Hello everyone, my name is Ming. I started working at dxw digital as a designer two months ago.

My background

I was born and bred in Hong Kong. I started my career as a programmer in some banks in Hong Kong and then I moved on to become a web designer and engaged in a lot of media production projects when I found my interest in multimedia, especially web and graphic design, photography and video production. I was lucky enough to have a chance of working in Yahoo! Hong Kong where I had a great period of time and met a lot of talented people. When I found that quite a lot of those talented colleagues have studied or worked overseas, I had a question – what if I move abroad and get a different life experience too? Will I become as good as them? In November 2009, I quit my job, left Hong Kong and moved to London on my own with a one-way ticket to try to find the answer.

 

Living in London

To be honest, moving abroad on your own is quite scary to someone like me. Luckily, I have only struggled a bit at the beginning and I settled down quite well. My plan was to stay in London for 1 year and was happy to work in any position and industry, but now I’ve been living in London and working as a Designer / Front-end Developer for almost 9 years. I met a lot of great people, had a lot of fun, grew up both as a person and as a web professional (and finished a master’s degree in Goldsmiths College, too). The journey has been way more fruitful than I thought.

 

Start working at dxw digital

Early this year, I had been working in a digital marketing agency in London for five and a half years. I loved the company as well as the people (and the Westie dog!) and of course I learnt a lot. However, due to some personal experience, I was thinking if I can get a chance to contribute myself more to society rather than just focusing on commercial or retailing projects all my life. Therefore I left my job for a sabbatical, spent a few months off in Hong Kong and London and then started to look for that ideal opportunity. When dxw digital came to me and told me about their history and the chance of working for the public sector, I could not think of a better place. Luckily, I was hired🙂 It has been two months working at dxw digital already and I love every single bit of it. The environment is super friendly and welcoming. I learnt a lot from my colleagues and I am still learning every day. As an immigrant, I feel grateful to have the opportunity to contribute back to the society. Now I do not have a plan for the future, because I am already living my ideal life. I just want to get on with it as long as I can🙂

 

Other things about me

I may look skinny and weak sometimes, but I am a big fan of sports especially tennis (both watching and playing) and football (Yay Manchester United!) I also love all kinds of music including Britpop (it began way before I moved to Britain). I still love things like art & design, photography and filmmaking but after so many years I honestly found that making website could be the most intriguing thing to me. I hope you don’t mind if I chat with you about web design and development at leisure time 🙂

The post Introducing Ming appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

As a social purpose company, we want to maximise the amount of good we can do. This often means capacity building—supporting partners around the world to achieve social impact at scale.

Over the past 20 months, in one of our largest capacity building programmes to date, BIT has been working alongside government partners in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Guatemala. We’ve been supporting ten different institutions to run their own behavioural insights projects, with the aim of improving the lives of millions of people – many of whom are living on less than USD 5 per day.

To scale and spread expertise in behavioural interventions, we are conducting 18 randomised control trials (RCTs) to address a variety of issues, including tax compliance, birth registration and education. We’ll be profiling the results of this programme, and the civil servants who contributed to its success, in a new series of blog posts.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on this project

We’re very grateful for the support of the Global Innovation Fund and, of course, the efforts of our government partners, without whom none of this work would be possible.

🇮🇩 Indonesia: Tax trial brought forward USD 1.93 million

Our first two trials in Indonesia focused on improving tax compliance – an area where BIT has considerable experience (see previous blog posts). Working with the Indonesian tax authority, Direktorat Jenderal Pajak (DJP), we:

  1. Conducted an online experiment using BIT’s Predictiv platform to reduce errors when taxpayers complete their tax return. Our intervention (a two-page flyer) increased accuracy by 8 per cent and could benefit up to 1.9 million taxpayers. Download the full report or a short briefing.
  2. Ran our largest RCT with 11.2 million taxpayers to encourage submissions of annual tax returns at least two weeks before the deadline. Our best performing intervention (an email with planning support) increased early filing by 7 per cent and overall filing by 2 per cent. It also brought forward an extra USD 1.93 million in tax payments at the point of filing, equivalent to USD 13.53 million if scaled to the whole sample. Download the full report or a short briefing.

