1. TICTeC Local: schedule finalised

    You can now see the full agenda for TICTeC Local, our one-day conference examining Civic Tech at the local government level — and if it sounds good, you’d better book now, because spaces are limited.

    Free tickets

    Thanks to the kind support of FutureGov, we have a set number of sponsored places for public sector attendees — at no cost. If you work in the public sector and can commit to attending please choose the ‘Public Sector Sponsored Tickets’ option on Eventbrite.

    Additional speakers

    With a heady blend of innovators from within government, and external practitioners who are driving social change, TICTeC Local is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the sector.

    We’ve already announced many of the speakers, including Paul Maltby, Chief Digital Officer at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, and Beatrice Karol Burks, Director at Futuregov.

    Now here are a few more of the movers and shakers who’ll be inspiring you:


    Theo Blackwell

    Chief Digital Officer for London

    Mayor of London mayoral team logoTheo is London’s first Chief Digital Officer. His job is to transform the capital into the world’s smartest city, and to make public services more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners.

    Previously with Camden council, Theo was credited with bringing it the title of ‘leading digital borough’ thanks to its use of public data; he has also worked at GovTech accelerator Public Group.


    Linda O’Halloran

    Head of Local Digital Collaboration Unit, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

    MHCLG logoLeading this relatively new unit, Linda aims to disrupt the local government IT market and stimulate the move towards interoperability standards for local services. She has a background with Government Digital Service and was also the founder of Thinking Development, an NGO created in response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.


    Alison McKenzie-Folan

    Deputy CEO and digital transformation lead, Wigan Council

    Wigan Council logoAdvocating ‘digital by default’ strategies wherever possible, Alison is widely seen as the reason Wigan council was named as LGC Digital Council of the year; she’s known for embracing cutting-edge technologies in the pursuit of better public services, and happily collaborates with other authorities to help everyone innovate for good.


    Eddie Copeland

    Director of Government Innovation, Nesta

    Nesta logoEddie works with city data analytics, behavioural insights, digital government, collaborative platforms and digital democracy for Nesta, the global innovation foundation. He is an advocate of government and public sector organisations making smarter use of people, data and technology to deliver more and better with less.


    Sarah Drummond

    Co-founder & managing director at Snook

    Snook logoInnovating through research, strategy, design and delivery, Snook only works on projects that will have a meaningful impact on society. That’s led them into designing tech for fishermen, domestic abuse survivors, cyclists and plenty more. Sarah was awarded a Google Fellowship for her work in technology and democratic innovation and named as one of Good magazine’s 100 extraordinary individuals tackling global issues in creative ways.


    Zara Rahman

    Research, Engagement and Communities Team Lead, The Engine Room

    The Engine Room logoZara has worked in over twenty countries in the field of information accessibility and data use among civil society. Now, with social change NGO The Engine Room, she works with communities and organisations to help understand how new uses of data can responsibly strengthen their work.


    Steve Skelton

    Strategic Head: Policy & Information Services, Stockport Council

    Stockport Council logoStockport Council is working, under the banner of the Digital Stockport project, to improve the customer experience through the use of online technologies. Steve leads organisational and place-based strategy, and the Digital by Design programme. He sits on the @GMCADigital Steering Group and is prototyping a Greater Manchester Office of Data Analytics.


    Helen Gerling

    Lead Consultant, Shaping Cloud

    Shaping CloudDefining the use of cloud within central and local government to re-imagine the way services are delivered, Shaping Cloud informs and advises on digital transformation. Helen brings prior experience as a CIO and Director in the public sector.


    Julian Tait

    Open Data Manchester

    Open Data Manchester logoOpen Data Manchester is an association for people who are interested in realising the potential of data to benefit citizens, business and public bodies. Previously with FutureEverything, Julian led the Open Data Cities programme, bringing about a change in the way that public bodies within Greater Manchester use data.


    María Izquierdo

    Designer, IF

    Projects by IF logoIF helps organisations to earn the trust of their users when it comes to data, advising on design and security, and always with a focus on ethical practice.

    As IF’s inhouse designer, Maria is well-placed to explain how good design can play a critical part in this mission.


