• 100 Parliaments as Open Data ready for you to use

    31 Jul 2015 By Myf Nixon

    100 Parliaments as Open Data ready for you to use

    If you need data on the people who make up your parliament, another country’s parliament, or indeed all parliaments, you may be in luck.

    Every Politician, the latest Poplus project, aims to collect, store and share information about every parliament in the world, past and present—and it already contains 100 of them.

    What’s more, it’s all provided as Open Data to anyone who would like to use it to power a civic tech project. We’re thinking parliamentary monitoring organisations, journalists, groups who run access-to-democracy sites like our own WriteToThem, and especially researchers who want to do analysis across multiple countries.

    But isn’t that data already available?

    Yes and no. There’s no doubt that you can find details of most parliaments online, either on official government websites, on Wikipedia, or on a variety of other places online.

    But, as you might expect from data that’s coming from hundreds of different sources, it’s in a multitude of different formats. That makes it very hard to work with in any kind of consistent fashion.

    Every Politician standardises all of its data into the Popolo standard and then provides it in two simple downloadable formats:

    • csv, which contains basic data that’s easy to work with on spreadsheets
    • JSON which contains richer data on each person, and is ideal for developers

    This standardisation means that it should now be a lot easier to work on projects across multiple countries, or to compare one country’s data with another. It also means that data works well with other Poplus Components.

    What can I do with it?

    Need a specific example? Yesterday, we introduced Gender Balance, the game that gathers data about gender balances in politics.

    As you’ll know if you’ve already given it a try, Gender Balance works by displaying politicians that make up one of the world’s legislatures, one by one.

    That data all comes from Every Politician, and it’s meant that the developers have been able to concentrate on making a smooth and functional interface, knowing that the data side of things has already been taken care of.

    That’s just one way to use Every Politician data, though. If you’d like to use it in your own site or app, you can find out more here.

    We still need more data

    As you may have noticed, there are more than 100 parliaments in the world. In fact, despite having reached what feels like a fairly substantial milestone, we’re still barely half way to getting some data for every parliament.

    So we could use your help in finding data for the parliaments we don’t yet cover, and historic information for the ones we do. Read more about how you can help out.

  • Reflections on a Re:publica session about collaboration in Global Transparency and Accountability work

    26 Jun 2015 By Kersti Wissenbach

    Civic Tech and NGOs... wait, and donors

    Reflections on a Re:publica session about collaboration in global Transparency and Accountability work

    At our Re:publica session in May we set out to gather together transparency and accountability practitioners from traditional NGOs as well as from the civic tech scene. We came to recognise that, to a large extent, we keep working in silos rather than merging together in new ways so as to collaborate and benefit from each others expertise and experiences. Thus, we wanted to identify the reasons and, together, explore how to enable closer collaboration.

    Over the last few years, changing dynamics of citizen agency brought forward a rapidly growing global network of civic activists, building and sharing technologies serving to strive for a more open and just society. Also, traditional NGOs increasingly embraced the potential opportunities emerging from the rapid pervasion of ICTs, mirrored in the ICT4D, mobile and recent big data ‘hype’. Both groups clearly work in overlapping spaces, however, they are to a big extent disconnected from each other. Partly this seems to be due to the perception of the spaces; Civic tech NGOs are often relatively new and young, and want to move and work fast on “innovations” but the perception is that more traditional NGOs are slower moving and hampered by bureaucracy. This siloing of work from NGOs and civic tech activists becomes most apparent in transparency and accountability work.

    Therefore, Tech4TA, on a global scale, should very much be about active collaboration between traditional NGOs and the digital activists, in order to:

    • Use existing and build upon tools (stop building from scratch but use what civic techies are building and sharing)
    • Prevent exclusion and structural power imbalances in policies or deriving project activities (learn from NGOs' experiences to actively work towards inclusive, context relevant project design and implementation, especially in areas where accessibility and availability of ICTs remains challenging and is oftentimes not a feasible mechanism at all)
    • Safeguard TA practitioners (learning from digital activists in how to ensure security, privacy and enable responsible data use)
    • Make the most use of the expertise in delivering locally appropriate projects in challenging situations
    • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of both types of organisation, so that they can work to complement each other

    We gathered an unexpectedly big group of techies, NGOs and donors, which brought many different perspectives to the table. Given the great interest in our session, we split into two groups, one identifying barriers for stronger collaboration and the other group exploring how to overcome barriers striving to enable stronger collaboration.

    In summary, we gathered a profound first set of barriers and had some vital discussions on what to do about them.

    What we need and how to get there

    Active outreach

    It does not seem to be common practise within all NGOs to identify and reach out to digital activists or civic tech groups from project countries when beginning to prepare new projects. Those actors are the experts in the local technology context! Therefore, they are the best people to collaborate with in order to explore chances and boundaries when it comes to using tech or data in the respective contexts. Also do they know what is in place already and potentially just need some support in order to take the current projects to the next phase or scale them up.

    The question is how can this become a fundamental practice for NGOs? What mechanisms need to be integrated into normal practice, that don’t require too much for both civic tech NGOs or traditional NGOs?

    Speaking the same language

    Data activists and traditional NGO practitioners oftentimes do not speak the same ‘language’, creating a huge barrier for communicating and smooth collaboration. It can be difficult for the non-technical among us to understand why something that sounds so simple, could be hard to accomplish or take a long time, when conversely sometimes things that sound extremely challenging can be solved in a few simple steps.

    Finding (still rare) hybrids which are home on both sides or alternatively work with mediators who can bridge between both sites will be of great value to overcome this boundary. People that can bridge the technical and non-technical divide to explain how a project can work and where the pain points might be would smooth relations and enable a greater ease of understanding.

    The question is what this could realistically look like. Who are those hybrids or mediators and how can they be strategically integrated?

    Consider if Civic Tech is user friendly enough

    In line with a common lingua, it has been emphasized that often the willingness to use and reuse civic tech tools is there but that tools, code usage etc. are far too abstract for less techie people or the technologists in question normally use other languages as a matter of course.

    The question here is how can we make civic tech apps more applicable for less tech-affine TA practitioners and more user friendly on the ground or what else would be needed to overcome such obstacles?

    Moving at the same pace

    Civic tech groups and NGOs have a different pace of connecting and moving things.

    Given the different pace of groups, where different teams of digital activists and NGOs collaborate, it will help to depart with a clear shared vision. Clarifying if all parties are sharing the same cause from the start will help to prevent frustration further down the road. Making sure there’s a product or project owner that understands both the technical and non-technical sides of the project, and that can coordinate the competing priorities of both sectors, is a must for a smooth project. Otherwise misunderstandings can occur (again based on misunderstanding of the difficulties of each aspect of the work.)

    More agile project design opportunities

    Achieving true transparency and accountability is a very long-term process, not a field for fast wins and not suitable to be pressed into 1 year NGO or donor project frameworks.

    The result focus of NGOs, often rooted in donor frameworks, are seen as a big obstacles in those regards. Opportunities for more agile project design would be a crucial precondition. NGOs and donors need to move from result focus to a more agile process focus in project design. Moving to this sort of project design would also open up frameworks for a more user-driven project design process which would benefit the donors and the users by creating projects that answer a real need and have a true impact.

    All participants agreed that educating the donors is needed in order to prevent the continuation of rigid and usually very tech/tool driven proposal frameworks.

    Educating the donors; what's the best way to do that?

    Rethink innovation - Focus on problems, not solutions (often grant etc. framings already solution driven)

    Plenty of grants and project designs are already entailing the solution. Driven by e.g. what online platform will do the change rather than focusing on the actual problem or challenge at stake in all its facets necessary to be considered.

