Sejmometr.pl team submitted the website to the Polish bookmarking engine Wykop. As a result of it the traffic to the site increased drastically as below (data from 4 and 5th of April):
The original Wykop page contains really positive responses. Maniaks posted:
“Generally mega useful website, one can realyl easily check what MP’s are up to. Bookmarked.”
“O_o really?!… Maybe it’s time for democracy to work? Man (meaning the one behind the site), this is a brilliant tool!”
Content of comments proves that users test the features, flag up potential issues (and praise Daniel’s prompt response to those) and look forward to more developments on the site. Team’s reaction?
“We are even more motivated to work on this further. Thank you!”
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:
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!
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:
- Voting sessions
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.
Daniel has just posted an update on one of four types of voting calculations used on Sejmometr.pl called “rebel MP’s tracking” which basically stands for tracking of MP’s who vote against their clubs.
“Nowadays MPs vote just like their clubs almost in every case. In some cases they even got to pay penalty fees for breaking the “club discipline” (is it legal??). Therefore, in my opinion “indivudal MPs voting results” are not so interesting, because you can be 99% sure that the MP you want to check, voted just like his/her club. What’s really interesting about voting data (except the overall result and legislative consequences) is that other 1% MPs that broke club discipline.”
Now, I am sure you are interested in the way the results are presented and how the tracking works so here is the algorythm Sejmometr.pl is using:
“F – number of “for” votes
A – number of “against” votes
Abs – number of absent
X – number of all MPs in the club
if( Abs > X/2 ) then assume that club was not present on a voting session, no further calculations – appropriated message will be displayed
if( F>A ) then assume that club as a whole voted “for”, mark “against” votes from that club as a rebel votes
elseif( F<A ) then assume that club as a whole voted “against”, mark “for” votes from that club as a rebel votes
elseif( F=A ) then assume that club took no decision, no further calculations – appropriated message will be displayed
Do you think this is the most important type of voting analysis? Do you have similar solution in your country? Let us know!
We have two updates from Sejmometr.pl. First of all, as a result of initial nudge to participate in a meeting with representatives of the Polish Ministry of Economy, Daniel and his team will be working closely with this particular part of Polish government.
“They are building a system for publishing and consulting legislation on a Government level. They want to use Parliament data in their project and because of an impossibility of receiving open data from the Sejm – they came to us! We will release Open Data interface soon and, according to what we’ve heard: Polish Government will be its user.”
Secondly, the team has implemented the voting data on the platform. Below you can see the comparison of two versions of the voting data (first the Sejmometr.pl one, second the original Sejm website).
- “Interactive Chart – for presenting relative votes distribution
- Gauges – for presenting absolute voting data values
- Table – for presenting club and individual results”
But that is not everything, the list of additional options continues:
- “Additional visual data presentations (charts, gauges)
- Sejmometr calculates clubs voting results (as a whole entities)
- Sejmometr tracks rebels (deputies that voted against their clubs)
- Tables with club and individual results are sortable by any column.”
There is also a major improvement in the way the data in various formats is interlinked within Sejmometr structure:
“Voting (like any other legislative events) exists in Sejmometr’s database structure as a parts of legislative projects. That’s why for any voting we are able to precisely define concrete projects, documents and debates that were a subject of the voting. Official Sejm website seems to not have these data and for example their voting data pages don’t link to any documents that were voted. Sejmometr has these data and we will be implementing them this week (empty right side of Sejmometr’s voting data page will be filled by a legislation process browser, which will inform users which projects and in which version are being proceeding in the particular voting).”
First of all let me start with very interesting developments in terms of relationship of Sejmometr.pl team with local authorities. Following their commitment to openness, Daniel posted on Sejmometr’s blog:
“Sejmometr team was invited for a meeting by a Polish Ministry of Economy. Ministry of Economy is preparing a system for publishing and consulting legislative initiatives on a level of Polish Government (Sejmometr focuses on a legislation on a level of Polish Parliament). People from the Ministry wrote that they are observing Sejmometr, they like it, and they want to talk about some cooperation in the future.”
It’s exciting news and I really hope we will hear more about the meeting soon. For now though let me get back to the weekly routine of update on the work itself. Daniel and his team created a mechanism of presenting content of bills from PDF files according to the part suggested by Polish law (proposition of a new law, justification, impact assessment) to publish them this way:
He needs your advice on the second tab (Treść/Proposition of a new law) though:
“The tab presents proposition of a new law. We’ve created an administration panel which makes possible to convert a plain text of a new law propositions to a database structure, where each article, paragraph, point and so on, is represented as a separate entry. This is just a first step on a road to introduce a future major Sejmometr feature: presenting propositions of a new law in a form of “commits”, well known from a social coding portals (like a GitHub). This would require a huge amount of an additional, manual work with describing a role of each entry (for a various reasons – it can’t be done fully automatic, although advanced technology could be used to support the manual work of a human moderator).
We didn’t make a final decision whether to start manual processing of these data – it’s just a proposition of a future Sejmometr progress. In your opinion – would this feature be valuable?”
