We talk a lot about the basic projects being the ‘pipes and sewers’ of democracy. In other words, the stuff that needs to be in place as a baseline before other projects can happen. mySociety, and particularly the Poplus projects are excellent example of this, and without them projects like Democracy Club would have a much harder time.
mySociety build tools that give people greater access to democracy - you probably know us (if at all) through our UK websites FixMyStreet, WriteToThem, TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow.
More recently though, we’ve been concerned with writing code that will help other people to run their own civic or democratic websites and online tools. And if you’re planning to put something together for the 2015 election, you might find they provide some very useful shortcuts.
Under the banner of the recently evolved Poplus project, we’re creating Components, small pieces of code that each:
a) perform one useful task for civic websites b) can work alone or together with other Components c) are open source
Do check out the Poplus website for more information on what’s available (and maybe get involved as a developer yourself) but for now I’d like to introduce you to our two most recent Components, SayIt and PopIt.
SayIt allows you to publish things that people have said online, quickly and easily. It’s ideal for storing and displaying things like speeches, minutes of meetings, or transcripts of trials.
Once texts have been imported to SayIt, they become very accessible. They’re easier to browse. You can search them. And you can link to them in a whole variety of ways: link to everything said by a single speaker, for example, or to one specific statement within a long debate.
You can see SayIt in action in a few places. Here, for example, are transcripts from Philadelphia’s City council meetings. And here is the Leveson Inquiry in a far more accessible form than the PDFs on which it was originally shared with the public.
SayIt can also be used more like a scrapbook - see this small collection of things said about the town of Stroud.
What would you do with SayIt? Well, it’d be a very easy tool to use for some of the following:
- Collect everything said by election candidates in hustings, in the press or on social media
- Collect everything said by anyone on a hot political issue
- Store and publish election promises
Anyone can set up their own SayIt instance - it’s deliberately been set up with very low barriers to entry, so you don’t even need to be remotely tecchy. Drop us a line at email@example.com and we’ll show you how.
PopIt is designed to solve the simple problem of storing, displaying and maintaining data about people and positions.
Mostly, we expect those people to be politicians or electoral candidates - but PopIt can be used for any group of people who are interlinked. It’s particularly useful for people running parliamentary monitoring websites (like our own TheyWorkForYou) - it’s currently being used on websites such as Chile’s Vota Inteligente and Congreso Interactivo in Argentina, among others.
Again, PopIt is very easy to populate with data - it has a web interface that is pretty self-explanatory for anyone who can use the web. So when it gets close to the wire, you can rope in friends and family to help you.
PopIt is an obvious tool for doing things like:
- Creating lists of electoral candidates
- Creating lists of incumbent politicians
- Highlighting links between the people on those lists
Showing positions in terms of who holds them now and who previously held them
and it will also sit neatly under whatever functionality you have planned. Plus, of course, it talks nicely to SayIt, opening up further possibilities there.
If you are interested in using PopIt, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also like to get talking on the Poplus mailing list and see if there are other Components planned that might suit your plans.