Monday, 29 March 2010

Joint Press Release

This is a press release that YourNextMP is putting out together with some of the lovely users of our data:

Elections in a digital age -- blogging, tweeting and buzzing to the polls

Weeks before Britons go to the polls, there’s still no comprehensive list of candidates. Four citizens’ initiatives have joined forces to tackle the problem. They’ve been gathering basic information about thousands of candidates and making the data public.

“It may seem surprising but there simply is no single listing for all prospective parliamentary candidates,” said Edmund von der Burg from YourNextMP.

“We want people to make an informed choice and that's difficult because so many new people are standing this time - and a record number of incumbent MPs are standing down because of expense scandal,” von der Burg went on to say.

One recent poll (PollLab 10/3/10) found nearly half of voters cannot name their MP and three quarters have no idea who their candidates are.

The message from four independent groups which collect and display candidate data online (YourNextMP, hustings.com, iElect UK & ivote2010) is a simple one – don’t leave the decision about who to vote for until polling day – check out the candidates first and make them work for your vote.

In recent weeks, the British media has touted this election as the “first truly digital election.” Online tools such as myconservatives.com and its Labour counterpart membersnet are being used in local campaigns to recruit volunteers and collect donations. But, Frances Harrison from iElect UK argues that the Internet’s greatest impact is in empowering the ordinary citizen and allowing undecided voters to learn more about candidates.

“The much-touted digital election campaign is not just about new communication channels for the big parties – it’s just as much about empowering ordinary citizens and giving them a voice to disseminate information,” said Harrison.

YourNextMP, which is affiliated to DemocracyClub, allows any member of the public to upload candidate names, photos and details online. Hustings  compares candidates in much more detail in the key marginal seats. While iElect UK is an Iphone app with candidate data and ivote2010 is aimed at any mobile phone with a web browser.

WHO  WE ARE IN DETAIL:
YourNextMP is a comprehensive list of candidates for the general election which is made freely available as a website and as data downloads for others to build on. The details are editable in a wiki-like manner and many of the contributions are from members of the public. By ensuring that their details are on YourNextMP candidates can be sure that they will appear on all the services built on the data that it shares.
 iElect UK is a new, free Iphone app that helps you know who to vote for. It allows users to find their constituency, using GPS or postcode, and then view a list of candidates as well as the MP. The user can ask to be contacted by any of the politicians. The idea being to promote a conversation between the electorate and their representatives. It’s been developed by two London women: an ex BBC journalist & promotional marketing manager .

Hustings gives links to sites being used by candidates for their online campaigning, e.g. twitter, facebook, youtube, flikr, winkball etc. It also collates news on candidates and offers candidates the option to upload their own data such as podcasts, photos and videos.
iVote2010 is a mobile site that allows *any* phone with a web browser to find their prospective parliamentary candidates.  The site has been tested on over 250 of the UK's most popular phones.  Visitors can use iVote2010.co.uk to contact their PPC's by phone, text or email. It also provides help in registering to vote - with the phone number and address of their local council.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Candidate data now available to download

You've been able to get small amounts of data as JSON from most pages on the site. But if you're planning to do a big project you need all that data on the candidates, parties and who is running where.

Now you can download it all from http://www.yournextmp.com/data

We ask you to create an account so that we know who is using the data. Also once you've gotten your API token you can download the data without being logged in - so you can grab it from your code easily.

Currently it is in JSON which is useful if you want to build up entries in your own database. Later today we'll push out There is also CSV which lets you load it all up in a spreadsheet.

It is great that we can give this data away freely and we're looking forward to seeing what people produce with it.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Dropping 'NC' from the license

The election is not far away and attention is starting to turn to the candidates. We've been receiving lots of updates from visitors to the site and want to thank them for it. With this in mind we are dropping the 'Non-Commercial' part of the license on our candidate data. We don't want anything getting in the way of people using it to make the election better.

There are already several websites and even an iPhone app based on the data - we'll be highlighting them here over the next few days. If you want to create a project go ahead - all you need to do is attribute it back to us (fair's fair) and pass on anything you create under the same license.

Hopefully with this increased freedom YourNextMP will become a central hub for the data, letting other more creative people get on with doing great things with it whilst leaving us to do the gathering.

PS - want a complete copy of the database? You'll be getting it in a few days :)

Monday, 8 March 2010

And then the phones go dead and the emails bounce

Britain's Parliament is steeped in history and tradition. One of the more arcane practices is the Dissolution of Parliament.

Once Parliament is dissolved (that is to say an election is about to called) MPs stop being MPs. And rather quickly too - at 5pm that day. Legally MPs are no longer allowed to represent themselves as MPs. They may not enter the Palace of Westminster or use any of its facilities.

How does this affect us? Well according to the rather strict interpretation of the rules the MPs email addresses, phones and postal addresses cease to function. Any websites they have that represent them as MPs or are paid for by their communications allowance can't be used.

So many of the contact details we have will stop working just when they are needed most. Any email matching '...@parliament.gov.uk', phone matching '020 7219 ...' or postcode 'SW1A 0AA' is parliamentary.

Over the next few weeks we'll be asking the wonderful DemocracyClub volunteers to find alternative contact details. This may involve explaining to current MPs why their current details are not adaquate.

If you want to help please sign up with DC - or make corrections and additions as you find them on the site.


Extras:

Friday, 5 March 2010

Sharing is Caring - JSON now available

One of the reasons that YourNextMP.com was created was because there was no central list of candidates. So we created one.

But we don't want anyone to duplicate our efforts collecting the candidate information - we'd rather that they were doing something interesting with the data instead. So almost all the data we have is now available under a Creative Commons license as JSON endpoints.

At the bottom of most pages you will now see a little 'json' link. If you click on it you will get the same data that we used to create the page in the JSON format which you can easily read into your code and do things with.

We've chosen the CC by-nc-sa license - which means that you must attribute where you got the data from, you can't use it commercially and you have to apply this same license to the work that you produce. Hopefully this is liberal enough for most people. If it isn't please contact us and we'll see what we can do.

UPDATE: we're now using the 'by-sa' license - we dropped the 'nc'.

Hopefully the data structure we've used is fairly self-explanatory. Documentation will be appearing on the site soon.

Let us know what you create with it!

Monday, 1 March 2010

We're live

Without much fanfare YourNextMP.com is now live.

Over the next few weeks we'll be working hard to add more candidates and contact details. We'll also be adding links to relevant information so that learning about the candidates gets easier and easier.

Of course we're hoping that users will help too - it should be simple to create an account and to contribute information. After all it is really only the locals that are properly in touch with what is going on.

Hope you like the site - let me know what you think