1. Informing ourselves: what we learned at AlaveteliCon 2015

    AlaveteliCon – the conference about online Freedom of Information technologies – took place in Madrid last week.

    It was an opportunity for people who run sites based on our FOI software Alaveteli (as well as other FOI platforms such as Frag Den Staat and MuckRock) to come together and share experiences, frustrations, solutions—and the kind of anecdotes that only FOI site implementers can truly understand.

    It was also a fascinating snapshot of FOI laws around the world, and how digital tech is enabling the shoots of FOI to germinate in a variety of places, many of them previously closeted. It was inspiring, helpful and a refreshing reboot for practitioners, many of whom are fighting against quite considerable difficulties in their attempts to provide access to information.

    We heard from delegates from countries as diverse as Rwanda, Australia, Uganda, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Spain, and many more. As we heard of each country’s specific problems, we also learned, conversely, that many of our challenges are much the same everywhere.

    Resources

    Over the next few weeks we will be sharing videos, photos and further blog posts, but for now you can get a taste of AlaveteliCon 2015 for yourself in the following places:

    • The conference agenda shows which sessions ran and who was speaking
    • A Storify gathers together tweets and photos to trace the conference’s main themes
    • Some photos (we hope to have more soon) are on Flickr and Instagram
    • The Twitter hashtag, #Alaveteli15 lets you see how things unfolded in real time
    • We’ve put together a Twitter list of Alaveteli deployments around the world: should be a great follow if you’re one of them
    • There’s now also an Alaveteli Slack channel for those who would like to continue the conversations begun at AlaveteliCon: ping @HenareDegan if you’d like access
    • Join an Alaveteli Google Group: There’s one for sharing experiences of running online FOI platforms, and another for developers using Alaveteli.

    We co-hosted Alavetelicon with Access Info, and the event was made possible with support from Open Society Foundations. Many thanks to all our speakers and delegates, whose insights and generous sharing of experiences ensured that everyone went home with plenty to work on!

    We hope to summarise several of the themes that emerged in a series of upcoming blog posts.

    Finally

    There were so many discussions, offers of help, ideas, and plans for the future that it’s hard to pick out just one benefit that came from the conference.

    But to my mind, the overarching mood is expressed in the following two tweets:

    It’s the idea of Alaveteli as not just a piece of software, but a genuine community, with the ability to support its members. The idea that, working together, we can identify and overcome difficulties.

    Putting faces to names, listening to stories—and yes, sharing a cerveza or two over the two days of AlaveteliCon—really helped to consolidate that idea.

    A lot of enthusiasm was born in Madrid: long may it last.

  2. So that was TICTeC 2015

    Group shotTICTeC 2015 was mySociety’s first annual conference on the impacts of civic tech. It was a great day, packed with ideas, debates, questions – and even some hard evidence!

    Even if you were there, it was impossible to attend every session, so we know you’ll be glad to hear that we captured a lot of it for posterity. You can see the full range of videos, audio interviews, slide decks and more on the TICTeC 2015 page.

    Since the conference, we’ve been spending time  reviewing how it went, emailing many of the attendees to continue the useful discussions we began on the day, and figuring out how to make next year’s TICTeC even better.

    We’ve also set up a TICTeC Google Group as a forum for civic tech research discussions. Do sign up if you would like to join in.

    We’ll be putting out a call for speakers for next year’s conference in October, so make sure you are signed up to the Research newsletter if you’d like to be the first to hear about it.

    Roll on TICTeC 2016!

  3. Watch this space for TICTeC resources

    IMG_2084IMG_2083IMG_2087IMG_2086IMG_2091 IMG_2093IMG_2090IMG_2088IMG_2095TICTeC-logos_general with year

     

    Yesterday was our conference on the Impacts of Civic Technology, and what a packed day it was.

    Don’t worry if you missed anything, though: we now have videos, interviews, photos and blog posts for you to digest at your leisure.

    Meanwhile, you might like to browse through the #TICTec hashtag on Twitter, where many delegates shared their thoughts and insights in real time.

    Thanks to everyone who came and made TICTeC into such a rich, useful and thought-provoking day. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.

  4. All set for TICTeC

    TICTeC-logos_general with yearWoah: TICTeC, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, is tomorrow. Tomorrow! That came quickly.

    We’re expecting 109 people from 26 different countries and 69 different organisations – all with a common interest in discussing and understanding more about the impact of civic tech.

    You can see the full agenda here, and don’t worry if you didn’t manage to get a ticket: we’ll be documenting everything in full.