    Such prevailing tech and solution centrism is strongly interlinked with our oftentimes diverging and inflatious definitions of innovation. A common understanding is needed that innovation is not the latest tech but a combination of solutions that truly features into each very context and is self-sustainable (can be the radio or village gathering if that is the natural communication sphere is). Such understanding furthermore needs to derive in clear action.

    Allowing NGOs some pre-project funding to do their own needs assessments in order to inform project design and create user focused projects involving technology as part of the solution seems like it would have a greater impact. The traditional NGOs understand a needs assessment process and the Civic Tech NGOs understand user design processes. These could be combined to create a strong pre-project design framework, provided that donors could accept and understand that there would need to be a small amount of up-front funding with no specific targets (beyond a full project proposal) granted to organisations they were working with.

    In conclusion, an open dialogue and clear commitments are needed between digital activists, NGOs and donors, seriously identifying steps to tackle the above outlined issues.

  • Using Poplus components at Openpolis

    03 Apr 2015 By Guglielmo Celata

    About one year ago, we came to know the Poplus effort here at Openpolis. We were glad to see something like that happen, and started to think how we could possibly contribute to that.

    Being a tiny group on tight resources we try to keep our solutions design very simple, striving not to over-engineer them. But as the number of projects grew during the years, we found ourselves constantly fighting against the negative consequences caused by the copy&paste attitude we had, as software designers/developers.

    Once we had a good solution for a problem, we quickly applied it to other projects and contexts. That's been great! But having the same data or the same piece of software copied over half a dozen different machines, having to maintain them and synchronize them, doesn't sound like a great outcome even to non-coders out there.

    The simple idea of using standardized, re-usable components to build complex solutions started to make a lot of sense to us.

    Being out there from a number of years, fighting to build and maintain complex solutions, we felt that testing the Poplus components architecture by porting one of our solutions to it was a natural contribution.

    The PolitikOS project

    One of the first applications we developed in 2006, OpenPolitici, is a searchable directory of all elected representatives in Italy: http://politici.openpolis.it. There are currently more than 120 thousands active elected officials ranging from the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms. Federica Mogherini, to the 13 members of the city government and council of Morterone, a village in the Lumbard Alps with 33 inhabitants according to the official national census data of 2001.

    OpenPolitici

    In order to stress test the Poplus component architecture, we want to implement a new version of the OpenPolitici platform. The name of the new project is PolitikOS, and the the user stories we've written involve using PopIt, Mapit/Represent Boundaries, and SayIt.

    PolitikOS

    The prototype we've implemented so far is available at http://politikos.openpolis.it. It's a Python/Django project that integrates data coming from a MapIt and a PopIt instances to return the members of parliament for the electoral constitution corresponding to the address or city entered by the user.

    The Poplus Component Integration toolkit (PCI)

    Poplus components are web services, accessible by other software through an Application Programming Interface (API). Since they're web services, any programming language can be used to interoperate with them increasing the opportunities for reuse. Most of the components provide basic storage and search functionalities (MapIt, RepresentBoundaries, PopIt, SayIt, BillIt), some others provide operational capabilities (Cuttlefish, WriteIt).

    Writing a software application that uses different components is an integration activity; you need to access the remote components from your application, read and write data from and into them, or just use the operational functionalities they provide.

    From a coder point of view, accessing a remote service is always done writing the same bits of code: connection, packaging and sending a request, retrieving and parsing a response. Usually these activities are delegated to a dedicated library, a.k.a. client library, specifically developed for the given service in one or more programming languages.

    Few of these client libraries are available as the Poplus components ecosystem is very young. Some services don't provide a library at all. A Python library exists for PopIt, and a Ruby one for BillIt. But so far that's all I know of at the moment.

    Having a consistent, uniform set of client libraries in as many programming languages as possible is a key factor to be adopted by coders. And that's where the simple idea of a Poplus Component Integration toolkit (PCI) came from.

    poplus-pci is a Python package providing client libraries to access all Poplus remote services, using a consistent and uniform interface. So far, only PopIt and MapIt have been integrated, integration of other components is scheduled for the future.

    How did we use it?

    The main task of the PCI component is to integrate the PopIt and MapIt services within the PolitikOS project.

    Once a user inserts an address, a postal code or a location name in the main search box, the geographical coordinates of the most representative point for the location are requested from a geocoding service. Then they're used to make a request to the http://mapit.openpolis.it service for all the geographic areas covering the point. A successive request to http://parlamento.popit.mysociety.org returns the data of all the members of the italian Parliament, for the electoral constituency covering the location point.

    The following snippet of Python code illustrates how the logic described above has been implemented, within PolitikOS.

    from pci import Popit, Mapit
    
    popit = Popit(instance='pops',
        host='popit.openpolis.it',
        user=<USER>,
        password=<PWD>,api_key=<API_KEY>,
        debug=False)
    mapit = Mapit(base_endpoint='http://mapit.openpolis.it/')
    
    mapit_areas = **mapit****.areas**(
        point='{0},{1}'.format(
            location.lon, location.lat
        ),srid='4326'
    ).get().items()
    
    for mapit_id, mapit_data in mapit_areas:
        area_uri = 'http://mapit.openpolis.it/area/' + str(mapit_id)
        area_representatives = **popit****.search.memberships.get**(
            params={
                'q': 'area.identifier:"%s"' % area_uri.replace("/", "\\/")
            }
        )
        if **area_representatives****.****total** > 0:
            kwargs['area_representatives'].append(
                (**area_representatives.result.[0].organization**, 
                 mapit_data, **area_representatives****.result**)
            )
    

    What did we discover about components while developing PCI/PolitikOS?

    Popolo

    In my opinion, the Popolo standard is what really keeps all the components idea together. Software reuse is an important concept both for helping lowering the entry barriers, and from a software-engineer optimization perspective. But standardization is even more important in order to have applications around the globe produce inter-operable, semantically well-defined, and comparable sets of data. Just have a look at http://everypolitician.org/ to see what's going to be possible in the near future.

    Popolo is a standard in the making, that describes the context we operate on as civic hackers, just support it and add your use cases and practices to the dedicated threads in the list!

    Components APIs

    Some of the components APIs have yet to be completed. In general it would be nice to have a widespread adoption of the REST architectural style, in so much as possible.

    Inter-component communication

    Some components use other components internally. SayIt and WriteIt need to import the list of politicians they use from PopIt, and would have problems with dynamic data changing faster than the frequency with which they're upgraded from the source.

    Some sort of communication protocol among components could be inserted into the picture, allowing components or external applications to receive push notifications in reaction to pre-defined events. This would help developers build more sophisticated and effective applications out of the Poplus components building blocks. The webhooks pattern, or one of the alternatives, could provide this possibility by using standard HTTP request/response technology, thus not introducing a technological complexity which would hinder the adoption by coders in this context.

    Guglielmo Celata - Openpolis

  • Part 1: Popit a Key Component for Malaysia's Governance Initiatives

    17 Dec 2014 By Khairil Yusof

    In Malaysia, political parties, politicians and businesses are highly connected, with political parties being involved in businesses, and politicians holding positions in multiple goverment linked companies (GLC). With only one government coalition in power since independence, many politicians elected and unelected continue to hold important positions which affect institutions and the way democracies function. 1 A single well designed public database with open API is needed for Malaysia to build better transparency and governance applications.

    Sinar Project previously tried to solve this with our own custom implementations, but lack of time and resources meant that we fell into trap of rewriting common components for different projects multiple times. Popit was recommended to us by Dave Whiteland of MySociety in 2013. Since then, we have focused our efforts on populating this Popit instance and building applications around it.

