A quick report on OpenTech 2010 - the London event for geeks interested in Government data, openness and generally doing good things with tech and data.
I attended last year's event which inspired me to create my "VoteUK" service for the 2010 general election. I had considered doing a talk about the trials and tribulations of using open - and not so open - data. Instead, I gave a more general talk about how to harness the power of the mobile web to empower people - and why iPhone apps are the wrong way to get data to the masses.
More details in a moment. First off, my thoughts on the rest of the presentations. Continue reading →
The source code is remarkably accessible - although a few more comments wouldn't go amiss. This was my first experience with GIT and Github. It was easy to get the code and, luckily, I didn't have to dive too far in to its syntax.
I had initially thought about using the EXIF data within the images to get the width and height. Unfortunately, not every image can be guaranteed to have (accurate) EXIF data. PHP to the rescue once again with the getimagesize() function.
After the tragic death of Ernest Marples, I'm sorry to say that the site fell in to a bit of disrepair. With no postcode data and no new boundary data, it looked like VoteUK was going to be permanantly out of business.
Thanks - once again - to the clever-clogs at TheyWorkForYou, at least half of the problem has been solved.
The API call getConstituency now has a future parameter. Adding future=1 to the call will return the constituency the Postcode will be in for the 2010 General Election.
I've also made use of TWFY's getMP API call. It returns enough detail about the current MP to be useful - including a photo.
So, a valid postcode will get you something like this:
One thing to note about the photos. Each one is a different size. This gives us two small problems.
Firstly there is no guarantee of how small the photo is. Should one MP's photo be massive, that could cause a problem for the phone trying to download it. All the ones I've tried so far have been thumbnail size.
Secondly, because we don't know the height and width of the image, we can't put the height and width attributes in the <img> tag. Not only is this poor HTML, but it will mean that rendering the page will take longer and - depending on the phone - page reflow may occur.
To mitigate this issue, I'm using http://tinysrc.mobi/ - it will automatically shrink the picture to fit the phone. This doesn't help with the page reflow issue though.
VoteUK is no more. In order to precisely show you where your electoral registration office was, I needed to take its postcode and covert it to latitude and longitude. That's the service Ernest Marples provided.
The Post Office charges for the file that they generated which converts post codes to location. It can cost anywhere from £1,000 to £4,000 per year to get accurate data. That's a price that I can't afford - neither can many non-profits, startups or innovators.
One of the problems with creating a service which deals with elections, is that boundaries change. One year you might be in the Electoral Constituency of Woking, the next year it might be Guildford. Boundaries have to shift in order to keep each MP with roughly the same number of constituents.
I'm happy to make an FoI request if that is your preferred way of releasing the information.
If you do not have the information - would you be able to tell me who does?
A few days later I got back this.
Thank you for your enquiry asking if we have the post codes for the new Constituencies proposed by the Boundary Commission.
I am afraid, the House of Commons Information Office is unable to give you a list of the post codes for the proposed "new" constituencies Boundaries .The House purchases a list of postcodes for each Parliamentary constituencies from the Office of National Statistics and the new list will not be purchased until nearer the time of the General Election when the changes in Parliamentary constituencies take effect.
You may like to contact the Office of National Statistic to see if you can purchase a list from them of the new constituencies.
Customer Contact Centre
Office for National Statistics
Telephone - +44 (0) 845 601 3034
I hope this is helpful
So, off to the ONS! I took a look through their website, couldn't find what I wanted, so I emailed them.
I'm looking for some definitive data on the electoral constituencies and their comprising wards for the next general election. That is, those incorporating the boundary changes in the Boundary Commission's Fifth periodical report.
Under "Names and codes for Electoral Geography" your document "Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies" only lists the 647 constituencies from the 2005 election. Do you have the data for the upcoming election?
Similarly, in "Names and codes for Administrative Geography" I'm not sure if the document "Wards (Eng) Dec 2008 Names and Codes" contains the latest wards. There also seems to be no schema to link Wards to Constituencies that I can see.
Do you hold such information?
Which sadly got back
Thank you for your recent enquiry
Please be advised that this information is currently not available. This is because current wards are split across the new boundaries and a review of these is about to be carried out which makes them subject to change.
If you have any further questions, please let me know.
So, no luck there.
Is this really so hard? All I want is to know that Postcode X is in Ward Y of Constituency Z. It would appear that this information just isn't held anywhere. The review has been completed by the Boundary Commission but they either don't consider linked data or they don't share it. I just wish they would Set Our Data Free.