BlogOfTheMoon

Sunday, November 16, 2008

MySociety comes up top trumps again

The rather excellent MySociety has added another site to their already impressive portfolio. Joining such incredibly useful sites as They Work For You, Write To Them, What Do They Know and Hear From Your MP is the similarly-monikered Tell Them What You Think. This tries to gather together all current government consultations, from all the various departments and devolved bodies into one place, something that has been previously lacking. Here you can see a summary and (great) detail on current and past consultations, and for current ones, you can leave comments, check for mentions in Hansard and tell other people about the consultation. The documents themselves provide information on how to respond to the consultation, and since this can be different for each one you can't (yet) reply via the site itself. This would have been perfect a couple of years ago when I wanted to apply greater scrutiny to the work of Government but didn't have the tools to do so; now I've got no excuse for my laziness!

Another MySociety site that I've found really useful recently is What Do They Know. This allows you to post FoI requests to any public body in the UK. The site makes the request on your behalf, using a special email address that they institution replies to, which is automatically fed back to the website, thus archiving all the requests and making all replies publicly available for anybody to see. They provide RSS feeds for everything, and subscribing to the one for the University of Glasgow has led to finding out some things I wouldn't otherwise know, and some interesting "water cooler" conversations at work. One caveat about What Do They Know is that at the moment Parliament refuses to acknowledge requests from them because they are automatically published to the website.

These guys are providing a brilliant service and all the tools we need to get people to engage with our democracy, which is something that's been worrying politicians for a long time. Now if only these same politicians who wring their hands over this would stop obstructing them and do something to help.

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