1. 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.

  2. Own a piece of mySociety: servers to give away

    After several years of hosting, mySociety has migrated out of Easynet’s Brick Lane Data Center, and we now live on virtual machines hosted at a top secret location in the north of England. Most of our old hardware is no longer in use. It’s redundant. We don’t need it any more. But we don’t want to throw it all in a skip, that would be terrible.

    Sooo… we’d like to find a lovely new home for it all. And this unique opportunity to own a piece of mySociety may be of interest to YOU.

    Here are the technical details of the various machines we are getting rid of – check it out for what’s currently available.

    Update: all gone!

    The Rules:

    1. The servers don’t come with disks: as part of our privacy procedures, all disks have been removed and destroyed to protect our and our users’ data.

    2. You’ll need to be able to pick them up ASAP from a central London location (WC2).

    3. You’ll need to be available to do so during office hours or very shortly afterwards (evenings or weekends aren’t possible, sorry).

    4. Note that they are large and heavy so you may well need a car.

    For more information, or even better, if you’re thinking “Sold! I’ll take the lot!”, then get in touch with Abi, our friendly office manager, on hello@mysociety.org.

    If you feel guilty about relieving a registered charity of its assets, you can even make us a donation (voluntary, but we’d be appropriately grateful).

  3. Seeking to Contract an Interactive Designer for FixMyTransport

    Do you care for usability as much as you care for elegance? Do you enjoy knocking the rough edges off user journeys, as well as making them playful and attractive? Are you looking for a contract that will make a real difference to the lives of your fellow citizens? If so, we’d like to talk to you about becoming the design lead on mySociety’s next site, FixMyTransport.

    Why we need better design, and why we need it now

    FixMyTransport will be the next major charitable project built by mySociety. It is a project of a registered charity, currently running award-winning civic and democratic websites like TheyWorkForYou.com and FixMyStreet.com. Our sites have strong reputations for being effective and highly usable, but are not known for their shininess or fun-loving nature.

    With FixMyTransport we want to change this reputation, and start to become known for tools that are as lovely as they are effective. This decision reflects mySociety’s view that we have a leadership responsibility within the global community of civic-minded software developers: a responsibility to push the boundaries of what has been achieved previously, and to critically assess our own achievements.

    Why we think collaborating on the design for FixMyTransport would be pretty cool

    FixMyTransport is a particularly interesting challenge because it represents a deliberate attempt to pioneer a new approach to motivating civic action through the web. Our specific goal is to build a platform that can coax people who do not think of themselves as ‘activists’ or ‘campaigners’ over the edge into being micro-activists, by focusing on capturing and magnifying the passion that is created when people have problems with public transport.

    The design challenges that fall our way are therefore complex and fascinating. The service needs to be friendly and reassuring enough to encourage people to make what may be a hugely significant ‘first’ in their lives. But it must also be professional-looking enough to make the targets of campaigns feel that it means business. Furthermore, as a platform, different campaigns will head in different directions, and the design and work-flow will have to cope with many unanticipated uses.

    Organisational Context

    mySociety has ten full time staff, and a wider community of energetic and creative volunteers. We pride ourselves on being pretty good at smooth user journeys and worthwhile incentives for using the services. But we know that we have weaknesses when it comes to making things beautiful and playful, which is why we’re looking for a designer who is willing to do more than just prettify whatever we give them. We’re looking for someone with knowledge of user-experience deep enough to challenge us about the layout of pages and the user journeys through them, whilst being respectful of our own knowledge. We’re looking for a genuine collaborator who will teach us and learn from us as we work together, and someone who will understand when conversion tracking is worth using, and when it isn’t.

    We need someone who has a good understanding of the nature of interactive design, and who knows what web developers need from designers. And perhaps most importantly, we’re looking for someone who will bring a vision for how the whole user experience should fit together into something warm, reassuring and compelling to use.

    This contract and beyond

    We envisage that the contract will last 15-25 working days and we will pay standard commercial rates. We do not have a fixed office space, although for the duration of the contract we may hire co-working space in London for you and the FixMyTransport engineers, if required.

    Once we have established a strong working relationship with a good designer, we wish to continue that to implement redesigns across all our major sites.

    Person Specification

    Must have:

    • A portfolio of at least three web sites where you were the sole or lead designer
    • At least 2 years experience in a role that involved regular use of Photoshop or similar graphics packages for the design or mockup of web pages
    • At least 12 months experience working with software developers to implement designs (or must be a developer yourself)
    • Working knowledge of UX design, as distinct from graphic design
    • Must be resident in the UK

    Desirable qualities:

    • Prior knowledge of our services
    • Experience of iterative design based on conversion tracking

    How to Apply

    Send us an email to hello@mysociety.org briefly explaining why you’re the person for this job, and put the tag msjob8 into the subject line. Please share some of your portfolio, and write us 100 words on what sort of approach you think FixMyTransport needs from a designer. Deadline for applications is 9AM on Wednesday 2nd March.

