2022 - Week 24

Last time out we threatened - promised? - those notes may well be our last. Imagine our surprise when our regular reader got in touch with a heartfelt plea we continue. Touched we were. Quite touched. Also, it’s just too hot to do any real work - typing nonsense with ice cream to hand is just so much easier. So here we are again. It’s good to be back.

On matters of mapping

Work continues - at pace, as we are encouraged to say these days - on mapping the legislative reform order procedure. Or procedures. Who knows? Librarian Jayne and Michael have evolved the core procedure map to better describe when such an instrument may be withdrawn. And, more to the point, when it might not. We’ve also taken the House of Lords procedure determination map - drawn up with much needed help from Lords JO Philipp - and repurposed it for the Commons. The repurposing was made a little more difficult by the presence of two committees - one current and one from a procedural past life. So with sections 14 and 15 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 largely covered off, we’ve now moved on to section 16 and started to map out the negative procedure. This is largely based on our standard draft negative statutory instrument map, but with tweaks reflecting that the instrument has already been laid, that withdrawal is taken care of elsewhere and that the usual committees have no involvement. Our eyes have now made it as far down the page as section 16(5) and are about to take on the task of mapping committee consideration and any subsequent resolutions. A quick chat with Philipp has given us hope that we may be able to make one component map to cover sections 16(5), 17(4) and 18(6). Thanks Philipp.

On a side note, both Jayne and Michael wish to pass on their thanks to whoever drafted the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act. Or at least the bit that sets out the procedure. Unlike some Acts they’ve attempted to grapple with - looking at you schedule 2 of the Human Rights Act - it is possible for even someone with the reading age of a child to parse without having to run fingers over pages and mutter incantations. Marvellous.

Over in the world of bills we are pleased - nay delighted - to report that our attempts at mapping Commons examination of hybridity have finally been signed off by Katya and Simon. Thanks both.

Still in the Commons - and alongside hybridity - we’ve also been attempting - and largely failing - to map motions for the fast tracking of second readings. Luckily Huw chipped in with a comprehensive list of other things that might be set out in either an allocation of time motion and / or a business of the House motion. A small smattering of such things - the ones we could get our heads around - have made their way into the map. The rest wait on a meeting with Huw, scheduled for next week. More thanks to Huw.

A wee while back - as our dear reader may well recall - our heads were buried in legislative consent motions, our Senedd effort being on the receiving end a gold star from colleagues in Cardiff. We had thought we’d also ticked off the Scottish Parliament, but Senedd amendments being either fatal or non-fatal, with the added complications of selection gave us pause for thought. A mail sent in the direction of Edinburgh is now in receipt of a reply and we suspect we have work to do to nudge the Scottish Parliament map more in the direction of the Senedd one. More work for next week.

On matters of modelling

First off, young Robert and Michael have been attending to administrivia. Not the most thrilling bit of work but sadly necessary. This means we now have a new Trello board dedicated to all things model related. Please take a look and let us know all the things we’ve forgotten.

Solving the step depth problem - the display order of business items happening on the same day - remains our highest priority. And if you’re wondering what that’s all about, our design notes have been updated accordingly. Our Jianhan has done all the work in staging to remedy this long-term bugbear, with a new table in the procedure editor database, new widgets in the procedure editor interface, piping in place to triple store and a new bit of the RDF model. He’s even amended our timeline SPARQL query and sent through to colleagues in Software Engineering for deployment in their QA environment. Elsewhere, Librarian Jayne has added step depths to both our draft negative and made affirmative maps and data, which means, once the new query is deployed, we’re ready to test. And - should testing go well - we’ll soon be in a position for our crack team of librarians to add step depths to all other procedure maps and our crack developer to do all the same work again in live. We wait with breath bated. As, we hope, does JO Jane.

Librarians Anya and Jayne, together with their computational compadre Michael, continue their quest to model the laying of papers and papers thereby laid. Not, this time, it must be said, at pace. They think they may have hit on a idea of splitting apart the current conflations into three - possibly four - contexts. Or “bounded contexts” as they like to say, having read the first three chapters of a book about computers once. Which means we now have the start of a taxonomy of paper subject areas knocking about in a spreadsheet somewhere, the notion of using the identifier part of the utility model to capture identifiers - or “numbers” as clerkly colleagues confusingly insist on calling them, and a rough sketch of why a paper might get laid. Of these, fettling the last list item feels like the most work. Our crack team of librarians had been undecided about whether the things clerkly colleagues call “authorities to lay” might be best broken into something more power and duty like. Thanks to both Matthew and Luke for lending their legal brains to the conundrum, putting us right and simplifying matters considerably. There is, of course, still the matter of modelling layings of bundles of papers, but that feels like a much simpler job.

Commenting chisels sharpened, Librarian Ned, young Robert and Michael have been putting in the hard graft to tidy both our question and answer model and our house membership model. The first is considered done, the second in progress. Our house membership model now benefits from properties allowing us to link to things that enable the existence of the seat and things that enable the presence of a bottom in said seat. Clerkly eyes are encouraged to glance at both and point out our errors and misdemeanours.

On the instruction of computational boss Ian, Robert and Michael have continued kicking the tyres of our models by stitching together some example RDF, concentrating for now on the varied and interesting parliamentary career of Viscount Thurso. So far they’ve covered his party affiliations, his membership of the House of Lords as an hereditary peer, his peerage, his peerage as the enabler of the existence of his seat, his peerage holding, his peerage holding as the enabler of his incumbency of said seat, his time(s) in the House of Commons and his return to the House of Lords as an excepted hereditary peer. Next steps should see the addition of his electoral victories taking him into both the Commons and his excepted hereditary seat in the Lords. Mostly we’ve found our kicked tyres continue to retain air. On occasions - particularly with some of the older models we’ve not touched for a while - tyres deflate alarmingly. Sandpaper and sticky tape at the ready, young Robert and Michael have been pouncing upon leaks and plugging ontology gaps accordingly. The election model in particular, has seen a fair bit of fettling and reshaping. Fettling and reshaping that will most probably need to happen again once our long promised workshop with Democracy Club gets off the ground.

On matters of management

And finally, modelling and mapping is all to naught if you have no information management policy to populate those models. Unfortunately, Michael realised rather late in the day that we’d done the one thing we always criticise others for: built some software without ever quite nailing down who’d be managing the information and how. In this case our new and rather lovely peerage website. Weeknotes passim. A coterie of some of the finest librarians in Westminster was assembled to hammer out this thorny problem. Luckily Librarian Ned was already on it. We have three lots of work to do:

Back in the Rush database, Librarian Anna and Michael have been combing through database tables looking for data to tidy before James normalises it. More cards have moved from the ‘Data tidies backlog’ column to the ‘Data tidies to do’ column. Which should keep a whole host of brarians busy through the summer.

Librarians Anya, Anna, Emily and Phil have zoomed in to the Member address data stored in MNIS and made plans to tidy. Yet another new Trello board has been created. Making physical addresses also capable of carrying a URL and more than one phone number currently tops the most wanted chart.