Tag Archives: activism

Send pre-filled tweets using tweetyourmp.com

Rather excitingly my little side project tweetyourmp.com was mentioned by pukka chef Jamie Oliver as part of his campaign for healthy eating:

Big yellow sign
Big yellow sign

After my panic that I might not have enough bandwidth subsided, I thought it might be a good moment to give Tweety our MP a bit of love, so I’ve added the option to pre-fill tweets.

The tweet text is passed across using a custom URL – this can be done as follows:

Pre-filling in the postcode and tweet message:

Make sure you use the URL http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php

The URL needs to be in the format:

http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php?postcode=SW2 2AX&tweetmsg=twitter message&[email protected]

the parts being:

http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php

?postcode= the postcode for constituency lookup

&tweetmsg= the twitter message

&sentvia= the twitter handle for the sender (default is @tweet_your_mp)

You can leave out the postcode (or the tweet message!):

http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php?tweetmsg=twitter message&[email protected]

Passing values to tweetyourmp.com in this way works with spaces, but safer to encode the message and postcode parts using http://andrewu.co.uk/tools/uriencoder/ to replace characters with %20 for a space.

so the above becomes:

http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php?postcode=SW22AX&tweetmsg=twitter%20message&[email protected]

This example generates:

hello @ChukaUmunna your twitter message via @kimondo

as the tweet.

Important note on using hashtags

I had to use a bit of a hack to make it possible to have a pre-filled tweet with a hashtag. As # is used to denote an anchor link when you stick it in a URL the rest of the URL gets ignored by the bit of the code that reads the tweet from it.

To get round this use an asterisk * in place of a hash # – the code then puts the hash back in when it sends the tweet:

http://tweetyourmp.com/index.php?postcode=SW22AX&tweetmsg=twitter%20message%20*hashtag&[email protected]

This hashtag example generates

hello @ChukaUmunna your twitter message #hashtag via @kimondo

The salutation is fixed as ‘Hello’ but can be changed – is important not to begin the tweet with the @handle as it reduces its visibility and ‘Hi’ is a bit American sounding hence the hello.

Next on the list is building some sort of Raspberry Pi based tweet totaliser. You can download the (very simple) code that runs Tweet your MP on GitHub – a couple of interesting options are to use the code in a thankyou email after a supporter has completed an action to give it a bit more impact, or to sort through your data and merge in constituency contacts in an email.

Note that some MPs don’t consider twitter an ‘official’ communication format so this is best combined with an email or letter to an MP.

tweetyourmp.com is made possible thanks to the theyworkforyou.com API – this is free for charitable use up to 50,000 queries.

Update: I’ve now added a page that automates this process and builds a bit.ly link with the correct address!

Raspberry Pi powered General Election Swingometer

In the UK it’s election time again and the BBC are preparing to wheel out the latest version of their Swingometer. The BBC Swingometer dates back to 1959, and was a visual device for displaying the balance in seats won by the two main political parties. The Swingometer coined a whole load of phrases along the lines of a ‘swing away’ or ‘swing towards’ a particular party or candidate, and was well suited towards the simple days of two party politics.

Here’s version 1.0 back in 1959:

There's a chap with a pipe behind controlling the arrow
There’s a chap with a pipe behind moving the arrow (photo BBC)

The BBC have more or less stuck to the same device for every election since, although sadly in the same way that CGI ruined the Star Wars films, Swingometers have recently become more and more complicated. This is perhaps also a consequence of the UK moving to multi-party politics where working out who exactly in power after polling day is getting a bit complicated.

Here’s version 14.0 from 2010:

There's just a big green room
There’s just a big green room (photo BBC)

In a tribute to the original, the charity I work for – Concern Worldwide have been using a Development Swingometer, which pays homage to the original 1959 version and tracks the number of candidates who have signed up to support Concern’s 5 pledges on fighting global poverty and protecting international aid (you can tweet them on that page with some code I mashed up using TheyWorkForYou.com and YourNextMP.com).

Building a Raspberry Pi powered Swingometer

As our low-budget version is a bit simple, for a bit of fun I thought I’d build a slightly more technical version that updates itself automatically. My updated Swingometer uses a servo to move the arrow, and a Raspberry Pi to fetch the ‘swing value’ from a web page when you push the big friendly button. The code I’ve used can be edited to fetch more or less any numerical value from a web page and turn it into a ‘swing’ so It should be possible to repurpose this into a political swingometer, or something that displays anything with a value of 1-180 (the angle of swing possible with a servo).

