1. Bristol: We’re coming back to see you

    7858490506_6a9b40bb1a_kAs last year’s meet-up in Bristol was so fun, we thought; why not have another?

    So, after a bit of encouragement from some of our Bristol-based friends,  we’ll be back on 23rd July to host another meet-up at the Royal Navy Volunteer pub.

    Our meet-ups are open to everyone. Come along if you’re interested in hearing more about inspiring tech projects in Bristol and beyond, and if you fancy having a drink with the following guest speakers:-

    Paul Wilson and Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Bristol Is Open:

    Paul and Dimitra will speak about Bristol Is Open and its mission of creating an open programmable city region that gives citizens more ways to participate-in and contribute-to the way their city works. Find out more about the project here: http://www.bristolisopen.com/

    Mike Dunn, Sift Digital: 

    Mike is a UX consultant with Sift Digital in Bristol. The Bristol Pound is an local alternative currency designed to benefit independent businesses. They’re trying to get us to completely rethink where our money goes. Mike will talk about how he put together a lightweight programme of user research and digital strategy work to suit their (very) limited budget, and why digital people should use their powers to do good.

    Ben Fowkes, Delib: 

    Ben leads the consultancy team at digital democracy company, Delib, where he helps governments tackle tricky initiatives that require input from citizens. Ben will be giving a talk about his recent trip around the US which saw him visit large swathes of government, universities and hallowed ground like Civic Hall in New York, to attempt to answer the question – ‘What is Civic Tech?’. He’ll explore the differences and indeed, the similarities, between the respective countries and look at larger trends and opportunities from the other side of the pond.

    Our very own Ben Nickolls:

    Ben heads up the mySociety Services team. He’ll talk about some of the innovative digital projects we’ve been working on recently to help local government and other institutions better serve the public.

    They’ll be some other speakers too; which we’ll add to the meet-up’s Lanyrd page in due course.

    So, we hope to see you there!

    When: Thursday 23rd July 2015, drop in any time between 7pm and 10pm
    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/2015/mysociety-friends-meet-up/, 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.

    Photo by Derek Σωκράτης Finch (CC)

  2. 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)

  3. 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)


  4. NapisteJim.cz and their first success!

    Veronika has just updated us on the recent success of their NapisteJim.cz portal, clone of WriteToThem:

    “The context: Last week, the Lower house of the Parliament had on table amendments to Lottery Act. Something very important was accomplished in this amendment (bigger rights for villages and cities in gambling regulation) but it also contained several very controversial paragraphs. Most notably, the Act commanded Internet providers to block ALL commercials and advertisements of lottery companies that are not registered in Czech Republic, moreover, under fine 10 million CZK.

    This is 1) technically imposible (e.g. when working with Google AdSense and similar), 2) it creates grounds for further Internet censorship. Mainly the internet community rised up in protest which they expressed in several different ways which included e.g. internet petition but ALSO, thanks to our application, personal e-mail appeals to MPs. Again, more than 1 000 e-mails were sent!

    The result: MPs decided to divide the amendment in parts on which they voted separately… the controversial  paragraphs did not pass through, and still the good achievements were approved. We could not dream better result in this issue!”

    Congratulations to the entire team! It looks like the traffic to the site, as well as amount of sent e-mails are very encouraging, so we hope to see more exciting updates in the future!

  5. Emilis talking to viešai.lt

    We have a new guest post from Emilis Dambauskas from Lithuania. We hope you will like it, as it is a very interesting interview. Enjoy!

    “Last week a new website launched in Lithuania (viešai.lt — “publicly.lt”). The website lists the budget(s) of the state in detail that was unavailable before and provides some analysis and access to the data collected. It was created and developed by some young financial managers, analysts and their friends developers. They are not from ManoValstybė, but I am very enthusiastic about the work they’ve done. I asked them if they could send me some answers to my questions in English and this is what they sent me:

    Emilis: What is the goal of the website and your main work principles?

    Tomas Krakauskas: The main goal of viesai.lt is to provide up to date information about government spending. We hope that public information will help to achieve more transparent and less corrupt use of government funds as well as involve society in discussions about public spending.

    Emilis: What is viešai.lt?

    Tomas Krakauskas: There are 9 different budgets in Lithuania and it have very complicated connections with each other (there are transfers from one budget to another) so it is difficult for  people to find data and to understand movement of money. Viesai.lt is the first webpage in Lithuania that systematically provides the whole information about public spending and allows users to compare and analyze data.

    Emilis: How did you come up with the idea?

    Tomas Krakauskas: Two years ago authors of this idea were writing a blog www.teigiamai.lt (it means”positively.lt”) about economical situation in Lithuania. Authors were not able to find some particular information about public spending or the information was presented in complicated way so authors decided to establish webpage with the data about public spending.

    Emilis: How did you implement your idea?

    Tomas Krakauskas:  After decision to implement this idea we formed the team of different competence. Being just two economists, we invited to join our friends to cope with IT issues. Also few other colleagues helps with data collecting and structurization. We had a bad experience with the Ministry of Finance as they refused to provide information that, according to the law, must be public. After that we contacted high rank officials from Prime Minister team and they help us to deal with bureaucracy resistance and supports this project.