    Nick Stanhope

    Founder & CEO, Shift

    Shift logoShift is an award-winning charity, designing products and building social ventures for social change. Nick was named one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals by The Observer and NESTA and is a board member of the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology.


    Don’t miss TICTeC Local

    Book your place here.

    There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.

  2. TICTeC Local – first speakers announced

    Tuesday 6 November sees the first ever TICTeC Local, a one day conference examining Civic Tech at the cutting edge of local government.

    mySociety’s annual TICTeC conference has already established itself as the must-attend event for the Civic Tech community. Now TICTeC Local promises the same opportunities for learning, networking and take-home lessons — for Local Government. If you have an interest in how technology is changing the ways citizens interact with councils and city governments, this conference is for you.

    Where Civic Tech meets Local Government

    The schedule is shaping up nicely for a full day of commentary and presentations from inspiring thinkers.

    They are a blend of hands-on Civic Tech practitioners, and representatives from the authorities, both in the UK and abroad, who are transforming local services at the grassroots level.

    Here’s a run-down of the speakers confirmed so far.

    From government

    MHCLG logoPaul Maltby

    Chief Digital Officer, Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government

    As Director of Data at the Government Digital Service (GDS), Paul led a cross-government programme designed to improve the way government approaches, uses and handles data. He’s now brought his insights to Local Government, as CDO at MHCLG. No-one is better placed to give us the ‘state of the nation’ when it comes to how digital technologies can transform citizen-government interactions.


    Kirklees Council logoCarl Whistlecraft

    Head of Democracy, Kirklees Council

    Carl is known for innovative approaches to service delivery, citizen engagement and governance. His passion for local democracy is demonstrated by his role in establishing Notwestminster, a national network where people can share ideas for improving local democracy.


    José María Becerra González

    Consul project, Madrid City Council

    Consul is a free citizen participation tool which fosters transparency and democracy in local government. It’s being used in 18 countries around the world to give citizens a say in the decisions that shape their communities.


    Linclnshire County CouncilAndrea Bowes

    Data and Information Systems Technical Architect, Lincolnshire County Council

    Lincolnshire Council are the latest to integrate with fault-reporting service FixMyStreet, as part of a council-wide strategy to shift to digital.


    From Civic Tech

    Anthony Zacharzewski and Michelle Brook

    The Democratic Society

    The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, helping governments that want to involve citizens in decision-making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. Anthony founded DemSoc in 2006 after 14 years in strategic roles in UK central and local government; and as Managing Director, Michelle leads on the organisation’s research projects.


    Beatrice Karol Burks

    Futuregov logoStudio Director, FutureGov

    FutureGov seeks to reform public services by supporting organisations through digital transformation and service design. Over the past ten years, they’ve helped more than 100 local and national authorities over four continents think differently about public services.


    New Citizenship Project logoJon Alexander

    Co-founder, New Citizenship Project

    Jon co-founded this social innovation lab in 2014, to help catalyse the shift to a more participatory society. The New Citizenship Project works with all types of organisations to engage people as citizens, working with tools as varied as documentary films to setting up new social enterprises.


    The Federation logoEmer Coleman

    Digital Leader

    Ex of Government Digital Service and City Hall London where she established The London Data Store, Emer is now helping to build The Federation, an open community of digital businesses & innovators, built on co-operative values, in the heart of Manchester.


    Don’t miss TICTeC Local

    Book your place here, and sign up for our mailing list to make sure you hear the latest details as our schedule is confirmed.

    There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.

  3. Collideoscope improvements: ready to roll

    Keen readers of our blog will have followed our updates on the latest round of improvements to Collideoscope, a joint project with Merseyside Road Safety Partnership.

    These are now shipped and ready for you to use, so here’s a quick guide to what’s new. Or, if you want the tl;dr version:

    • It’s more obvious what the site’s for, where reports are sent and why
    • With our new ‘heatmap’ visualisations you can see at a glance where most incidents have been reported
    • Data can be easily downloaded for your own purposes
    • We’ll guide users to make a police report if their incident warrants it

    A clear proposition

    After putting quite a bit of thought into wording across the site, we hope that Collideoscope’s two aims are a lot more prominent throughout. These are to collect data on cycling incidents, and to make that data available to those who need it.

