2021 - Week 12

Career opportunities

Week 12 kicked off much as week 11 ended. Librarians Anya, Liz and Steve were joined by computational ‘expert’ Michael for another round of pixel based interviews. There are few areas of life improved by our recent isolation from all forms of human contact; we suggest that interviews might be one of them. No jelly-legged trudge to the anonymous interview room, strangely reminiscent - we imagine - of the room Woolworths reserved for shoplifters; gone is the feeling that you’re mere seconds away from slipping off your chair; no more battling your desire for a sip of water - that plastic cup is clearly a shaky hand test. Teams and Zoom and suchlike can be spectacularly unhelpful for a great many things - and we still miss our whiteboards - but, all in all, pixels make for a much more relaxed setting than the average encounter with recruitment professionals. We rather enjoyed the interviews. We hope our candidates felt likewise.

Enabling enabling Acts

Our work on the enabling of enabling Acts being completed, this week the Ja(y)nes - Librarian and JO - met with our colleagues in Software Engineering to chat through Jane’s requirements for the website. Offers to lend a helping hand with SPARQL queries were made and gratefully accepted. We look forward to seeing at least two flavours of proposed negative statutory instrument popping up on the website in fairly short order.

Logicifying and indeed componentising the procedure maps

Not a week of great excitement to be honest. Jayne and Michael spent upwards of an hour checking the routes they’d entered for the draft affirmative procedure as drawn by the machines against the version they’d sketched by hand. Though in truth it felt much longer. Thankfully no errors were spotted, and so, with that, they moved on to remapping the made affirmative. Efforts so far are published here, but please don’t look too closely. It is, for now, a quite monstrous chimera of draft affirmative and made affirmative, with logic steps unplugged from withdrawals and left hanging in space, and routes from clock ends with no clocks yet in sight. We’re fairly happy with the Commons side and some of the bits in the middle. Assorted motions in the Lords still need plugging in to what are currently blank sockets. More progress next week, we hope.

In the course of remapping the made affirmative, we did manage to add to our growing library of component procedures. Whilst questions being put on a motion to approve the Local Government Finance Report (England) might be seen as an edge-case of an edge-case - even by made affirmative standards - it does go some way to simplifying the main map and will make our lives much simpler should we ever decide to expand that procedure. Data for this component procedure is now tucked up cosily inside the machines who have once more blessed us with one of their early years attempts at a drawing. Though quite why the machines have chosen to draw the thing like that we shall never know. Silly machines.

Parsing procedure maps

Much of Michael’s time has been spent staring at - and indeed weeping over - his procedure parsing code. Anya’s demand to distinguish steps that can’t yet happen from steps that can’t now happen remains something of a sticking point. This being the level of pedantry one has to put up with when dealing with librarians of the species. Needless to say, Michael’s code still does not work. On Thursday, he dragged Jayne and young Robert into the fray but it’s fair to say not much progress was made. Michael has created the tiniest of tiniest test procedures; he’s at least closer to understanding why his code does not work. Which, as a great man once said, is not nothing. He’s also hit upon the idea of rewriting the code to run client side, so he can plug it into the Web Audio API and generate music from the parsing of procedures. Like some bouffant haired Brian Eno. Which would be about as much use as his current efforts.

A new procedure this way comes?

The procedure kerfuffle dials went up to eleven this week, as the prospect of the publication of drafts of draft instruments - or indeed drafts of made instruments - under Paragraph 14 of Schedule 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 peeped over the not too distant horizon. Paragraph 14 sets out some details of an enhanced scrutiny procedure for instruments amending or revoking subordinate legislation under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. This is how Jayne and Michael found themselves attending - eavesdropping on, if we’re totally honest - a meeting between clerks and lawyers determined to get to the bottom of how Parliament might scrutinise such things. It remains unclear if a new procedure will need to be mapped but, as ever, we stand ready to bring our paper, pencils and shiny eager faces to the fray.

Expanding our sparkling library

Librarian Jayne has once again taken out her SPARQL spanner, this week turning her hand to a set of queries quite agnostic of both procedure and instrument type. If you’re in the market for a list of instruments currently before Parliament, a list of instruments by department, a list of instruments being considered by a committee, a list of instruments with prayers tabled against them or a list of instruments being debated, and you care not a jot if they are PNSIs, SIs or treaties, this is the page for you.

A minor miracle

On the subject of things SPARQL related, this was quite a week for the House of Commons Library, as librarians Liz and Elise combined heads to respond to the first ever enquiry whose answer lay at the far end of a Wikidata SPARQL query. Your correspondents have long insisted that - for a certain subset of information - organisations interested in the dissemination of accurate information might consider contributing to Wikidata before building yet another website. Whilst not yet fully vindicated, they do believe their case is somewhat strengthened. Thanks, as ever, to Andrew.