1. How (and why) to use SayIt to make a collection of statements

    West Pier on fire

    When we developed SayIt, we envisioned it primarily as a tool for publishing transcripts of meetings, but there’s another way you can use it, too: to create a collection of statements.

    Our recent publication of Labour and Conservative party speeches is a good example of this kind of use. Each speech is published as an isolated item – not as part of a chronological conversation – but SayIt still gives you benefits such as being able to see and search within everything said by a specific speaker.

    We hope that the Labour and Conservative SayIts might encourage others to set up similar projects. You could, of course, just as easily publish everything said by Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, et cetera (do let us know if you’d like to do this, and we can help you). There are other potential uses too, as we’ll see below.

    In this post, we’ll be looking at how to set up this kind of SayIt instance.

    A collection of statements on one topic

    You can use SayIt to collect together statements from one person or many different people, on a specific theme, or at a specific event, or within a specific place. Some examples might be:

    For me, a Brighton resident, the West Pier makes a great subject: it’s a long-time political hot potato here in Brighton, surrounded by rumour and controversy.

    Plenty of different public figures have made plenty of statements about it, over a period of many years.

    Why use SayIt this way?

    Those statements can all be found quite easily on the web, but by gathering them together, you get quite a different picture from the one you get if you are hopping from one source to another.

    Reading news stories is one thing; a collection of direct quotes from key figures is much more immediate, and gives an accessible snapshot of all views around the issue.

    Also, once your statements are in place, SayIt organises them neatly so that they can be viewed by speaker, read chronologically, or searched for any keyword. You have to see it in action to really understand the benefits, so why not give it a go?

    How to make your own SayIt collection

    Convinced? In this post, I’m going to walk through the process of creating the West Pier SayIt – follow along, and you’ll see how to make a SayIt on your own chosen subject. It’ll take less than half an hour.

    1. Sign up

    Begin by going to this page.

    Signing up for SayIt

    You’ll need to input:

    • A portion of the URL (web address) – choose a word or phrase that relates to your topic, and it’ll help search engines find it. This needs to be lower case and without spaces or irregular characters (ie, just letters and numbers).
    • A title – keep it short; this will go on the top bar of every page of your site.
    • A description – again, not too long; this will sit next to the title on every page.

    Don’t worry too much about the title and description, though: you can go back and edit them at any time in the future.

    signup for SayIt, part 2In part 2 of the sign-up process, you need to input an email address, choose a username and pick a password. We’ll send an automated message to your email which you click to confirm your account.

    Or, if you have a Twitter account, you can link your SayIt account to that, avoiding the confirmation step.

    You’ll only have to go through this sign-up phase one time: once you have an account, you can start any number of new SayIt sites without signing up again.

    2. Start adding statements

    SayIt success

    Now you can start assembling your collection. Click on the big green button marked “Add your first statement”.

    Add a speech to SayIt

    Here’s my first statement about the West Pier, found after a quick Google, and copied and pasted into the SayIt interface.

    I can leave it like that – all other fields are optional – but to capitalise on SayIt’s full potential, it’s best to add information to as many of the fields as you can:

    • Speaker: Who made this statement? Type in the name and then click the blue underlined text to add it to your database.
    • Section: This field is useful when you are transcribing a meeting: you can use it to indicate different agenda items. But, for this ‘scrapbook’ type of usage, you might group together certain statements: for example, are they fact or conjecture? Official or off the record?
    • Source: Put in the URL where you found the statement, and then your readers will be able to click through to see it in its original context.
    • Date and time: You don’t have to have both, but filling in this field means that SayIt will automatically arrange your statements in a chronological order.
    • Event and location: Here you can note the type, and place of the event: was it at a meeting in the town hall? A press conference at the council offices?
    • Title and tags: Filling in this field helps people who are interested in specific topics to find the statements they are really interested in. I might tag this statement with words like ‘arson’ or ‘policy’.

    Like almost everything else in SayIt, all these fields – including the statement itself – can be edited in the future. And, once you’ve input a name or date or URL, it’ll be suggested for all future fields, as soon as you’ve typed two characters that match.

    Edit Post ‹ mySociety — WordPressClick ‘save speech’ and you’ll see a green button inviting you to add another speech – you can go on doing so for as long as you like.

    3. SayIt begins to organise your data

    Once you’ve added a few statements, you might like to click around – try ‘speakers’, ‘speeches’, and the homepage of your site to see what SayIt is doing to your data.

    On the Speeches page are all the statements I’ve input:

    West Pier speeches on SayItOn the homepage, it tells visitors how many speeches and speakers there are, and gives the chance to search them:

    West Pier SayIt homepage

    And on the Speakers page, there’s an icon for each person in my database:

    West Pier people on SayIt

    Click one, and you can see everything said by that person (or body, in this case):

    One person's statements on SayIt

    You can add more detail to each speaker, as well. Click on the ‘edit speaker’ button, top right.

    There are a number of options here, some of which may be useful to you, depending on the context of your project. For example, if you are collecting historic statements, you may wish to include birth and death dates for each speaker.

    If your speakers are politicians, it may be useful to add details of their posts and the dates they held them.

    In many cases, you may like to add the short or longer biographical statement.

    And, if you’re not a fan of the Cluedo-like avatars that SayIt automatically allocates each speaker, you may like to add a headshot for yours. I added a couple of logos.

    Note that, at the moment, SayIt just asks for a link to an image that’s already on the web. Take care, though: any image you add to the site should belong to you, or be freely available under a licence like Creative Commons.

    SayIt with user images


    4. Get help

    For big topics, it makes sense to collaborate! Click on the button marked ‘invite some friends to help you’ on the speech input page, and you’ll be able to send emails that invite your associates to log in and join you.

    And that’s it

    I hope I have demonstrated how useful SayIt can be for this sort of collection. Please do let us know if you have a go. We’d love to find out what projects it’s being used for – and your suggestions for new features will be very useful in helping us decide priorities for development.

    Other ways to use SayIt

    See also:

    Using SayIt to publish transcripts of meetings

    Using SayIt to store interviews from research projects

    We’ll be posting soon on:

    – Collaborating with other people on SayIt

    Image credit: Slbs (CC)