This morning I woke up quite late because I didn’t sleep well (and had been building Public Whip’s How To Vote). Today I’m not really working for mySociety, as I’m going to London this afternoon, but Tom had a couple of important bits for me to do. There was a bug in the admin page, and a missing link on the confirmation page. I fixed these up, improved the test suite a bit, and deployed to the main site.
PledgeBank is now ready for people to start using it in earnest. We’re still in testing, as we’re sure there’ll be lots of changes needed to it as it is used in the real world. But all the basic features, and fancier ones such as SMS and the auto-generated flyers, work. Tom’s just been on the radio, and he’s making lots of specific example pledges like this one about Shropshire. So, the hunt is now on.
My next jobs are to tidy up outstanding tickets which we have already fixed, and fix any bugs in there. The next feature we’re adding to the site is comments, so people can discuss the pledge.
Just as I was getting on with something else, I am called hither to write a blog post. So this’ll be a short one, I’m afraid. And instead of talking about what I was doing today (fixing bugs, modifying database schemas, and other dull interludes in the programming life) I’ll draw your attention to a couple of NotApathetic things.
NotApathetic has (notwithstanding various teething troubles) been going pretty well, and there are some more cool ideas in the pipeline. For those of you who are enjoying the latest web-logger fad, “tags“, Matthew Somerville has implemented this experimental page generated from users’ confessions reasons for not voting. It’s rather fun; since, unlike the “‘blogosphere”, mySociety isn’t about throwing away all the lessons of the last forty years of research in information retrieval, we generate tags automatically rather than expecting users to annotate their posts with the most meaningful set we can manage. (They wouldn’t.) Hopefully this or something like it will become part of the site’s front page soon.
And something which I want to implement — later this week, hopefully — is a voting system to collect two types of data: firstly, which posts people think are particularly interesting, so that we can give them more prominence on the front page; and secondly, given two example posts, how similar (in some general sense) the two reasons are. The point of the second one is that, given a set of similarity data, we should be able to cluster and categorise the country’s apathy and better understand it (and, of course, draw beautiful pictures of it in gnuplot, too). You might not think that sounds like fun, but I do.
mySociety projects are mainly focussed on improving the quality of civic, community and political life between elections. But back in late 2003 James Crabtree suggested a site which would give a voice to the 40% of citizens who won’t be turning out to vote. There are already plenty of sites trying to encourage people to vote, or even encouraging them not to. Our purpose with NotApathetic.com is simply to give these people a voice. If you know of anyone who isn’t voting, please encourage them to give their reasons. And if you want to help publicise the site, as well as get a sneak preview at our next site, take a look at this.