    Representatives

    Basic CV information of most parliamentary representatives are not easily available. An effort to do surveys in 2013 as part of MyMP project and crowdsourcing information lead to only partial information of 60 out of 222 MPs. 2 As a result of this, we have learned that to build up CVs of past employment and posts held by our representatives to know them better, we have to piece together this information from various sources. This reinforces the need to work on a single comprehensive database.

    Popit Entry: Datuk Ahmad Husni Hadzlah

    Building career history from multiple sources. The history of the following representative comes from general elections candidate database, website of government statutory body and news archive.

    represenative career

    We have been able to kick start this excercise thanks to generous donation of the database of political candidates of past 3 elections including political parties by Malaysiakini.com an online news portal. The technical process and code for this will be covered in follow up post.

    A fun fact from the import process is that, the Election Commission accepts or publishes different names for the same candidates in different elections. This provides a hint that electoral rolls may not be that clean. 3 For us it means we have to rely a lot on popit merge API call to track down and merge people.

    Some lessons learned during this excercise:

    • In countries like Malaysia where democracratic institutions are weak, populating information on representatives often involves putting together bits and pieces of information from lots of different sources.
    • A user friendly, multi-user UI is needed for crowdsourcing.
    • Updates for each field need to be attributed properly for information integrity. A workaround currently being used is general source field. Source per field is still needed when other applictions use the database and only reference parts of the information. More on this later.
    • Posts are needed in web UI.
    • Honorary titles for names are used officially a lot in Malaysia, and this would need to be implemented in Popit UI.

    Accountability and Beneficial Ownership

    In Malaysia it is rare for anyone to be held accountable for any public issue. Public projects and results of policies often take up to several years before mismanagement or corruption issues are raised and highlighted. It then becomes difficult to trace back who was responsible, especially if positions have been shuffled around or the companies and departments have been closed down. The Auditor General audit reports and press reports rarely note down who was the head of the responsible departments or companies.

    Publicly accessible and reliable information on posts held by people, especially start and end dates backed by verified sources in Malaysia's popit database is key to building applications and visulizations around them.

    In a recent case, 3 deputy ministers on the board of a government public corporation FELCRA accepted honorariums along with current and past 11 other directors. We will have the ability to match this information to learn more about the political history and which constituency these ministers are from, as we build our database and hold them accountable. 4

    This is a long term effort and requires resources, and Sinar Project is now working with coalition of several local NGOs consisting of Transparency International Malaysia, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Citizens Network for Better Malaysia and Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism to share research information and support their work with our Popit database and supporting applications.

    GIAT Coalition

    Political Financing and Clean Elections

    Posts for representatives also has an Area field, which is important for analysis to track down political funding. If the Area field 5 is mapped to another Poplus component such as MapIT or Represent Boundaries it will not only provide basic lookup functionality for finding representatives, but it will allow other NGOs and researchers to see how public funds were spent in the constituencies of various represenatives.

    Continuing work

    Thanks to Poplus mini-grant, we have been able to work on this initial import excercise, as well as develop initial supporting applications. As a result of this work, we have been funded to continue development and build supporting applications for other NGOs to use Popit in Malaysia with a small full time team for the next 6 months thanks to the Southeast Asia Technology and Transparency Initiative (SEATTI) 6.

    Look forward for our next post, where we will cover technical issues, import code using Popit-Python and new generic representatives and issue tracking sites using our newly populated Popit database.

  • Email is your secret weapon

    17 Dec 2014 By Matthew Landauer

    Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend PoplusCon in Santiago, Chile. It was a remarkable experience spending two very intense days working through problems, sharing experience and knowledge, and making connections with incredibly talented civic tech coders and activists from around the world.

    If you were lucky enough to be there as well, I hope we met and I also hope you remember the lightning talk I gave on a tool I had been working on for some time. Hopefully it's something that you'll find useful.

    Lightning talk at Poplus Con

    The tool is called Cuttlefish.

    Cuttlefish

    I have a cool new announcement to make about Cuttlefish.

    That comes a little later. First I want to tell you a little bit about the motivations behind Cuttlefish and of course what it actually does.

    What is transactional email and why should I care?

    Transactional email is email sent from applications in "transactions". This could be for example, the email you get when you sign up for a new service; it could be the email alert that notifies you when a politician has spoken in parliament. In simple terms it's anything that's generated automatically by you doing something in an application.

    Email is your secret weapon. Email is what reminds people your website exists and keeps them engaged. It's what allows useful information to come direct to people.

    As an example at the OpenAustralia Foundation we run a project called PlanningAlerts which is a really simple service that collects up applications from around Australia for people and companies wanting to build or knock down buildings. This is information that's published on local government websites.

    Now, who in their right mind goes and looks at their local government website once a week to see if there are any new planning applications that might be of interest? Maybe you would do it if it was your job but ordinary people are hardly going to do that.

    What instead we do with PlanningAlerts is allow people to sign up for email alerts when there is a new planning application in their area. They don't have to find or navigate their local government website and most importantly they don't have to remember to regularly check.

    When there's something new it arrives in their inbox. At the moment around 50,000 people per week receive an email alert from PlanningAlerts in their inbox.

    If you're anything like us you probably send a lot of email too.

    Here's the problem - Sending email and doing it properly is actually surprisingly really hard and it gets even harder the more email you send.

    Commercial route

    One option is to use one of many commercially available transactional email services, such as Sendgrid, Mandrill or Amazon SES. They are great and incredibly reliable. They make sending email so much easier.

    However, it does come at a financial cost. It can be inexpensive or even free if you're not sending a lot of email. However, as a civic technology organisation you likely send a lot of email and you don't have much money.

    Then, there's the tricky issue of working in civic tech fundamentally depending on a piece of closed-source technology. What if the service disappears or changes? What if I can't afford to keep paying the bills?

    It's a practical limitation as well as an ethical issue.

    Can open-source help?

    The open-source route

    Alternatively you could build the email smarts into your open-source application.

    That is what has tended to happen so far in the open-source world. Every application that sends a lot of email has had to figure out for itself how to do bounce detection, link tracking and all those tricky things.

    For example, Alavateli from mySociety has lots of smarts for figuring whether an email has been delivered (so that government agencies have a hard time claiming that they never received an freedom of information request when it can be shown that it was delivered to their email server).

    CiviCRM can send emails to large lists of people. It has all this built-in smarts for link tracking, figuring out whether people have opened emails and detecting bounced emails. It's not exactly easy to set up though and frankly is crazy buggy.

    FixMyStreet and WriteToThem also by mySociety similarly have their own code for handling bounce detection.

    The goal behind Cuttlefish is to create a platform and language agnostic open-source service for sending email so that every application doesn't have to figure it out for itself.

    Let's solve the hard (and boring) problem once and share the winnings.

    Sounds a bit like a Poplus component doesn't it?

    So here are some of things that Cuttlefish can do for you, your organisation and your civic application:

    • Send email from your application using smtp in the usual way and get all sorts of added benefits for no effort
    • A lovely web UI to browse what's happening
    • Monitor in real time which emails arrive at their destination and which bounce
    • Works with any web framework and language
    • Automatically not send emails to destinations that have hard bounced in the past
    • Track which emails are opened and which links are clicked
    • Statistics on emails sent, soft/hard bounced and held back
    • View the full email content for recently sent emails
    • Multiple applications can each have their own SMTP authentication
    • Built in, super easy to set up, automatic DKIM signing
    • Postfix, which you know and trust, handles email delivery
    • Open source, so no vendor lock in.

    Cuttlefish and Poplus

    Fast forward to October, two months ago, the OpenAustralia Foundation was awarded one of the Poplus mini grants to create a hosted version of Cuttlefish which will be freely available to the Poplus community for all your email sending needs.

