which deals with costs of medications - a useful resource when someone wants to know the impossible 'how many people use insulin?'). So basically it 'begets' further info!
"It's a great site - thank you."
Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough & Whitby:
"Use the site all the time and print off bits to send to constituents. My local newspapers are registered so they often cover my comments in Parliament that I wouldn't even send out as a press release."
TheyWorkForYou currently contains:
But this is by no means everything. Think of what we've done thus far as a mere taster of what could be possible. In the future we’d like to do things such as future business, more coverage of Bills, and so on. If you want the complete, definitive record, go to the UK Parliament site, and you might be able to find what you want.
Ideally, we won't. If everyone keeps to the House Rules, that is. But we're not naive enough to think that life online is that simple. TheyWorkForYou.com operates a 'reactive moderation' policy. We will only check whether an annotation breaches our House Rules if someone lets us know of their concerns via the Report link, which can be found next to every annotation. If we decide that the annotation has breached our House Rules, we will delete it and let the original author know via email. We will also give them opportunity to rephrase and resubmit their orginal annotation. If we deem the annotation to be legit, we'll leave it up, and email the complainant to let them know why. We will do our utmost to respond to reports of potential breaches of our House Rules as soon as we can, but please bear in mind that this service is run by a tiny charity and some volunteers.
In order to improve the site we're asking some questions to help us understand who uses the site and what they want. The answers are completely anonymous.
We use Google Analytics to track aggregated traffic through the website. Rest assured, we only track usage data for one reason only: to help us understand how we can make the site work better for you lot. If anyone wants to whinge about 'Web Bugs', expect short shrift.
RSS files contain information about a list of things: diary entries, speeches, etc. and are formatted to be readable by computer programs, rather than humans. So what use are they? You can use a program called a news reader to store the locations of RSS feeds, and each time one is updated - with new diary entries or speeches - you can easily see what's new. It saves you visiting web pages on the off-chance anything new has appeared. Popular RSS readers are Sharpreader for Windows or NetNewsWire Lite for Macs. Bloglines is an online RSS reader.
The voting record is not affected by what MPs and Peers have said, only how they voted in relation to that topic in the house - i.e. "aye" or "no". Votes on each topic were examined, and strength of support determined based on these votes. Follow the "votes" link next to each topic for details. Additionally, in many votes, MPs and Peers are told how to vote ('whipped') by their parties. Since the Whip is secret, we have to assume, like the Speaker, that all votes are free.
Details of the votes on which each policy position is based are available on the Public Whip website. You can read more about the process we follow when researching the policy positions on our blog. Please contact us if you've spotted something which needs to be updated or corrected.
A few people have asked why we publish statistics on how often MPs use alliterative phrases, such as "she sells seashells". It has even been mentioned in the House of Commons.
Simply put, we realise that data such as the number of debates spoken in means little in terms of an MP's actual performance. MPs do lots of useful things which we don't count yet, and some which we never could. Even when we do, a count doesn't measure the quality of an MPs contribution.
After reading media reports like this one in The Times (cached article), and hearing from real MP's researchers who have admitted to tabling questions to increase their boss's rankings, we became concerned about the use of these statistics.
We've done two things. We've added the silly statistic, to catch your attention. And we've removed the absolute rankings. Instead of saying an MP is exactly 5th for giving out verbiage in the chamber, we now just say that they are "well above average".
Our advice — when you're judging your MP, read some of their speeches, check out their website, even go to a local meeting and ask them a question. Use TheyWorkForYou as a gateway, rather than a simple place to find a number measuring competence.
If you have suggestions for other metrics we could add which would be useful, send them to the usual address. We've got a few ideas ourselves, to keep you on your toes.
TheyWorkForYou used to get its ministerial information, as with much else, by scraping various pages on the official parliament.uk site. The official site stopped maintaining a list of PPSs in January 2009, which means our scraper could no longer find and work out the information. Without a central list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, there isn't a lot we can do.
TheyWorkForYou gets its current ministerial position information from Parliament's official API, so for any issues with current dates, please contact Parliament. We used to obtain data by scraping various pages on the official parliament.uk site, so there might be issues on our site with older data. We hope to also fetch old ministerial information from Parliament's API in future, which should hopefully fix any outstanding issues.
If an MP is a member of a local, perhaps one-issue, party, or is not a member of any political party, TheyWorkForYou lists them as Independent, e.g. Richard Taylor or Robert Wareing. If an MP does not take the party whip, but is a member of that party, we list them as either Independent followed by the party name, e.g. Clare Short.
Yes. We have an API (Application Programming Interface) which gives you the power to do almost anything with our data. Alternatively, you can get XML files, which can be loaded into many spreadsheets. If you just need a spreadsheet of MPs, you'll find one on the right hand side of this page. Please mail us if you want help working out how to use the data, or want to hire us to make something specific for you.