1. Hello again, Cardiff

    Pizza, yay

    Yes, pizza will be available…

    On 18th February the mySociety gang will yet again descend on Cardiff for another evening meet-up. We had such a nice time at the Founders Hub last year that we’re heading back!

    Our meet-ups are open to everyone. So whether you’re an open source veteran, or just a curious newbie interested in anything you see on mysociety.org, please come along.

    At this month’s event we’ll be joined by the following guest speakers:-

    Dr. Pete Burnap and Dr. Matt Williams: Pete and Matt are from Cardiff University and co-founded the Collaborative Online Social Media ObServatory aka the COSMOS project.

    This project aims to study the ‘social media ecosystem’ to better understand how user behaviours, global communication networks and flows of information interact to promote hateful and socially disruptive content.

    As part of the project they have developed the COSMOS software platform that reduces the technical and methodological barriers to accessing and analysing social media and other forms of open digital data.

    This tool allows users to forecast the spread of hateful content over digital networks, providing an opportunity for intervention before such content ‘goes viral’ and potentially causes harm to individuals, minority groups and communities.

    Pete and Matt will join us to talk how they’ve used COSMOS to analyse social media for the benefit of society.

    Esko Reinikainen: Esko is a co-founder of The Satori Lab, the Cardiff-based culture hackers. They re-boot organisational culture and improve innovation skills with learning programmes & strategic advice.

    New technologies with the potential to deliver extraordinary public value are emerging every day, yet the single biggest obstacle to adoption in the public sector is what The Satori Lab describe as ‘cultural immune systems’.

    They have spent the past 3 years hacking in this space, and in this talk Esko will explain what they broke, what they fixed, and what they’ve found out in the process…

    Our very own Mark Longair: Mark will be speaking about Democracy Club’s project YourNextMP, which is a free, trustworthy, open database of General Election candidates. Mark has been heavily involved in the creation and maintenance of YourNextMP and will talk about how it was made and how you can get involved to help out in the run up to May’s elections. You can find out more about YourNextMP in our recent blog post.

    So, do come along to chat about all things ‘Tech for Good’ and enjoy a slice of pizza or two on us! Hope to see you there.

    When: Wednesday 18th February 2015, drop in any time between 6pm and 9pm
    Where: The Founders Hub, 119 St Mary Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DY
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/2015/mysociety/, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice about where we are sitting or if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

     

  2. Join us at our meet-up in Oxford (and do a lightning talk if you fancy it!)

    Oxford is for bikesHappy New Year to you all.

    Next Wednesday 7th January we’ll be hosting an evening of talks, drinks and lively discussion in the beautiful city of Oxford.

    As it’ll be exactly 4 months until the General Election, we thought we’d invite along speakers who are involved in projects which aim to help us better understand the election process and the outcomes.

    We’re also really keen to hear about civic projects that you are involved in to help citizens better understand the General Election, so please do apply to present a lightning talk if you’d like to spread the word. (more…)

  3. Let’s talk about the General Election over Christmas drinks

    Ever fancied getting involved in a project that helps citizens better understand their political system?

    Tired of feeling like you don’t really know the facts behind what politicians claim, and want to do something about it?

    If so, then here’s your chance to learn more about what organisations like us are planning ahead of the 2015 general election, and how you can get involved.

    On 10th December, Full Fact, Democracy Club and mySociety are organising a social event for anyone who’s interested in hearing and getting involved in our civic projects.

    Full Fact are preparing to operate an 18 hour a day Election Centre, to rapidly react to claims during the election campaign and provide free information that can be drawn on by researchers, voters, candidates and journalists.

    As this is such an ambitious project, they are looking for volunteers who can help them with a variety of tasks, including research, recording claims, and building databases and monitoring tools. Here’s the full list of topics they’re planning to cover.

    Democracy Club is building a network of election volunteers to help improve transparency in the run up to the next general election.

    They’re going to be doing tasks like uploading campaign leaflets to ElectionLeaflets.org and helping to build a database of 2015 election candidates at YourNextMP. Unlock Democracy are running a hack day on Election Leaflets on Saturday 6th December, if you fancy getting involved.

    mySociety are helping these projects as much as we can, but we still need more people power!

    So, if you feel you can help with any of these projects, please do come along and meet us – we’d really appreciate it.

    When: Wednesday 10th December, 6.30pm – 10pm
    Where: The Royal George, 133 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0EA
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/cchbcr, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    Hopefully see you there!

    NB: Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo: thegloaming, (CC)

  4. Brighton here we come

    BrightonNext up on our tour of the UK is the brilliant Brighton.