    • For the as-it-happens picture, keep an eye on the Lanyrd page throughout tomorrow.
    • We’ll be following up with summaries, podcasts, photos and videos right here on the mySociety blog.
    • Be sure to tag your social media with #tictec and we’ll also document the best of that.

    See you tomorrow!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Join us, as we set the agenda for collaborative coding

    What are your plans for late April? If you’re a civic coder, a campaigner or activist from anywhere in the world, hold everything: we want to see you in Santiago, Chile, for the first international PoplusCon.

    Poplus is a project which aims to bring together those working in the digital democracy arena – groups or individuals – so that we can share our code and thus operate more efficiently.

    We’re right at the beginning of what we hope will grow into a worldwide initiative. If you’d like to get involved, now is the time.

    Together with Poplus’ co-founders, Ciudadano Inteligente, we will be running a two-day conference in Santiago on the 29th and 30th of April. It is free to attend, and we can even provide travel grants for those who qualify.

    There’s lots more information over on the Poplus website.
    poplus

  8. See you in Manchester

    Edge Street Window by Duncan Hill

    Yep, now it’s Manchester’s turn. We’ve been having mySociety meet-ups in towns all over the UK –  it’s been great to meet people for a friendly chat and a drink.

    If you’re local to Manchester and you’d like to know more about what mySociety do, drop by. There’s no agenda, but we’re always happy to talk about open data, eDemocracy, and online civic stuff in general. And we hear that our chosen venue does excellent pancakes.

    We’re in town ahead of the Capita Channel Shift conference. If you’re also attending, you’d be welcome to come and join us for a drink and a chat about digital tech for local government.

    When: 7pm onwards, Weds 4th December
    Where:  Home Sweet Home on Edge Street, M4 1HE. Map
    How: Add your name to our Lanyrd page to let us know you’re coming.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.
    Hashtag: #mysocial

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

  9. OGP, “Out of the blue” sites and Oration

    OGP logoJen writes:

    Next week is a really exciting event for us here at mySociety International. You’ve probably heard about it; the Open Government Partnership annual meeting. This coincides with Global Transparency Week and a lot of international friends grouping in London for the first time in a while. It’s going to be good to catch up on interesting projects from other international groups. And don’t forget to come along to our drinks if you’re in town!

    A few more things about OGP before I let you know what we’ve been up to over the past month.

    In other news:

    • Over the past few months we’ve been working on a Pombola website with PMG from South Africa. We’re getting closer to completing this and can’t wait to show you the results.
    • We’re also hoping to start work really soon on an Alaveteli install for South Africa, so watch this space!
    • Other Alaveteli sites are nearing completion in Ukraine, Italy and Croatia. More on those as they appear… If you have installed Alaveteli, Pombola or FixMyStreet and not had contact with our international team please do drop us a line! We love to hear from you! Along this vein we recently came across Nuvasuparati in Romania and Aduanku in Malaysia. The best kind of surprise!
    • We are still offering some days of assistance to people that want help or advice setting up these sites, so do get in touch if this is you. Don’t be shy! We can discuss your ideas and your project and see where we can help.

    Where to find us:

    25th and 26th OctoberMozFest, London (Dave W)

    30th Oct – 1st NovemberOGP Annual meeting, London (Paul, Jen)

    30th OctobermySociety Drinks, London (Paul, Jen, Dave W)

    25th November to 30th November – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore (Dave W)

    27th to 30th NovemberWorld Forum for Democracy, Strasbourg (Jen)

    If you want a more formal chat, send me an email before the date and I’ll arrange a meet up. Especially for Dave’s Malaysia and Singapore trips as these are arranged expressly with the idea that we will spend time with interested local groups!

  10. Edinburgh meet-up

    Edinburgh - Victoria Street by Zoute

    Hey ho, Edinbro’.

    We’re holding our next pubmeet at the Kenilworth pub and we’d love to see you there.

    If you’re curious about mySociety’s work, or just interested in the wider digital democracy scene, do drop by for a drink and a chat. You’ll meet (at least) a couple of mySociety’s Developers, our Senior Consultant Mike, and our Marketing and Communications Manager Myf.

    When: Wednesday 30th of October, 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm-ish
    Where: The Kenilworth, 152-154 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3JD Map
    How: Add yourself to our Lanyrd page so we know there’ll be enough people to make it worthwhile.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.
    Hashtag: #mysocial

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

    The next day, we’ll be at the Capita Channel Shift conference. If you’re going too, we’d love to see you for drinks the night before.

    Photo by Zoute (CC)