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Make Councillors data easy to update for volunteers #98
Currently to update the data in here you have to update a spreadsheet carefully and then run a rake task locally, and use git to commit it. This is a lot of assumed knowledge.
How might we make updating this data accessible to all the people who might want to contribute?
Also, who are these people? What are their needs and requirements for access?
You can read about how to apply for the internship here: https://www.openaustraliafoundation.org.au/2017/03/24/join-us-for-a-3-month-paid-full-time-internship-and-start-transforming-our-democracy/
@Mianto Good question :) The implication is that we don't know what the best solution for solving this problem is yet, and that we'd need to answer these questions at the beginning of the project.
Today we (@equivalentideas, @henare and @hisayohorie) had a kick-off meeting to solve this issue, and here are the break-down of the issue to make it clear. Also we worked on identifying some of the use cases to come up with potential solutions.
What is the problem?
We know we will have solved the problem when...
PlanningAlerts has up-to-date councillor information for every authority it covers. This information is updated by the contribution of volunteers. We have an accessible, easy and (fun) system to update/add councillor information, that acknowledges and cerebrates the work of the volunteers.
Next steps are...
@hisayohorie has listed some great questions that we have for the people who've been updating the councillor information so far. Some of this stuff we can answer already, which is great. It's still important to document that so I'll make a start here:
What devices you use to look into planningalerts?
This will help us learn what devices we need to support in our project.
We know that the current system only works from wide screen devices/“desktop” because you just couldn’t flick between council websites and google sheets and actually accomplish the task on a phone or tablet. I’ve sat with Pip, our main volunteer, and she’s been doing it on a laptop. When @archoo made a big contribution it involved running a scraper and all-sorts, so we can safely assume they weren’t on a phone. (correct us if we're wrong @archoo
But—we also want to create something usable by people who use PlanningAlerts more broadly. We can get the device stats from Google Analytics
Over the last 7 days sessions are very evenly split between wide and small screen devices, and touch/point and click input (mouse/trackpad) modes:
We think people making comments might be people who want to update councillor information so they can write to them. What devices do people successfully making comments use? It's very evenly split as well:
I think this means we should be aiming to make something that people can use no-matter what device that bring to the party. That's best practice for a long time anyway. We also design things mobile first any way, mostly because its easier than going the other way, and makes us focus on keeping things simple.
do you use keyboard shortcuts? What other things do you use your computer? How often do you use computer?
I seems to me that these three questions are about trying to work out how proficient contributors are with computers. This is useful to know because it will guide the types of features we can add.
From my experience with them, and @archoo’s feedback below, I think our contributors fall into two groups around their proficiency with data collection tasks:
That's a simplistic distinction, but useful I think. There's people who are in the middle, and lots of people who are less familiar with data entry too. Two of our working Design Principles are:
So I think we want to make something that people who are less proficient with computers than those two groups
If you would to contribute, does region makes difference? Do you prefer to input data for councillors in your region?
The people who've notified us about out-of-date councillor records via PlanningAlerts have only done it for councillors in their area. They've been commenters concerned that their local councillor options weren't correct; and, councillors and council staff asking us to update it so they receive records correctly.
It seems there's a distinction here between volunteers and people PlanningAlerts
Volunteers like Pip want to contribute beyond just the records for their local area. @archoo was interested in doing it a number of councils in the state they're from.
People using PlanningAlerts, who don't even know this is a project they can contribute to, have only taken interest in their own local area. That could be because the task of updating the records is part of another task for them, like sending or receiving comments correctly (we're had messages from commenters and councillors like this).
How much time do you spend contributing at once?
Other times people have just done one council at a time. This can still take 20 minutes or so.
What's stopping you from contributing at the moment?
This is a really good and important question @hisayohorie . I think we'll need to ask our current contributors directly about this. It's also the type of question that it's hard for people to answer because they need to describe their own motivations. But, let's give it a go. It might be useful to ask them about other volunteering that they do, and to try and compare why prioritise contributing to some things over others.
Correct.. Desktop with many monitors ;) - I had written a previous set of scripts that would deal with a couple of councils.. So I refreshed those and ran them for the ones I could.. but in the end it was far simpler to just transcribe directly from each website.. And I had a lazy Saturday night, so I got through quite a few.. Given these things don't change regularly and the site layout could very well change between each election, it seems like a waste of effort to try and fully automate something that happens so rarely..
Having said that, I think this is a useful piece to carve off into its own solution.. I did do some research on the standard model being used to store them.. Popolo supports far more than is currently being recorded for this project.. I did start to rough out a physical database model to store the councillor data independantly as a single source of truth, with versioning and history using the full Popolo model, but as usual I got sidetracked..
I think this is where the effort is best spent.. design a mechanism/interface to store and maintain as much detail as possible and then farm out versions of it to the various OAF projects that may require it. With a coordinated repository and appropriate governance, it may even be possible to approach the relevant state organisations (eq LGAQ in Qld) to provide the data in a compatible format after each election..
Good luck.. Life isn't going to let me do much in the next month or two, but I remain an interested onlooker and will answer quesions when I can..
Just noticed that Sinar also have a UI project for PopIT NG:
What does that actually look like?
We're creating a flow of how a better system that does what we need could work, and @hisayohorie has written up the current flow so we can compare. I've filled out the admin side at the end:
Steps for Contributor:
Now the admin picks it up:
On local machine