    So, if you fancy getting together to talk about open government, digital democracy and innovative open data projects, then you should come along to our meet-up on 3rd December.

    This month’s speakers are:-

    Jason Kitcat: Jason is Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council and a Green city councillor.

    Jason is a prominent digital rights campaigner, particularly with regards to electronic voting and counting. In 2007 Jason completed a part-time contract as e-voting co-ordinator at the Open Rights Group (a group he helped to found), where he continues to contribute in a voluntary capacity on their Advisory Council.

    Jason will join us at this meet-up to talk about open government in the Brighton context; where has being open changed things, and how much further can and should councils go?

    Find out more about Jason on his website.

    Eric Drass aka Shardcore: Eric  is an artist and curator who makes work in a range of media, from painting, to digital installation, to generative experiments which live on the internet.

    Eric uses data and algorithms as artistic materials just as much as paint and canvas.

    Eric will talk about his artwork using datasets such as The Tate’s CC dataset and David Cameron’s deleted speeches, and the role of the artist in the world of Big Data.

    Read more about Eric on his website.

    Our very own Dave Whiteland: Dave  joined mySociety as a developer, and is now also part of the international team, travelling widely to meet organisations and help them set up websites using our code.

    His recent travels have seen him help to set up versions of FixMyStreet in Uruguay and the Philippines; working on FOI projects in Liberia and South Africa; and being involved in the formation of the Poplus initiative in Chile, amongst many other projects.

    Dave will speak about some of mySociety’s latest international projects and future plans.

    These meet-ups are open to anyone to come along, so we hope you can make it.

    When: Wednesday 3rd December, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: The Cellar Room at The Caxton Arms, 36 North Gardens, Brighton, BN1 3LB
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/ccbxwd, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo: Bev Goodwin (CC)

  5. An invite to our Evening of Research

    eveningAs mentioned in a recent blog post, we’ve commissioned lots of research recently to find out what impact our sites have.

    So, we thought, why not have an event to talk about some of the projects we’ve been working on, and consider future research.

    Next Wednesday 19th November, we’ll be chatting about the following research projects in particular:

    Can online freedom of information tools like Alaveteli help citizens to exert power over under-performing institutions?

    Earlier this year mySociety instigated a research project to look at the place that Alaveteli and other FOI online technologies might have in creating cultures of transparency and accountability.

    We want to address this top level question: “In what circumstances, if any, can tools like Alaveteli be shown to have measurable impacts on the ability of citizens to exert power over underperforming institutions?”

    Researcher Dr. Savita Bailur will present the findings and methodologies of this project. Find out more about this research here.

    Examining the power of social information within website copy

    With Professor Peter John from University College London we undertook a research project to examine the power of social information within website copy. For example, do more people write to their politician if they are shown how many other people have done the same?

    Peter will talk about the methodologies behind this research and share some of its key findings. (more…)

  6. Join us at our meet-up in Cambridge

    Cambridge, a beautiful cityNext Tuesday 4th November, a few of the mySociety gang will be enjoying the beautiful city of Cambridge.

    As well as meeting up in the day, we’ll also be hosting our monthly meet-up in the evening at the wonderful Makespace.

    Makespace is a community workshop in Cambridge for making and fixing things, meeting people, working on projects and sharing skills. Many thanks to them for hosting us!

    Our meet-ups are open to anyone who’s interested in hearing more about what we do, and learning about other innovative online projects that are taking place around the local area and beyond.

    At this meet-up, we’re really pleased to be joined by the following speakers:-

    Peter Murray-Rust: Peter is a pioneer in text mining through The Content Mine, a community of people and machines that aims to extract 100 million scientific facts from the scholarly literature, to make them available to the world for the benefit of everybody.

    He believes that content mining has huge potential to make knowledge available to everyone (including machines). This can enable new and exciting research, technology developments such as in Artificial Intelligence, and opportunities for Digital Democracy and wealth creation.

    Come along to hear more about the ContentMine project and their future plans.

    Hendrik Grothuis and Mike Soper: Hendrik and Mike will join us to speak about their latest research work with Cambridgeshire Insight.

    Cambridgeshire Insight is a shared knowledge base for the Cambridgeshire area. It allows users an efficient easy way to access and share data and discover research intelligence about their local area.

    It also acts as a valuable planning tool to support strategic planning for the growth and development of services in the county.

    Our very own Richard Taylor: Richard  is mySociety’s resident parliamentary researcher and his work includes analysing the voting records of all representatives on TheyWorkForYou.

    He will talk about his work with mySociety and his plans ahead of the upcoming general election.

    So, we hope you can join us for an evening of interesting talks, drinks, pizza and getting to know each other!

    When: Tuesday 4th November, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: Makespace, 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1RX
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/ccbxwc, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo by grytr (CC)

  7. It would be great to meet you in Liverpool

    Liverpool largeFancy an evening of hearing and talking about civic technology, digital democracy and innovative online projects?

    If so, then you should definitely come along to our meet-up on 1st October in the wonderful city of Liverpool.

    We’ll be holding it at DoES Liverpool, so many thanks to them for hosting us!

    As a remote organisation with staff based all around the UK (and the world), we organise monthly meet-ups around the country to get together face to face, and to meet and hear from others who are also working on, and interested in, civic technology and cool online projects.

    So this time, it’s Liverpool’s turn.

    This month, we’ll be joined by the following awesome speakers:-

    Julian Todd: Julian, the co-founder of Publicwhip and ElectionLeaflets, will have only five days left of proper employment on the day of the meet-up. What did he learn from this two year experience in a large and successful American software company? Come along to find out.

    Paul Furley: Paul is the CTO of Sea Level Research, a startup based in Liverpool. This talk will introduce the centuries-old problem of predicting sea levels, why it now matters more than ever, and how Sea Level Research are trying to save the shipping industry millions of dollars.

    The guys from Fruitful: By removing the need for a traditional bank, Liverpool-based start-up, Fruitful, connects savers’ money with borrowers’ mortgages. Their peer-based marketplace aims to help savers earn more on their savings, while providing borrowers with the best possible mortgage deals.

    Luke and Tom from the Fruitful team will talk about how Fruitful came to be, and what they’ve learned about using technology to disrupt an established industry from the bottom up.

    Our very own Matthew Somerville: Matthew has been a key player in the development and maintenance of many of our websites including TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet, MapIt and WriteToThem, to name but a few.

    Matthew will talk about his latest work on SayIt, our project that allows you to present transcripts online so that they are browsable, linkable, searchable and shareable. Matthew has been working on face recognition to improve the appearance of speakers’ profiles.

    So, we hope you can join us for an evening of cracking talks, drinks, pizza and getting to know each other.

    Yes, that’s right, *free* pizza and beer will be available…what more could you want?

    When: Wednesday 1st October, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: DoES Liverpool, Gostins Building, Hanover Street, L1 4LN
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/ccbxty, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo by Neil Howard (CC)

     

  8. Join us for a special ‘Freedom of Information’ meet-up

    INFORMATIONOur next meet-up, on 3rd September, will focus on Freedom of Information (FOI). We really care about FOI at mySociety, which is why we created the FOI request filer WhatDoTheyKnow for UK citizens back in 2008, and Alaveteli thereafter for international use.

    So, we thought, why not host a meet-up to discuss FOI technologies, research and legislation in the UK and beyond?

     

    We’re delighted to be joined at this meet-up by the following guest speakers:-

    Maurice Frankel: Maurice is director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information. He has worked with them since it was set up in 1984, and has been its director since 1987.

    Maurice will talk about the possible government restrictions on the right of access to information in the UK; the problems caused by the Freedom of Information Act’s poor approach to public service contracts and the surprising limitations which the courts have imposed on the ministerial veto.

    Marietta Le: Marietta is from the Hungarian investigative journalism NGO Atlatszo.

    Atlatzso is a watchdog NGO and online news site for investigative journalism to promote transparency and freedom of information (FOI) in Hungary. They run various websites including KiMitTud, a freedom of information request generator for the general public, which runs using the Alaveteli platform.

    KiMitTud was launched in May 2012 and has helped people send nearly 3000 freedom of information requests so far. Atlatszo’s investigative journalists have been using it as a tool to dig up new stories and obtain important evidence in corruption cases. However, the success of Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act has led to the Hungarian government introducing a restrictive amendment to the law; a measure that is being challenged at the moment by a joint initiative of media outlets and transparency NGOs.

    Atlatzso also run the Tor-based anonymous whistleblowing platform Magyarleaks and a crowdsourced platform to anonymously report everyday corruption called Fizettem.

    Marietta will join us to speak about setting up an FOI site in Hungary using Alaveteli and the current threats to freedom of information in Hungary, following the recent restrictive amendment to the FOI law.

    Savita Bailur and Tom Longley: Earlier this year mySociety instigated a research project to look at the place that Alaveteli and other FOI online technologies might have in creating cultures of transparency and accountability.

    We want to address this top level question: “In what circumstances, if any, can tools like Alaveteli be shown to have measurable impacts on the ability of citizens to exert power over underperforming institutions?”

    To address this, researchers Savita and Tom have focused on three areas: a literature review to see what research is already out there, in-depth interviews with people who have installed FOI technologies in many different countries, and the compilation of a list of critical success factors. Read more about their research here.

    Savita and Tom are more than halfway through their research, and we’re delighted that they’ll present their preliminary findings at this meet-up.

    We’ll also discuss the latest developments on WhatDoTheyKnow, and Alaveteli developers (as well as other mySociety team members) will be around to answer any questions.

    There’ll be plenty of pizza and beer to go around too, so what could be better?

    Hope to see you there!

    When: Wednesday 3rd September, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: Mozilla Space London
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    To see where we’ll be holding our next meet-ups over the coming months, check out our page on Lanyrd.

    Photo by Paul Keller (CC)

  9. See you in Birmingham?

    A Canal, an bridge in BirminghamWe’re pleased to say that some of the mySociety team will be in Birmingham on Wednesday 6th August for the latest mySociety meet-up.

    These meet-ups are for anyone who’s interested in what we do and in digital democracy and civic coding in general.

    Even if you’re not interested, coming along to hear our fabulous speakers might get you interested, and we like that.

    If you’d like to chat to our developers about using or contributing to the code that runs our websites, or you’d like to ask us about our current projects, then you’ll be coming to the right place – we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

    This month, we’re really pleased to be joined by the following speakers:

    Nick Booth: Nick is Managing Director of Podnosh, a former BBC political reporter and television and radio documentary maker.

    Podnosh was established in 2005, initially to make to make the Grassroots Channel podcast for the Birmingham Community Empowerment Network. Podnosh’s mission is to change the way the public and the public sector talk to each other and has grown from a brand which makes podcasts to a business which understands and helps people use social media for social good, and is developing tools to help organsiations capture their impact.

    Nick will speak about the Social Media Surgery movement he accidentally founded, which won a Big Society award in 2012.

    Peter Hicks: Peter is the creator of OpenTrainTimes.com and is an open rail data pioneer.

    Open Train Times displays real time arrival and departure information for each train company, helping passengers to plan their journeys. It also features track diagrams displaying the location of trains between signals.

    Peter will talk about his experiences using railway data feeds and the significance of National Rail Enquiries’ opening up of their real-time platform.

    Zarino Zappia: Our very own Zarino (one of our Designer superheroes) will talk about some of mySociety’s current design priorities, including a redesign of TheyWorkForYou.com.

    So come along to hear some fantastic speakers and to talk about civic tech in Birmingham and beyond. We hope to meet you there!

    When: Wednesday 6th August, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: The Wellington, Function Room on 1st Floor, 37 Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham, West Midlands B2 5SN
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/czbtf, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Look out for Gemma (who’ll be wearing a mySociety t-shirt) who will show you up to the function room.  Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo by Neil Howard (CC)

  10. mySociety are coming to Bristol

    Bristol largerOn Wednesday 2nd July, some of the mySociety team will be in Bristol for the latest mySociety meet-up.

    These meet-ups are our way of getting out and about to meet other people interested in civic tech, digital democracy, open data and more.

    We’re also very happy to chat about mySociety websites and the code that runs them, so if you have any questions, do come along to meet us.

    We’re really excited to be coming to the vibrant city of Bristol, where loads of inspiring civic tech projects are being developed.

    This month, we’re really chuffed to be joined by the following guest speakers:-

    Matt Jukes: Matt is Head of Digital Transformation at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Matt’s talk is titled ‘The Puzzle of Procurement’ and is about trying to build a government website to Government Digital Service (GDS) standards at the ONS without the benefits of their team, while trying not to break procurement rules.

    The Delib team: Ben Fowkes and his Delib colleagues will chat about what projects are exciting them at the moment in the world of digital democracy, policy crowd-sourcing, public consultation, participative governance and open source. They’ll focus particularly on a local project they’ve been running with the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, called George’s Ideas Lab.

    Sarah Prag: Sarah worked, until recently, at GDS, where she was the Product Manager for the launch of GOV.UK. She’s now living and working in Bristol, with a focus on local public services. Sarah will talk about the user centred approach GDS took when they developed GOV.UK, and how this can be applied to other digital services.

    So come along to hear some fantastic speakers and to talk about civic tech in Bristol and beyond. We hope to meet you there!

    When: Wednesday 2nd July, 6pm – 9pm
    Where: The Royal Navy Volunteer Pub Function Room, 17-18 King St, Harbourside, Bristol , BS1 4EF
    How: Add your name to the Lanyrd page: http://lanyrd.com/cyycy, so we know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.

    NB: Look out for the mySociety hoodie (they look like this, only usually with a person inside). Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    Photo by shrinkin’violet (CC), license available here