How do DJP plan to scale behavioural approaches to tax administration?

Collaborating with BIT on these projects helped DJP set up a Behavioural Insights Task Force with the skills to continue running behavioural insights projects on their own. For example, for the trial to encourage early tax filing, DJP conducted interviews with 20 taxpayers to understand their perspective before working with BIT to design the email interventions. They also conducted the randomisation and analysed the taxpayer data, with support from BIT to write a trial protocol, prepare Stata code, and interpret the results.

DJP have identified a number of behavioural insights projects they would like to conduct in the future, such as reducing underreporting of tax liabilities and improving data quality. Some local and regional tax offices have also requested their support to develop and test behavioural interventions. We believe that the willingness of Indonesian tax officials to embrace experimental methods will have long-term positive impacts on government revenue and taxpayer satisfaction.

What skills and organisational capacity did DJP acquire from these projects?

Adityawarman (Adit), Head of Section for manufacturing sector compliance, Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue. 

Adit was an early adopter of behavioural insights at DJP. Since getting involved in the BIT capacity building programme, Adit has continued to develop his intervention design and statistical skills. He is one of the founding members of DJP’s Behavioural Insights Task Force and now feels confident to share his knowledge with everyone in DJP.


Gitarani Prastuti (Gita), Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue.

Gita worked with Adit on behavioural insights projects in the past. Armed with this experience and the knowledge she gained from a BIT workshop, she co-designed the flyer which was tested in the Predictiv trial. As her role at DJP has evolved to align with her passion for behavioural insights, she now applies a behavioural lens to many different aspects of tax compliance.


We’d like to extend a huge thanks to Steve Dardo from the Australian Tax Office who was on secondment to DJP during the implementation of these projects. His advice, support and enthusiasm for behavioural approaches helped make them a success.

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

As a social purpose company, we want to maximise the amount of good we can do. This often means capacity building—supporting partners around the world to achieve social impact at scale.

Over the past 20 months, in one of our largest capacity building programmes to date, BIT has been working alongside government partners in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Guatemala. We’ve been supporting ten different institutions to run their own behavioural insights projects, with the aim of improving the lives of millions of people – many of whom are living on less than USD 5 per day.

To scale and spread expertise in behavioural interventions, we are conducting 18 randomised control trials (RCTs) to address a variety of issues, including tax compliance, birth registration and education. We’ll be profiling the results of this programme, and the civil servants who contributed to its success, in a new series of blog posts.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on this project

We’re very grateful for the support of the Global Innovation Fund and, of course, the efforts of our government partners, without whom none of this work would be possible.

🇮🇩 Indonesia: Tax trial brought forward USD 1.93 million

Our first two trials in Indonesia focused on improving tax compliance – an area where BIT has considerable experience (see previous blog posts). Working with the Indonesian tax authority, Direktorat Jenderal Pajak (DJP), we:

  1. Conducted an online experiment using BIT’s Predictiv platform to reduce errors when taxpayers complete their tax return. Our intervention (a two-page flyer) increased accuracy by 8 per cent and could benefit up to 1.9 million taxpayers. Download the full report or a short briefing.
  2. Ran our largest RCT with 11.2 million taxpayers to encourage submissions of annual tax returns at least two weeks before the deadline. Our best performing intervention (an email with planning support) increased early filing by 7 per cent and overall filing by 2 per cent. It also brought forward an extra USD 1.93 million in tax payments at the point of filing, equivalent to USD 13.53 million if scaled to the whole sample. Download the full report or a short briefing.

How do DJP plan to scale behavioural approaches to tax administration?