    New Collideoscope homepage showing its strapline: "Help Us make Cycling Safer: Tell us about your collisions and near misses so we can build the evidence base for improvements, together"

    This double aim is something that many mySociety sites have in common: they need to cater for people who want to make a report, and people who can make use of the data that those reports generate.

    Let’s look at how our recent changes meet the needs of  each of these audiences.

    Making reports

    Where do reports go?

    Collideoscope is based on the same software as FixMyStreet, but unlike our street fault site it doesn’t send your report with the expectation that it will be ‘fixed’.

    Instead, here’s what happens:

    • Just like FixMyStreet, your report is immediately published on the Collideoscope website for anyone to see.
    • It becomes part of the database of incidents that is available for researchers, campaigners etc, to draw upon.
    • At the same time, a copy of the report is also sent to your council, but this is to feed into their understanding of dangerous hotspots in their area, rather than with any expectation that they’ll respond.

    Suggesting next steps

    Of course, there are certain types of incident which should always, by law, be reported to the police. These include those where there’s any injury or damage to property.

    Now, we don’t want anyone to think that Collideoscope is an alternative to making a police report. At one point, we considered adding functionality that would allow you to additionally send your report off to the police, but we found that this would be a monumental task, far above the resources we have for this phase of the project.

    Zarino, whose research has helped inform these improvements, explained:

    Sadly, there’s no standard across the UK that we could plug into: no common set of questions to be answered, no common place for the information to be sent. Plus, the (paper!) police reporting forms are really long — they aim to gather everything that would be needed, should the case go to court.

    We didn’t think recreating those forms online would help anyone – not least because the police would, in all probability, just ask the reporter to redo it all on a paper form.

    Advising the user to make a report to the policeAt this point in time, it seems the police are far more geared up to reports being made by phone or in person. So with all this in mind, we’ve ensured that when a user makes a report that meets the required degree of severity, they’re prompted to also let the police know.

    Because we have the postcode of the spot where the incident happened, we’re able to give the user a link to the correct police force for the area, and so as not to divert the task in hand, we do this once the Collideoscope report is confirmed.

    Users making any type of report will also see a link through which they can find their local cycling campaign group, in case they want to get proactive about improving road safety.

    Using Collideoscope’s data

    By neighbourhood

    There are a number of ways to access the data on Collideoscope.

    As with FixMyStreet, you can view any neighbourhood by inputting the postcode or place name in the search box on the homepage (or asking it to automatically geolocate you). You’ll then see all the incidents reported in the area, with the option to include police reports (England only).

    But Collideoscope also has a new feature that makes it easier to understand the density of reports: you’ll notice that some of the roads appear in varying shades of orange. The deeper the colour, the more reports have been made on that street — and if you’re a cyclist yourself, you’ll know at a glance where you need to be extra careful.

    Collideoscope heatmap

    So now you can check out your route and know where to take the most care. (If you find this feature distracting, just look for the ‘hide heatmap’ button at the bottom right of the screen).

    By council or across the whole country

    We’ve introduced a nifty new reports page, from which you can see how many reports have been made, either on a council-by-council basis or for the whole of the UK. Once you’ve picked your council, you can break it down even further, by ward.

    There’s the additional option to view graphs grouping incidents by severity and by the other vehicle (if any) that was involved.

    This data can be downloaded in CSV form, for anyone who might need it to support planning decisions, research or campaigns.

    Stats on Collideoscope

    We hope you’ll go and have a click around the refreshed Collideoscope — and remember it’s there should you be unfortunate enough to get into a cycling scrape in the future. If you do, at least you’ll know that your data is contributing to a good cause.

    Will you use this data?

    As we’ve described, it’s now very easy for you to self-serve Collideoscope’s data, but all the same, we’d love to hear how you’ll be using it. Drop us a line!

    We can also help with any technical questions you may have.

  4. Get ready for TICTeC Local in Manchester

    We’re delighted to be hosting the first TICTeC Local conference in Manchester on 6th November 2018.

    TICTeC Local is a spinoff from our global The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, which is now in its fifth successful year.

    This event will narrow the lens, focusing on where and how civic tech connects with and impacts Local Government, rather than the international focus we have with our global TICTeC events.

