1. Sejmometr.pl this week

    Sejmometr.pl team has started publishing MP profiles this week. Below is an example (original page here):

    Each profile contains a list of all speeches, absences and basic personal data at the moment, but during the week can also expect additional tab to be added. It will contain a summary of all activities of particular MP, as well as graphs and statistics.

    All current MP profiles are available through the MP’s search site. With the help of predictive method (names of MP’s will appear once you start typing them in the search window) you can search for all MP’s or narrow down your search to a particular part of the country too. (The implemented search happens on a local level – when the site opens, the local java script engine pulls in the list of all 518 MP’s and the search is conducted through javascript on this list.)

    The team is also aiming to extend the search to postcode based functionality, but the currently provided list of post codes is in .pdf format, which leaves plenty of scope for errors. Polish Post has been contacted to send over an alternative set in .txt and .xls format – which might take a few days. In the meantime feel free to test other options on the site, like the search or view of MP’s region once your cursor is on their name for example.

  2. KohoVolit.eu last week

    Late last night Jaroslav has posted an update on the work of KohoVolit.eu team last week. It looks like they faced a new challenge related to historical data in their system:

    “There is a whole field called temporal databases in the database theory about representing data varying in time with full history not only the current state.”

    According to Jaroslav translations and free attributes used by the team, together with changes in MP’s data and requests became a new challenge:

    “The main issue of this week was search for a reasonable trade-of between complexity of the database and comfort in access to the history. And how to put all things together. As a result I significantly altered the schema again. I believe it suits to our needs fine now. Besides, it was an interesting trip to PostgreSQL 9 features and learning how to fully exploit its capabilities.”

  3. 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.”

  4. News on InformataZyrtare.org from Kosovo

    Valon Brestovci has been quiet for a while due to his illness and now is back with few points from Kosovo.

    First of all there have been changes in the team – next to the interface developers Kosovo team welcomed new core developers. Now, based on the finalised research the team can start their work on the interface. This week Valon is moving the project to permanently hosted place and working with Seb Bacon and the rest of the team on adjusting the code to the local, Kosovo specific conditions.

    Good to have them back and let’s hope to hear more soon!

  5. Sejmometr.pl – few points on outsourcing

    Daniel Macyszyn from Sejmometr.pl posts about their approach to building an internet portal like theirs in the most effective way. He refers to three outsourced functionalities on the site used to make their work easier on a daily basis:

    1. Hosting of documents on Scribd (free service),

    2. Managing comments with help of paid (20$/month) disqus.com package,

    3. Using Google Site Search as their main search engine (100$/year).

    Now, why is that so important? Let me quote Daniel, who points out the benefits of this approach:

    • Effectiveness
      We do not state that we can build a better commenting system than Disqus. We also do not state that we can build a better search engine than Google. What we do say is that we can build a pretty good portal presenting the work of parliament and this is what we focus on.
    • Lower costs
      Thanks to the outsourcing of the above mentioned functionalities, we lighten the Sejmometr server’s load from the described tasks, while we maintain pretty low costs of hosting. Sejmometr still works on a very basic hosting service and we have no issues with its effectiveness whatsoever.

    What do you think? Is this the right approach? Let us know!

  6. FOI Online tool in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Please meet Darko and Boris Brkan from Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are currently developing Freedom of Information website in their homeland. They are also working closely with Valon Brestovci from Kosovo and with Seb Bacon.

    I have talked to both of them about their current activities. Their project is just kicking off now and they are looking at finalizing the exact plan of activities for the upcoming weeks with Tony Bowden. They hope for the green light soon so they can establish the team of developers and to start the research on institutions in Bosnia, making a database of all required contacts.

    The legal part was investigated already so soon they should have a detailed description of how a requests looks like in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how to adapt to do it on-line.

    They are also in close contact with Transparency International in Bosnia – organisation they consider the most experienced in the country on the topics related to their project. The local Transparency International was mentioned as their partner in the proposal, so now they are discussing the details of suggested co-operation – basically who is going to do what.

    Stay tuned for more information from their region!

  7. KohoVolit.eu this week

    Veronika is away this week, and it looks like Jaroslav has been absent for a few days too, but did post today about the developments in API and WTT work:

    “Some issues of the database model were redesigned. Ability to store changes in data in time was added. This was merged with the way in which translations and free attributes of the entities are represented. As a result a lot of tables could be removed.”

    Next steps:

    “Testing of the API architecture and writing individual API functions to access database entities (MPs, groups, constituencies, etc.) continues.”

    Great stuff, Jaroslav, thank you for the post!:)

  8. Sejmometr.pl in touch with local media

    Jakub Górnicki is using Sejmometr.pl blog to post in Polish. He is also responsible for PR of the project, so no wonder that we have a new post on their recent media update about Sejmometr’s viewer of the parliament seatings. The press release resulted in following publications:

    It’s great to see this direct approach to promotion. Any other regions following this model? Let us know how it works for you!

  9. Update from Sejmometr.pl

    I am not sure if you have spotted the small difference above. I usually include website logos in my post, but this time you are not looking at the Tech Blog, but Sejmometr Blog. Sejmometr.pl team has decided to combine their Polish and English blogs on one, common platform – they are working on it this very moment. In the meantime I would still like to update you on the recent work they have done.

    Daniel posted that they have finished all the bits of the portal related to legislative events and now are moving to MP’s analysis. They have developed nice legislation model.

    “As you can see, Sejmometr is a bill-oriented portal, which means that all legislative events are parts of some legislative projects. I would like to describe how our model help us with tracking “real world” incorrectness around legislative proceeding in Sejm. As you see on the chart – each legislative project has a process, which is an ordered list of legislative events. Events have a few possible types:

    • Documents
    • Debates
    • Voting sessions
    • Referrals

    Documents have several subtypes (shown on the chart). Debates and Voting sessions also have several subtypes (not shown on the chart) like “first reading”, “second reading” and so on.”

    They have also added a sequence of legislative events and sub-events which can automatically flag up issues with the handling of bills by the parliament. Here is exactly how it works:

    “When we feed our database with a new legislative data, there is a sequence of legislation events types and subtypes being calculated for each affected project. We also prepared a list of all such sequences that are valid according to the Polish law system. This way, when Sejmometr inserts new legislative events to its database, and detects that newly calculated sequence doesn’t match to any valid sequences – it sends a notification to us. This way, we’ve achieved two interesting things:

    • We can detect common official Sejm website errors: wrong events ordering.
    • We can detect “real world” legislative offenses.”

    You can also find an example of how this proces can flags up flaws in the legislative processes in Daniel’s post.

  10. eDemocracy Day in Prague

    It’s a very impressive list of supporting organisations! What is this all about? Veronika Sumova has posted on KohoVolit.eu blog an update about the local event dedicated to government transparency planned for the 12th of March. eDemocracy Day in Prague is designed to discuss the current eDemocracy and eParticipation projects, their current developments but also to share challenges and learnings, and do a bit of networking too. The event will follow unconference model allowing its participants to suggest topic for 2 slots of 2 hr long sessions (with additional 3 hrs in the evening, if required). It’s free, and from what I understand there is also a scope for a little bit of support for those, who might struggle with travel expenses. Veronika explained to me that actually the first two sessions are already suggested:

    1. parliament watchdog – what does it mean, how to do it?
    2. sustainability of watchdog projects – money, people, projects

    It looks like it’s going to be a very fruitful event – apart from the KohoVolit.eu team I can see participants representing DoTankoch.sk, Foaf.sk, Fair Play Alliance, NašiPolitici.cz and Diary Policy. Really impressive set of projects. I hope we will be able to learn about each of them more!