1. Launching mySociety Services with a bang

    Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the launch of mySociety Services. It was great to see you all!

    mySociety Services launch party by Patrick Straub

    A cold February night it might have been, but it was certainly worth venturing out to the Nash Room at the ICA.

    The company was great. The drinks flowed. Plus, the view from the balcony, across the Mall to the London skyline was stunning.

    mySociety Services launch party by Patrick Straub

    You can see the full gallery of photos, by photographer Patrick Straub, here.

    mySociety Services launch event - photo by Patrick Straub

    If you couldn’t make it: we’re sorry you couldn’t be there, and we hope to see you soon.

    And if you hadn’t heard about it at all… well, now’s the time to sign up to the mySociety Services newsletter and make sure you’ll never miss our events, briefings and talks.

  2. TICTeC: Early bird booking closes today

    TICTeC-logos_general with yearHurry: today’s the last day to book your place at TICTeC, our conference on the Impacts of Civic Technology, if you want to take advantage of the early bird pricing.

    You have until midnight tonight to save yourself £100 on your ticket price. Here’s where to book.

    Speakers

    We’re still firming up the final schedule and session titles, but let us whet your appetite by listing some of the speakers.

    We’ve already introduced our two keynotes, Dr Shelley Boulianne and Ethan Zuckerman.

    Here are some of the other speakers who’ll be helping to shape the agenda at TICTeC:

    Luke Bacon of Open Australia Foundation, Sydney

    Jonathan Bright of Oxford Internet Institute, UK

    Tim Davies of Practical Participation, London

    Kerry Brennan of Reboot, New York

    Blair Glencorse of Accountability Lab, Washington DC

    Nanjira Sambuli of ihub research, Nairobi

    Linda Sandvik of the Guardian, London

    Sandy Schuman of New College, Oxford University

    Martin Szyszlican of Congreso Interactivo, Buenos Aires

    Dr Nick Taylor of University of Dundee

    Dr Loren Treisman of Indigo Trust, London

    Gail Ramster of The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, London

    Jonathan Mellon of the World Bank/Nuffield College, Baltimore

    Jean Brice Tetka of Transparency International, Berlin

    We’re really delighted to be presenting such a diverse group of speakers bringing insights from so many parts of the world… and we can hardly wait to hear what they all have to share.

    If you feel the same, well, now’s the time to book your ticket.

  3. Meet Dr. Shelley Boulianne, a TICTeC keynote speaker

    Dr Shelley BoulianneDr. Shelley Boulianne, of MacEwan University in Alberta Canada, studies civic engagement and political participation. That makes her a perfect fit for our conference on the Impact of Civic Technology, TICTeC, where she’ll be one of two keynote speakers.

    Her current research examines how social media is used to recruit youth for volunteer work in the community. This research employs interview data from youth and non-profit organisations, as well as a content analysis of Facebook and Twitter data. If that sounds right up your street, be sure to grab your TICTec tickets soon.

    Meanwhile, we put a few questions to Shelley.

    What will you be talking about at TICTeC?

    I will present a bird’s eye view of the effects of civic technology on civic and political life. This perspective allows us to ask tough questions about technology: Does civic technology have a positive effect on civic and political life? Does it have a negative effect? Does it have any effect at all? I will present the results of a meta-analysis of more than 80 studies documenting the effects of the internet on civic and political life.

    What’s your involvement in civic tech?

    Most of my experience is studying the role of news websites and social networking sites on civic and political life. These tools are most interesting to me, because they engage the masses. However, I am also studying the use of online versus face to face methods for facilitating citizens’ involvement in deliberative exercises designed to inform public policy.

    What are you most looking forward to about TICTeC?

    I consider myself to be first and foremost a research methodologist, so I look forward to exciting discussions about how to study the effects of civic technology.

    We’re looking forward to it too! If you’d like to be at TICTeC, info and a link to ticket-booking is here. But hurry: early bird registration closes on 20 February.