    We’ll be examining what works and why, the challenges and ethical decisions involved in using civic tech and how these initiatives can be replicated by local authorities around the UK.

    We’ll hear from many local authorities and civic tech practitioners in the UK and further afield who are leading the way on using technology to improve civic participation, streamline citizen interaction with public bodies, and create efficiencies in civic budgets.

    If you work in or around the local authority or local public institution space, and have an interest in using digital tools, then do come and join us in Manchester.

    You will leave inspired by some of our showcased projects, you’ll have a better understanding of the most effective digital tools, and you’ll have met interesting people who are on a similar journey, or who might be able to help you in developing your digital capacity in the future.

    We’ll be announcing speakers and contributors over the next couple of weeks.

    For further information and booking please visit the TICTeC Local website. Tickets are available over on Eventbrite and will go fast.

  5. Keep It In The Community: a snapshot of ACVs across England

    Keep It In The Community LogoOver the past few months we’ve been periodically updating you on the progress of our website for mapping Assets of Community across England. Now, we’ve officially launched.

    Keep it in the Community, or KIITC for short (pronounced ‘kitsy’), currently shows a snapshot of over 5,000 England-wide registered ACVs. We hope that researchers of all sorts will use it as a resource.

    A nationwide picture

    Since the introduction of  the Localism Act, community groups up and down England have been taking advantage of the opportunities it affords to nominate places and spaces as Assets of Community Value.

    And while the Act also requires local authorities to maintain and publish a register of such Assets, one thing has been missing: the ability to see a picture of how these rights are being used across the country as a whole.

    Do some regions contain substantially more ACVs than the norm? Are more applications rejected in some places than others? And just how many Assets of Community Value have been identified to date?

    We believe this sort of inquiry is essential if we’re to understand the efficacy of the Act and whether it’s achieving what it was designed to do, and now KIITC makes that possible.

    Scaled back ambitions

    As you may recall from our previous posts, our original ambition was not only to gather together and publish all the existing data from the ACV records of England’s many councils, but also to invite community groups to submit new applications to their local authorities, directly through the website. From long experience in similar projects, however, we knew that there would be challenges, and indeed this turned out to be the case.

    While all councils are legally required to display this data, they’re not given any guidance as to the format in which it should be displayed, and the huge variety of different formats, together with the frequency with which the location of the files in which they are published change, make an automated approach almost impossible, especially within a resource- and time-constrained project.

    These factors make it hard to sustain what is really the only practicable approach for a project with limited funding — the automated ‘scraping’ of websites. Scraping sends a small script out onto the web to regularly check whether new data has been added to a location; in this case, each council’s ACV register. A piece of code can retrieve the data and put it into the right format to be republished on your own site: it’s how we published Parliamentary debates each day on TheyWorkForYou.com for many years, for example.

    But this is really only a practical option when everyone is publishing in one of a few standardised formats.

    What would be a solution? Well, in an ideal world every authority would be putting their records out as lovely, consistent data.  But we understand that this is rather an unrealistic expectation.

    A data snapshot

    Faced with these difficulties, we met with Power to Change, who originally funded the work. We were in agreement that, sad though it was to set aside the other features of the project, there was still great value in collecting a snapshot of all ACV data across England.

    So, ambitions of scrapers accordingly readjusted, we manually entered all the relevant councils’ registered ACVs and uploaded them to the site. Please note that some data may not be 100% accurate; it all depends on what we were able to collect at the time.

    The most comical result of this is that assets where we don’t have a precise postcode for location may appear to be floating in the middle of the ocean… but these are the minority. And it’s worth remembering that the dataset as a whole is the best available right now.

    Of course, the data will quickly become out of date, but we believe that this unprecedented collection will have many uses, nonetheless.

    For the moment, we won’t be updating the site with future data, unless further funding becomes available for us to do so. We’ve also put plans for community group submissions on the back burner for now, aware that if we are to provide this service, we need to better what is already out there on the councils’ own websites.

    The future

    When time allows, we’d like to explore ways to encourage citizens to help keep the site up to date, allowing them to update data that has already been imported, and consider how they might suggest new ACVs to their relevant council via the website.

    As part of that vision we’ll need to reach out to councils to demonstrate how we have visualised the data, and work with them to participate.

