16 January 2008

Open Politics

One sphere where openness is generally acknowledged as indispensable is politics: true democracy can never be opaque. In the past, providing that transparency has been hard, but with the advent of Web access and powerful search technologies, it has become markedly easier. Despite that, there are still very limited resources for searching through the raw stuff of politics.

A new pilot project, called Hansard Prototype, may help to change that:

This site is generated from a sample of information from Hansard, the Official Report of Parliament. It is not a complete nor an official record. Material from this site should not be used as a reference to or cited as Hansard. The material on this site cannot be held to be authoritative. Material on this site falls under Crown and Parliamentary Copyright. Within these copyright constraints, you are encouraged to use and to explore the information provided here. We would be especially interested in requests for functionality you have.

Even though it's still limited in its reach, playing with it is instructive. For example this search for "genome" not only throws up various hits, but also shows graphically when they occurred, and ranks the names of speakers.

It's also got the right approach to code:

What technology has been used to build and run this site? Code: Visible Red, Moving Flow. Hosting: Joyent Accelerators. Server OS: OpenSolaris. Database: MySQL. Web server: Apache. Application server: Mongrel. Code framework: Ruby on Rails. Source code control: Subversion. Search engine: Lucene, Solr. Backup: Joyent Bingodisk. Development and deployment platforms: Mac OS X, Ubuntu.

The source code for this site will be made available under an open licence.

More please. (Via James Governor's Monkchips.)

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