mySociety regularly holds events to discuss digital democracy, open data, civic coding and more. Earlier in November we were in Cambridge, UK.
Here, in both video and quotes, are a few selected highlights from our speakers; including some of their lovely remarks about the work mySociety does.
Speaking about The Content Mine
mySociety is one of the most wonderful things to have come out of the bottom-up democratic movement in the UK and the UK is a shining light for the rest of the world. I’ve used WriteToThem on many occasions…. It just makes the whole business of contacting your representative so much easier. And I’ve also used a lot of WhatDoTheyKnow FOI requests and again it’s absolutely brilliant. It makes the difference between doing it and not doing it.
We’re going to liberate one hundred million facts per year from the scientific literature and we’re going to put them in Wikipedia or rather WikiData and we’re working closely with WikiData.
What’s happened this year is the UK Government has pushed through copyright reform and it has given exemptions to copyright … We’ve got the law. The law hasn’t been tested. I am allowed to do it according to the law for non-commercial purposes. Elsevier says I can’t because they can stop me doing it under the law and we had a big public fight in London.
Speaking about TheyWorkForYou.com
The thing I work on particularly on TheyWorkForYou is the statements we write on each MP’s page on how they voted. … This will be the first time we’re going into a general election in this country where the sitting MPs’ voting records are comprehensively easily accessible to the electorate.
It’s really important to us that we’re impartial and non-partisan. So one of the things we had to think about when we were doing this was how do we even decide what topics to cover because we could be accused of being partisan just by what we decide to draw attention to. … Not all MPs attend all votes by any-means so we can use MPs’ own attendance at votes to give them some kind of ranking of importance.
Everything that I do is available under an open licence so as long as you attribute where it has come from you can use it and do what you like with it. And hopefully people will do stuff with it as we run into the election.
Mike Soper and Hendrik Grothuis
Speaking about Cambridgeshire Insight
If you think about something like FixMyStreet you can see where that application has had a very positive impact on local government, on councils.
The idea is that pressure will come from the great British public at a local level to hold public sector organisations to account. In order to hold people to account you need information.
Professor Shepherd several years ago realised, because he was a medical professor, that he was looking at facial injuries of people who had been injured by having beer glasses shoved in their faces during fights and recording meticulously the detail of these physical and working out that if you change the composition of the beer glass you can drastically reduce the severity of the injury.
We’re getting support at a national level for the sort of work we are doing and the sort of line about trying to encourage openness and promote open data here in Cambridgeshire. We’re getting national support for that.
Videos of full talks, including Q&A:
- Peter Murry-Rust on The Content Mine. (Transcript)
- Richard Taylor on TheyWorkForYou’s voting records.
- Mike Soper and Hendrik Grothuis of Cambridgeshire Insight. (Mike has also published his slides)
Our next meet-up will be on 3rd December in Brighton. We’ll be joined by speakers Jason Kitcat, Eric Drass and our very own Dave Whiteland. Sign up to come along here.