    Emilis: What are your plans for the future?

    Tomas Krakauskas: Viesai.lt team is going concentrate on collecting and expanding data base as well as develop data presentation in user-friendly way. One of the major priority of the project is to spread the message about the possibility to see and even influence effectiveness of public spending.”

  6. Job Advert: Head of Operations and Finance

    The Head of Operations and Finance is a new post at mySociety, responsible for leading the commercial, financial and legal aspects of our work. Once appointed, the person will act as a member of the senior management team, contribute to the ongoing strategic development of mySociety, and report to the Board as required.

    Organisational Context

    This is a newly created, full-time role as an employee of mySociety Ltd, reporting to the Board. The successful applicant will work alongside the CEO/Director of mySociety Ltd to further the aims of the company’s parent organisation (the charity UK Citizens Online Democracy, aka UKCOD) and to ensure the financial and operational success of mySociety Ltd.

    mySociety aims to build websites that give people simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives, and funds its work partially through the provision of commercial software products and consulting. mySociety currently has seven full-time staff (soon to expand to 15) and has a projected overall income budget for 2010 of £609,000, funded by a wide range of donors, private foundations and commercial contracts. The Head of Operations and Finance will directly manage four professional staff.

    Key Responsibilities and Deliverables:

    1. Lead for mySociety on the development of commercial opportunities, products and service lines (including marketing, inbound lead response, meetings, pricing and contract negotiations, and other customary business development tasks).
    2. Deliver commercial contracts including commercial rollout of e-petitions product to local authorities and certain other projects (excluding Mapumental).
    3. With the CEO, allocate resources between UKCOD and commercial activities, determine work priorities and manage delivery of an agreed plan for UKCOD and its subsidiaries.
    4. Create and run a robust system for financial planning and reporting, preparing monthly management accounts and cash flow forecasts, and preparing forward-looking financial updates for the boards of the charity and its trading subsidiaries.
    5. With the CEO, develop the annual board-level strategy for the charity and its trading subsidiaries, to formulate and track agreed strategic goals and metrics, reporting back to the Board on progress.
    6. Manage key stakeholder relationships, including major commercial clients, professional service suppliers, regulatory authorities, major funding bodies of the charity (current and potential), and other organisations with similar aims to the charity (in the UK and overseas).
    7. With the CEO, manage the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Project Coordinator to successfully deliver on our project goals in conjunction with our funding partners the Open Society Institute.
    8. With the CEO, manage the Africa Project Co-ordinator to successfully deliver on project goals in conjunction with Omidyar Network.
    9. Manage the mySociety Office Manager and the Communications & Marketing Manager to ensure that they carry out tasks in accordance with their job descriptions.

    Person Specification

    Must have:

    • Experience as a financial controller, business manager with finance responsibilities, accountant, or similar positions.
    • At least 10 years of managerial experience, including at least 5 years managing professional teams, and taking responsibility for P&L of a business unit or as budget holder in a public sector or non-profit context.
    • Knowledge and experience of working with technology teams.
    • Analytical and financial skills, including problem solving, data analysis, and financial projections.
    • Experience of managing and resolving compliance issues.
    • A passion for democracy and transparency issues and views on how technology can help.
    • A level of interpersonal and communication skills which enable the post holder to establish credibility with a wide range of contacts within and outside mySociety.
    • Ability to devise imaginative solutions by developing novel ideas or adapting existing ones in new ways.
    • The ability to assess and anticipate stakeholder needs and expectations.

    Ideally would have:

    • Some experience of the developing world.
    • Previous experience/knowledge of not for profit organisations, charities accounting and reporting to non-executive boards.
    • A high order of negotiating skills and the capacity to present ideas and issues with authority.
    • Readiness to make decisions and render judgments based on logical evaluation of all the relevant factors.
    • An understanding of how to introduce systems and processes in a complex organistion that mixes paid staff and volunteers.
    • Proven ability to line-manage and work with colleagues who work from home, primarily using email and instant messaging.

    Salary: £45k+. Location: Flexible with some travel within the UK. Application Process: Send a CV and covering letter to hello@mysociety.org with the tag msjob4 in the subject line by noon on 10th August 2010.

  7. Job Advert for mySociety Ltd

    mySociety Ltd, the commercial arm of the the charitable project that built TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet and the 10 Downing Street e-petitions site is seeking a web developer to work onsite with a commercial project with a corporate partner in London, UK.


    • World-class skills in one or more of PHP, Perl
    • Substantial expertise in open source operating systems, databases, and version control
    • Experience of working in corporate environments.
    • Project management skills, included detailed record keeping of phased technology developments
    • Java experience also desirable

    Personal qualities

    • Laziness, Impatience, Hubris
    • Fascination with understanding how complex systems work, and satisfaction at mastering them quickly
    • Self-starter, with the ability to manage your own work.
    • ‘Completer-finisher’ personality, with track record of delivering projects to deadline
    • Team player with strong communication skills

    Benefits and Salary

    • Salary £38k+
    • Office in London.