Push the button for results
Just push the button for the latest results

The back of the frame (£5 from Wilko) shows the Raspberry Pi model A and a little slice of Pi board I soldered up. There are two buttons – the big friendly update button for the front and a safe shutdown button on the back, so I can run this without a screen and keyboard.

Here's the back with an arcade machine button and the wiring to the servo
Here’s the back with an arcade machine button (white wires) and the wiring to the servo (brown – red – yellow wires)

The method I’ve used to control the servo is similar to RaspiTV’s Raspberry Pi flag waving post – although I opted for the version detailed in the Raspberry Pi cookbook over Adafruit’s single servo control. For my power supply I used a D-link powered USB hub to supply both the Pi and the Servo via separate USB cables. This results in a slightly wobbly update of the Swingometer arrow, which suits me fine. For more precise control you can use a dedicated servo control hat which can control up to 16 separate servos.

For the code I modified the Raspberry Pi cookbook tutorial code to fetch a value from a web page using Beautiful Soup. You can install this on the pi using:

sudo apt-get install python-beautifulsoup

Note that this installs version 3 – but you’re still able to do lots of clever things to grab content from web pages. If you want to build a political swingometer I’d suggest grabbing values from the election forecast page. There’s a lot more information about using Beautiful Soup on the web page here.

Here’s the code I’ve used to update the swingometer:

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import time
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup
import urllib2

#change this bit
url="http://www.kimondo.co.uk/swingometer-control/"
page=urllib2.urlopen(url)
soup = BeautifulSoup(page.read())

value = soup.find('span',{'style':'color: #99cc00;'})
value = value.next
value = float(value)

print value

GPIO.cleanup()
GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)
GPIO.setup(18, GPIO.OUT)
pwm = GPIO.PWM(18, 100)
pwm.start(5)
t_end = time.time() + 1

while time.time() < t_end:
        print value
  angle = value/100.0 * 180
  print angle
        duty = float(angle) / 10.0 + 2.5
        pwm.ChangeDutyCycle(duty)

exit()

An alternative I considered was using the Sentiment 140 twitter sentiment tracker API – this tracks positive and negative sentiment towards keyword searches on twitter – although it seems to get fooled by ironic tweets.

If you’ve been inspired to build a Swingometer please share it in the comments! One day I’d quite like to build something like the Weasley clock.

You can ask your election candidates to support Concern’s 5 pledges to fight global poverty and support development here and my fantastic blog about the Development Swingometer on Concern’s website.

Quick guide to making ebooks

One of the projects I’ve been working on recently is producing an ebook version of a report for the ONE campaign. I thought I’d put together a simple guide to making ebooks which might be handy if you’re thinking of doing the same. 

Campaigning organisations like to publish and produce a lot of reports about important stuff, and usually publish them in a variety of ways – sometimes resulting in stacks of out of date printed paper reports cluttering up the store cupboard.

Traditionally producing online versions of reports – particularly long ones – has been difficult as reading 130 pages of a report on a PC screen isn’t a particularly easy thing to do.

Creating ebook guide illustration
Oops I hit print by mistake

However with the popular rise of ereaders, it’s now possible to produce online copies of long reports which can be easily read offline anywhere. Consultants Deloitte estimate that a third of UK households now own an ereader – and sales are holding up (thanks to their low cost) compared to tablets. Ereaders are also more popular with those aged 45-54.

First to consider is the format – most organisations produce documents as pdfs since this is the format provided by graphic designers- these work well on iPads and android tablets – but work badly on Kindles and ereaders. Pdfs also often require a lot of zooming to read the text which can make them difficult to read on phones.  

Fortunately it’s quite easy to convert between the different ebook formats used by kindles, kobos, ipads and other mobile readers – here we can use a very handy program called Calibre.

But first – here’s how to get your ebook ready:

Step 1: Preparing your files

Most ebooks will start life as a long Word document – you’ll need to convert this into a basic HTML format. Don’t worry about fonts, css, or any fancy formatting – just stick to as few HTML tags as possible. 

You can cut and paste from Word into Dreamweaver and it’ll do most of the reformatting for you – or you can use a free program like Textwrangler to sort out your HTML code. Word often inserts it’s own bizarre brand of HTML into documents, so you need to make sure you clean this up before converting into an ebook. 

To make the process as simple as possible use heading tags to divide up your ebook into a heirachy of chapters and sub headings – 

  • <h1> for chapter titles
    • <h2> for subheadings
      • <h3> for figures and charts within each section

This part is important – the tool we’ll use later uses heading tags to generate the table of contents. 

Divide up your text into paragraphs using <p></p> tags. 

Ebook formats also work with most simple HTML tags so you can use things like table <table> tags to organise information, anchor tags, <strong> for emphasis and <a href=”> for links. For more info there’s a simple guide to HTML here

Some tags like superscript <sup> and subscript <sub> don’t display reliably. If you’re not sure, test the html output in an ebook using the steps below.

Top tip: keep it as simple as possible.

For images bear in mind that most ereaders display in 16 shades of grey – stick to bold, high contrast images. You can use GIF (for diagrams) and JPEG (for more fuzzy images like photos). As a rule of thumb I make the longest side of each image 1000 pixels – some ebooks can display larger images, but this makes it easier to stick to a size that’s compact and resizes easily.

There are some more tips on ebook images here from Amazon.

Link the images into your HTML page as you would normally and save them in a subfolder next to your HTML file. 

Step 2: Generating the ebook

Next you need to import the HTML file you’ve created into an ebook tool. I use Sigil – it’s an open source tool that’s free to download and available for Mac and PC. 

generateTOC

Open Sigil and import the HTML file. If you click generate table of contents Sigil will build a chapter list on the right hand side based on the <h1> <h2> <h3> heading tags in your document.

splitatcursor

Another handy feature in Sigil is the split at cursor option – this splits the HTML file into 2 or more separate files, but has the effect of forcing a page break in your final ebook – this is handy if you want chapter headings or image titles to appear on a page on their own.

Step 3: Finishing up and testing

Once you’ve got your ebook finalised in Sigil, save it in epub format and then import the book into Calibre. Calibre is a really useful piece of free ebook management software which converts between the different formats and lets you take control of your ereader. 

In Calibre select edit metadata individually – this lets you set the cover (with a useful crop function) and edit the author and publisher information. 

Once you’ve got your ebook finished export as an ePub (for Apple and Kobo readers) and .mobi (for Kindle) and test. You can check for things like alignment of images, and any part of the book that uses tables or any HTML more advanced than headings and paragraphs. 

Finally you can publish – Amazon don’t allow small publishers to create free ebooks (unless you agree to only publish on Amazon) so it’s generally best to publish directly on your site – an example is here with ONE’s first ereader report: The Beginning of the End of AIDS – with links to the PDF, Kindle (.mobi) and iPad (epub) versions. 

endofaidsreport

 

10 cool things I learned at ECF13

This week I’ve been at the eCampaigning Forum 2013 (#ECF13) which is why I’ve been tweeting a lot. So here is my top ten list of interesting things I learned about running campaigns on the internet!

Obama campaign split testing

Check your ego at the door! the 2012 Obama campaign did a lot of testing of their emails – 4-6 different drafts and 12-18 different subject lines which they tested against a random sample of their email database. When they ran an email derby, the team of experienced staffers were less good than random chance at predicting the winning email. Testing was responsible for 1/5 to 2/5 of the Obama campaign’s online fundraising total.

leanne 22 from Legoland

The largest female image in the Sun is always page 3 (even in the olympics). Lego didn’t know what to make of Leanne 22 from Legoland, but they’ve stopped advertising in the Sun because of the brilliant ad-hoc no more page 3 campaign. Social media activists rule.

Campaignion.org open source campaign software

Open source campaign tools can look just as good as their closed source counterparts (when they’re finished). Can’t wait to download Campaignion – there’s also a list to try out the hosted version if you’re a campaigning organisation.

Greenpeace.hu social media

Something works on facebook? promote it. For 3 thousand euros one image got 47 thousand facebook likes for Greenpeace Hungary.

David v Golaith

David v Goliath campaigning works. When EDF decided to attempt to sue the campaigners who blocked a gas power station, the interest from the public was far greater than that for the original campaign. Using triggers of freedom of expression, corporate bulling, and public outrage at the massive profits of gas companies, No Dash for Gas got a platform to talk about Climate Change, and inspired a spin off EDF*off.

whitehouse blog action day

The Whitehouse always takes part in Blog Action Day. It’s on the 16th of October 2013. You can register your blog here.

Old Street stormtrooper

Old Street has the biggest concentration of hipsters in Europe. Which makes it a good place to launch a spoof VW darkside campaign. Making sure you tweet on an event hashtag before it even starts helps dominate the conversation. And (other than trying to take the video off youtube) Lucasfilm took no action against Greenpeace, and VW backed down.

The Next Big Thing

We still don’t know what the next big thing is. It might be lots of things, it might be mobile (again), GIFs (again), handwriting in dead tree format (again), kickstarter (again), gameification (again). Rolf think’s it’s 3d printing.

bloggers

Bloggers are like fussy cats, and supporters are like loyal dogs. Cats are fickle and need lots of attention, or they’ll go away. Having a long term blogger strategy is a good idea, as is an excuse to show lots of cat pictures.

2022

In 2022 the socialmediatization of politics will be complete. Twitter might allow A/B testing, and we’ll all have moved away from our computer screens. There might be a lot of competition in the campaigns space, and big charities might be using supporter-self-serve campaigning models. There might also be robot ninja drones and interesting new words. I probably won’t have my flying car, but I prefer bicycles anyway.

There are lots more worth mentioning –  it is possible to create a campaigning website in 7 minutes, but harder still to convince someone to change their Twitter profile picture. Right Angle (the right wing competitor to 38 degrees) has an entertaining achievements page.  And top ten lists of things are nice to share on blogs…

For more information check out the Fairsay eCampaigning Forum website where there’s a whole lot more about the conference, and the handy email discussion list that goes with it.

Also have a look at my notes (Evernote).

Tweet rotator

Sometimes it’s handy to be able to get people to tweet from a selection of messages – for instance on a thank you page after taking an action. Usually everyone just hits the tweet button and sends multiple versions of the same message out on twitter.

One thing that was interesting about the (I hate to mention it but..) Kony 2012 campaign was the splattergun approach to sharing multiple messages on twitter. 

To make things a little bit more varied you can use this super-simple tweet rotator script – this picks a tweet at random from a list you provide in the javascript. It’s fairly easy just to come up with 10 or so different variations on your tweet and include them in the script – see the example below. 

It’s also something that might work quite well with advocacy targets – anyone using tweetdeck to monitor their @mentions will see a varied response – particularly when you factor in that a few of your activists will change the tweet before they send it. 

Download it on GitHub

It’s also handy to avoid social media gaffes like this one.

Tweet your MP

Ever wanted to send a tweet to your MP? not sure if your Member of Parliament has embraced social media? want to put a handy tool to do so on your website?

Tweet Your MP
Tweet your MP

Here’s a little script I wrote to find your MP using a postcode (via the TheyWorkForYou.com API) and send them a tweet. Info, source and background below.

It’s possible to tweak this tool to return email address, postal address, phone number and facebook page (if they have one) – you can also add custom information to each MP as well. My data set includes 436 twitter accounts for MPs – slightly more than Tweetminster’s 409 but I have included auto twitter accounts (so people can see you’re tweeting your MP, even if they don’t respond). I’ve tried to avoid spoof accounts.

Bit of background about this tool

This tool works by converting the postcode into a constituency name on TheyWorkForYou.com, and then matching this constituency name with MP’s details on a local MySQL database table. If you don’t want to use TheyWorkForYou.com’s API it is possible to buy a constituency postcode database from Ordinance Survey for £350.

For a while I’ve been working on an open-source activism tool. It was born out of curiosity, an excuse to learn a bit more about php and as a way of proving email to MP actions courtesy of the very useful theyworkforyou.com API.

Unfortunately it became on of these projects that got more and more complicated – once I’d got round to adding a graphical user front end, SMS texting, and add on modules it started getting a bit too big for me to handle. Plus I started encountering problems with PHP’s send mail function getting blocked by outlook servers, experimented a bit with pop mail senders and then started looking at using online cloud services.

The past 2 organisations I’ve worked for have used off the shelf tools instead, making the aim of the project a little bit redundant.

I still have a copy of all the code (with lots of comments) if anyone would like it – it’s in an alpha sort of works if you’re prepared to spend a bit of time tinkering with it state. Just drop me a line. All I ask is that if you do improve on it, please make it publicly available (it is GPL licensed).

I’ve also been thinking about the effectiveness of email-your-mp actions with identikit emails embedded in them – I think using twitter or even printed out letters might be a better way forward to creatively attract attention, and avoid the boring accusations of ‘slacktivism’.

So in the meantime I’ve taken the bits of the tool that did work, and have reworked them into a much simpler ‘Tweet your MP’ toolkit. The idea of this is to provide a simple widget you can embed on your website – I’ve seen plenty of websites that just link to TheyWorkForYou.com, or refer people to google, so this provides a way of keeping activists on your page.

In the example above I’ve just gone for twitter and website information – but with a few tweaks to the code you can add email your MP (via a mailto link) phone your MP or write a paper letter to your MP functionality.

Requirements & the code

To get this to work you will need access to a MySQL database and PHP. This is currently running on my server which is a cheap-as-chips 123-reg setup. Check your ISP’s documentation for support on how to get these logins. I’ve labelled the code to show what it does.

If there are any corrections please get in touch with me and i’ll add them.

Download the code from GitHub

I’m updating this to fix problems and add enhancements. At the moment the code does contain a bit of stuff left over from the webtivist project. The GitHub version will always be the most up to date.

To make this work you’ll need to upload the MP data spreadsheet to your MySQL server (I used the import function on my 123reg hosting and it worked fine) this has every MP’s contact details – if you’d like access to this please drop me a line as I’d like to keep track of who’s using it!

Then you’ll need to edit the settings.php file to include the login for your MySQL database, the hostname and tablename for your MP database.

You’ll also need to apply for a theyworkforyou.com API key – there’s usually no charge to use this for small volumes. They prefer it if you ask them if you’re intending to use it a lot. Please Please don’t use this to send identical emails to MPs.

For the twitter part you’ll also need a Twitter API key  I changed this to use the more simple @mention option on twitter.

Corrections / suggestions and contributions

Thanks to MPs being arrested for things, standing down or departing, this data may become out of date over time.  If there is incorrect information please let me know and I’ll update it.

This script makes use of the TheyWorkForYou.com API and Ruben Arakelyan’s php script. Check the comments in the code for more information.

Update: this script has now moved to tweetyourMP.com

Twitter’s not just for elections…

I’m often looking for ways to engage with my MP – usually online, since that’s how a lot of things are done in the 21st century (banking, paying bills, booking travel etc). However sometimes I get a little bit despondent about writing to elected representatives who then don’t respond.

Neither my last MP Vince Cable, or now (since I’ve moved to Kingston) Ed Davey seem to do the online thing, with not much response to email and no tweets since May 2010.

In fairness, both seem to blog quite a bit and I haven’t yet tested their response rate to a dead-tree format letter.

But this got me thinking – is twitter and social media truly a way for MPs to reach out and engage with their electorate? or is it just a handy tool for some publicity every 4 years when they want our votes.

It would be a shame if the latter were true, since it’s a relatively easy way to publish information, particularly to a younger audience.

So I’ve compiled a list of MPs who haven’t tweeted in the last 6 months (most haven’t since the last election), along with a count of their followers:

Twitter MP followers
@vincecable
22094
@Vaizeyculture
3863
@Mike_Fabricant
2639
@HazelBlearsMP
2522
@DavidWrightMP
2507
@VirendraSharma
2505
@AlanDuncan4MP
2494
@leighmp * – now moved to @andyburnhammp and updated!
2004
@markdurkan
1946
@KarenBuckMP
1780
@naomi_long
1766
@eddaveykands
1543
@gildernewmp
1518
@Linda_Riordan
1489
@acarmichaelmp
1462
@Moore4Borders
1443
@nicolablackwood
1328
@kwasikwarteng
1026
@JDjanogly
885
@DavidEDrew
823
@Michael_Ellis1
658
@rosie4westlancs
634
@AMcDonnellMP
616
@George4MVMP
562
@NickSmith4BG
516
@PhilipDavies422
507
@C4NWestminster
452
@MaryMacleod4MP
449
@StocktonNorth
378
@edwardleighac
76

With over 22 thousand followers Vince Cable is missing a trick. Perhaps he’s lost the password?

As always corrections and feedback most welcome.

Update – @leighMP is now @andyburnhammp which is regularly updated – thanks to @CollectorManiac for pointing that one out.

Updated update: check out more MP twitter information at tweetyourMP.com

What the government got wrong with the new epetition system, and how they can fix it

Today the UK government launched an online e-petition system. You can sign up, create an online petition and if you get 100,000 signatures your campaign could get a debate in parliament.

