I was alerted by @iancapstick last Friday that voting records for Canada’s MPs are now available on the Parliamentary Website. Here’s the G&M story about it that he tweeted. Nice that this has been made available.
Yesterday, I decided to check it out for myself, so I hopped on over to www.parl.gc.ca – Front and centre on the main page there’s a box for me to enter my postal code to find my MP – so that’s what I did found myself on the page for my local MP. But no voting record.
Confused, I turned back to the G&M story and read it again:
To view an MP’s record, head to the website and click on the ‘Senators and Members’ link to find your member of the House of Commons. Your MP’s site will list whether they voted yea, nea, or didn’t vote at all on any given bill.
Ahh, I was looking in the wrong place. Following this procedure, I was able to get to the right page showing my MP’s voting history.
But the question remains – why on earth are there separate listings like that? What’s the point? Resulted for me in a very disruptive experience.
Static profile page for my local MP
Page showing my local MP’s voting history
And then there’s the whole issue of the data itself – it is available via XML, but no API or similar method. I tweeted this on Friday also, and @gordonbonnar responded with: “Most of our parl related stuff is not that accessible programattically unfortunately. I wish we had a CA equiv to opencongress.” Indeed.
Actually, this reaction from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing puts it all into perspective:
It’s about time, but what a lame execution… It’s time for some civic-minded Canadian hackers to slurp out all that data and reformat in a way that gives you real insight into what your elected representative is up to and how she compares to all the other politicos on the Hill.
Update: Here’s a couple of sites that scrape data on Parliamentary votes and represent it in interesting ways: How’d They Vote? has been indexing Hansard since 2005, while Our Parliament is more recent and pulls data from a variety of points.
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Posted in bureaucracy, collaboration, government, usability, Web 2.0, tagged Canada, government 2.0, HRSDC, mashup, webapp, Working in Canada Tool on 29 October 2008 |
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(via GTEC Blog post announcing winners of this year’s GTEC awards – this one received the bronze in the service delivery category for federal tech.)
This is a neat initiative. It’s a webapp that’s aimed at helping new Canadians make informed decisions about where to live and work. Put together by HRSDC.
Users enter info on the profession they are interested in and the geographic location they want to investigate, and they receive a grab bag of useful info. Here’s a screen grab at the “choose location” step.
click image to see full size
It has a nice clean interface, the workflow is very obvious. I was able to blast through it in about 30 sec to get lots of relevant info: whether or not the profession is regulated or requires certification, hourly wages for my chosen location, what the outlook for that job type is, and even links to job opportunities from www.jobbank.gc.ca
Even though this is aimed at newcomers to Canada, I could imagine it being used by anyone considering a move within Canada too. F’r instance I was able to find out that people in the marketing communications world make more or less the same in Montreal (average salary: $28.33/hr) and Ottawa ($28.70/hr), and this is slightly lower than the national average ($29.97/hr). I might have to play around more with this to figure out where I need to move to!
To make the whole thing work, the app pulls data from a wide variety of govt sources. The aforementioned job bank, but also labour market information, the NOC job classification database, the CMHC, and more. See the app’s About page for the full list.
Pretty nice example of pulling together info trapped in widely spread out databases and making it work to improve government services.
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I’ve been looking at why people bother to visit government websites.
Interestingly, in the case of the federal government in Canada at least, one of the main reasons they visit is to obtain publications. This really appeals to the publisher in me — I used to manage publishing projects – the paper kind, and I still regularly advise on publishing and production. It also serves as a good reminder that web comms doesn’t exist in isolation. Yes there is life outside the interwebs — these days I sometimes forget…
I’ve mentioned this particular research before, and I’m turning to it again. It was a sweeping study released last spring that looks at Canadians’ internet use and expectactions for the GoC’s web presence. Here’s the bit from the phone survey that shows what users tend to do on GoC websites.
24% of respondents visited GC sites to obtain information, a form or a publication (click image to see full size)
OK, so about 1/4 of telephone respondents recalled going to GoC sites to get a form or a publication – this was more common even than looking for government jobs.
I would have liked to see a bit more fine grained info here – “obtained a publication” could just as easily refer to downloading a PDF as it could to ordering a print copy. But the mechanics of posting PDFs for download is totally different than what’s involved with maintaining an order fulfillment webapp (not to mention bricks and mortar part – warehousing print pubs and doing the pick-and-pack and all that).
But in the online portion of the survey, even more respondents – like 3/4 of them – went to GoC sites to get forms or publications. I imagine that the online respondents would be more web savvy and interested in using their computers to get government info and transact their business with us, so it’s kinda cute that lots of them were interested in old-school content formats like pubs… or maybe that just points to how outmoded government thinking is when it comes to creating and distributing content.
74% of respondents visited GC sites to obtain information, a form or a publication (click image to see full size)
Anyhow, what all this says to me is that government websites must make it easy for visitors to get at publications and forms. I might be biased, but I’d argue for making a “publications” link very prominent in your site’s nav template. And then make your catalogue easy to work with — will blog more about this next week.
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Just stumbled across a great listing of tools for evaluating and testing website accessibility over at Six Revisions. Some of the tools I’ve used before, but many I haven’t.
For example, aDesigner from IBM looks like a winner for sure. It simulates the experience of a blind or visually impaired person using your site and provides a report listing potential problems. Apparently it’s been around for a while too. Where have I been?
Why am I geeking out about website accessibility tools? Well, us government types are bound by law or by policy to make our web offerings as accessible as possible, so that all our citizens can get at the content on our sites, regardless of their level of vision or hearing or whatnot.
Which is great. & even more importantly, it’s just a good practice. Accessible web sites also are well coded websites, and this provides all kinds of benefits for everyone — such as better search indexing and improved user experience. Not to mention accessible sites render better on my Blackberry!
But it’s often painstaking work to test and evaluate accessibility, so any kind of tool that can make life a little easier gets me excited. Props to Six Revisions for putting this list together!
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Posted in semantics, usability on 12 February 2008 |
I was going to write a post about the reading list that I’m putting together. But LibraryThing, where I’m keeping that list, was down when I stopped by this morning:
Rampaging elephants? Peanuts? Alright, it made me chuckle. As an added bonus, it’s more interesting and somehow less cryptic than “HTTP 404: File not found.” (Could have done without the word error twice in the same sentence though.)
*insert lightbulb image here*
Hey, I’ve just discovered a surefire web 2.0 litmus test!
Answer these questions: 1) is the site/service often down? 2) is the error msg trying to tell you this in a funny or unusual way? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then you are dealing with web 2.0!
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