Collaborating with BIT on these projects helped DJP set up a Behavioural Insights Task Force with the skills to continue running behavioural insights projects on their own. For example, for the trial to encourage early tax filing, DJP conducted interviews with 20 taxpayers to understand their perspective before working with BIT to design the email interventions. They also conducted the randomisation and analysed the taxpayer data, with support from BIT to write a trial protocol, prepare Stata code, and interpret the results.

DJP have identified a number of behavioural insights projects they would like to conduct in the future, such as reducing underreporting of tax liabilities and improving data quality. Some local and regional tax offices have also requested their support to develop and test behavioural interventions. We believe that the willingness of Indonesian tax officials to embrace experimental methods will have long-term positive impacts on government revenue and taxpayer satisfaction.

What skills and organisational capacity did DJP acquire from these projects?

Adityawarman (Adit), Head of Section for manufacturing sector compliance, Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue. 

Adit was an early adopter of behavioural insights at DJP. Since getting involved in the BIT capacity building programme, Adit has continued to develop his intervention design and statistical skills. He is one of the founding members of DJP’s Behavioural Insights Task Force and now feels confident to share his knowledge with everyone in DJP.


Gitarani Prastuti (Gita), Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue.

Gita worked with Adit on behavioural insights projects in the past. Armed with this experience and the knowledge she gained from a BIT workshop, she co-designed the flyer which was tested in the Predictiv trial. As her role at DJP has evolved to align with her passion for behavioural insights, she now applies a behavioural lens to many different aspects of tax compliance.


We’d like to extend a huge thanks to Steve Dardo from the Australian Tax Office who was on secondment to DJP during the implementation of these projects. His advice, support and enthusiasm for behavioural approaches helped make them a success.

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

As a social purpose company, we want to maximise the amount of good we can do. This often means capacity building—supporting partners around the world to achieve social impact at scale.

Over the past 20 months, in one of our largest capacity building programmes to date, BIT has been working alongside government partners in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Guatemala. We’ve been supporting ten different institutions to run their own behavioural insights projects, with the aim of improving the lives of millions of people – many of whom are living on less than USD 5 per day.

To scale and spread expertise in behavioural interventions, we are conducting 18 randomised control trials (RCTs) to address a variety of issues, including tax compliance, birth registration and education. We’ll be profiling the results of this programme, and the civil servants who contributed to its success, in a new series of blog posts.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on this project

We’re very grateful for the support of the Global Innovation Fund and, of course, the efforts of our government partners, without whom none of this work would be possible.

🇮🇩 Indonesia: Tax trial brought forward USD 1.93 million

Our first two trials in Indonesia focused on improving tax compliance – an area where BIT has considerable experience (see previous blog posts). Working with the Indonesian tax authority, Direktorat Jenderal Pajak (DJP), we:

  1. Conducted an online experiment using BIT’s Predictiv platform to reduce errors when taxpayers complete their tax return. Our intervention (a two-page flyer) increased accuracy by 8 per cent and could benefit up to 1.9 million taxpayers. Download the full report or a short briefing.
  2. Ran our largest RCT with 11.2 million taxpayers to encourage submissions of annual tax returns at least two weeks before the deadline. Our best performing intervention (an email with planning support) increased early filing by 7 per cent and overall filing by 2 per cent. It also brought forward an extra USD 1.93 million in tax payments at the point of filing, equivalent to USD 13.53 million if scaled to the whole sample. Download the full report or a short briefing.

How do DJP plan to scale behavioural approaches to tax administration?

Collaborating with BIT on these projects helped DJP set up a Behavioural Insights Task Force with the skills to continue running behavioural insights projects on their own. For example, for the trial to encourage early tax filing, DJP conducted interviews with 20 taxpayers to understand their perspective before working with BIT to design the email interventions. They also conducted the randomisation and analysed the taxpayer data, with support from BIT to write a trial protocol, prepare Stata code, and interpret the results.