How epetitions work (from government site)
How epetitions work (from government site)

There are a few provisos: the petition has to be approved (by the relevant department) and the petition can’t relate to appointments – presumably to avoid things like the ‘sack Gordon Brown’ petition which gained lots of names during the last government’s attempts at digital democracy. There are also a few rules about joke petitions, and the slightly catch all “the issue is not the responsibility of the government”.

As someone who does a lot of online campaigning, and has an interest in hacking together ideas for running online petitions, this is potentially really exciting.

But, there are a couple of issues:

  1. It’s a closed system.This is a massive issue. Charities and other organisations rely on online activism to recruit new members to their lists and encourage them to take a more active role in their campaigns (and yes, to fundraise from – but fundraising is activism too – see how the Obama campaign publicised it’s large number of donations as committed support).

    Take for instance a hypothetical example: a small campaigning organisation launches a campaign for the UK government to do something about a UK company supporting a dictator. The petition captures the public imagination, hundreds of thousands of people sign the petition. It has it’s day in parliament, but then the campaign moves out of the public eye. The small campaigning organisation can’t contact the petition signers to ask for help in moving the campaign forward.

     

    One of the big criticisms of online campaigning is that it’s low value ‘clicktavism‘, but if you have no way of capturing the details of the people who sign your petition, how can you get in touch with them and encourage them to be more involved, have tea with their MP and do some high-effort campaigning? Online petitions are often seen as the first step in engaging people with issues, and getting them more interested in politics.

    This leads me to think that a lot of campaigning organisations will ignore the system, and instead it will be used by the likes of the Sun to run campaigns like ‘Lets have the Red Arrows at the Olympics’.

    Worse still, it seems that newspapers like the Daily Mail are intent on using the petition system to launch campaigns like bringing back the death penalty. Given the current structure of the e-petition system it actually favours tabloid campaigns, since they have high circulations and don’t have to think about engaging in long term campaign work.

  2. It doesn’t tackle the big issue of how MPs respond to online campaigning.There is a massive variance in how MPs respond to being lobbied online. Some ignore email completely, others respond just to individual emails, and a few more respond to identical emails in the same way they would to letters. Recently a number of MPs have been very vocal in their opposition to online email petitions.

    Personally I believe that as our elected representatives, MPs have a duty to respond to their constituents, but at the same time appreciate that trawling through a lot of emails that are all the same might tax the resources of the average constituency office, and cause the kind of annoyance that can alienate MPs from otherwise worthy campaigns.

A proper online petition system would enable campaigners to do the things they need to do to work effectively, and at the same time give the politicians reasonable ways to gauge opinion and thus hopefully respond.

So how could it be done better?

  • Involve civil society: Involving the people who write the software that campaigning organisations use would be a good start. The e-petition system was written by a civil servant department bizarrely named ‘Skunkworks’ for £82,000.
  • Build out the e-petition system as an API – an ‘API’ allows other pieces of software to access a system – twitter uses this very effectively to allow all the tools like tweetdeck and hootsuite to send tweets. Organisations could feature the petitions on their websites and recruit activists to their own email and supporter databases at the same time.
  • Create a set of guidelines / protocols for lobbying MPs, ministers and departments and for people wanting to lobby them:

    It could be as simple as specifying something in the subject line of an email e.g. PETITION_mycampaigntitle for identical emails, and
    PERSONALQUERY_mycampaigntitle for individually-written emails. Or perhaps sending an MP a daily / weekly email informing them the number of constituents who have signed a particular petition, and inviting them to respond  (essentially taking over the task of managing the petition).

    This is a two way process: for it to work politicians would have to agree to respond if the ‘rules of engagement’ are met, and online campaigners would need to respect the rules.

  • Give campaign targets a platform to reply on – if it would encourage reluctant MPs to engage with online campaigning it would be worth offering the opportunity to put their views across.

In today’s modern world we carry out more and more of our daily activities online, banking, paying bills, buying insurance, shopping etc. It seems that providing the option to engage properly with politicians on the web is long overdue.

Thoughts? disagree with me completely? leave comments below!

Pete’s ultimate list of top 10 infographics in the world ever

Right, here’s a list of 10 11 infographics* (in no particular order) that have caught my attention for one reason or another, which I’ve put together to help kick off a bit of discussion about how we can use them at work.  Click on the image to get a bigger version. Leave suggestions of others in the comments.

*I’ve been fairly liberal in my definition of an infographic. Generally a picture that depicts some sort of data.

