Major Polish news portal, Gazeta.pl, has posted a short introduction to Sejmometr.pl yesterday including interview with Jakub Górnicki. Te article presents major functions, goals and sponsors of this project stressing in the role of the portal in raising awareness and increasing civic engagement in Poland.
“Who is the service for? For everyone interested in its content, most certainly. Journalists and social activists have an endless data set to dive into. Sejmometr authors though wish to direct it at everyday citizens to provide them with tools of monitoring of their own representatives. The aim of the project is to explain clearly the processes behind Parliament’s work.
– Our most important aim is for citizens, who participate in public life (taking part in elections) to have ability to track the work of their chosen representative – states Górnicki. – We hope that the awareness about the daily work of the candidate will build the right attitude of citizens and help making the right choices in the future.”
Well done, Sejmometr.pl team!
Each profile contains a list of all speeches, absences and basic personal data at the moment, but during the week can also expect additional tab to be added. It will contain a summary of all activities of particular MP, as well as graphs and statistics.
The team is also aiming to extend the search to postcode based functionality, but the currently provided list of post codes is in .pdf format, which leaves plenty of scope for errors. Polish Post has been contacted to send over an alternative set in .txt and .xls format – which might take a few days. In the meantime feel free to test other options on the site, like the search or view of MP’s region once your cursor is on their name for example.
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!
Jakub Górnicki is using Sejmometr.pl blog to post in Polish. He is also responsible for PR of the project, so no wonder that we have a new post on their recent media update about Sejmometr’s viewer of the parliament seatings. The press release resulted in following publications:
It’s great to see this direct approach to promotion. Any other regions following this model? Let us know how it works for you!
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!
I have just posted about Open Government Data Camp in London, so I though I would balance it back a little bit by mentioning an event organised in the region too – actually on the very same day. I have talked to Anna Kuliberda, one of the organisers of Transparency Camp Polska today. She has kindly responded to my simple question – “how did it go?”:
It was brilliant! We had very positive feedback from all sides involved in the event. Not only the idea and the content, but also the very fact that someone spoke at our event was later mentioned during other really important meetings and conferences. We are extremely happy about it, as we hoped for wider understanding of the issue of reuse and transparency.
I am really happy to hear that. If you check the list of speakers, you will see that it contains plenty of names from the region with a nice international input too. I managed to talk to key transparency voices of Polish community like Piotr VaGla Waglowski (established lawyer, Internet Personality of the Year 2001, funder of Internet Society Poland) or Alek Tarkowski (voice of Creative Commons Polska) for example. I learned about interesting transparency projects from the region from Hungary (Júlia Keserű from K-Monitor.hu) and Slovakia (Matej Kurjan from Transparency International Slovakia talking about Public Procurement Visualization and Open Municipality). I listened to the presentation about MamPrawoWiedzieć.pl, project documented to Technology for Transparency.
Sejmometr.pl was there too presented by Jakub Górnicki. I am terribly sorry, I only have the recording in Polish, but if you check it’s ending you will find questions asked and addressed in English.
If you go to the event page dedicated to the video recordings, you will find that the first seven sessions are in English, but I will post here another one, the opening talk with John Wonderlich and Daniele Silva:
Once again, please send us your feedback if you have attended this event!
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?