What is the problem you're trying to solve?
Wikidata now has up-to-date and consistent data on political position holders in current national legislatures for at least 39 countries, thanks to work by volunteer community members on the Wikiproject every politician. There are many groups and individuals around the world who need this data for democratic and accountability initiatives. Political research is often hampered by difficulties in getting access to accurate, complete, consistently formatted data in a timely manner. Now that this data is increasingly to be found in Wikidata, there is a real possibility for Wikidata to become the definitive source of data about democracies worldwide — but only if that data can be maintained sustainably.
Risks to the sustainability of this data over time include not only individual politicians’ deaths or resignations but also elections and other major political changes. For example, upcoming national elections (within 12 months) in more than eight of these 39 countries will render data on political position holders and legislatures in Wikidata out-of-date and therefore only of historic interest.
Such data changes and gaps occur frequently. Even in those countries with highly active Wikidata editors, many individual changes (resignations, substitutions, position changes, etc.) during a term are easily overlooked. There are also limited occurrences of vandalism of open data on political position holders.
A lack of tools and documentation means that there are potentially high effort and overheads required for the Wikidata community to monitor when the data needs maintenance, to update it, and to get more new community members involved in maintaining it. A key barrier to bringing in new contributors is that it is hard to get an overview of the level of completion of, for example, position holder data, without Wikidata querying skills.
What is your solution?
Our proposed solution is to bring together new and existing tools in a ‘toolkit’ with accompanying ‘how to’ guidance, that will enable anyone to quickly, easily and consistently update political position holder or legislature data following an election or other political change.
This approach incorporates some key lessons we’ve learned in the course of the last year in introducing and encouraging partners from the external civic tech community to contribute to Wikidata and help them add at least basic political data for their countries. Although there are powerful tools for editing and maintaining political position holder data in Wikidata, it’s not always obvious to new users how to use these together. Providing an overview of the tasks that can be done, and worked examples of how to use tools to accomplish those tasks and check progress is an effective way of introducing people to Wikidata and its potential in a manageable way. We think that this approach could be used effectively in the context of elections.
We’ve developed some basic documentation on Wikidata on how to update political data around elections. We’ve also learned a lot about how to develop and use specific tools, like our verification-pages tool and legislature completeness reports, and general tools, like Listeria and OpenRefine, in the context of the emerging consensus on legislative data modelling in Wikidata. We want to develop a ‘how to’ guide to signpost existing tools and give clear worked examples of how to use them in the context of an election.
We will also create customisable queries, templates and other tools and shortcuts for automating as many of the election-related tasks as possible - for example, identifying missing position holders, adding missing end dates on previous position holders, updating constituencies following a redistricting. These tools and guidance will be accessible and re-usable, such that the methods for contributing and editing data for one country can be easily used for other countries and political structures in Wikidata.
A key tool from the point of view of bringing in new contributors from the wider Wikimedia and external communities is one that will allow people with no Wikidata experience to browse the available legislature and position holder data in Wikidata and easily understand the extent to which the data is current and complete. An early stage proof-of-concept is available here.
- Data on elected representatives is substantially correct and complete within a month following an election, leading to improved quality and consistency of data in Wikidata.
- The community around political position holder and legislatures data on Wikidata grows and is strengthened. Elections become a route for bringing new people into active participation in Wikidata through the development of the How-to guide, tools and building connections with other Wikimedia and external projects.
- The growing quality and currency of data on democracies worldwide makes Wikidata the data source for tools and services that better allow citizens to interact with their elected representatives.
How will you know if you have met your goals?
1. Data on elected representatives is substantially correct and complete within a month following an election, leading to improved quality and consistency of data in Wikidata.
We’ll do this by equipping Wikidata contributors with the tools and guidance they need to be able to quickly, easily and consistently update political position holder data in Wikidata following an election or other political change. We’ll measure the ease, usefulness and outcomes of the tools and guidance through survey feedback from users, including gathering user stories of their successes, challenges and outcomes of using the tools.
By the end of the project, our target is for data on political position holders in at least three legislatures to be substantially correct and complete within a month of an election there.
After the project is over, the ongoing impact we seek is that data in Wikidata is increasingly complete, timely and accurate. This can continue to be measured by monitoring how quickly and accurately the data has been updated for the political position holder and legislatures for countries that have had elections.
2. The community around data on democracies on Wikidata grows and is strengthened.
Our participation goal is to grow the number, activity and diversity of the contributors to this data on Wikidata, both during the project and after the project finishes. We’ll do this by capitalising on the energy and interest around democratic political structures and elections both within and outside the Wikimedia community — signposting ways for new volunteers to get involved, flagging where data needs to be updated, showing volunteers how much of the data is completed currently, and giving clear paths and tools to update Wikidata.
Our main measure will be the number of content pages created or improved across all Wikimedia projects, focusing on the politician data pages improved and updated following elections in late 2019 and 2020.
We also expect to see an increase in the geographic diversity of contributors, as the project will support the updating of data in several countries in the global South, such as South Africa, India and Argentina, where our earlier work has substantially improved the existing data.
3. The growing quality and currency of data on democracies worldwide on Wikidata makes it the data source for tools and services that better allow citizens to interact with their elected representatives.
During the project, we’ll connect with existing Wikimedia communities and project focused on elections and politics to develop the electoral data ecosystem and to communicate the potential of Wikidata as a canonical source. We’ll also work with our network of civil society partners around the world — from parliamentary monitoring organisations, to investigative journalists and transparency activists — to support them to use Wikidata as the data source for their tools, services and projects (and to contribute data back into Wikidata).
Over the longer-term, as a result of the improved quality and currency of data on democracies in Wikidata, we hope to see individuals and organisations using this data for a wide variety of democracy and transparency projects. We’ll measure this through qualitative case studies with individuals and organisations working on civic oversight, transparency and accountability, exploring the ‘pains’ and ‘gains’ of using Wikidata as their political data source, and showing how the data has been used (and the impact, if possible).
This project involves the development of tools. As with our previous work, we anticipate that this will involve both reports and templates that live on-wiki, and other tools that may make more sense to develop as stand-alone, such as the tool for browsing the available legislature and position holder data.
For those tools where a non-wiki frontend makes most sense, we’ll work in a way that maximises the sustainability of the work done following the end of the project by hosting tools on ToolForge, and hosting the code in public open source repositories such as github (as we have done previously). The proposal for the browser that the proof-of-concept demonstrates is that it is populated automatically from Wikidata queries, so would continue displaying the current state of the data on Wikidata without significant active maintenance.
Do you have any goals around participation or content?
Our primary goal is to develop tools that make it easy for people to contribute and maintain data in the open, as part of the Wikidata community. We will measure our success against this goal through the metric ‘Number of content items/pages created or improved, across all Wikimedia projects’, focusing on the political position holder data improved and updated following elections in late 2019 and 2020.
Our target is to have political position holder data in at least three legislatures substantially correct and complete within a month of elections in that legislature.
In order to achieve this overarching goal, we will need to work toward several supporting goals:
- to signpost ways for new volunteers to get involved,
- to flag where data needs to be updated, and
- to show volunteers how much of the data is completed currently.
We hope to not only make editing easier for the volunteers already working on Wikidata, but also to improve the onboarding process for editing political data in Wikidata so that new volunteers are encouraged to join the community.
It is our hope, now that data on politicians, political models, and legislatures exists in Wikidata for many countries, that the existing Wikipedia/ Wikidata communities of those countries will have significantly more incentive not only to use the information, but to keep it up to date. We have a goal to engage with existing WikiProject communities around elections and data (see Community Engagement below for more details).
We aim to produce at least three case studies of new community or organisations working with this data on Wikidata using the toolkit, describing their reasons for working with Wikidata, the expected benefits they hope to get, the challenges that they experience in working with Wikidata and with the toolkit, and a set of recommendations for future actions that would make it easier or more rewarding for them to participate.
Project timeframe: March 2019 to February 2020
1. Community discovery and prototyping — Month 1-3
- Develop detailed community engagement plan, identify politics Wikimedia groups and taskforces to contact
- Develop initial ‘How to’ guide signposting existing tools and guidance on how to use them giving clear worked examples of how to use them in the context of updating data on position holders or legislatures
- Develop initial browser of position holder and legislature data already in Wikidata to allow groups to easily understand the extent to which the data is current and complete
- Create briefing on project including overview of current data, and share with Wikimedia groups and taskforces, and other people and organisations running political tools and services, solicit participation in pilots
- Seek feedback on initial guide from Wikidata community on Wikidata Facebook page and on-wiki discussion pages
- Confirm measurement plan for evaluation metrics for participation and data improvement
- Identify pilot country projects based on election timing, and interested participants. The choice of countries and cities/regions will be determined by: i) An election being held between May 2019 and February 2020, ii) Accessibility of the new electoral data, iii) Previous improvement of position holder data that can be capitalised on, iv) Community participation, v) Representation of Global South
- Regular attendance at local Wikimedia meetups
2. Pilot use and refinement of tools and guidance — Month 4-11
- Facilitate and attend Editathon in at least one pilot country
- Communicate with and collect data from other pilots remotely via video interviews, email etc.
- Write up case studies of user observation in pilot projects documenting benefits and challenges
- Iterate guidance and develop tools, templates and queries based on feedback from pilot projects and status of evaluation metrics
- Communicate with Wikidata groups on progress of project, disseminate case studies to Wikidata, Wikimedia and civil society partners via blogs, groups and mailing lists
- Present project at Wikimania, WikidataCon
- Regular attendance at local Wikimedia meetups
3. Final evaluation — Month 11-12
- Final analysis of evaluation metrics
- Write project report
|Role/Cost Item||Function||Cost per day||Days||Total £|
|User research, development, design||Initial user research, creation of ‘how to’ guide with links to customisable queries and templates||275||25||6,875|
|User research, development, design||Initial tools and shortcuts for automating election-related tasks||275||10||2,750|
|User research, development, design||Create overview of legislature and position holder data to allow individuals and groups to easily understand the extent to which the data is current and complete.||275||15||4,125|
|User research, development, design||Test initial guide, queries and templates with users, iterate and improve||275||25||6,875|
|User research, development, design||Testing, iteration and improvement of tools for automating election-related tasks||275||15||4,125|
|Delivery and reporting||Project coordination, team allocations and support, development and research backlog prioritisation, development acceptance criteria||250||20||5,000|
|Community engagement||On- and off-line engagement with Wikidata, Wikimedia and external communities, including organising an editathon with a local partner; soliciting pilot country participation; dissemination of project progress and case studies||220||54||11,880|
|Travel||Wikidata conference in Berlin and Wikimania conference in Stockholm; Editathon in one of the pilot countries following an election||-||-||3,400|
|Administrative costs||Includes essential running costs such as IT systems, insurance, accounting and audits.||-||-||4,475|
There are three specific audiences that we will engage in this project.
1. The existing Wikidata community around political data.
We’ll seek feedback from the Wikidata politician data community to help test the new tools and guidance and ensure that they are consistent with the emerging consensus around modelling political data.
We’ll engage on-wiki with community members in countries that have upcoming elections to user test our ideas around tools and how to present them, and the appropriateness of the approach in different contexts and political systems, and to encourage discussion and evaluation of Wikidata as a source of current position holder data.
2. The wider Wikimedia community interested in political data and elections.
We will demonstrate the increasing quality and currency of political data in Wikidata and share the project to encourage people to contribute.
We’ll contact existing projects focused on elections and assist them to explore the potential of Wikidata as a canonical source — via projects such as the Wikiproject Elections & Referendums, and Offene Wahlen Österreich, and country and election-specific Wikiprojects and politics Taskforces.
We’ll attend Wikimania in July/August and WikidataCon 2019 in October and present the project there and seek to disseminate information about the project and seek feedback through regular attendance at smaller local Wikimedia events.
In the early part of the project we’ll be using Wikidata and Wikimedia forums to find participants to pilot the tools and guidance to update data following elections and to provide feedback on their value and to improve them. On the basis of this early engagement, we’ll plan to work with a local group to help organise at least one Editathon that we can attend in person to observe the tools being used in practice and to gather feedback from others via video calls and interviews of participants in order to produce case studies describing the benefits and challenges.
3. Communities and organisations outside the Wikimedia community who have an interest in running tools, services and initiatives that rely on political position holder data.
We’ll use our relationships with these communities and organisations — which range from parliamentary monitoring organisations, to transparency campaigning groups, to investigative journalists — to conduct user research into their needs and how they could shift to using Wikidata sources if they are not currently.
mySociety - d:Q10851773
UK-based charity mySociety is working within a growing global community of individuals and organisations to make well structured, consistent and sustainable information on every politician in the world freely available to all through Wikidata — as a Democratic Commons. In 2017-18 mySociety worked on a project to help make Wikidata the definitive source of consistent and comprehensive political position holder data, supported by a Wikimedia Foundation Grant. mySociety runs TheyWorkForYou.com, WriteToThem.com, WhatDoTheyKnow.com and FixMyStreet.com. We’ve been working with political data and running parliamentary services for over 15 years and our services are used by over 10 million people each year in at least 44 countries. The team has extensive international experience gained from on-the-ground collaborations with local partners and volunteers in many countries across the world.