    This involves several related parts

    • Allow you and your team to use a hosted Cuttlefish server as if it's your own. You will be able to use a shared server without seeing any of the emails being sent by other teams because we're adding multi-tenanting to the Cuttlefish software.
    • Making Cuttlefish server provisioning completely automatic using Ansible.
    • Providing free access to the Cuttlefish server to the Poplus community for a minimum of 1 year (until at least the end of 2015).

    Also we will be applying shortly for Cuttlefish to become a Poplus component.

    The big announcement

    The work is done and you now have access to a hosted version of Cuttlefish

    • Completely free to members of the Poplus community
    • Send emails from your own domains
    • No restrictions on volume of emails
    • Hosted and maintained by the OpenAustralia Foundation
    • Available at https://cuttlefish.oaf.org.au now.

    How can I get started?

    The plan is to add a simple form to https://cuttlefish.oaf.org.au from which you can apply for access. We haven't quite done that yet.

    In the meantime, if you want access please email us at contact@oaf.org.au and include the following information:

    • Your name
    • Your email address — where you will receive the Cuttlefish invitation
    • Organisation name & website — If you're not part of an official organisation, that's fine too. Simply include something about the people you're working with.
    • Describe the emails you would like to send with Cuttlefish and the applications they come from (e.g. email alerts for our parliamentary monitoring site ...)

    The obvious disclaimer here is don't use Cuttlefish to send anything that could be mistaken as spam. No unsolicited emails. No mass marketing emails. Only things related to civic technology. If you have any doubts or questions just ask.

    If you'd like to look at the code or would like to try installing it on your own server go to https://github.com/mlandauer/cuttlefish.

    Image credit

  • Poplus' First Award

    08 Dec 2014 By Myfanwy Nixon

    Last week, we received the gratifying news that Poplus has been recognised in the Nominet Trust 100.

    The Nominet Trust is the UK’s largest social tech funder, and the NT100 celebrates those who are using digital technology to change the world for the better.

    Here’s our page on the NT100 website - but do have a browse of the other 99 winners: we’re honoured to have been recognised alongside so many worthy people and organisations in the world of digital technology and social innovation.

  • Poplus grant recipients

    09 Oct 2014 By Jen

    We recently held a call for proposals - we had several grants of up to USD $5,000 available to help fund projects which made use of a Poplus Component, or proposed a completely new one. The recipients have been chosen, and I thought I’d share with you the Poplus Governance Committee’s decisions. Here’s what we’ll be funding:

    Project 1:

    Group & Country: Sinar Project, Malaysia
    Proposal: Using PopIt and potentially TrackIt (or another similar accountability Component) monitor politicians in Malaysia and display their details.
    Problem: There is no single public API or reference database for current and past electoral candidates and representatives in Malaysia. Several civil society and media organisations each have their own copy, but they differ in quality, format and completeness.
    Solution: To build a database on PopIt of current and past electoral candidates and representatives, which will then be used as lookup reference for a public corruption database, in partnership with local media and transparency organisations.
    How the funding will be spent:
    1. The creation of a database of people, organisations (political parties/government departments/ministries) and their positions/memberships. At the least this will include all people/parties from the past three elections, so about one to two thousand entries. 2. The publication of accountable Malaysian issues, parsed from public Auditor General reports dating back three to five years.
    Amount awarded: $5,000

    ——————————————————————————-

    Project 2:

    Group & Country: Cargografias, Argentina
    Proposal: A Component for PopIt so that it can visualise relationships.
    Problem: The PopIt interface is great for people who know how to interpret raw data; however that doesn’t make it accessible for people who might not have those skills.
    Solution: Cargografias has been working on relationship visualisation since May 2013. They want to make their visualisation module work with PopIt so that data, once input, is easier to interpret and use for the average citizen.
    They are focusing on visualisation modules using D3.js, and using angular.js as a middleman between d3 and PopIt.They want to make their visualisation modules work directly as an extension of PopIt, to be able to show the people inside the PopIt instance as timelines, gantt charts, bubble maps, etc.
    What they want the money for: It will go towards payment for the developers to write the code to make this happen. They’ll also look at paying for hosting and perhaps running an event to help launch the component in Argentina.
    Amount awarded: $3,000

    ——————————————————————————-

    Project 3:

    Group & Country: Associazione Openpolis, Italy
    Proposal: A python interface for Poplus Components, to ease the development of software solutions based on the composition of more than one Component.
    Problem: When two or more Components are used together to create a larger web application, the integration between Components through API calls may be awkward, and usually the same sort of problems tend to recur every time; e.g. data synchronisation and caching, or the joins between data in different Components.
    Also, a lot of boilerplate code, to programmatically access the data through API calls needs to be written.
    Solution: They will develop a prototype in python, using PopIt, MapIt and SayIt, to reproduce the functionalities of one of their web applications (http://politici.openpolis.it).
    What they want the money for: The payment of a developer for two or more months to analyse and implement the prototype features.
    Amount awarded: $5,000

    ——————————————————————————-

    Project 4:

    Group & Country: Fundación Mexicana de Periodismo de Investigación, Mexico
    Proposal: Adding further categories to the PopIt Component to make it useful for journalists.
    Problem: Information about politicians in Mexico - information on anything from qualifications to news stories - is not all in one place, so it’s not easy to find or search.
    Solution: Fundación MEPI believes that one way of improving information flow in Mexico is to aggregate news in interactive databases which would contain information on specific issues or institutions.
    They have gathered information on the members of the bicameral assembly, including the 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies and the 128 members of the Senate, with a total of five thousand entries, which include schooling, work experience, links to companies, voting record related to companies, connections to the news media, criminal backgrounds, sexual harassment charges, and other elements.
    The database will be set up to not only find information on each individual member of Congress, but to help make comparisons on how the different parties represented in Congress decide on particular issues, all with a simple query. For example, do congressmen from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI, fare worse in ethical issues when compared to those of the Partido de Accion Nacional, or the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica, PRD? Which party has more congressmen with links to businesses and corporations? Which congressmen, from which party, have more conflict of interest issues?
    What they want the money for: Designing a front-end, fact checking the database and adding new categories to PopIt. They’ll also add the candidates for their July 2015 elections in to the database.
    Amount awarded: $3,000

    ——————————————————————————-

    Project 5:

    Group & Country: OpenAustralia Foundation, Australia
    Proposal: Making Cuttlefish.io a Poplus Component.
    Problem: Sending transactional email from applications seems like it’s really easy but it’s not. As soon as you start taking into account email bounce handling, SPF, DKIM, blacklist handing and numerous other things it becomes quickly very complicated. Also looking at what email is being sent and debugging problems often becomes a case of delving through incomprehensible log files on your server. Ick.
    Solution: Cuttlefish aims to make sending email from applications fun again by handling things like bounce detection automatically. It gives you a beautiful user interface which allows you to see how many emails you’re sending and which applications are sending them in real time. Also, Cuttlefish has built in email open detection, and link tracking so you can truly understand how people are interacting with your emails.
    What they want the money for: Creating a multi-tenanting feature for Cuttlefish.io to allow multiple users to access the admin area on a hosted service without seeing each other’s emails. Paying for hosting for 1 year so Poplus users can have the service for free. Getting Cuttlefish.io approved as a Poplus Component and getting 5+ users within 6 months.
    Amount awarded: $4,027

    There you have it. It was a pretty hard decision, as we had some other good proposals. But these ones stood out as giving the greatest benefit to the community as a whole and having the greatest potential for reuse.

  • Funding Available

    11 Aug 2014 By Myf

    Do you have an idea for a new Poplus Component? Or would you like to add features to an existing one?

    We're currently inviting groups and individuals to apply for grants. You may apply for up to USD $5,000 to help you with development work on creating or improving a Poplus Component.

