The Political Web

I made a thing.

On Sunday I mentioned how OpenTech always makes me feel a bit embarrassed that I’m not doing more useful stuff – particularly in the kinds of areas that OpenTech speakers care about.

Usually, real life takes over before I get a chance to do anything about it and I forget about my embarrassment until the next OpenTech. This year, I managed to harness my embarrassment and actually do something productive.

It’s not like I built anything from scratch. This is is really just me finally shipping something that I’ve been working on (off and on – more off than on) for almost five years. I built the first prototype at a hack day in 2008. I even wrote about it at the time.

The Political Web is a site that is intended to be a one-stop-shop for finding out information about British MPs. Currently each MP has a page which lists a number of standard web pages that contain information about the MP (Wikipedia, The Guardian, TheyWorkForYou – things like that). Of course each MP also has a number of non-standard pages on the internet (an official web site, a blog, perhaps a Twitter account) and adding those is going to be a harder job.

Previously two things have stopped me launching this. One was the fact that I wanted to support those all of those other sources of information. But I’ve decided to go for a “minimum viable product” approach and show you what I’ve already got. The other thing that prevented me talking about it much was that I thought I’d need someone to make it look nice (my web design skills are horrible). But the arrival of Bootstrap means that even a design ignoramus like me can build a site that looks more than half-decent.

So there you go. It’s there for you to play with. And there will (hopefully) be more coming soon. Please let me know if you find it useful.

And thanks to all the giants whose shoulders I’m standing on. The site wouldn’t exist without the TheyWorkForYou API, the Perl Dancer framework and Twitter Bootstrap.


The Political Web

Long-time readers might remember The Political Web, a web site that I threw together at a BBC hack day a couple of years ago.

The site has languished as I haven’t had time to do anything with it for well over a year, but last night I refreshed the database that powers it so that it now contains details of all of the new constituencies and MPs.
I have other plans too (just no real idea when I’ll have time to implement them).

What I Did At Mashed 08

I was at Mashed 08 at Alexandra Palace yesterday. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go back today, but I’ve made some progress on my project from home.

It was a successful day all in all though. Here’s what I did.

  • Watched Jonathan Tweed talk about the BBC /programmes api. If I hadn’t already had an idea of what I was going to do I would have been very tempted to play with this. A year ago, I was working for the BBC on one of the projects that underlies /programmes, so it’s great to see it being given a public airing.
  • Watched the Guardian’s Damian Carrington talk about what the Guardian’s enviroment web team are hoping to inspire people into doing. Well, to be honest, I sat in his talk whilst getting my wireless connection working. Sorry Damian.
  • Met up with a fellow Perl hacker. Last year the venue was full of Perl hackers. Shame there were so few there this year. I suspect many of the cooler kids were at Interesting instead – note to organisers: having two events like this on the same day is all a bit silly.
  • Had an interesting conversation with someone from the BBC who is working on the next version of the Radio iPlayer. It sounds as though following the release of this new version, my BBC streams page will be redundant. Alternatively, it might be easy to make it far more useful. And I’ll be able to retire all the grungy old HTML scraping code.
  • Had an interesting conversation with the O’Reilly UK people. Might be some announcements coming out of that in a couple of months. Oh, and I might have opened myself up to lots of hassle about writing another book.
  • Watched Doctor Who on a huge screen. In the wrong aspect ratio. Honestly, you’d thing that if there was one organisation who understood aspect ratios then it would be the BBC.

And despite socking up most of the day doing all of those things, I also managed to get stuff done on my own project and the first draft of Political Web is now online. It doesn’t do most of the things that I want it to do yet, but it’s a good start. Have a play and let me know how it goes.

Update: I should, of course, reiterate that what I’ve done so far on Political Web is largely just to repackage stuff that’s available from from They Work For You. I have plans to add other stuff soon(ish).

Update: Having just got to a Windows PC for the first time for days and tried using Political Web in IE6, I see that it doesn’t work for some reason. Probably some Javascript glitch. I’ll try to look at it in more detail later on. But in the meantime, use Firefox – you know it makes sense.