DJP have identified a number of behavioural insights projects they would like to conduct in the future, such as reducing underreporting of tax liabilities and improving data quality. Some local and regional tax offices have also requested their support to develop and test behavioural interventions. We believe that the willingness of Indonesian tax officials to embrace experimental methods will have long-term positive impacts on government revenue and taxpayer satisfaction.

What skills and organisational capacity did DJP acquire from these projects?

Adityawarman (Adit), Head of Section for manufacturing sector compliance, Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue. 

Adit was an early adopter of behavioural insights at DJP. Since getting involved in the BIT capacity building programme, Adit has continued to develop his intervention design and statistical skills. He is one of the founding members of DJP’s Behavioural Insights Task Force and now feels confident to share his knowledge with everyone in DJP.


Gitarani Prastuti (Gita), Directorate of Tax Potential, Compliance and Revenue.

Gita worked with Adit on behavioural insights projects in the past. Armed with this experience and the knowledge she gained from a BIT workshop, she co-designed the flyer which was tested in the Predictiv trial. As her role at DJP has evolved to align with her passion for behavioural insights, she now applies a behavioural lens to many different aspects of tax compliance.


We’d like to extend a huge thanks to Steve Dardo from the Australian Tax Office who was on secondment to DJP during the implementation of these projects. His advice, support and enthusiasm for behavioural approaches helped make them a success.

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

See you at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC)

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Next week, our Head of Research, Rebecca, will be heading to Copenhagen to participate in the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC).

IACC is the world’s biggest global forum for bringing together heads of state, civil society, the private sector and more to tackle the increasingly sophisticated challenges posed by corruption. Established in 1983, the IACC takes place usually every two years in a different region of the world, and hosts from 800 to 2000 participants from over 135 countries worldwide.

Rebecca will be a panellist in the DigiMeddle – Kidnapping Democracy in the New Digital Age session on 24th October 12:00pm – 2:00pm in Workshop Room 1. The session is intended to be a high-level dynamic panel discussion on the misuse of digital tools and social media to try and sway public opinion and skew elections.

Keep up with Rebecca on social media for updates throughout the conference — and you can find official conference happenings via @IACCseries and the #18IACC hashtag.

 

Original source – mySociety

In this series we offer an insight into the working lives of people within digital and technology roles across Ministry of Justice Digital & Technology.

In this post Alison MacLeod, Lead User Researcher, talks us through her day..

What is your role at MoJ?

I am Lead User Researcher at Justice Digital, specialising in research with citizens, professionals, and partners. I’ve been at MOJ for just under 2 years, and it’s my first Civil Service role.

What did you do before you worked for MoJ?

I was UX research manager at the mobile phone network, EE, and before that I was a freelance UX researcher. I actually started out as a market researcher, doing qualitative research on everything from soap powder to Hula Hoops. I can still write a decent questionnaire.

What does a typical day look like for you?

No such thing as a typical day! Over the week, I split my time between lead user researcher stuff, and live projects. I’m usually embedded with an Agile team, designing and delivering the research for that service. Next week, I’m joining a new service team, so I’ll be out one day with the service designer, interviewing caseworkers at a regional office.

I’m also a user research assessor for the GDS Service Standard, so I’ll spend half a day at a service assessment. I usually work from home one day a week, and I use that day for analysis and thinking away from the hurly-burly of the office.

Tell us about any new or interesting projects you’re working on right now.

I have just finished a project looking at Prison Officer recruitment. As part of the preparation for this, I attended job fairs and recruitment panels, and I also visited a cross-section of prisons to talk to experienced officers. This is definitely not your typical user research project – nothing quite prepares you for interviewing in a tiny staff room at a high security prison.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned while working here?

This is easily the most Agile environment that I’ve ever worked in, and the biggest piece of learning for me personally was how to operate as part of a highly skilled team, as opposed to being an independent operator.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to apply for a role at MoJ?

Do your homework. I can’t think of a more interesting place to be a researcher, but it can be a challenging environment. Overall, we have the privilege and the responsibility of designing end-to-end services that will affect real lives.

We deal with all kinds of users: lawyers, prison officers, caseworkers, victims of crime. Some of our users are going through intensely difficult, highly emotional experiences. We deal with some tough material at times. You are also joining a big team: there is a large and welcoming community of researchers at MOJ. It’s still amazing to me to be in a place where user research is taken so seriously.

If you weren’t a User Researcher, what would you be?

I think I have research in my blood so that one is hard to answer! I love science communication, so in a parallel world I’d like to be a popular science writer.

Can you tell us your favourite film?

My absolute favourite film is the Simon Pegg comedy, Hot Fuzz.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I make fused glass jewellery and small artwork, very very slowly.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

In this series we offer an insight into the working lives of people within digital and technology roles across Ministry of Justice Digital & Technology.

In this post Alison MacLeod, Lead User Researcher, talks us through her day..

What is your role at MoJ?

I am Lead User Researcher at Justice Digital, specialising in research with citizens, professionals, and partners. I’ve been at MOJ for just under 2 years, and it’s my first Civil Service role.

What did you do before you worked for MoJ?

I was UX research manager at the mobile phone network, EE, and before that I was a freelance UX researcher. I actually started out as a market researcher, doing qualitative research on everything from soap powder to Hula Hoops. I can still write a decent questionnaire.

What does a typical day look like for you?

No such thing as a typical day! Over the week, I split my time between lead user researcher stuff, and live projects. I’m usually embedded with an Agile team, designing and delivering the research for that service. Next week, I’m joining a new service team, so I’ll be out one day with the service designer, interviewing caseworkers at a regional office.

I’m also a user research assessor for the GDS Service Standard, so I’ll spend half a day at a service assessment. I usually work from home one day a week, and I use that day for analysis and thinking away from the hurly-burly of the office.

Tell us about any new or interesting projects you’re working on right now.

I have just finished a project looking at Prison Officer recruitment. As part of the preparation for this, I attended job fairs and recruitment panels, and I also visited a cross-section of prisons to talk to experienced officers. This is definitely not your typical user research project – nothing quite prepares you for interviewing in a tiny staff room at a high security prison.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned while working here?

This is easily the most Agile environment that I’ve ever worked in, and the biggest piece of learning for me personally was how to operate as part of a highly skilled team, as opposed to being an independent operator.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to apply for a role at MoJ?

Do your homework. I can’t think of a more interesting place to be a researcher, but it can be a challenging environment. Overall, we have the privilege and the responsibility of designing end-to-end services that will affect real lives.

We deal with all kinds of users: lawyers, prison officers, caseworkers, victims of crime. Some of our users are going through intensely difficult, highly emotional experiences. We deal with some tough material at times. You are also joining a big team: there is a large and welcoming community of researchers at MOJ. It’s still amazing to me to be in a place where user research is taken so seriously.

If you weren’t a User Researcher, what would you be?

I think I have research in my blood so that one is hard to answer! I love science communication, so in a parallel world I’d like to be a popular science writer.

Can you tell us your favourite film?

My absolute favourite film is the Simon Pegg comedy, Hot Fuzz.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I make fused glass jewellery and small artwork, very very slowly.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

In our previous post, we identified WhatDoTheyKnow’s current need for sources of funding.

But WhatDoTheyKnow also needs more volunteers to join the team. Since the site’s launch, it’s always depended on a highly-motivated, active group of administrators who work to keep it running.

At mySociety, we’re very grateful for the work the volunteers do; for their part, they tell us that they find the work rewarding and interesting — but we’re always aware that we can’t, and shouldn’t, demand too much from them. The more volunteers we can recruit, of course, the less the workload will be for everyone.

We’ve identified three general areas in which volunteer help would be very welcome, and if you think you’d fit in to any of these, we’d love to hear from you.

General volunteers

Are you:

    • interested in FOI and transparency
    • happy to work remotely but as part of a team, communicating mainly via email
    • able to dedicate a minimum of a few hours per week to helping run the site

Each of our volunteer administrators give their time freely and are the only reason we can run the service day to day at all.

Being a volunteer is both rewarding but also challenging, as each juggles their day jobs and home lives. So the more volunteers we have, the more we can spread the workload between them.

If you have a specific interest in FOI or transparency, or indeed you’d just like to help out support a well used civic tech service then we’d love to hear from you. There is always a diverse range of jobs and tasks needing to be done, even if you can only help a couple of hours a week. We all work from home and communicate via email and other online tools.

If you can help us a volunteer the first thing to do is to write to the team introducing yourself and letting us know about your relevant skills, experience and interests.

Legal support

Are you:

  • a law student or professional who can offer expertise in the day-to-day running of the site; or
  • a legal firm or chambers who could offer legal advice on an ad hoc, pro bono basis

Volunteers with legal backgrounds We take our legal and moral responsibilities in running WhatDoTheyKnow very seriously and we always welcome volunteers with experience of legal matters. Some of the legal aspects of running the site are handled routinely on a day to day basis by the admin team.

They may, for example, remove correspondence which could give rise to claims of defamation, or where personal data is disclosed by an authority mistakenly and they consider continued publication to be unwarranted.

The legal challenges thrown up by operating our service are varied and interesting. Joining us could be an opportunity for someone to get some hands on experience of modern media law, or for a more experienced individual, to provide some occasional advice and guidance on more challenging matters.

We often find ourselves balancing claims that material published on our site could aid criminals or terrorists, or could cause harm in other ways, and we do our best to weigh, and balance, such claims against the public interest in making the material available.

As material published on our website may have been used to support news articles, academic research, questions from elected representatives, and actions by campaign groups or individuals it’s important we don’t remove correspondence lightly and that we’re in a position to stand up, where necessary, to powerful people and institutions.

Legal firms that can offer advice As from time to time there are cases which are more complicated, we would like to build a relationship with a legal firm or chambers that can advise us on an ad hoc basis on defamation, privacy (misuse of private information) and data protection.

The ability to advise on copyright law and harassment law would also be an advantage. And we also on very rare occasions may need help as to how to respond to the threat of litigation.

Could you offer help in this area? Please do get in touch to discuss getting involved.

Administrative support

Are you:

  • a committed, organised, empathetic person who could volunteer a few hours (working from home) a week

In our previous post we mentioned that we’d ideally secure funding for an administrator who could handle our user support mail and deal with routine but potentially complex and time-sensitive tasks such as GDPR-based requests.

While we seek funding for this role, would you be willing to fill it on a voluntary basis? Please get in touch.

Lots to help with

So in summary, what we need to keep WhatDoTheyKnow running is money, volunteer help, and legal support. If you can help with any of these, or have some ideas of leads we might be able to follow, please do get in touch. It also helps to share this post with your networks!

Image: CC0 Public Domain

Original source – mySociety

If you appreciate our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow, then you’d probably like to know that it’ll be around for the foreseeable future.

That will only be a certainty if we can secure new volunteers across a broad range of areas; or new sources of funding for the site — or ideally, both! WhatDoTheyKnow is a free service, run on a charitable basis by a currently very thinly-stretched team of volunteers.

We’ve identified four areas in which we need help:

  • Funding
  • Legal support
  • Admin support
  • Additional volunteers

In this post we’ll be looking at the first of those; and in our next post we’ll talk more about various volunteer roles and ways of helping the site to operate. If you think you might be able to assist in any of these categories, please do read on.

Some background

WhatDoTheyKnow.com is a Freedom of Information service used by millions of people each year, from journalists and campaigners to ordinary people trying to navigate bureaucracy.

We recently celebrated the 500,000th request made via WhatDoTheyKnow, and also the site’s tenth anniversary. Each month, it’s visited by over half a million people and over 2,500 requests are made via the site. It’s a success story — an example of civic tech that runs at scale, has lasted, and has had an impact to match.

One of the ways that mySociety has always tried to make change in the world is by building things on the web that show how the world could be better. In the case of WhatDoTheyKnow, we asked ‘What would it be like if everyone felt able to ask questions of those with power, and get answers?’.

Our position as a small digital charity allows us to be bold in the things we build, to act as critical friends to institutions of power, and to design for the citizen. In practical terms, it also allows us to ask forgiveness, not permission — without that freedom, many of our sites and ideas would never have seen the light of day. That we have had success with WhatDoTheyKnow is wonderful, but leads us to ask a new question: how can we, again as a small digital charity, ensure its future?

It’s always been a necessary engineering principle for us as software developers, trying to build sites that have impact, to require as little ongoing intervention as possible. However, technology isn’t and shouldn’t be everything — a site that runs on the scale of WhatDoTheyKnow can’t run without different kinds of support. In running WhatDoTheyKnow, we’ve learned that digital institutions, like other institutions, are shaped by people. The people who originally designed them, for certain, but also those who pick up the torch, who continue to make the day-to-day decisions that keep the institution relevant, humane, responsive and responsible. It’s this support that distinguishes brilliant technical ideas that flame out from those that grow and become so embedded in our culture that they start to fundamentally change the way the world works.

A vital part of that support for WhatDoTheyKnow comes from a handful of volunteers who run the service day to day. These volunteers handle everything from simple user support to advising on complex points of law and policy.

Now the success of the site means that they need help on the front line. We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers — but there are also other things we need to ensure that WhatDoTheyKnow is around for the next ten years and another half a million requests.

We need funding for admin

It’s becoming increasingly urgent that we recruit a part-time assistant, responding to our users’ queries via email. This person would help our amazing team of volunteers support people in all walks of life as they go through the process of requesting information from public authorities.

They’d help to deal with the diverse day to day user enquiries, make sure we meet important deadlines in handling time-sensitive issues like GDPR-based requests, and share feedback to improve our user and volunteer experience over time. The cost of a paid part-time support role would be at least £15k per year.

We don’t currently have any funding for this increasingly essential role, nor indeed any direct funding for WhatDoTheyKnow itself.

We need funding for development

Although WhatDoTheyKnow hasn’t changed fundamentally over the years, there are always ways in which we could improve it — a recent example is our work to start developing features for journalists and other professional users.

The site does also require a certain amount of ongoing development work in order to keep it running at the scale it does. That includes making sure it gets the latest security updates, and dealing with new problems that arise as it grows, such as the fact that the more popular it becomes, the more rewarding a target it becomes for spammers.

Work to maintain Alaveteli, the code that runs WhatDoTheyKnow, also supports the community of Freedom of Information campaigners, journalists and citizens around the world that use Alaveteli-based services to exercise their right to know in 26 countries.

We don’t currently have any financial support for developers to support and maintain WhatDoTheyKnow and it’s important we find at least project funding of £30,000 to £40,000 a year, if not general unrestricted financial support from new funders.

Funding to date

We should acknowledge the funding which has allowed us to run thus far, and for which we are of course very grateful. A grant from the Joseph Rowntree Trust originally got WhatDoTheyKnow off the ground; Google’s Digital News Initiative supported the development of Alaveteli Professional, and unrestricted support from a number of funders ensured that mySociety has been able to continue paying their developers to work on the project. It’s perhaps worth noting that this support has, to date, always sustained development rather than administration.

We do have a revenue stream through WhatDoTheyKnow Pro, our FOI service for professionals such as journalists, but as yet this is very modest. As the service develops, we hope that this may one day become part of the framework that helps sustain WhatDoTheyKnow, but we’re some way from that at this point in time.