    • Priority will be given to proposals for the development of new Poplus Components, or new features for existing Components.
    • We will also consider grants for those planning to implement existing Poplus Components into wider projects.

    How to apply

    Please complete this form before 10th September 2014.

    We hope to inform successful applicants by 17th September. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

    Help us fund more projects

    This funding will be the final expenditure from the original Poplus start-up grant.

    If you represent a funding organisation, and might be interested in helping support the growth of Poplus through funding micro-grants, please do let us know!

    Poplus Components represent great 'bang for your buck', since they are re-usable across the entire eDemocracy worldwide community.

  • Nouabook

    11 Jul 2014 By Jen

    When you want one of your friends to answer a question, the chances are that you hop onto Facebook and leave them a message. What if you could do exactly the same with your MP?

    June 23rd saw the soft launch of an innovative new tool that uses a Poplus Component as an integral part. It’s called Nouabook.ma and allows constituents in Morocco to contact their elected representatives, either through the website or while logged in to Facebook.

    Nouabook is built on top of the WriteIt Poplus Component developed by Ciudadano Inteligente and connects into Facebook, one of the most used websites in Morocco. The group behind the site are SimSim-Participation Citoyenne and developer Tarik Nesh-Nash.

    This is an exciting time for the whole Poplus network. The community has been going from strength to strength since the conference in April, and this tool, the first built by an external group using a Poplus Component, is a real sign that it is beginning to spread its wings.

    And of course, because all Poplus Components are open-source, Nouabook is available for any other group to use! An exciting prospect as social media is such an important tool for communication in today’s society.

    How did this project come about?

    To decide the right approach, SimSim and Tarik conducted surveys of citizens throughout Morocco to find out how many had ever contacted their representatives. The results showed that of 80 respondents, 81% had never written to their representative. Yet 73% said that if it was easier to get in touch, they would be more likely to contact their representative, on issues ranging from public transport to security at Moroccan universities.[1]

    Couple this thirst for communication with the fact that Facebook is one of the most popular websites in Morocco [2], and the idea for Nouabook.ma was born.

    Nouabook (meaning “Your Deputies” in Moroccan Arabic, but also a reference to the well known Facebook) allows users to find their representative, read a profile on them including their roles and responsibilities, and see their activity in Parliament. Most crucially, it also allows users to publicly put questions directly to their representatives, who can respond equally publicly on the site. A user can submit a question either by filling in a short form, or uploading a short video. Other users can vote on their questions, meaning the representative can quickly see which questions are most important for their constituents and prioritise their answers. For those who have authorised it, the question is posted automatically to their Facebook page. By enabling users to easily share questions and responses on their own timeline, this helps to spread information beyond the boundaries of the original Nouabook.ma site.

    The site is currently in Beta and a small group of very engaged hand-picked representatives have signed up for the site. Of these, there are 4 or 5 who are already getting very involved answering questions, which is a huge success for the site. Once the pilot phase is over, the hope is to extend the platform to cover the whole Moroccan Parliament, so keep your eyes peeled for news come the next Parliamentary session in October.

    So far the site is only in French, but if you read French and want to give some feedback there’s a short form here which will help the team with their next stage of development. The site will soon be in Arabic as well.

    Follow Nouabook on Twitter and Facebook for further updates!

  • Minutes from the third Communications committee meeting

    20 Jun 2014 By Myf Nixon

    Here are the minutes from the Communications subcommittee meeting on 20th June 2014.

    Poplus subcommittees are free for anyone to join in. They are held on alternate Fridays at a time which aims to suit people within many timezones - keep an eye on the Google Group to find out when the next one is.

    These minutes were also posted on the Google Group here - visit that link to see comments and discussion.

    --

    1. Targets and strategy

    The meeting began with a discussion over what the Communications Group's targets should be, and how we might measure them.

    At the moment, measurement seems the most important: once we know the baseline, it'll be easier to set some targets.

    These were the metrics we came up with; we also wanted to ask members of this group what they would consider to be good indicators of an active development community - please do comment with your thoughts (there was some talk of pull request numbers, tickets on Github, etc):

    • The number of (active?) members of this Google Group / the number of posts each month.

    At the moment, this is where the most activity is happening. If you are involved with Poplus, whether as a coder, as an interested potential user, or in any other capacity, you post on the Google Group.

    • The number of times Poplus is mentioned in a blog post or news story.

    We can do active outreach here. Action: Myf is going to provide a generic overview of Poplus which we'll make available in the resources pack.

    Volunteers from each country can then feel free to take this text, translate it/adapt it as they see fit, and share it with the most fitting mailing lists, media and blogs in their own countries.

    • The number of visits to the Poplus website

    There was a question over whether Google Analytics was installed.

    Action: Lucha to find out what the status is and to get access given to everyone on the Comms committee.

    • The number of enquiries from groups about using Components

    Steve suggested that we have a spreadsheet which is updated every two weeks or month with top-level metrics on user numbers, Google Group members/posts, enquiries, etc, and he shared Susan Mernit on tracking what matters.

    Action: Set up Google Alerts to track blog and news mentions (anyone can do this and the alerts are connected to your Google account); set up spreadsheet for top-level analytics (Myf can do this); update it at regular intervals (Myf will do this unless someone else wants to take it on).

    Suggestion: Set up a web comment /enquiry form on the website, which includes the question 'how did you hear about us?'.

    2. Addressing the non-techy audience

    Lucha mentioned that the website does a good job of talking to coders and developers but may not be so accessible for the kinds of groups who would benefit from using Components, while not having tech skills themselves.

    Again, we think we can do some proactive outreach to blogs and organisations - for example in the UK, there are organisations which have many charities as their members, or exist to help charities. They would be a good place to disseminate the message efficiently.

    We need to be careful with our message: we cannot promise that we will build organisations whatever code they need, but we can be frank about the fact that Poplus is at its beginning and has many coders who are willing to listen to ideas and needs.

    Action: Myf has a piece she wrote for an organisation in the UK; she will adapt it a little and share it.

    Whenever it is published, people should share the links so we can record that.

    Action: Gemma is going to create a spreadsheet with the different types of target audience on it, plus columns for the kinds of events they will be at and the kind of blogs/mailing lists they read. Everyone will be able to add the information for their own country.

    Stephen has already been doing a lot of active outreach on mailing lists (thank you Stephen).

    3. Actions from the last meeting

    a) Changes to the Poplus website (adding examples of Components in situ; adding links to Committee minutes, etc) - all done, but waiting for a merge before it goes live.

    b) Adding PoplusCon video - Lucha is seeing to this.

    c) Adding images to the website - on hold until the new sub-pages are up and we can see exactly what would benefit from images.

    d) Infographics for the site - Stephen says that if anyone can do a sketch on a napkin that easily explains the benefits of Components, then it will be easier to go ahead and make this happen. See thread here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/poplus/_MABEADr8pE

    Jen: a visualisation of Tom's talk about farming (from the conference) would be good; also of benefit would be a drawing to explain exactly what an API is.

    Gemma: The site might also benefit from some ultra-clear FAQs.