    Open data projects such as these rely on identifying useful and practical ways for public sector organisations to more easily release data in a common and consistent format so that others can make best use of the information — a task that has much wider implications for all sorts of niche datasets such as this.

    If you’d like to find out more please get in touch with us at hello@keepitinthecommunity.org: we’d be keen to hear from you if you’d like to help us trial managing your own data on the service.

    Thanks again to Plunkett Foundation, Power To Change and MHCLG for their support in making this happen.

  6. FixMyStreet for Lincolnshire — a very modern way of working

    Lincolnshire County Council is the latest authority to adopt FixMyStreet Pro as their official reporting system — and we’ve never even met them.

    We’ve installed FixMyStreet for many councils up and down the UK, and until now, traveling to the council’s offices has always been an expected part of the procedure.

    But for Lincs, the entire project was managed virtually — and it all went without a hitch.

    That’s not just our opinion: let’s hear from one of the folk at the other end of our online video calls. Andrea Bowes, ICT Data and Information Systems Architect at the authority, says:

    The whole implementation process, from start to finish, has been incredibly smooth.

    Lincolnshire found out about FixMyStreet Pro via G-Cloud, and emailed us to arrange a chat. A couple of months later, with the help of email, Skype and Basecamp, their FixMyStreet instance was ready to roll out!

    mySociety are, of course, well used to working remotely, since that’s how our entire organisation is set up, but it’s good to see that we can bring our experience in this area to cut down travel costs, maximise the time available, and get installations rolling, all without feeling that we’ve missed out on the personal touches.

    After all, thanks to online video calling, you can be in those council offices to all intents and purposes, sharing your screen, answering questions and getting to know one another. The only thing we missed out on was a chance to check out Lincoln Cathedral!

    Joined-up systems

    Just as with Buckinghamshire Council, featured on this blog last week, Lincolnshire’s FixMyStreet will also display scheduled roadworks. That ensures that no-one’s time is wasted with reports of issues that are already on the fix list.

    And there’s some more integration going on behind the scenes, with FixMyStreet working in harmony with Lincolnshire’s existing infrastructure management system, Confirm.

    Speaking practically, that means that FixMyStreet reports drop directly into the workflows the council staff are already familiar with. It’s a time-saver and a money-saver too — and it also ensures that residents can easily be kept up to date about the progress of their reports as they go through the resolution cycle. If you’d like to understand more about this, our developer Struan recently wrote a good, simple blog post on the whole topic.

    You’d perhaps think that all this fiddling with different systems to make them communicate with one another would be a long, drawn out job — but fortunately not. Back to Andrea:

    I approached mySociety in early May to replace our existing online fault reporting system which was to be switched off at the end of that month, and since we’ve engaged them, they have bent over backwards to help get the new fault reporting portal ready.

    So much so that in a matter of a few weeks we had a test site up and running and integrated with our central asset management system, and several weeks later we now have a live fault reporting system that can be accessed from anywhere on any device, that is fully integrated into our central asset management system, that displays local data for users to report against.

    The platform makes it easier for our citizens to report faults to us and receive updates and alerts, and provides us with more accurate information to work with.

    So, in short, there are wins all round: a nice easy-to-use interface for residents; time and cost savings for the council; and there’s even a nice benefit for us here at mySociety as well. Confirm is a very popular system amongst UK councils up and down the land, so this was a great opportunity to showcase just how well it can work in tandem with FixMyStreet Pro.

    And we couldn’t be happier to know that Lincolnshire are so happy, too:

    mySociety have been fantastic. I cannot praise them enough; it has been a delight to work with them. They have been very responsive and fully supportive throughout the whole implementation process.

    If you’re a council which uses Confirm — or if you’d like to find out how we could integrate with another asset management system — check out the FixMyStreet Pro website, and then get in touch.

    Image: Mike McBey (CC by/2.0)

  7. A data refresh for Collideoscope

    As Zarino explained in his recent blog post, we’ve recently spent time talking to road safety advocates and cycling groups, as we prepare for some big improvements to Collideoscope.

    This has resulted in a shortlist of the tickets we’ll be working on, which you’re welcome to browse (and comment on, though this requires a GitHub account).