    Meet our other keynote, Ethan Zuckerman, here.

  4. Meet Ethan Zuckerman, a TICTeC keynote speaker

    Ethan ZuckermanWe’re more than delighted that Ethan Zuckerman will be one of the keynote speakers at our upcoming conference on the Impacts of Civic Technology.

    Ethan is Director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT Media Lab, and a longtime digital activist and thinker. He’s on the directorial board of Ushahidi and Global Voices, as well as being a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board.

    As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Ethan is also the originator of the Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism- a theory which, one might say, is highly relevant to at least two of the interests of many mySociety folk.

    We asked Ethan a few questions in advance of his keynote presentation.

    What will you be talking about at TICTeC?

    I’m going to talk about civics through the lens of efficacy. What can individuals do to influence their communities, their societies and their nations? Are they more effective working through existing institutions, through building new ones or through influencing opinion via making media? And how can we know what forms of civics are most effective?

    What’s your involvement in civic tech?

    I’ve been building media systems for twenty years, and have focused for the last ten years on civic media, tools that help citizens make change in their communities through media. High points have included working on Global Voices, Ushahidi and now Promise Tracker.

    There’s […] lots of evidence that this work is really, really hard and that we need to think more carefully about what we’re actually seeking to accomplish.

    What are your best concrete examples of the impact of civic tech?

    I think there’s good evidence that projects like SeeClickFix and mySociety’s various projects can help citizens feel their government is more responsive. There’s some evidence that tools like Ushahidi have allowed relief organizations to respond better to emergencies. But there’s also lots of evidence that this work is really, really hard and that we need to think more carefully about what we’re actually seeking to accomplish.

    How can research help those of us in the field?

    My research focuses on the question of how making media might be a path towards making change. We’re building tools that help individuals and advocacy organisations track the spread of ideas in social and journalistic media, offering nuanced pictures of the structure of a particular story or controversy.

    What are you most looking forward to about TICTeC?

    I’m hoping to leave with a better map of what research questions are most pressing in this space.

    What (excepting mySociety, for modesty) are your favourite examples of good civic tech?

    As I mentioned above, I’m an admirer of SeeClickFix and (immodestly) Ushahidi. I think Code for America is doing a good job of building a pipeline of civicly motivated techies. I think Kickstarter, while not explicitly civic tech, has been masterful in helping communities figure out how to fundraise together.

    Thanks Ethan!

    If you’d like to join us at TICTeC, tickets are still available. But hurry: early bird registration closes on 20 February.

    Meet our other keynote, Dr Shelley Boulianne, here.

  5. 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.

     

  6. Launching TICTeC2015: The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference

    digital london

    25th March 2015, 9.30am – 5.30pm
    2nd Floor, 8 Eastcheap, London, EC3M 1AE

     

    mySociety is delighted to announce the launch of TICTeC2015 – or to give it its proper name, The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference.

    This is the first in an annual series of conferences from mySociety, in which we’ll focus on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having upon citizens, decision makers and governments around the world.

    We’ll discuss themes of engagement, participation, institution, social behaviour, politics, community, digital capability, communication and ethics relating to the use and study of civic technology.

    TICTeC2015 will bring together individuals from academic and applied backgrounds as well as businesses, public authorities, NGOs and education institutions to discuss ideas, present research and build a network of individuals interested in the civic technology landscape.

    This one day conference provides the opportunity for researchers to present theoretical or empirical work related to the conference theme.

    We also welcome proposals for individuals to lead workshops or give presentations relating to the conference theme.

    Individuals from all backgrounds are welcome to attend the conference, to learn and find out more.

    Click here for more details on the event, how to register and how to submit a proposal.

     

    Photo by Simon Hadleigh-Sparks Licence (CC)

  7. 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…)

  8. 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)

  9. 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)

  10. Highlights from our Cambridge meet-up


    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.

    Peter Murry-Rust

    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.

    Richard Taylor

    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.

    More!

    Videos of full talks, including Q&A:

    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.