  4. Job advert: Communications Manager

    Updated 4th March 2011. Recruiting has been extended, and a slightly edited version of this description (including new instructions on how to apply) is available at the Guardian Jobs website.

    mySociety Communications Manager

    Do you enjoy communicating through all the channels that the modern internet has to offer? Do you enjoy helping users as well as pitching to journalists and companies? Are you looking for a communications job with a greater sense of purpose? If so, mySociety’s new Communications Manager role could be for you.

    an old-fashioned communications dude

    Is this you?

    mySociety is a project of registered charity UK Citizens Online Democracy, currently running award-winning civic and democratic websites like TheyWorkForYou.com and FixMyStreet.com. Our services had over 5 million unique visitors in 2010, but we believe that there are a lot more people who would benefit from what we do, if only we were better at communicating. The job of the new Communications Manager will be to help mySociety reach out to these potential beneficiaries, as well as to prospective commercial clients.

    The Communications Manager will be a new post at mySociety, funded by the Omidyar Network, with a 12 month contract in the first instance.  This is a home working position and the successful candidate can be located anywhere in the UK. Occasional UK travel will be required to meetings and events. Salary: £28-31k.

    Organisational Context

    mySociety has ten full time staff, and a wider community of energetic and creative volunteers. This is a newly created, full-time role as an employee of mySociety Ltd, reporting to the Head of Operations and Finance but working with everyone, including the volunteers.

    mySociety operates a number of not-for-profit websites, and carries out high quality software development on a commercial basis to support the charity. The key objectives of this role are:

    1. To drive public awareness and usage of our not-for-profit websites.
    2. To work with users of our not-for-profit websites to help them achieve their goals, whether on our sites or elsewhere.
    3. To drive awareness of our commercial sites and services, respectively building their traffic and generating commercial sales prospects.

    It is important to communicate that the position is a combination of a classic PR role with a more modern digital community management role: the successful candidate will need to feel as comfortable over quiet lunches with journalists as they are with Facebook’s ever-changing featureset.

    The focus of activities would be primarily within the UK, but will involve supporting our team’s international partnerships and projects. We have no fixed offices, and have team members working from home spread across the country who work and communicate primarily via the net. There are face-to-face meetups every week or two.

    Key Responsibilities and Deliverables

    1. Helping mySociety to make the most effective possible use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, through a combination of authorial skills and analytics.
    2. Sourcing the materials for a monthly email newsletter, writing and delivering it, and processing click-through data to improve the next iteration.
    3. Working directly with users of our sites, especially FixMyStreet and FixMyTransport, to help them work together to achieve their goals.
    4. Blogging on mySociety’s site, and encouraging the rest of the organisation to blog and communicate more.
    5. Building relationships with journalists, and gaining media coverage of new launches and noteworthy events in the mySociety universe.
    6. Co-organising occasional events with mySociety’s Office Manager.
    7. Producing copy and coordinating design for commercial briefing documents, such as sales brochures.
    8. Managing our Google Adwords account.

    Person Specification

    Must have:

    • At least 2 years experience in a role that involved regular authoring of press releases and blog posts
    • At least 12 months involvement with some kind of predominantly online community
    • Graduate level spoken and written communications skills

    Desirable qualities:

    • Experience as a journalist
    • Experience of fighting campaigns, especially at a local level
    • Experience of monitoring performance of Google Adwords, Facebook adverts, email mailshots, postal mailshots or other kinds of marketing which can be improved through quantitative testing and iteration
    • Experience of both charitable and commercial PR
    • Pre-existing relationships with journalists and bloggers in a variety of sectors
    • Trusted reputation within at least one online social service that is issue specific (e.g. Mumsnet, Rightsnet, Ravelry)


  5. Citizens Referendum

    Describe your idea:

    Note This was submitted by standard e mail on 3 Sept – resubmission here was unavoigably delayed until now.

    Illustration)

    Do they know what you think? Do they really care?

    It is no longer satisfactory just to cast a vote every four years or so and then in between elections the Administration enjoys almost free rein. Your elected representatives need a more accurate measure of Public Opinion. We believe in this age of secure & verifiable electronic communication this process is practical, reliable and cheap and should take its place in the democratic process.

    What problem does it solve?:

    Web based petitions are popular and appear on several sites – some simply providing a template and operating sdoftware. But petitions display only support – not dissent – and we know that they have not cut much ice in Parliament. A referrendum – conducted by a reputable host – would however be a more powerful tool and might also attract media coverage.