    Lucha: we should ask the non-tecchy people on the Google Group what their first understanding of Poplus was and how we could explain it better. Actions: Lucha is going to do this in a separate thread. Gemma is also going to ask organisations who have used Components about their experiences. She'll start keeping notes on a shared document which can eventually become a blog post.

    e) Sharing blog posts with other networks: there's nothing on the blog that is ultra-suitable for sharing yet, but we'll keep our eyes open for future posts that could be cross-posted on eg OpeningParliament or Sunlight International.

    f) Blog subscription options - James is waiting for a pull request to be merged: "which will add a “subscribe by email” form to the top of the Poplus blog (designers can choose to place it elsewhere of course): https://github.com/ciudadanointeligente/home-poplus/pull/52 If anyone would like to get control of the FeedBurner feed, I can transfer it. If people want to edit the confirmation emails, etc. they can do so once they have control of the feed."

    g) We need clear instructions over how to add your blog to Planet Poplus, plus the Planet Poplus feed (or a link to it) needs to be on the Poplus website, plus the email subscription needs to be to Planet Poplus rather than our own blog (James has volunteered to take this action point; however it needs some extra thought about whether it's confusing to have two different blog subscription options (the main blog and the Poplus Planet one) - possibly this could be handled with good design, with the main blog having a banner to say 'Part of the Poplus Planet network' and linking off-site.

    This action is open if anyone (maybe a designer) would like to spend some time thinking about it.

    h) Map showing where Poplus members are:

    We have nationalities of everyone who was at the conference, can we import them to a map for starters and then allow new members to add themselves? Actions: Myf to look out the nationalities; Lucha to go on researching Map options.

    4. Any other business

    a) Suggestion that all committees write-ups should be on the Poplus blog.

    At the moment access to the blog isn't as simple as it might be, but we're broadly in favour of this - it'd help make the blog look more active, and give an instant glimpse as to what's current.

    On the other hand it's potentially more work for each committee (although they are already writing minutes up so it could just be a C+P job)... Your thoughts are also welcome.

    b) Use of word 'Activists' on homepage might be narrowing prospects/gov collaboration. Action: Myf to consider alternative wording and change it if she can do so/request if she can't.

    c) We need to make it easier to effect quick, small changes on the Poplus website. Ideally for non-tecchy people as well as those who can use Github. Action - for now, Myf to request admin access for some mySociety people. Later - would be great if the whole site was accessible via an interface like Wordpress.Is it worth requesting this or are there impediments?

    d) Translation - we agreed that the content is still too much in flux to initiate the translation process.

    e) Consider Adding Poplus Google Group - Headlines from RSS or ATOM feed to Get Involved page? <- Action - Myf to ticket this request

    NEXT MEETING: 4th July, agenda TBC on same document https://docs.google.com/a/mysociety.org/document/d/1Bnq2xXRw5UMY376-zv626_7sPZRyWFzaKryNp723HUs/edit#

  • Minutes from the second Communications committee meeting

    06 Jun 2014 By Myf Nixon

    Here are the minutes from the Communications subcommittee meeting on 6th June 2014.

    Poplus subcommittees are free for anyone to join in - keep an eye on the Google Group to find out when the next one is.

    These minutes were also posted on the Google Group here - visit that link to see comments and discussion.

    --

    Perhaps the most important point was a discussion around what we hope to achieve - whether this committee should have targets (eg number of active members, geographic spread) - and what our strategy is to make this happen.

    We would welcome discussion on those points in this thread and will be returning to our next meeting with some ideas.

    1. Actions from last meeting

    a) Myf to change the PoplusCon menu header and page title to 'Poplus Conference' because it's not immediately obvious to a newcomer what it means.

    b) Lucha to ask the FCI lab to get the existing Poplus Conference video at the top of the page.

    c) Myf to add images to any pages where the text would benefit from being broken up a bit. She'll source the images from the Poplus Flickr pool. Steve and Lucha are going to think about where and what sort of infographics might help.

    d) Myf, Jen and Lucha to gather examples of where Components have been deployed, and to find a place to link to them as examples for visitors who want to understand more graphically how they can be used. Steve suggested setting up a Hackpad where people could add new deployments as they happen and we could pick them up from there.

    e) While noting the discussion about Planet, we think it needs to be easier for non-techie people to add blog posts.Lucha to investigate what's possible.

    f) All Communications Committee people are primed (!) to spot when someone says something interesting and to ask them to blog it.

    g) Lucha to get email for press set up.

    2. Video

    FCI have access to an advertising company who give their services largely for free. Lucha will organise an informative outreach video, and in order to do so we need to decide what is the single most important proposition for Poplus.

    You can read further discussion about this on the agenda document but our conclusion for now is "people collaborating across boundaries to prevent reinvention of the wheel for civic and democratic organisations". Note that this was just within the meeting and further thought will be given to this!

    3. How to share experiences and stories

    It was agreed that the best platform for this is the blog, where others can then comment and ask questions, etc. Lucha mentioned that videos are an accessible way for people to chat through their experiences.

    It would be good if a feedback cycle was included in the Components authorisation system - so that at launch, and maybe or 12 months later, the Comms team could approach deployers and developers for a case study.

    4. Connecting with other online groups.

    Steve suggested tracking Google Group sign-ups (action for Myf) and talked about a welcoming experience, eg every few weeks asking new people to introduce themselves and making sure we regularly re-post the basics so that we don't assume newcomers will just know how things work.

    Lucha would like to see a map which visualised where our members are in the world. Possibly there's an off-the-shelf solution for this, and she can ask FCI's devs.

    Steve mentioned that it would be nice to have a named contact in each country so that newcomers had someone to communicate with in the first instance.

    Actions: Myf to gather information about where everyone comes from, Lucha to explore the map idea. Steve to oversee the idea of in-country contacts?

    5. Finance

    We don't have any major costs upcoming but some may emerge when we have a clearer strategy. Lucha mentioned that $400 or so might improve the video. Steve said that he could spend more time on outreach if we were able to subsidise it.

    6. Other business

    The get involved page should include links to everywhere we are active, including IRC, Trello etc, and look at embedding a button so people can join the Google Group with a click.

    The committees should be in the order of which are most compelling, and there should be links to their hackpads. Action: Myf to oversee this.

    There should be RSS and subscribe by email options on the blog - James has added an RSS link already! And covered the other points, see https://github.com/ciudadanointeligente/home-poplus/pull/49.

    Next meeting: Friday 20th June: Myf will send out calendar invitations to anyone who has previously participated, but shout if you'd like one. She'll also publish the Hangout link and an agenda nearer the time.

  • Minutes from the first Communications committee meeting

    23 May 2014 By Myf Nixon

    Here are the minutes from the Communications subcommittee meeting on 23rd May 2014.

    Poplus subcommittees are free for anyone to join in - keep an eye on the Google Group to find out when the next one is.

    These minutes were also posted on the Google Group here - visit that link to see comments and discussion.

    Attendees: Ernesto Gimeno, Jen Bramley, Gemma Humphreys, Khairil Yousof, Myf Nixon, Lucha Sotomayor, Zarino Zappia

    New website

    We agreed that it's good to go live. Zarino needs to set up some page redirects so he'll be in touch with Felipe Alvarez.

    Some changes/additions we'd like to see in the next iteration of the site:

    *The FCI video (ACTION - Lucha to ticket the request on Github, including a suggestion for where it should go on the site) *More images (ACTION - Myf to ticket the addition of some image elements to the site's interior pages) *A clearer description of what happened at the Poplus conference with perhaps a round-up of the posts from around the world (that are seen in a Google Groups thread) Action: Myf to write this copy. *Links to sites where Components have been deployed. This is for the non-developer groups who might want to use Components but can't see at a glance what they are for or how they work. (ACTION - Jen to decide which current sites are the best examples and to make a ticket requesting a page where we include screenshots and links - Myf can help write the copy if required)

    We decided that

    *The Github pull request system currently means that anyone can suggest changes, but that someone can still have an overall say for the tone and voice of the website, which is good, but:

    • the interface is highly tecchy and will dissuade anyone non-technical from contributing.

    • As things stand it's currently ok. We might want to look at a more accessible platform, like Wordpress, or http://prose.io/, in the future.

