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Is it summer yet?

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Parliament is in recess for the summer, the school year is ending, democrablog is being written from Devon where the weather is not like the above.

In this week’s blog: we review our reviews, we try to get data/feedback from partners, and we’re doing all the tasks as part of a new way of working that we hope you’ll join.

Review of the review 🔍

It was the last day of parliament yesterday, most schools seem to be breaking up this week, and Democracy Club too will be a bit slower with the blog posts over the summer. Submissions for guest posts very welcome!

It seems like a good point to again review the last few months. If you’ve not taken the chance to read our annual report, please do! There’s a three-page summary that’ll take you five minutes, promise. And what could be better to read on the beach / your three-week walking holiday in Switzerland and Italy than the full report?

Our report, and a couple of public meetings in London and Cambridge, helped us write out our plans for the next electoral year (to the end of May 2018). We’re still keen for comments or thoughts on the goals and targets themselves — and on how we should best go about effecting them.

We’re also still trying to prise user data and feedback on the general election from our network of partners — those who joined us at a roundtable shortly after the general election was announced — and this is proving a lot harder. We’ve been nudging Facebook, Google et al about sharing data on how many people used their election information and whether there was any feedback. This would be really helpful for the civic tech sector to know, but they’ve all been pretty quiet so far. They might claim commercial confidentiality and we’ll be none the wiser, which ain’t helpful when another election might be around the corner. We need openness so that we can learn together about how best to support voting and voters.

Play the (Trello) cards you’re dealt 🃏

Another thing we’ve done post-election is to switch up the way we work, hopefully making it easier for anyone to come along, see what we’re up to, and join in. Or at least leave some pointed questions on our to-do lists.

We’re using Trello, an online card-based to-do list. A task goes on a card and goes in a column. You can then assign people to the card, or give it a deadline, or sub-tasks, and so on.

We’re also using the idea of ‘sprints’ — two week heads-down tackling of tasks, bookended by reviewing the last sprint and setting up the next one. There are about 18 sprints before the local elections next May.

We thus have two Trello ‘boards’. The first is for everything we want to do this year, on which cards go into columns based on their urgency and importance. The top priorities go into a ‘Next sprint contender’ column — i.e. they’ll be discussed at the next sprint planning meeting and if we all agree, they’ll be the thing we work on for two weeks. You can chip in here — go ahead and comment on any cards that you think should be a priority.

The second board shows what’s happening in ‘current sprint’. On this board, tasks start on the left hand side and work their way across ‘In Progress’, ‘Needs Review’, until they’re ‘Done’. We have a quick daily videochat to update each other on these.

Have a look around!

We’ve always tried to work openly — hence, for example, this (almost) weekly blog. Working in the open is vital for transparency, helps volunteers to help democracy, and might set a good example for how everyone in the space should work. But! If this isn’t working for you — you feel like there’s stuff you could do but you’re not sure where to start — we want to hear about it. Constructive criticism makes the world go round.

In Sprint #1 🏃🏽

Trello sprint board

Working in sprints is also going to make writing this blog easier, hurrah! Here’s what we’re up to:

  • Making Every Election better, by improving things like the radar that watches out for Notices of Election being published on council websites, and by improving the process for adding an election, sourcing it properly — and so on. The big sweaty goal here is to ensure we have data on 100% of elections happening in the UK (at district council level or above). More to come on this!
  • Emailing every council with the precise numbers of polling location lookups in their area. We hope this provides concrete evidence for the value of every council opening their data (or at least providing it to us) forever more. And it’s especially a bit of a wake-up call to those who didn’t provide the data. We’re also asking councils whether they would chip in £500/year to help pay for it.
  • Plotting ideas and things we should be doing for the local elections in London in May 2018, where every seat in every borough will be up for grabs. Ditto Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. Let’s throw this wide open at this point — please add to this doc any non-partisan pro-democracy ideas that we should be thinking about. We’re going to be getting in touch with potential partner organisations in this sprint — if you have ideas as to whom we should be working with, please add them to this card. If they’re not in London, make a new card! What’s the worst that could happen?
  • Nudging more people to have a look at our draft code of conduct for club members or those taking part in Democracy Club stuff. This task is in action as you read this. You’re being nudged. Here’s the code, please comment on the doc, or email us.
  • Improving the directions functionality on Where Do I Vote? We used to tap out at 100,000 look-ups, and deliver a slightly funky directions line that crossed fields and crashed through people’s homes, now it’ll run smoothly for user #100,001 and more, and run along actual roads and paths:

Before…

funkyline

And after…

smoooth

And there’s much more! Have a look through everything in this sprint here.

Forward!

We’ll keep trying to chat about what’s happening in the sprints — especially when we’re about to start a new one, so you can say: “Oi, i think XYZ should really happen in the next two weeks”. Or even plan some time to help us out on one of the sprint tasks. We’ll probably mainly shout about this on twitter.

Next week, we’ll be racing to finish everything in this sprint — and watch out for the blog about how we collected data for the polling station finder. Then there might be some holiday.