Contrary to popular opinion some interesting things happen in Parliament. Unfortunately these are hidden by many more dull things. Finding the interesting things is made more difficult by the nature of the official record of Parliament, Hansard, which doesn’t make life easy.
The potential usefulness of Hansard, compared to its online presence, has, over the years, prompted many people to have the bright idea of improving it. Three years ago, fresh from launching Byliner, which involves a lot of scraping the erratic contents of other websites, I had a quick bash at scraping Hansard in order to do something useful with it. I soon realised how difficult the task was and gave up, and others have had similar ideas.
Last year a few of us decided to try again, and today we launch TheyWorkForYou.com. As the front page says, you can find out all about your MP (with an RSS feed of their recent appearances in Parliament), browse and search the previous couple of years of Hansard and post comments (or Trackback) to every speech or written answer.
This is by far the most ambitious free-time project I’ve worked on, and has made me realise how simple it is to produce solo projects. But it’s also been fun to collaborate with others, for example: Francis and Julian from Public Whip, whose scraping magic is a world away from mine; Matthew Somerville whose repurposing magic gave us a huge kick-start; Dorian who helped me break the site; and Denise Wilton who helped make the site look like something you might want to use. Which you should!
It’s still early days, and there’s much more we could do, so let us know if you have any ideas or comments.