    • At the moment we'd like it if people pointed us towards their own blog posts (in any language) about Poplus activities, or sent us text, so we can paste it into the Poplus blog.(ACTION - Myf to start a Google Groups thread asking people to do this, also see below re tweets)

    • Everyone within the Comms sub-committee should have different tasks; one of them can be reminding people to write up their activities (Volunteer wanted to be this person)

    • The facilitator of each sub-committee should also be responsible for making sure summaries of their activity appear on the blog at regular intervals. (ACTION - as above - Myf can put into same thread as the blogs one)

    • We need to set up an email address for press enquiries - eg pr...@poplus.org. (ACTION- Lucha to make a ticket requesting this)

    • We should incorporate the events calendar that the Events committee discussed yesterday. (ACTION Gemma to see what needs to be done, and ticket it)

    • We should add a link to the promotional materials, as discussed in Events yesterday (ACTION - Lucha to decide where the link should go and add, or ask someone to add it).

    Outreach

    Jen said that the current strategy is to look at the attendee lists for the events we know we're attending, and contact people by email beforehand.

    We'd encourage others to do the same with events worldwide, but only if they are comfortable doing so. The materials download pack should help.

    This strategy is good so far, but may leave out the groups who do not attend such events.

    To reach less tecchy groups, we need to show results: how Components are useful and how they’ve been deployed.

    Maybe a video? Lucha will speak to an advertisement company who are friendly with FCI in order to see if they have any good ideas. (OGP did this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq_ZWl1ZXA0)

    Translation

    We’re not truly global if we don’t translate.

    Key sections of the website should be translated into key languages.

    • Spanish (FCI)

    • Chinese (Mandarin)

    First ask if there are any volunteers for translation, and then see if we need to pay anyone. (ACTION - Myf to ask on Google Groups; Khairil to ask Sinar and G0v.tw about Mandarin. Isabel has volunteered Portuguese)

    Community

    The Poplus Twitter account could be wider-ranging.

    We suggested changing curator for the Twitter account, passing a new password along to whoever is hosting an event.

    What do we tweet about?

    • Development

    • What organizations are doing

    In between times, everyone should tweet from their own accounts and include @poplus, and we'll retweet. (ACTION: Myf add to the same Google Groups thread as the one about blog posts).

    Communications committee meetings

    Will be every fortnight. We'll monitor to see whether this is too frequent or not enough, and change acordingly as time passes.

    Next meeting 6th June, all welcome. (ACTION - Myf to calendarise)

    Keep a rolling agenda on this same document. (ACTION - All: Everyone is welcome to contribute points for discussion)

  • The first Poplus Committee Meeting

    16 May 2014 By Catalina Margozzini

    We put out a call that anyone who was interested in helping to run Poplus as a federation was welcome to join our first committee meeting. That happened today, online.

    Over 20 people in multiple timezones attended the meeting via IRC. It was a surprisingly good platform for ensuring that everyone had their say!

    Poplus is a very new federation, and its committee is still open to anyone. If you want to be part of the decision-making, there is still time to get involved. Join the Google Group and make yourself known.

    In today's meeting, we formed several sub-groups. We now have small committees who will be actively working on:

    Events

    This group will be working together to run Poplus meet-ups, conferences and talks, and also to make sure that we are represented at existing events.

    They've already earmarked several events that Poplus members will be present at, including Transparency Camp in Washington DC, LeggComm in Montreal, the Personal Democracy Forum in New York and OK Fest in Berlin. Say hello if you're going to be at any of these and would like to make contact.

    Components

    The Components group will offer support in the creation and use of Poplus Components, and will also work towards the creation of a certification standard.

    Their duties will include overseeing / helping with scoping and technical documentation of Poplus Components, as well as giving technical support to anyone who needs it.

    Communications

    The Communications group will be setting a strategy for outreach to potential members and member organisations. They'll also oversee our online offerings.

    Since this group's duties will embrace both outreach and accessibility, their first suggested areas of work are to consider leading a translation initiative, and to discuss a means to ensure that women are well represented among Poplus' members.

    Finance

    Every organisation has its financial concerns, and Poplus is no different. The Finance group will be looking at issues such as obtaining funding grants, which jurisdiction we should be registered in, and which roles are required within the organisation by law, once we receive any moneys.

    Governance

    Importantly, this is not the committee that oversees all other committees; rather, it is a group which will come up with suggestions for how Poplus should be run as we go forward, and which will put these suggestions in front of the wider group for agreement.

  • Poplus: join our first ever committee meeting

    13 May 2014 By Catalina Margozzini

    The first Poplus committee meeting will take place, via Skype, on Thursday 15th May at midday UTC (see what time that is where you are). Everyone is welcome to join us as we discuss how to drive Poplus forward for the next twelve months. If you'd like to join in, please add your name and contact details to this spreadsheet, and stand by to join the call on Thursday.

    Don't worry if you can't make it; we'll be reporting back on the decisions that are made.

  • And we met in Santiago!

    13 May 2014 By Catalina Margozzini

    PoplusCon was a success. People from 27 different countries met in Santiago, Chile, for two days, in which they discussed the future of poplus, and the need for technology to serve civic coding. The great thing is, that this was only the beginning... as you can see in this video:

  • Things you need to know about Santiago before PoplusCon

    16 Apr 2014 By Catalina Margozzini

    Here’s some important information about Santiago you should read before coming to PoplusCon!

    Santiago: Getting around.

    During the days of the conference we will probably be moving around in groups. Nevertheless, it’s useful to know how to get around Santiago.

    Buses

    In order to get around in buses - or micros - you will need a Tarjeta Bip (this card is the only accepted payment method and is the same for metro), which you can buy and charge at any Metro Station. In www.transantiago.cl you can find all buses routs in Santiago.

    Metro (subway)

    Santiago has a slick, clean and efficient metro system that is always being expanded so more citizens can reap the benefits. Many already do - nearly a million passengers travel daily. Santiago's metro system has a few separate lines that interlink. For destinations along these lines, it's far quicker to take the metro than a bus. The metro operates 6:30am to 10:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 8am to 10:30pm Sundays and holidays. The trains are clean and frequent, but can get busy in rush hour. If you're in Santiago for more than a few days, get a Multivía card (Tarjeta Bip). It costs US$1.70, but you can charge it up as much or little as you want, and each journey costs slightly less than if you buy them individually. Fares vary depending on the time of day. The normal rate (US$0.55) is available 6:30am to 7:15am, 9am to 6pm and 7:30pm to 10:30pm; the peak-hour rate (US$0.70) applies 7:15am to 9am and 6pm to 7:30pm. Metro map here

    Connecting Metro and bus rides

    While travelling by bus or metro you are able to connect up to 3 times within a 2-hours period with no extra cost. For instance, you might need to take 1 metro ride and 2 bus rides in order to get some places, you'll have to check your TarjetaBip 3 times but it will be charged just once (the first time).

    Taxi

    Santiago has abundant metered taxis, all black with yellow roofs. It costs about US$0.35 to start the meter, and about US$0.17 per 200m. Most Santiago taxi drivers are honest, courteous and helpful, but a few will take roundabout routes. A handful have 'funny' meters. Always carry cash when travelling in taxi.

    Bicycle

    Rampaging micros mean that Santiago's streets are not that safe for bikes, but recent cycle lanes have improved the situation. There are also a lot of public paths that can be used, as well as quieter roads, so don't be put off. Santiago is certainly compact enough to get around by bike and the climate is ideal for it - even if the smog isn't.

