Google Summer of Code Ideas List

Note: mySociety will not be taking part in this year’s Google Summer of Code.

We feel strongly that, if we were to participate, we would want to offer a truly useful and productive experience to our students, and this year, we simply can’t spare enough developer time to ensure that. We are a small organisation, and our time is fully scheduled.

Our experience of participation in 2012 was really positive, and we do hope to take part again some time in the future when we have the mentoring capacity available.

Here’s our project text from 2012:

If you’re looking at this page, you probably already know all about Google’s fantastic Summer of Code program. In 2012, mySociety will be applying to be a mentoring organisation for students.

We’re a distributed working team, with members of staff all across the UK (and in Kenya and Estonia as well). We haven’t got an office and most interaction is remote. IRC, email and Skype feature heavily in our working practices. If you want to work with us you can do so from the comfort of your own home.

We’ve been thinking about the sort of things that would make good projects, and here are some ideas (we’re going to continue to add to this list).

TheyWorkForYou

TheyWorkForYou.com is our parliamentary monitoring site for the United Kingdom. It’s based in part on the UKParse project, which aims to produce structured versions of publicly available data from the UK parliament(s).

We are always looking to improve the site by adding new data, so that people can find even more information about what their elected representatives are saying and doing in Parliament.  However, we don’t always have the time to do so!  There are several things that you could work on:

  • Welsh Assembly. TWFY covers the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, but it doesn’t cover the debates of the devolved Welsh Assembly.
  • House of Lords Grand Committee. Where some bills are considered at committee stage in the Lords.
  • Northern Ireland Assembly written answers. We cover written answers for the other parliaments, but not for Northern Ireland, so it would be great to complete the set.

Each of these projects would involve identifying a suitable source for the data, writing a scraper (in a language of your choice) to get the data automatically each time it is updated, and parsing that data into structured XML so that it can be imported into the TheyWorkForYou database.

Existing scrapers are in Python.  Some knowledge of PHP and MySQL might be helpful when working on TWFY, but not essential.  Here’s the github repo if you’d like to have a look around, and an issues list.

SayIt

Lately we’ve been thinking about the components that underpin many of our sites. We’ve got a webservice for geographical data, called MapIt; we’re building a webservice for storing and sharing the names and career histories of public figures like politicians and celebrities, called PopIt.  SayIt would be a platform for capturing speeches and public statements.

MapIt and PopIt are Django apps, so we think it would be a good idea if SayIt was too.

VoteIt

Lately we’ve been thinking about the components that underpin many of our sites. We’ve got a webservice for geographical data, called MapIt; we’re building a webservice for storing and sharing the names and career histories of public figures like politicians and celebrities, called PopIt.  VoteIt would be a platform for capturing individual votes and the outcomes of votes, interacting with the existing services.

MapIt and PopIt are Django apps, so we think it would be a good idea if VoteIt was too.

Mobile apps

More and more people are accessing the internet through app-enabled smartphones, and we’d like to offer app versions (for all platforms) of some of our popular websites.

FixMyTransport is our top candidate. It’s a website that helps people to report problems with public transport. Using an app, they could do this while sitting on a broken-down train, or waiting for a bus that never seems to arrive.

Some of our other sites could also make use of the capabilities of smartphones, such as geolocation.

If you’re interested in learning how to build apps for iPhone or Android – even if you’re a complete beginner – this could be for you.

WriteToThem

WriteToThem.com helps thousands of people every month to write to politicians. Written in Perl (back end) and PHP (front end), it has been ticking over nicely for years, but we think it could do with some love.  Things you could do to help out include:

Add parish councils – source the details of parish councils across the UK, and the contact details of their councillors, and add this data and functionality to the site.

A full design refresh - making the site look slicker and more modern, mobile-friendly and tied in to the look and feel of our other sites.  Suitable for someone with an interest in CSS, usability and responsive design.

Create a white label version that charities, campaign groups and so on can easily integrate into their own website, customising it to their own branding and wording.

Here’s the github repo if you’d like to have a look around, and an issues list.