Do let him know, as I am sure he appreciates all your feedback!
Daniel Macyszyn from Sejmometr.pl looks for solution on problems with written questions. As planned earlier he has implemented the above mentioned functionality:
“There is a new position in a Sejmometr main menu called “Interpelacje” (this is an official term for written questions in the Polish law system). Users can now browse questions and answers (if any are available at a given time). It is worth of mention that the number of all written question is huge: almost 20 000 (180MB of plain text data).”
The current solution however takes a month to publish the information simply due to the fact that the full text of each written question becomes available to the public about a month after the first mentioning of it on the website of Sejm. Daniel is struggling with a bit risky solution, and probably needs your feedback on this one:
“There is a special procedure in the Polish law system described in our “freedom of public information act”. Each citizen can make a request for a public data to any public institution and the institution has to answer in a maximum time of 2 weeks. So we could do the following:
Whenever Sejm publishes info about new written question (without text), I could immediately send them a request for showing its text content (I could even automate the process of sending these requests). This way, they would be obligated (by a law) to publish questions’ texts in a maximum time of 2 weeks from publishing an info.
There is only one risky part in this solution: in a result of receiving mentioned requests, Sejm Chancellery could decide to stop publishing these incomplete information about written questions and publish them in a full form (with a text) but with much bigger delay then they are doing it now.
I’m not sure what do do in this case:
- leave everything as it is and accept about one-month delay in written questions,
- launch a mechanism for automated sending requests which would reduce a delay to 2 weeks (with a risk, that Sejm will change their practices and a delay will stay on its current level)…”
Is it worth risking loosing access to the information even if the delay is at stake? The cause of this particular problem is theoretically outside of Daniel’s hands, so is there another solution to this particular challenge? What do you think?
Sejmometr.pl team is currently working on adding written questions functionality to their portal. As with all other options, this one has to comply with the local legislative process, which according to their blog looks like this:
“In the Polish law system, there are three types of questions that MP can make:
– spoken questions – on each Sejm session, there is a time when each MP can ask a question and receive an immediate answer from a government representative.
– written questions called “interpelacje”
– written questions called “zapytania” “
According to Daniel Macyszyn the last two types do not differ much from the point of view of general public – the target audience of his website, hence why the plan is to put them in the same category on Sejmometr.pl.
“My opinion is that the difference between “interpelacje” and “zapytania” is understood only by a specialists and regular users won’t care so much if a particular written question was submitted as an “interpelacja” or “zapytanie”. That’s why I’m planing to join them in a Sejmometr database structure and present them in a one browser.”
I am sure will will find out if it works in practice fairly soon.
Do you have similar instances of simplifying the legislative proces for the sake of your projects? Do let us know!
“I’m trying to develop Sejmometr in a maximal openness. This means a “technical” openness (Open Source, Open Data coming soon) and this blog is also a way of opening conceptual works around the Sejmometr. Now I want to add another level: I will be publishing every official letter that I’m writing or receiving from a public institutions.”
This is how Daniel Macyszyn starts his new post. His first letter was sent to Sejm Bureau of Research in order to ask for them to approve the usage of the information published on their sites for Sejmometr.pl purposes, but without the usual charge.
“Sejmometr publishes all opinions and anylisys that are present on the official Sejm website, but we had to make an exception for the Bureau of Research, because they claim that their opinions are a subject of copyright protection and they don’t allow to publish them without an additional fee.
While this is hard to understand for us why citizens got to pay a second time for this data (they already paid for this with taxes), I decided to write a letter to them and ask for a permission for publishing their documents on Sejmometr. I will put the answer here on this blog, when it comes.”
It’s brilliant to see the openness of the Sejmometr team! What do you think – would this approach work in your country? Do let us know!
In our last update on the work of Sejmometr.pl we have mentioned that Daniel Macyszyn was considering a calendar as a default view of Parliament sessions browser on the site. Well, it is implemented now, but in a different form than originally anticipated.
“On the top, we have a not so big calendar with all day events, representing Sejm sessions (there are no single events). Users can select sessions they are interested in, by clicking them on the calendar. If no session is selected – Sejmometr will automatically select the latest (or almost the latest) session. Users can also change months and see related sessions, without overloading the whole site. This was done using AJAX technology.”
The original idea proved to be overcomplicated and not entirely along the lines of Sejmometr overall priorities.
“Sejmometr is a projects-oriented portal (OK, bills-oriented would sound better, but it wouldn’t be strict – bills are only one of the legislative projects types). In future, it will be a projects-and-MPs-oriented, but for now – projects are a backbone of Sejmometr’s database structure. Practically, it means that legislative events (like legislative debates, speeches, reports) are always child elements of some projects and we always try to show these events from a perspective of their parent projects.”
You can find out more information about the reasons behind moving away from the original idea for this particular development on Sejmometr’s English blog. It would be also great if you could nagivate over and leave a comment for Daniel on the following points:
- “Calendar programming:
- loading data indicator
- Blank space in the top, right corner of the page. What to put there? Some stats? dedicated sessions search engine? tags cloud?”
- “Calendar programming: