2020 - Week 35

Procedure mapping

Jianhan continued to make progress on adding time bound routes to our procedure model. This will allow us to open new routes through procedure - and close off old ones - as legislation, Standing Orders and allocations to committees change, flex and adapt. All anticipated code is now deployed on our test environment, ready for our colleagues in Software Engineering to test we haven’t inadvertently broken anything at their end. If the testing goes to plan, we’ll be ready to move the code to the live environment and begin to rework the procedure and work package visualisations.

In the interests of symmetry - and because he is an inveterate RESTafarian - Michael has taken the RSS code he added to Made ‘n’ Laid and ported it across to Tweaty Twacker. So now you don’t have to be a Twitter user to get updates every time the FCO lay a treaty before Parliament. Just plug the RSS feed into your favourite feed reader. Or into your email client, should that be RSS compatible.

Librarian Jayne and Michael kicked off their week with a little light Trello gardening. They’re trying to clear the decks - and their heads - of any quick fixes to procedure maps and data before they move on to re-mapping with logic gates. Redrawing the maps has been on the backlog since early 2019 but they didn’t want to get stuck in until the necessary code changes looked possible - maintaining two lots of maps to reflect changes in procedure is a headache they didn’t need. But now we have Jianhan back, code changes are once again within our grasp. So Jayne and Michael have been mostly pulling up weeds and preparing the ground for a whole new way of working.

Having sifted the barren soil from the good stuff, they turned their attention back to their generic motion model. They think their procedure map now says that a motion, having been moved, can only be proposed or the question put if there’s no fatal amendment or the fatal amendment hasn’t been withdrawn or lapsed. And if there is a fatal amendment - that hasn’t been withdrawn or lapsed - the route from the motion being moved flows to the allowing of the moving of the fatal amendment. And the fatal amendment having been negatived, the flow returns to the possibility of proposing the main motion or putting the question on the main motion forthwith. Try that one after taking a drink.

On Thursday, Jayne and Michael borrowed an hour of Matt’s time to talk through what they’d cobbled together on motions. Quibbles were raised about the need for proposal and response and debate. A new understanding of ‘forthwith’ was reached. Turns out it’s not just get on with it and dump the discourse. And there was a small debate about when exactly the need to beg leave to withdraw a motion kicks in. Thanks for your ears Matt. An email has gone in the direction of Martyn in the hope he can provide further clarification. And with that, Matt, Anya and Michael retired to the pub for a well earned pint or some.

Jayne and Michael also spent a small part of Monday adding a missing route to both made affirmative map and data. They got as far as updating pixels to say an instrument being revoked precludes a decision being made by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments and then found a small bug in the procedure editor. Which Jianhan had kindly fixed by mid-afternoon. So now maps and data are aligned and another tiny gap is plugged.

Tuesday morning found Jayne and Michael embarking on more autumnal cleaning of procedure maps and data. These were:

Beds tidied, tools put away and a fresh cup of tea prepared, Anya, Jayne, Jianhan, Robert and Michael decided to sketch out some rough plans for replanting their garden with logic gates. They made a few suggestions for changes to the procedure editor database schema. Possibly, unhelpfully, shown in green and red. Which will most probably confuse Michael at some point in the not too distant future. A new Trello card was also created but featured a checklist so long that a new Trello board was settled upon as a better course of action.

Your weekly egg timer update

Robert and Michael continue their mission to comment all the things and made slow but steady progress through the seven flavours of scrutiny period calculation they’ve been forced to deal with. Comments are in the middle of being converted to Markdown. Robert’s shiny new parser picks them up and spits out both HTML and more Markdown. Progress to date is listed here. Clerkly heads are encouraged to take a look at our logic and idiot check.

Jayne, Robert and Michael also spent an hour preparing for a meeting with Daniel Greenberg from the Office of the Speaker’s Counsel in search of a grown up view on the proper definition of “both Houses being adjourned”. Which seems simple enough but continues to cause confusion. They talked at cross purposes for at least 30 minutes until they came to the realisation that when legislation says both it translates to counting either, and when legislation says either it translates to counting both. Why these things are always written in the negative we have no idea. But then we are relatively new to this game.

On the subject of legislation, Michael had the misfortune to accidentally click on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 where he chanced upon the words no account shall be taken of any time [..] during which either House is adjourned for more than four days and wept into his pillow. His current calculation logic takes no account of any days adjourned. Quite why he ever got into the egg timing business he’ll never know. More work for next week.

All about the collaboration

Librarian Jayne’s first pass at building our library of SPARQL queries used procedure step labels. But procedure step labels, like all labels, are subject to change. Which meant we risked breaking the queries every time we tweaked a label. So attempt number two switched from using labels to identifiers. Which has the advantage of not breaking if a label changes and the disadvantage of being less than comprehensible. Friend of the family Tony mentioned the queries we’d published were a little difficult to amend and adapt because the identifiers were impenetrable to human understanding. He also suggested we might add comments to queries as a way to get around this. So that’s exactly what Jayne has done. Queries for Proposed Negative Statutory Instruments are now fully commented. Queries for Statutory Instruments are half done. And Tony has declared himself much happier. Top customer service, Librarian Jayne. As part of that conversation, Leigh chipped in with a link to a GitHub repo to generate documentation from SPARQL queries which Jayne has been peering at intently and hopes to use someday soon. Thanks Leigh.

Back in the Times Before, Anya, Robert, Michael and Silver were kicking around the idea of submitting a project proposal to the Parliamentary Academic Fellowship Scheme. Concepts in the UK Parliament Controlled Vocabulary are granular, and parliamentary material is subject indexed at a granular level. So they have been wondering about how they might “roll up” the taxonomy in a way that makes it amenable to browsing. Using something a little more nuanced than simple transitivity. They also wondered if it might be possible to identify compound concepts from patterns of indexing. So could you fingerprint an event like the Grenfell Tower disaster when all pertinent material is indexed with ‘Grenfell Tower’ and ‘Fire’ and ‘Cladding’ but there is no composite concept for the event itself? They never quite got around to writing a brief. But this week a proposal arrived via the fellowship scheme. Which was not identical but bore similarities. So Anya, Ian, Robert and Michael fired up Teams and chatted all things taxonomic. No news yet but we will, as ever, keep you informed.