We have a range of staff working on Wikidata:
Chris Mytton - d:User:Chrismytton
Chris joined mySociety as a developer in April 2013. Over the past few years he’s been dedicated to the work of gathering together freely open, well structured, and consistent data on every national politician in the world and transitioning this data to Wikidata.
Zarino Zappia - d:User:Zarino
Zarino specialises in developing simple, intuitive user interfaces. As part of the Wikidata element of the EveryPolitician project he developed multiple on-wiki visualisations of political position data. Before joining mySociety in April 2014, he served as UX Designer, and, later, VP of Product at data-munching web startup ScraperWiki.
Emily Robertson-Knowlton - d:User:Emilydrk
Emily joined mySociety in 2018 to help us organise and deliver our Democracy projects, both in the UK and with our partners internationally. She was previously in the UK civil service as a Senior Delivery Manager at the Government Digital Service (GDS) in the Cabinet Office.
Owen Stephens - d:User:Owenpatel
Owen is a Data Analyst at mySociety and primarily works on projects aiming to to gather consistently-structured data on every elected representative in the world. Owen is a core contributor to the OpenRefine software used to upload data into Wikidata.
Louise Crow - d:User:Louisecrow
Louise joined mySociety in 2007 and is our Head of Development. She makes sure our work is heading in the right direction, and provides valuable expertise.
Nick Jackson - d:User:Jacksonj04
Nick is a Research Developer, looking at high-level user statistics in order to make our services easier and more intuitive for users.
Will Roper - d:User:Wroper
Will is a GIS Developer for our Democratic Commons work. His job is to source, quality-check, and maintain administrative boundary data from around the world.
Mark Cridge - d:User:Markcridge
Mark is Chief Executive of mySociety. He has enjoyed a diverse 20-year digital career including stints as COO at BERG, the technology and design consultancy, and as a senior advisor at Blue State Digital in London.
On Monday 3 December we plan to post about this project to the following groups / channels:
- Wikidata + Facebook group
- Wikidata -l mailing list
- The Poplus mailing list
- Blog post on the mysociety.org site
- Open Knowledge International discussion group
- mySociety Community Google Group: https://groups.google.com/a/mysociety.org/forum/#!forum/mysociety-community
- Democracy Club forum: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/democracy-club
Do you think this project should be selected for a Project Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project below! (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the discussion page).
- Support This is a natural and very welcome continuation of the ongoing work on WikiProject every politician. I agree it is crucial to work on the data curation workflows - much work is still needed to streamline them, make them sustainable and accessible to many users. I think the lessons learnt here can reach well beyond this particular WikiProject and help Wikidata in general. − Pintoch (talk) 13:03, 2 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 17:04, 5 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support --Micru (talk) 17:10, 5 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support I believe that political data is perhaps the most important way that Wikidata can empower individuals and communities by making knowledge available and accessible. The MySociety charity has an excellent record in getting the public to use and contribute political data, and they are to be commended for using Wikidata as a platform. Clearly there is a lot more to be done before Wikidata's political data are comprehensive and sustainable, and new workflows are going to have to be established that are accessible and truly international. This is exactly what the bid addresses. Looking at the individuals listed in the bid, this is a very small amount of money for access to their expertise and involvement. MartinPoulter (talk) 12:01, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
- Strong support. Your work until today has been valuable. Now we need to define processes to ensure the community will be able to update and maintain the data with little effort. Thanks for your help. --abián 12:08, 6 December 2018 (UTC)
- Strong support —M@sssly✉ 08:40, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
- Strong support MySociety has a lot of experience facilitating collecting this type of data globally. Issues with sustainability of other's data collection projects external to Wikimedia projects and current new trends in that space seems to point into the direction of storing the data on Wikidata and creating tooling around it. The proposal have a well-balanced offline (meetups, conferences) and online component. Kmadejski (talk) 13:29, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
- Waldir (talk) 18:09, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support As per Pintoch, I do think too this is a natural and very welcome continuation of EveryPolitician. I hope there will be some space too to foster some welcomed RfC for how to structure data on elections and elective positions. Sannita - not just another it.wiki sysop 13:21, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support per Pintoch. (Came here via WMUK mailing list post.) Deryck C. 18:55, 13 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support per Pintoch as well. This is a very important endeavor. Todrobbins (talk) 15:30, 17 December 2018 (UTC)
- Support It's important work that needs a lot of coordination and tooling. Happy to see it move forward. --Lydia Pintscher (WMDE) (talk) 19:38, 30 December 2018 (UTC)
- Strong support What is wikimedia for, if not this? And who better to do it? EdSaperia (talk) 13:58, 25 January 2019 (UTC)