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TheyWorkForYou news

21 January 2009

Blimey. It looks like the Internets won

After a tremendous response from you, with over 7,000 members on our Facebook group, 4,000 messages sent to MPs, and a helpful 4th Report of the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, it appears that the vote has been cancelled - Guardian, Times, BBC.

As President Obama said in his inauguration speech: "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

Read our victory mySociety blog post, and do join our mailing list. :-)

Posted at 15:30:00 by Matthew | Link to this

18 July 2008

API keys, and improved internal links

In order to monitor the service for abuse, help with support and maintenance, locate large volume/ commercial users to ask them to contribute to our costs, and provide users with usage statistics of their application, we're adding API keys to our API. Apologies to current API users who will be inconvenienced; the API will allow key-less calls for a short time, during which current users can get a key and update their code.

In front end news, we now locate whenever an old version of Hansard is referenced (which they do by date and column number, e.g. Official Report, 29 February 2008, column 1425) and turn the citation into a link to a search for the speeches in that column on that date. This only really became feasible when we moved server, upgraded Xapian, and added date and column number metadata (among others), allowing much more advanced and focussed searching - the advanced search form gives some other ideas. Perhaps in future we'll be able to add some crowd-sourcing game to match the reference to the exact speech, much like our video matching (nearly 80% of our archive done!). :)

Posted at 14:01:00 by Matthew | Link to this

2 June 2008

Video on TheyWorkForYou

We’re very excited to announce that TheyWorkForYou now includes video of debates in the House of Commons - but we need your help to match up each speech with the video footage.

It’s really easy to help out. We’ve built a really simple, rather addictive system that lets anyone with a few spare minutes match up a randomly-selected speech from Hansard against the correct snippet of video. You just listen out for a certain speech, and when you hear it you hit the big red ‘Now’ button. Your clip will then immediately go live on TheyWorkForYou next to the relevent speech, improving the site for everyone. Yay!

You can start matching up speeches with video snippets right away, but if you take 30 seconds to register a username then we’ll log every speech that you match up and recognise your contribution on our “top timestampers” league table. We’ll send out mySociety hoodies to the top timestampers - they’re reserved exclusively for our volunteers as a badge of honour.

Etienne's post on the mySociety blog has some background information on the project.

Posted at 18:56:00 by Matthew | Link to this

6 May 2008

The Scottish Parliament

Thanks mainly to our Edinburgh-based volunteer Mark Longair, TheyWorkForYou now covers Scottish Parliament debates and written answers, right back to the start of this Parliament in 1999. That means that each MSP, just like MPs, Lords, and MLAs, now has their own page, linking to speeches and questions they have made. For example, here are the current party leaders: Alex Salmond, Wendy Alexander, Annabel Goldie, Nicol Stephen, and Robin Harper.

As with other types of representative, you can subscribe to email alerts or an RSS feeds for their latest appearances; or subscribe to an email alert when a particular word or phrase is mentioned, either anywhere or just in the Scottish Parliament.

To go with this launch of a large amount of new data, we've rejigged the site navigation slightly to make it a bit easier to follow. Each body now has its own main tab, with links to the sections and representatives under each one (so lists of MPs and Lords are now under “UK”).

Along with improvements to our search engine, including date range search, spelling correction, departmental search, and more, we're launching this now to mark the success in getting endorsements for our Free Our Bills campaign, and we'll be rolling out more goodies as the campaign goes along.

Posted at 13:35:28 by Matthew | Link to this

30 April 2008

Shadow ministers and spokespersons

TheyWorkForYou now includes shadow cabinet positions, shadow ministers and spokespersons for the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and SNP. This information is given both on a person's page and within any debates they speak in, which could help explain why your local MP is speaking on transport or foreign affairs a lot. :)

Posted at 08:25:00 by Matthew | Link to this

21 December 2007

Please donate to help us expand TheyWorkForYou

We’ve been working on Public Bill (née Standing) Committees, and some lovely new volunteers have been working their socks off on the Scottish Parliament, to be added to TheyWorkForYou. Yay!

Unfortunately, the server that TheyWorkForYou sits on is almost full, so we can’t launch their hard work. Boo!

TheyWorkForYou isn’t an externally funded project, and we need funding from other sources to keep it growing and improving. So if the season has filled you with generosity of spirit, why not drop us a few pennies to pay for some upgrades? Any extra beyond what we need will go into the general pot to keep mySociety running and the developers from starving.

Posted at 10:07:35 by Tom | Link to this

11 September 2007

The Queen in Parliament

Whilst we cover MPs and Lords, there's always been one other individual who speaks in Parliament whom we missed. That anomaly has now been fixed, and so you can now view the Queen's page on TheyWorkForYou. :) This means you can sign up for an email alert whenever she speaks in Parliament, subscribe to the RSS feed of the same, or just look at past prorogation and Queen's speeches more easily than anywhere else I've found.

Posted at 15:34:47 by Matthew | Link to this

3 September 2007

Missing confirmation emails

Whilst doing some routine maintenance, I spotted that due to a server configuration mistake, TheyWorkForYou has been failing to send out any confirmation emails since mid-August. Very many apologies to anyone affected - emails from the past few days have now been sent out, and I've got in touch with anyone who signed up in the days prior to that to let them know what happened.

Posted at 17:12:47 by Matthew | Link to this

11 December 2006

The Northern Ireland Assembly

I'm extremely proud to announce that TheyWorkForYou now covers the debates of the Northern Ireland Assembly from its creation in 1998 to its current Transitional Assembly status. Everything should integrate with the rest of the site, so MLAs who are also MPs only have the one central page, such as Gerry Adams or Ian Paisley.

I've done this voluntarily, in secret — this announcement comes as much as a surprise to everyone else involved with TheyWorkForYou as it does to you — partly to try out Beautiful Soup, partly because I obviously didn't have enough to do writing a No10 Petitions website and answering mountains of support mail, partly as an early Christmas present for everyone I know in the world of the internets (hey guys), and partly to show how easy I think it is and that there's no excuse for people not to volunteer to do the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. :) Here's all the code (and there's not much; the scraper is 28 lines long, the name resolver 273, and the parser only 343 — including comments!) for scraping and parsing the Northern Ireland Assembly, the XML list of Assembly Members I created was quite important, and then it was a matter of adapting the existing TheyWorkForYou code to add a new major type (and completely rewrite the enter/leaving code as that assumed you couldn't be in more than one Parliament/Assembly at once...).

I'm sure there are bugs around the place (do let us know), but I'm off on holiday for a week now; I look forward to my return (so don't expect a quick reply to suggestions or complaints)! :-)

ATB,
Matthew Somerville

Posted at 00:00:00 by Matthew | Link to this

2 September 2006

TheyWorkForYou API

Today, we launched an API (Application Programming Interface) to the data TheyWorkForYou contains. This lets other sites query our site for various bits of information, such as the constituency or MP for a particular postcode, the debates for a particular date, the comments left on a certain MP's speeches, and so on. It's not complete and will hopefully have improvements in future – see the documentation and have a play with it. Do dive in, and let us know of any interesting or fun applications you come up with! The immediate new feature on TheyWorkForYou itself is the list of neighbouring constituencies on an MP's page.

Here's my BarCamp Presentation launching the API, and a couple of applications using it.

Posted at 17:10:00 | Link to this