    Submissions by 11th January 2010. Candidates must be able to start work by 1st  February 2010. Please send your application or any questions to tom@mysociety.org including the tag msjob2 in the subject line.

  8. UKCOD, parent charity to mySociety is seeking trustees

    UK Citizens Online Democracy (UKCOD), the registered charity that runs mySociety and its stable of democracy and community websites is seeking applications for the position of trustee.

    The role of trustees is to:

    * Ensure UKCOD fulfills its charitable objectives
    * Oversee the work of mySociety and its projects
    * Participate in strategy, policy and other discussions
    * Ensure the moral integrity of mySociety

    Trustees have legal obligations, detailed here on the Charity Commission website. Positions are unpaid, as required by law. Current trustees are often very practical volunteers: we are still small enough that simply being an extra pair of hands is required as much as strategic thinking. However, mySociety is now five years old, and at this critical time of uncertainty and opportunity in UK democracy, we are seeking to strengthen our board of trustees in various ways. This includes:

    * Experience and networks within the philanthropic sector
    * Diversity in gender, age and background
    * Legal and financial qualifications
    * Contacts within the forthcoming generation of MPs
    * Statistical analysis skills

    We are looking for passionate applicants who are keen to give the often substantial time required, generally more than five hours a month. Demands on time can be unpredictable and lumpy and input from trustees can be required outside of board meetings and occasionally on short notice. Face to face meetings are held in central London once a quarter. It is desirable that applicants can usually attend in person, however conference calling is possible.

    Applications including CV and a covering letter to trustees2009@ukcod.org.uk. Deadline 1st August 2009.

  9. Job Advert: Research Intern wanted

    Comfortable Research by Joel Bedford (Creative Commons)
    ‘Comfortable Research’ by Joel Bedford (Creative Commons)

    I (Tom, mySociety’s director) am planning to write a book over the next 6-12 months, which I hope will set out a mySocietyish vision for practical steps to a better democracy in the UK.

    As I’ve got a lot of day to day mySociety-running to do, there’s no way I can take the time needed to do all the primary research for such a project myself. So this post is a job advert for an internship to help me with this project.

    An ideal intern would have roughly this skillset:

    • Experience as a researcher, preferably in history or politics
    • A pretty good understanding of the Internet
    • Great telephone skills for wheedling information out of people who need sweet talking
    • Good information organising skills, to keep everything found in a nice, easy to use way
    • Able to put in at least 2 days a week for at least two months, starting ASAP.
    • A willingness to work with other researcher(s)

    I’m not snobbish about academic qualifications, or even about type of training or degree, but I do need proof a candidate knows how to get off their own arse to find out interesting things. I’m also easy about age and location. If you know a smart 50-something investment banker who’s just been laid off, I’d be happy to talk to them.

    It is an internship, not a paid job, although as with all mySociety volunteering posts it comes with free food, a chance to sleep on Francis’ sofa, the likelihood of meeting lots of fascinating and well connected people, plus all sorts of other perks (TBD).

    If you know anyone who might be interested, please send them the link to this post. And even if you don’t, suggestions for how to spread the word about this ad are very welcome.

  10. mySociety is hiring

    Are you the best coder you’ve ever met, or perhaps even the best you’ve ever heard of? Better than that, even? If so, you might just be good enough for us lift our weary mouse fingers to check out your CV.

    NB Applicants with a sense of proportion, realism and modesty also warmly welcome.

    The charitable project that built TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet and the 10 Downing Street e-petitions site is seeking a world-class web developer.

    This is a rare opportunity for an outstanding individual to join a small team of paid developers and volunteers that represents the greatest concentration of non-partisan democratic and civic coding talent found anywhere.

    Technical skills

    • World-class skills in one or more of PHP, Perl, Python or Ruby
    • Substantial expertise in open source operating systems, databases, and version control
    • Experience of working in a team with other programmers, contributing to project architecture
    • Experience of accessible, standards-based web design
    • Fanatical obsession with usability and making users happy

    Personal qualities

    • Laziness, Impatience, Hubris
    • Fascination with understanding how complex systems work, and satisfaction at mastering them quickly
    • Self-starter, with the ability to manage own work and to work both at home, with colleagues, and with clients.
    • ‘Completer-finisher’ personality, with track record of delivering projects to deadline
    • Team player with strong communication skills
    • Personal enthusiasm for mySociety’s goals, preferably manifested through actual web projects – see our FAQ for more details

    Benefits and Salary

    • Salary £33k+
    • Opportunity to contribute to high-profile sites delivering real democratic and community benefits to citizens
    • Substantial role working with major partners
    • Opportunities to travel to political and media events in the UK and abroad
    • mySociety is a virtual organisation, so hours and location are highly flexible
    • Minimum 12 month commitment after probationary period

    Submissions extended to 15th July 2009 looking for candidates willing to commence work by 1st September. Please send your application or any questions to tom@mysociety.org including the word msjob in the subject line.