    Collideoscope, like many mySociety projects, is a website of two halves. On the one hand, it invites those involved in a cycling collision or near miss to contribute information to a database; on the other, it provides an output of all that aggregated data for planners, researchers, campaigners and anyone else who will find it useful.

    We’ll shortly be making some changes to the site so that its purpose and functionality are crystal clear; but in the meanwhile the next important step was to import the most recent batch of STATS19 data.

    STATS19 is the form the police fill in when road accidents are reported, lending its name to the dataset released annually by the Department of Transport. We include this data on Collideoscope alongside our users’ reports: we just take the reports which refer to cycling incidents, and with this latest update we’re now displaying everything from 2013 up to 2016, the most recent data available.

    That means, when you browse the site, you can see at a glance how many incidents have occurred in a specific area, not just from our users but from the primary national accident database too. Just click the checkbox (‘show reports from the Department of Transport’) at the top of the page to include them on the map.

    So that’s our most recent bit of housekeeping; now watch this space for some bigger changes to Collideoscope.

    Image: Charisse Kenion

  8. Red routes on FixMyStreet

    Our most recent improvement to FixMyStreet means that users in Bromley will experience some clever routing on their reports.

    It’s something quite a few FixMyStreet users have requested, telling us that they’d reported a street issue in London, only to have a response from their authority to say that it was located on a ‘red route‘ — roads which are the responsibility of TfL rather than the council.

    Of course, most councils have systems set up so that they can easily forward these misdirected reports to the right place, but all the same, it wasn’t ideal, and added another step into a reporting process we’ve always tried to keep as simple and quick as possible.

    Thanks to some development for Bromley council, we’re now glad to say that within that borough, reports on red routes will automatically be forwarded to TfL, while other reports will be sent, as usual, to the relevant council department.

    As a user, you don’t have to do a thing (although you can see this automated wizardry in action by watching changes in the text telling you where the report will be sent, as you click on the map in different places and select a different category – give it a go!).

    Note that this functionality has not yet been extended to the FixMyStreet app; however in the meantime it will work if you visit fixmystreet.com via  your mobile browser.

    A new layer

    As you’ll know if you’re a frequent FixMyStreet user, the site has always directed reports to the right UK council, based on the boundaries within which the pin is placed.

    And equally, even within the same area it can discern that different categories of report (say, streetlights as opposed to parking) should be sent to whichever authority is responsible for them: that’s an essential in a country like the UK with its system of two-tier councils.

    So this new innovation just meant adding in a map layer which gives the boundaries of the relevant roads that are designated red routes, then putting in extra code that saw anything within the roads’ boundaries as a new area, and TfL as the authority associated with road maintenance categories within that area.

    FixMyStreet has always been flexible in this regard: you can swap map layers in or out as needed, leading to all sorts of possibilities. Yesterday, we showed how this approach has also averted one common time-waster for councils, and the same set-up is behind the display of council assets such as trees and streetlights that you’ll see for some areas on FixMyStreet.

    The integration of red routes is available for any London Borough, so if you’re from a council that would like to add it in, get in touch. And to see all the new innovations we’re working on to make FixMyStreet Pro the most useful street reporting system it can be, check out the website.

    Image: Marc-Olivier Jodoin

  9. When there’s no need to report: FixMyStreet and Roadworks.org

    Seen a pothole or a broken paving stone? Great, the council will want to know about that… well, usually.

    Buckinghamshire County Council’s version of FixMyStreet now shows where there are pending roadworks — alerting you to the fact that you may not need to make a report, because it’s already in hand.

    When reports are a waste of time

    In general, councils appreciate your FixMyStreet reports: their inspectors can’t be everywhere, and often they won’t be aware of a problem until it’s reported.

    But there are some reports that won’t be quite so welcome.

    If the council is already aware of an issue, and in fact has already scheduled a repair, then sad to say but your report will be nothing more than a time-waster for both you and the council.

    Enter Roadworks.org

    Screenshot from Roadworks.org

    Screenshot from Roadworks.org

    Fortunately, there’s already a comprehensive service which collates and displays information on roadworks, road closures and diversions, traffic incidents and other disruptions affecting the UK road network, from a variety of sources — it’s called Roadworks.org.