    Health

    Here’s a list of medical services: Clínica Santa María - This medical center is closest to the conference venue. and very close to the hotel. (http://www.clinicasantamaria.cl/ Tel 56220190000, Av. Santa María 0500)

    Clínica Alemana (562 22101111, www.alemana.cl; Vitacura 5961, Vitacura)

    Clínica Universidad Católica (562 23696000; www.clinicauc.cl in Spanish; Lira 40, Centro; Universidad Católica)

    Posta Central (562 26341650; Av Portugal 125, Centro; 24hr; Universidad Católica) Santiago's main emergency room is here.

    Money

    You're never far from an ATM in Santiago: in any bank or subway station. Exchange houses are clustered on Agustinas between Bandera and Ahumada. Cambios Afex (56226881143; Agustinas 1050, Centro; Universidad de Chile) is efficient. There is also a whole bunch of cambios (money exchangers) on Av Pedro de Valdivia in Providencia, although some will not change traveler's checks apart from US dollars.

    1USD = $550 chilean pesos aprox. £1 = $920 chilean pesos aprox.

    Safety

    Santiago is quite a safe city, but just like in any large city in the world, you should look after your belongings (i.e. don’t count your cash in public, don’t leave your cel phone or laptop unattended).

    Contact & emergency Numbers

    Here’s a few contact numbers from Ciudadano Inteligente staff in Chile:

    Felipe Heusser +56995779645 María Luisa Sotomayor +56992379372

    Ciudadano Inteligente office: +56224192770

    Police

    The police are called “Carabineros”. They are dressed in green. Police Emergency number: 133

    Important to know. What to do in case of an earthquake

    Don’t panic. Chile is a seismic country, but there’s nothing to worry about. Earth movements are very common on a daily bases, but all buildings have to be constructed according to very strict international seismic regulations, so movements are barely felt by people. Nevertheless, if there’s any strong earth movement during your stay, you should: 1) Keep calm and stay where you are. 2) Move away from falling objects. 3) Move away from large glass windows. 4) Open the door if you’re inside a room. 5) Stay inside.

    You should not: 1) Panic 2) Go down the stairs 3) Run 4) Go outside during the earth movement.

    Weather & what to pack

    Weather is quite nice this time of year in Chile. Mid autumn means having a high pick of 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit), though mornings can be a bit chilly (around 7 Celsius, or 44 Fahrenheit),as can nights, so you should pack warm clothes as well. There’s also a saying in Chile: “Abril, lluvias mil”, which means in April we can get very rainy days, so don’t forget your umbrella.

    It’s important to note that we will be doing some walking around, so you should definitely pack comfortable shoes for the conference.

    No special clothing will be necessary.

    Food, special allergies

    Dietary requirements will be considered in all meals during the conference. Nevertheless it’s important to note that not all restaurants in Santiago accommodate all dietary requirements, so if you go out, do ask in advance at the restaurant.

    Customs

    Chile is a very strict country regarding anything entering or leaving the country. At the airport, right next to customs you’ll find the country’s agricultural and livestock service, and it’s very important that you declare any goods with animal or vegetable origin. In this form you’ll find more information. If goods are found and have not been declared, fines can be very high.

  • POPCONF, Save the date

    26 Feb 2014 By Pedro Daire

    Hi everybody! We have some good news. We are very excited to announce that we have reach certain level of maturity as a project and community, hence, a warm feeling, a warm need arose: We need to meet. This is very incipient yet but we want to be sure that you're aware about the date and the place. We will meet in Santiago de Chile on April 29 and 30. Further details will be publish here soon. If you have any comment please speak up through our group.

    This the webflyer that you can freely disseminate:

    popconf save the date webflyer

  • SayIt Launch

    15 Jan 2014 By Jen Bramley

    SayIt launches today - you can check it out here. The latest Poplus component, SayIt was built by mySociety.

    SayIt is a new way to publish transcripts online - transcripts such as parliamentary debates, court trials, speeches, or even playscripts. It can be embedded into your website, or used as a standalone instance.

    You might be used to publishing, or reading, transcripts as PDFs or Microsoft Word documents. Now SayIt brings transcripts into the internet age. Search them for any keyword, link to individual speeches, browse by speaker or date - they'll even look good on mobiles.

    To show you SayIt's full capabilities, we've published a few examples:

    Perhaps you can see some exciting uses for SayIt? It will work in any language, so long as the transcripts are formatted to the Akoma Ntoso standard. Whether or not you have the technical skills to convert your data to this format, please get in touch with mySociety and we'll help you get your transcripts online.

    Want to know more? Have a look through mySociety's launch blog post.

  • Components updates

    08 Jan 2014 By Jen Bramley

    It's been a while since our last chat so we've had a lot to update on.

    The biggest news for mySociety is that we're due to launch SayIt next week. Keep your eyes peeled for emails, tweets and other information surrounding the launch!

    There's been quite a bit of work done on PopIt and we're hoping to make a start on some pagination soon. We have a group from Malaysia, the Sinar Project, who will be using PopIt there soon we hope!

    Ciudadano Inteligente have also made a start on their parliamentary monitoring site which is currently running BillIt(our first use case!) and will also be running WriteIt.

    In other news the FCI dev team have been discussing a VotaInteligente site for Morocco and some potential WriteIt uses there as well.

    Don't forget that you can leave comments here or on the Poplus mailing list for us.

  • Poplus and Pombola

    04 Dec 2013 By Jen

    Today we had a hangout with the mySociety and Ciudadano Inteligente developers to discuss the next development steps for PopIt.

    PopIt now has a hidden fields option, to stop personal data being shared, and we're working on a resolver next.

    Ciudadano Inteligente are going to be using the Pombola code for their next project so we discussed what the code can, and can't, do. mySociety are working on an info site for this soon!

    And finally we've agreed to use prose.io to edit the Poplus site!

  • 2013-11-26 Poplus Meeting

    28 Aug 2013 By Marcel Augsburger

    We've been having skype meetings for a while now, getting together every 2 weeks to talk about how the different Poplus projects are going and what our next steps are going to be. So we're using these posts to keep everyone up to date.

    Please feel free to comment, ask, and participate!

    What we talked about this week:

    • Jen (from Mysociety, UK) is coming to Chile (where Ciudadano Inteligente is based) on April! Yay! So we could have a Poplus event around that date.
    • Pop-it is going to have per-instance private fields, and will use API keys. Check out the github issue here.
    • Ciudadano Inteligente is working on a PMO site, so they (we) are going to check out Pombola to see if it could be reused and extended.
    • More work on write-it, focusing on the needs of the new chilean PMO site, poke-it (new project), and pombola.
    • Jen has new changes for the poplus site! So we (FCI) need to take a look at that. We might try prose.io as a tool for edition.
    • We have now tried the tool and think that is it awesome
  • Hello World! (not a sample post)

    28 Aug 2013 By Pedro Daire

    This is a very humble post, actually it's almost done. The only reason to write this post is to tell the obvious, this site is up.

    Poplus.org was built to be the hub for all who might be interested in Poplus project (to become a member, to use the technology, to ask for support, to point out a problem, to suggest a new feature or aliance). mySociety and Ciudadano Inteligente have been working for the last months in a set of components to support web application with civic purposes. Currently the list is short but it's enough to build a lot of websites, that's why we feel ready to say: "Hello World! Poplus project is ready to be use and grow".

    In Poplus.org you'll find:

    • A description of Poplus project (what, why, who, etc)
    • Catalogue of components and their description.
    • Catalogue of deploys (using at least one poplus component) around the world.
    • Links to the workspace where poplus components are being developed (repositiries, mailing list, board of features and ideas).
    • A form to apply as volunteer.
    • A list of volunteers.
    • This blog (anything related with poplus project we want to talk about).

    We would like you to join the community in the level of your confort; there is no one way to be involved in poplus project, just find your way.

    Techie P.S.: the website was built using Jekyll and is hosted by GitHub. We totally love this new way of website creation.