1. How’s that Gender Balance data?

    International Women’s Day seems like a good time to check in on our project Gender Balance, the crowdsourcing website that invites users to help gather gender data on the world’s politicians.

    As you may recall, our aim was not simply to present top-level numbers: data already existed that allows us to, say, understand which legislatures have the most even-handed representation, genderwise.

    No, Gender Balance seeks to go more in-depth: by attaching gender data to individual politicians, and making that data available via structured datasets, we hope to allow for more subtle comparisons to be made.

    For example, researchers may like to test theories such as, ‘do women vote differently from men?’, or ‘do women politicians make different laws around childcare?’ — or a whole host of other questions, all of which can only be answered when gender data relates to specific public figures, or when it is viewed in combination with other data.

    The data that is collected when you play Gender Balance goes, with data from other sources, into EveryPolitician, our project that seeks to provide structured, downloadable, open information across all the world’s legislatures.

    Not right away, mind you. To ensure that the data really is accurate, we make sure that each politician on Gender Balance is presented to at least five different players, all of whom give the same answer, before we consider it verified.

    Data on Kazakhstan's politicians, including gender, from EveryPolitician

    EveryPolitician currently contains data for about 73,000 politicians in total. In some cases, that data came to us along with a trusted gender field, so we don’t need to run that through the Gender Balance mill, but the majority of parliamentary sites don’t provide this data.

    We can sometimes obtain that information from other sources, but Gender Balance has been invaluable in filling in lots of the gaps. Thanks to our players, it has already provided us with gender information for over 30,000 politicians (and in some cases, pointed out discrepancies in the data we obtained from elsewhere).

    There’s still plenty to go, though, if you’d like to help; and, as elections happen around the world, Gender Balance will continue to refresh with any politicians for whom we can’t find trusted gender data. As we speak, approximately 22,000 politicians still need sorting.

    That might sound like quite a lot, but each politician need only take seconds — and every little helps. So, if you’d like to help contribute a little more gender data, just step this way.

    Image: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the valedictory session of the National Conference of Women Legislators in Parliament House CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  2. Spare a moment for the less popular countries on Gender Balance

    Ever feel sorry for the less popular kids at school?

    Excellent, then you’re just the sort of person we need: you may empathise with some of the countries on Gender Balance that aren’t getting quite as much attention as the rest.

    Thanks to our recent data drive, Gender Balance now contains many more countries, all waiting for you to play.

    But we’ve noticed that some countries aren’t getting quite as much attention as others. Gender Balance’s ultimate aim is to provide data for researchers, and we’d hate to feel that we had patchier data for those studying the less popular places.

    featured country on Gender Balance

    So, to encourage take-up, we’ve now added a ‘featured country’ spot. Accept the invitation to play the highlighted place, and you’ll receive double points, propelling you all the faster towards a coveted place on the Gender Balance leaderboard. Time to get playing!



  3. Now you can reverse hasty decisions—on Gender Balance, at least

    As players were quick to notice, decisions made on our politician-sorting game Gender Balance were final. Thanks to volunteer coder Andy Lulham, that’s now been rectified with an ‘undo’ button.

    Gender Balance is our answer to the fact that there’s no one source of gender information across the world’s legislatures—read more about its launch here. It serves up a series of politicians’ names and images, and asks you to identify the gender for each. Your responses, along with those of other players, helps compile a set of open data that will be available to all.

    Many early players told us, however, that it’s all too easy to accidentally click the wrong button. (The reasons for this may be various, but we can’t help thinking that it’s often because there are so many males in a row that the next female comes as a bit of a surprise…)

    In fact, this shouldn’t matter too much, because every legislature is served up to multiple players, and over time any anomalies will be ironed out of the data. That doesn’t stop the fact that it’s an upset to the user, though, and in the site’s first month of existence, an undo button has been the most-requested feature.


    Thanks to the wonders of open source, anyone can take the code and make modifications or improvements, and that’s just what Andy did in this case. He submitted this pull request (if you look at that, you can see the discussion that followed with our own developers and our designer Zarino). We’ve merged his contribution back into the main code so all players will now have the luxury of being able to reverse a hasty decision. Thanks, Andy!



    Photo credit: Head in Hands CC BY-NC 2.0 by Alex Proimos