Sourcing funding

Can you help identify a fund or donor who might be willing to cover the costs we’ve identified above for the next year or two? Please get in touch.

Or perhaps we can be more imaginative. One model we’ve seen used to good effect by other sites run on our FOI platform Alaveteli has inspired us to conceive of a similar (but not identical) set-up for WhatDoTheyKnow. This would involve sponsorship from one or more reputable media organisations who could make use of WhatDoTheyKnow for their own journalistic investigations, while also gaining the benefit of recognition across the site.

Of course, that’s just one idea — there must be many other possible models for supporting the site and we’d love to hear any ideas you have in the comments below.

Now you might like to read our second post, in which we’ll be talking about ways you might be able to help with time, rather than money.

Image: CC0 Public Domain

Original source – mySociety

We’ve just released version 0.32 of Alaveteli, our open source platform for running Freedom Of Information sites. Here are some of the highlights.

Making correspondence threads easier to navigate

Thanks to our designers, it’s now possible to collapse individual messages in a correspondence thread in order to focus on just the parts you’re trying to read. Plus you can quickly collapse (or expand) all the messages in the thread using the “Collapse all” and “Expand all” links from the “Actions” menu.

Alaveteli Pro users gain the additional benefit of a redesigned sidebar which allows for easier navigation of lengthy correspondence and avoids having to scroll to the top of the request thread to update its status. See Martin’s full explanation here.

Better password security

We’ve started enforcing stricter password length constraints wherever a password is set or updated to help users keep their accounts secure. And we’re also using a stronger encryption method for storing password data, using bcrypt rather than the older SHA1 algorithm to obscure the actual password. (Be sure to run the rake task documented in the release upgrade notes to upgrade secure password storage for all existing users.)

You can read more about what this does and why it’s important if you’re interested in the technical details behind this upgrade.

Authorities not subject to FOI law

We’ve adopted WhatDoTheyKnow’s foi_no tag for authorities to indicate that although the authority is listed on the site, it is not legally subject to FOI law. This could be for advocacy purposes – if it’s felt an authority should be covered by legislation – or where the authority has agreed to respond on a voluntary basis.

Adding the foi_no tag now causes an extra message to appear under the authority’s name on their page and on all related requests, and removes language about legal responsibilities to reply from the messages sent to users.

To improve the UI, we’ve made a similar change for authorities with the eir_only tag to make it clearer that such authorities are only accepting requests about the environment.

(Don’t worry admins, you don’t need to remember all this – we’ve updated the documentation on the edit page to reflect the new functionality!)

Improvements for site admins

We’ve made it easier for admins to ban users who sign up to post spam links in their profile. There’s now a “Ban for spamming” button which is available on the user edit page or as soon as you expand the user’s details in the listing rather than having to manually edit user metadata.

We’ve also made it harder to leave requests flagged as vexatious (or “not_foi”) in an inconsistent state. Previously the site just assumed that vexatious requests would always be hidden. Now the admin interface enforces the hiding of vexatious requests by showing warnings when a request is set as vexatious while it’s visible on the site, and prevents the updated request from being saved until a valid state is selected.

Announcements

And last but not least – introducing the new Announcements feature!

Easier popup banner management

Site admins will be relieved to hear that they can now update the popup banner message on the site without needing to schedule developer time.

This feature supports multi-language sites so if you set the announcement for your main (default) language, it will appear across all language versions that you have not added a specific translation for.

Admin-only announcements

You can set announcements that will only be seen by fellow administrators when they visit the summary page. (If you’re running a Pro site, you can also have announcements that will only be seen by your Pro admins.)

Pro announcements

Announcements for Pro users appear as a carousel at the top of their dashboard. So far we’ve used it on WhatDoTheyKnow Pro to publicise new features, offer discount codes, and encourage people to share their published stories with us.


The full list of highlights and upgrade notes for this release is in the changelog.

Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed!

Original source – mySociety