1. XKCD online communities map

This infographic compares the relative sizes of all the various social media sites, based on their user size and influence. By using a geographic context “Sea of Opinions” “Gulf of China” and “Plains of awkwardly public family interactions” the author is able to convey opinion alongside facts. By comparing things like spoken language, email and SMS it also gives a very effective idea of the bigness of social media.
Also goes to show that an effective infographic can be a simple line drawing.

XKCD online communities map
XKCD online communities map

XKCD also did a radiation chart where you can compare the dose of radiation you get from standing next Fukushima nuclear plant to having a chest X-ray.

2. The History of Digg (and others)

There are lots and lots of vertical skyscraper infographics – they tend to tell a story in the style of a timeline which you scroll through vertically, which makes sense as most web users have the ability to scroll up and down rather than side to side. They usually contain a narrative story illustrated with various facts and figures.

This one from online schools charts the history of the online news site Digg.

History of Digg
History of Digg

See also the history of Rick Rolling which includes the factoid that Pete Waterman only earned $15 in royalties from 150 million views of “Never gonna give you up”.

3. Left versus right wing

This is a big and hugely complicated graphic which manages to convey a lot of information without looking overly messy. By tradition most internet users tend to skim read rather than digest every bit of information you give them, so this design combines headline facts with symmetry to provide an easy way to compare and contrast the ideological differences between left and right.

Information is beautiful - Left / Right wing graphic
Information is beautiful - Left / Right wing graphic

Lots more infographics available at Information is Beautiful or buy the book.

4. Greenpeace EfficienCity

An animated infographic from Greenpeace, which allows you to explore a perfect energy efficient town. Also check out their Rainbow Warrior website which features 3d graphics that wouldn’t look out of place on the bridge of the starship enterprise.

EfficienCity
Efficient city, efficiency, EfficienCity

5. #UKsnow

#UKsnow was a clever twitter / google maps mashup which generated an interactive map using location-tagged tweets about snow and it’s intensity. Suffered from accuracy issues and in some way more interesting about where twitter users are clustered who find snow a novelty.

#uksnow map
It doesn't snow in May

Also check our Ushahidi for SMS based crowdmaps about more serious issues.

6. How big are things?

An oldie but a goldie. How Big Are things is the original site that allows you to compare the size of a 747 to a blue whale, or a neutron star to central Manhattan. Has spawned many copies that use the same idea.

How Big Are things?
Compare a blue whale to a 747

8. 87billion.com

Visualising very large numbers often poses a challenge. 87 billion dollars is such a vast number that it’s difficult to comprehend.

900 million dollars
About the size of a house

Honourable mention: any site that compares something to the size of Wales / Belgium.

9. Wordle

Used a lot by (lazy) bloggers analysing speeches, this infographic site generates graphics that size words by frequency given a piece of text.

Wordle of this blog post
Wordle of this blog post

View more or make your own at www.wordle.net

10. The Babel Fish

Babel fish graphic by Rod Lord
Proves you exist so therefore you don't.

Infographics aren’t anything new, they’ve been around since Da Vinci started doodling illustrative ideas for aeroplanes in his notebooks. In 1977 The Babel Fish (and other) graphics from the Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy predicted a futuristic computerised device which contained almost every bit of information you could possibly imagine wanting to know.

The original hand drawn faux computer graphics were created by Rod Lord.

11. How Banks Cause Hunger

Food speculation gone crazy from the World Development Movement

How banks cause hunger infographic
Can bankers get any worse?

Update(s):

Saving lives with cheap, effective vaccines.

Right – here’s a quick plug for a project I’m working on at the moment:

We all take for granted the vaccines we had when we were little (I actually managed to embarrass my GP father by making a bit of a fuss, but in my defence I was only 3 and needles sugarlumps were scary). Yet around the world millions of children miss out on simple, cheap vaccines that would prevent horrible illnesses and death.

Vaccines are regarded as a very cost effective way of controlling childhood diseases – prevention being much cheaper than cure. Now, for the very first time, there are two new vaccines that will help stop pneumonia and diarrhoea – 2 of the biggest killers of children under 5 around the world.

However, it’s one thing having these vaccines available; it’s another getting them safely to the places where they are needed. In a few weeks world leaders are meeting to decide how much they will pledge to support the roll out of these vaccines in developing countries. The money required is equal to a tiny percentage of global budgets, yet during a global recession aid budgets are often easy targets for cuts.

Please sign the petition today it takes about 10 seconds, and no it won’t hurt one little bit.