1. Guest post from Emilis Dambauskas

    Emilis has sent me an update on few interesting activities from Lithuania, I hope you will have your say on this too!

    “Since December there was a big discussion on our Google group (ManoValstybė — My State) about upcoming municipal elections (2011-02-27).

    There was one person who was planning to build a visualization site for election data, but later stopped communicating with us and showing any progress. So our discussion became more heated and people started asking if anything is going to happen.

    As a result I scrapped all of the candidate data from the Centra Electoral Commission. That’s ~17,000 candidates. The data includes their wealth, income, marital status, education, employment, and other stuff (e.g. what foreign languages they speak).

    I published the data in CSV and Excel formats. Someone imported it into Google Fusion Tables:

    Google translation of the original page

    We put a list of political groups sorted by average wealth of its candidates:

    (Google translation of the original page)

    The significance of this table is that before this election there was a big public discussion if non-party candidates should be allowed to participate in the election. Our Constitutional Court ruled that they should be.The table shows, that some of the “non-party” candidate lists are much wealthier than party lists. The first “party” list appears around #10. Thus you can guess that some well standing politicians and businessmen are running for the mandate and using the new system to avoid the legal requirements which apply to political parties. They are also trying to avoid the negative image that political parties have in Lithuania. One of such lists is the list leaded by a controversial former Vilnius mayor Artūras Zuokas.

    But this does not mean that all non-party lists are like this. There is also a number of smaller local candidate lists.

    Accidentally as I was publishing this table during my lunch time at work. A co-worker noticed it and got interested in the data. I sent him a copy of the data aggregated by municipality and he sent me back some maps which I published just now:

    Google translation of the original page

    The maps show average candidate wealth, income, etc. in different municipalities.

    Averages are not a very good indicator and some of the values are distorted by local millionaires, but it’s a good start and gives some hints you can investigate and find out about the political elite in the regions of Lithuania.”

    Let us know you feedback – are you working on something similar in your region? How would you promote those maps locally and what significance do they have for the region, not only Lithuania? Let us know!

  2. Parasykjiems.lt this week


    Today I had a quick chat with Darius Damalakas, who is in charge of the Lithuanian clone of Write To Them and who explained exactly where they are with it. After few weeks of development, parasykjiems.lt is at the first stage of testing. Darius has asked the ManoValstybe (their umbrella project) team of 40-50 people to start sending their e-mail messages to this beta version of the site here and below.


    They all need to follow simple steps: choosing the type of message they want to send (private messages are designed to land in MP’s inbox only, public ones will also be published on the website), sending the message, receiving the confirmation e-mail. While they do so, project developers should receive the sent messages to their inbox and test replying to those. By today Darius has received about 5 messages, so it’s early days and they need another two weeks to ensure that all the potential problems are identified. Only then will they test the second stage – sending messages to the real people, MP’s.

    In the meantime he is really interested to hear from other projects working on similar solutions, so I am really happy we will have few posts on that soon. In his words:

    The real goal of WriteToThem in Lithuania is not to suceed only locally, but to create/develop and launch similar sites in several countries at once. I really hope projets in other countries won’t start working from scratch, but instead take the functional basis from the project in Lithuania and just plug in their own sources of information.

    Well, we will hear from others fairly soon too, so stay tuned!

  3. KąVeikiaValdžia.lt – Policy Feed from Lithuania


    KąVeikiaValdžia.lt Policy Feed from Lithuania is the first project I was introduced to. It was born out of ManoValstybe previously supported by us, so we are very happy to see it growing!  Emilis Dambauskas and his collegues kicked off a very impressive plan to aggregate the news from Lithuanian government and to do so they want to use the following approach:

    • “visitors are presented with a list of new items (feed) gathered from the Parliament and Government news sources,
    • visitors can review the list, expand its items in place, filter it, subscribe to receive notifications of new items in the list; it will be considered a success if at least 100 visitors become subscribers,
    • each list item has got a separate page presenting visitors with a variety of possible actions:
      • find related context information (internal and external links),
      • express their opinion,
      • get involved in the political process.
    • information on the website is to be grouped and cross-linked according to these categories:
      • politicians and officials,
      • governmental organizations,
      • bills.
  4. all website data and some of its functionality will be available through a public API; it will be considered a success if at least one website will start using it in one year”
  5. If you check out the entire proposal (available in English here), you will see that the ultimate goal of this particular project is to increase the civic engagement in the country by presenting the work of the government, establish connection with citizens and increase their involvement in the political process. It is a rather rich document with interesting points so I hope to write more about it in the next few weeks.

    As for the project itself, the website is up and running and since their first English blog post in June, you can track how it develops. As you can see in his post, Emilis is really excited about the site, but also about the opportunity to collaborate with similar projects in the region. We will most definitely see it happening with their ParašykJiems.lt project (currently under construction here, but already mentioned on their project list) designed to replicate our WriteToThem.com website in collaboration with developers from Central and Eastern Europe.

    As for most recent developments Emilis mentioned changes to KąVeikiaValdžia.lt/PolicyFeed/ front page: “I added a list of government institutions and politicians to help people find what’s interesting without having to experiment with search technology.” Those should be mentioned fairy soon on their blog and Facebook fan page.