Telling the story of the European Parliament - More facts, less fiction
It's likely that fewer than ever will go vote in 2014. One of the reasons is that we don't know what the European Parliament has achieved since the last election in 2009. We need to make its work and main achievements more visible to the voters and push people to better understand and look at the facts when casting their vote.
People might vote based on emotion, but the choice should be based on information. If you think politics is nurtured on facts; if you think that your fellow citizen will become more involved in the elections if they get the chance to learn what the Parliament has actually achieved or how it has failed we are on the same page. Democracy needs informed citizens and politics would be better with more people watching and participating outside on the inner circle. The participants of the Hackathon 2014 aim at fixing just that and we want to make the Parliament more interesting and appealing ... based on facts. We know that data by itself is not interesting enough (at least not for the vast majority) - so we need activists and journalists to know what data to look for, statisticians and developers to extract the relevant information, and datavisualisation and user interface artists to make the facts clear and readable. And all of the above to promote the awesome stuff we're going to build.
We need to work together to make data speak clearly - we need to work together to make politics and Europe more interesting to the voters. We need to tell the politicians we are watching, and they need to run on what they've done, and anchor their election promises on their actions.
We are inviting coders, activists, graphists and journalists to meet in Brussels on 24-26 January 2014 (last weekend of January) to a Hackathon.
During this weekend we are going to work on several projects aiming at better telling the story of the European Parliament. We will create small groups of 2 to 4 people mixing competencies and having them generate a mini-site, and infographics, a chart... whatever they think is the best tool. We have experience participating in similar “sprints”. It's intense, includes very little sleep and way too much coffee, furious coding and writing, resulting in lots of energy and the pleasure of having built something in a very short amount of time.
We have about 40 that signed up.
What are we going to build?
It's part of the process for the participants to set the agenda, to decide what to do. Therefore we are going to start the weekend with an "open mike" where anyone can suggest ideas of what they would want to focus on. It could be something “generic”, like a nice visual representation of the European Parliament and highlighting which political party and what country is more present on some Parliamentary Committees and Delegations.
It could be something about gender and illustrate that women are less well represented on some topics, or that some countries still have a long way to go to have better gender balance, or see how the average age of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) has lowered over time. We have activists that want to join and hope to work on their specific topic (LGBT rights and climate change for instance).
For climate change, we already have a list of specific amendements that are key to understand how MEPs will act, and there are high hopes to be able to use the result of this weekend during the campaign for the elections. What we know is that we will put together a great group of talented and motivated people and let them create what they want. We know the results are going to be more interesting than anything we could have planned beforehand.
What data do we have?
Parltrack has the complete list of all the MEPs, their dossiers and vote history.
Stefan Marsiske, co-organiser of the Hackathon, has done an amazing job of developing and maintaining a software that goes daily on every page of the European Parliament to see if there is any new information and extract it. He has millions of records and he shares them under an open data licence, meaning anyone is free to take the data, analyse it and create something new. Part of the aim of our event is to highlight what can be done with this huge amount of open data and encourage others to do the same. Mepwatch has done the same work on written and oral questions.
All put together, this will tell the true story of the European Parliament - based on facts and no fiction