    Just like FixMyStreet, Roadworks.org generates map-based data, so it correlates well with FixMyStreet.

    But we don’t want to clutter things up too much, so you’ll only be alerted to pending roadworks when you go to make a report near where maintenance is already scheduled.

    At that point, you’ll see a message above the input form to tell you that your report may not be necessary:

    Buckinghamshire FixMyStreet roadworks alert

    Buckinghamshire FixMyStreet roadworks alert

    Of course, you can still go ahead and make your report if the roadworks have no bearing on it.

    Slotting in

    We were able to integrate the Roadworks.org information like this because Buckinghamshire have opted for the fully-featured ‘Avenue’ version of FixMyStreet Pro. This allows the inclusion of asset layers (we’ve talked before about plotting assets such as trees, streetlights or bins on FixMyStreet) and the Roadworks.org data works in exactly the same way: we can just slot it in.

    We’re pleased with this integration: it’s going to save time for both residents and council staff in Buckinghamshire. And if you’re from another council and you would like to do the same, then please do feel free to drop us a line to talk about adopting FixMyStreet Pro.


    Header image: Jamie Street

  10. An update on our Collideoscope research

    So the last time we blogged about Collideoscope—our cycling collision and near miss reporting service, based on the FixMyStreet Platform—we’d just begun an exciting new phase of exploratory work, looking into how well the site currently meets user needs around collision prevention, and whether it could do more, for instance, in helping cyclists campaign for better safety measures, or helping police collect collision reports more efficiently.

    Since then, we’ve conducted a series of interviews, both with cyclists and campaign groups in the Merseyside area, as well as road safety data specialists from further afield, and also West Midlands Police, whose approach to cycle safety has garnered much praise over the last few years.

    One-on-one interviews are a part of the user centred design toolkit that we use a lot at mySociety, when we’re early on in a project, and just want to map out the process or problems people face, without jumping to conclusions over how they could be solved right now.

    In this case, we used the interviews to improve our understanding of five main areas:

    • The physical process of reporting a collision, or a near miss, to the police.
    • What incentives / disincentives cyclists have faced when reporting.
    • How police forces currently deal with collision reports, and near miss reports.
    • What role video recordings can play in reports / prosecutions, and what legal considerations need to be made, to prevent video damaging the case.
    • What data cycle safety campaigners currently use, and what new data they feel could improve their case when arguing for better cycling provision.

    The experiences, anecdotes, and connections we collect from interviews like these help us shape our thinking about how to build or improve our products, as well as highlighting particular avenues that need more research, or that we can start prototyping right away.

    Take video camera footage, for instance. A number of Collideoscope users have asked that we allow them to upload clips from their helmet- or handlebar-mounted cameras, along with their reports.

    But, on the other hand, we’d also heard a lot about how police forces were wary of collecting video footage, and especially worried about online videos damaging the chances of successful prosecutions in court.

    Our recent interviews showed us the line isn’t quite so clear – savvy police forces realise video evidence is hard to argue with in court, and they want people to submit videos as often as possible. In reality, if a claim reaches court, it’s not the presence of videos online that poses a problem, but the finger-pointing or speculation that often accompanies online footage in the comments section below the video, or in social media posts. This was fascinating to hear, and immediately gave us ideas as to the changes we might need to make, to protect the integrity of video evidence, if we allowed cyclists to upload clips to Collideoscope.

    It was also interesting speaking to campaigners about how the data collected by Collideoscope could help them raise the profile of cycle safety in their local areas, or on a national scale – especially data about near misses, something not covered by the UK’s official STATS19 dataset. We’re going to investigate how we could bring some of our boundary-related reporting expertise from MapIt and FixMyStreet onto Collideoscope, to help policy makers compare safety efforts in different areas, and help campaigners and councillors raise concerns over dangerous hotspots.

    Later this month, we’ll begin prototyping how some of the things we‘ve learned could work their way into Collideoscope. We’re also particularly keen to investigate the technical feasibility of integrating directly into police incident reporting products, such as the Egress-powered Operation Snap used by police forces in Wales and soon, hopefully, other forces in the UK.

    As before though, our research is by no means complete, so if you have expertise in this field, and would like to be consulted or participate in the project, we’d love to hear from you.