The two days leading up to election day are a hugely important time for less politically-obsessive voters. The parties know that a lot of people are only starting to seriously think how to vote today and tomorrow, and TheyWorkForYou saw its biggest spike ever the day before the election, way back in 2005.
This means it’s a super-important time to get trustworthy, non-partisan information in front of as many people as possible. And you can help by doing the following simple things:
1. Go to your constituency page on the TheyWorkForYou Election Quiz and take a good look at the answers. Is there anything surprising in the answers? Has anyone failed to respond who really shouldn’t? Is there anything funny in the responses? Make a couple of notes about what you think are the most interesting findings.
2. If you know the name of your local papers or radio stations, try to Google for the email or phone number of the news desk. If you don’t know the names, try sticking the name of your nearest town into a media database like this, to get a phone number or email address.
3. If possible, you should start your pitch by phoning rather than emailing. If you get a phone number for a news desk, give them a bell and say that you’re a volunteer from “The country’s largest non-partisan election information project”, and ask for the email of a specific person who might be interested in a story about what local candidates are saying.
4. Once you have an email address of a specific journalist, compose a locally specific email for them, along the following lines:
I’m a resident of Z constituency, and this election I’ve been one of 6000 volunteers helping to build an unprecedented project to get candidates across the country to go on the record, in conjunction with the website TheyWorkForYou.com. It’s a strictly non-partisan project, aimed at giving voters a really clear, spin-free view of what their candidates stand for. I’d really appreciate it if you could give it some coverage before election day.
In my constituency, N candidates have completed our survey. From this we can see some quite interesting things, namely:
* Candidate A thinks…
* Candidate B thinks…
Would you be so kind as to print a story encouraging people to check our their candidates via TheyWorkForYou.com, and mentioning some of the highlights I’ve included?
all the best,
Your name, email, phone”
5. An hour after you send the email through, give the journalist a call back to see if they need any more help.
6. If you do this, please leave us a comment on this post so we know who’s had a go!
Thank you for helping spread some non-partisan information this election time, and enjoy the election…
We’re going to be adding lots of features and major design improvements to our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow.com in the next few weeks. One thing we want to add is little explanatory videos helping describe how to make the best request possible.
Today we’re launching the hastily named WhatDoTheyKnow Video Challenge. We want you to make short videos (max 2 mins) in which you explain in a clear and friendly way how to file successful FOI requests. We’re not expecting Hollywood production values, just a friendly face and a good explanation would do fine. If you can do funny, splendid.
1. Record your vid
2. Upload to your video hosting venue of choice
3. Post the link as a comment to this post
We’ll send out a coveted mySociety hoodie to anyone who makes anything we’d seriously consider using (unless bazillions of people enter, of course – do you want to bankrupt us?). We don’t sell our coveted mySociety hoodies, they’re only for people who’ve done something useful for mySociety so they’ll mark you out as a pillar of the community the first time you walk down the street.
A lot has been happening with PledgeBank in the U.S. over the past few months, but an exciting podcast just went up that’s a great synthesis of some of that work. Idealist just launched a podcast featuring PledgeBank, and also telling the story of one of our favorite pledge campaigns. You can hear the podcast here.
You can also see more from the Bakul Foundation on their new website. Good things are happening, my friends…please help spread the word about PledgeBank to those folks you know who want to do incredible things like what the Bakul Foundation has done!
I’m still busy beavering away at the Facebook / PledgeBank integration. It all works now, but will take a bit more polishing to get just right. Matthew is, I think adding surveys to PledgeBank. So it finds out later if people have or have not done their pledge. Or is he updating to a new version of BoundaryLine at the moment, so our postcode lookup on WriteToThem and everywhere else gets better? Hard to keep track when he does so much at once.
Keith is upgrading our internal documentation, so new people at mySociety can learn how to keep things going. Heather is stalking all of America, finding people to use and promote PledgeBank. Tom is on a much deserved holiday, after seemingly a zillion meetings per day for months.
There’s lots of ongoing maintenance for all our sites. We’re lucky that large chunks of our customer support email are done by volunteers (thanks Anna, Louise, Tim and Tomski/James) and by Debbi (yay Debbi!). Much of this is routine – changing pledge text, updating council email addresses, giving MPs posting links for HearFromYourMP, putting new MP photos up on TheyWorkForYou etc. A lot of it is unique – handling new translations, answering questions from MPs and Lords about their voting record. I’ll let the others give some more examples of the kind of thing we answer.
Speaking of which, do you know any good web developers who would like to work for mySociety? If so, put them in touch.
The last batch of councillor data arrived this morning, thanks very much to GovEval, so pratically every council (bar all Scottish councils and the 17 English councils that had boundary changes, for which we’re just awaiting a new version of Boundary-Line, Ordnance Survey’s product that says where constituency boundaries are) should now be contactable again through WriteToThem.
I’ve been doing some work on helping people promote our sites and the things on them – spurred by a request from a user who was holding a street party, we’ve made some posters and flyers for FixMyStreet (thanks to volunteer Ayesha Garrett for designing them), and we’ve started providing online tools to promote pledges on PledgeBank, including an up-to-date status image or text of a particular pledge, alongside the established, more offline, flyers.