    Type of idea: New feature for an existing project

  6. SEE What You Are Buying Into – unleashing the people power

    Describe your idea:

    Make business accountable by using people power on the internet.

    The SEE scheme is a radical way for companies to be honest and transparent about their Social, Environmental and Ethical (SEE) policies, practices and impacts. Their information is published on www.SEEWhatYouAreBuyingInto.com Web users comment, rate the information and suggest new companies to participate.

    The SEE scheme employs basic Web 2.0 tools. We know that the information gathered can be used to greater effect via mashups, plug-ins for social networking and tools for delivery via mobile devices.

    The more people know about and use the site, the greater the expectation on every business that it should be publicly accountable – and the better the world will be.

    What problem does it solve?:

    Helps consumers make informed, sustainable purchasing choices.

    Overcomes lack of transparency in business practices.

    Makes business accountable to all stakeholders.

    Removes barriers to trust between consumers and business.

    Makes businesses part of the solution in creating a fair,
    sustainable future.

    Type of idea: A campaign or PR drive

  7. Tweet Your MP

    Describe your idea:

    Tweet Your MP is essentially a Twitter and Google maps mashup that sends a tweet on your political views to the increasing number of MPs on twitter – the fast growing real-time social media phenomenon. If your MP is not on twitter a request will be sent to their inbox recommending they join the movement. Inspired by http://www.whoonearthcares.com

    What problem does it solve?:

    Engage the public through social media and develop interest in the political system. Discover trending political topics at the heart of public opinion. Follow new local and national tweeters who share similar views. Decide if you agree or disagree with suggested legislation, plans and policy implementation. Receive a direct tweet from your local MP. “Share your opinion with your local MP and community”.

    Type of idea: A brand new project

  8. Working Children Radio Workshop

    Describe your idea:

    We are working for working childrens in Pakistans Remote Area District Tharparkar Sindh
    We have a Idea that If we go in the area and arrange Radio Workshops with working childrens that what kind of difficulties the are facing and what should be solution of there problem and there vice may go to the authorties and my be they take some serious action regarding Working childrens and their education and health the chioce of taking radio media for this is because of in this area the electricity is in few towns and villages the only way of communication is radio

    What problem does it solve?:

    child will get voice and goverment agencies will serious action against the Child Labor

    Type of idea: A brand new project

  9. ican2010.co.uk

    Describe your idea:

    Base-camp for independent candidates in 2010. Guide on how to stand and win.

    Check out local independent candidate; volunteer to help; make donations to ican2010.

    (A million fivers is really buying in to democracy.)

    Links to other My Society projects. Guidance on dialogue with electorate via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. Tips on managing the media, marshalling volunteers and canvassing.

    But who’ll see it? Web-watchers?

    No, millions.

    This is big news. Articles > hits. Viral > hits. Hits > donations. Donations > advertising. Advertising > more hits. ican2010 = the hub of a peaceful democratic revolution.

    Our forebears bled to earn the democratic machinery at our disposal.

    Let’s use it.

    What problem does it solve?:

    The party had its use. Now it’s hijacking democracy. The whip keeps MPs on message but out of touch with you&me.

    Haven’t you had a bellyful of this cosy cartel where the only distinction is the colour of the rosette? ican2010 offers a channel for public passion.

    ican2010 reconditions our democracy by empowering free-thinking individuals loyal to country not party. Not careerists, activists rooted in their community.

    Until now this was sky-pie. The party machine beat the indie every vote. The web has changed that. Now an Independent can get their message across as well as web-Cameron or you tube Brown.

    Post election, ican2010 will support Indie MPs and – working with mysociety’s other projects – keep them accountable.

    Type of idea: A campaign or PR drive

  10. WeWorkTogether

    Describe your idea:

    Introduce volunteer citizen participation directly into the daily operation of elected politicians, on both national and local levels. Start with local councilors and: A) TASK TRACKER = simplified version of Request Tracker, or Basecamp, to track tasks that citizens ask councilors to work on and tasks that councilors work on otherwise; B) OPEN COMMITTEES – tool to have citizen discussing tasks/decisions and related documents that councilors work on in committees, with citizen ability to collectively comment on and edit documents. Couple of my local concilors are willing to start using it and i’ll work with them anyway. more here.

    What problem does it solve?:

    Problem of political representation, which is a broken way to conduct politics democratically. Since it doesn’t enable citizens to participate in it directly. This proposal would open the doors for the Internet Model, by introducing the concept of Open Process. With the tools for communication and cooperation we have available, our current political models are a problem in itself. They have been designed centuries ago and are quite inappropriate today. We can do far better. Example proposal of Open Process in academic publishing.

    Type of idea: A brand new project