We have let our dear reader down, our so-called weeknotes have slipped back into a fortnightly pattern. Please rest assured, we are ever so contrite and our noses never venture far from the old grindstone.
The last couple of weeks have been littered with a litany of lovely librarians. Thursday saw the welcome return of guest star librarian Silver. He may not have been employed as a librarian for quite some time now, but once you’re trained, it never leaves you. Off we went to Victoria Street offices, where the computers conspired to take us to the wrong floor and to double book our meeting room. Eventually the stairwell was found, a room and a whiteboard were procured and we were ready to map. With marker in hand, Silver took the floor, chummering away to librarians Susannah, Katharine and Laura as he decanted their working world into physical pixels. Something roughly resembling a Wardley map resulting. Susannah, Katharine and Laura lead a team with a wide remit, covering tasks such as acquisition, cataloguing, storage, loans and disposal, for both the physical collection and online services. They’re also responsible for the Library’s digitisation project, which means librarians Anya and Ayesha, together with their computational colleagues Young Robert and Michael are hatching plans for a trip to see Tom in the not too distant future.
Upon leaving Victoria Street your regular correspondents took the opportunity to make an all too rare foray to a public house. I mean, of course they did. A Guinness perhaps, Anya and Michael inquired. A vodka and tonic maybe, wondered Ayesha. A large red wine, asked Silver. An alcoholic apple juice, ruminated Ben. I wouldn’t say no to some bubbly water, said Robert. They had the good fortune later in the evening - they forget quite when - to be joined by boss ‘brarian Bryn and senior computational expert Ian. More drink was taken. At some point in the evening - they forget quite when - Ben’s good friend Nikki joined the party. More drink was taken. I’m going to marry Nikki, announced Ben, to a sea of surprised faces. Nikki looked neither shocked nor appalled. So we guess Ben had already cleared this with Nikki. Congratulations on your impending nuptials, Ben. Commiserations, Nikki.
Moving on from romantic intrigues, the week also saw a second meeting with Lords Librarians Ann and John to walk through our deposited paper scribbles. It turns out that our hunch of splitting out verb models from noun models continues to hold true. Which comes as some relief. We traced round every blob and every arrow in the combined model and - following a couple of small tweaks - all present declared themselves happy. Taking that as a green light, we’ve made a couple of adjustments to our parliamentary paper model and now have the beginnings of a more fag-packety effort to describe depositing. We’d not encourage our dear reader to peruse the comments on this model too closely. They’re very much a first pass and likely littered with typos. More next week.
Still on matters of modelling but wandering away from library land, we had our second meeting with Hansard reporters to fill in a few more gaps in our understanding of whatever it is a proceding might be. This time with the red carpet contingent. We’d like to thank James and Mark for taking time to talk to us. Our understanding of Hansard is progressing, however the same cannot be said of our understanding of the word ‘proceeding’. We’re beginning to suspect it might be time to play our trump card and call upon Mr Evans. This being neither a threat nor a promise.
Monday saw Librarian Ned and our computational reserve team - Young Robert and Michael - meet Cabinet Office Helen to chat about assorted flavours of Church of England bishops, their bishoprics, and how they find themselves sitting spiritually in the House of Lords. It would appear that the possession of an English diocesan bishopric only counts toward the ‘parliamentary seniority ladder’. So that clears that up. Another small start has been made on a model. Attempts to turn pixels into Turtle have been put on hold, all parties feeling it might be best to prod some data with some code before putting pens to paper. It does though feel like we’re getting somewhere. Albeit slowly. Thanks Helen.
Back in procedure land, our Jianhan continues to make magnificent progress on turning our step collection scribblings into actual working code. So we should have something to show fairly shortly. For some definition of shortly. And indeed fairly.
In the meantime, Librarian Jayne has been busy making use of our Jianhan’s recent outing into the wonderful world of working code. As our dear reader will no doubt recall, Jianhan has added legislatures to our procedure model. Which meant Jayne could add data for steps in our legislative consent motion maps and assign said steps to the appropriate devolved legislature. This bringing us nearer to replicating Legislation Office Liam’s legislative consent motion spreadsheet. Or so we hope.
Still in the world of procedure maps, we’ve also moved one step closer to finally - finally! - getting legislative reform orders onto the statutory instruments website. Yes, we know we say this every week. Yes, we do mean it every week. Yes, we still mean it this week. Yes, we will probably say the same thing next week. We’re just optimistic kinda guys. Honestly.
Anyway, and to the very best of our knowledge, we’ve now mapped the full procedure, including a brand new component describing scrutiny reserve for the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the dispensing thereof, as set out in House of Lords public Standing Order 73. No anchor link available. Sighs.
It only remains to add the new component to the machines, double check our House of Lords debate map with Mr Korris and - unfortunately for all concerned - check all nine maps to ensure that all the right routes link to all the right steps. A job that has fallen neatly into the laps of Librarians Jayne and Ayesha. Sorry about that ladies. Truly sorry.
Monday morning kicked off at the unlikely and uncivilised time of 10am as Michael was joined by groom of this parish Ben and Registrar Tom to continue chipping away at the ten House of Lords Register of Members’ Interests categories. Eight and a half are now considered complete, one and a half to go. At which point, we need to assess our progress to date against the competency questions, to check which ones the model can answer. And which ones it can’t.
Wednesday saw Michael once more joined by Ben, alongside House of Commons Registrars James and Thomas, for a pixel-based chat and demo from Open Innovations’ Giles and Stuart. We had commissioned the Open Innovations folks to build a quick prototype so the registrars can more easily assess how massaging the features of the model might lead to it answering more questions. Or indeed less. And very good it was too. The prototype takes a feed from our competency questions spreadsheet - applause to Librarian Ayesha, applause to working in the open - and maps each of the questions to feature requirements described as YAML files. Availability states are then assigned to combinations of model features, flipping between states lighting up the dashboard like a Christmas tree. Though mostly a red Christmas tree for now. Work continues. Thanks Giles. Thanks Stuart.
Whilst we remain quite committed to the open web - ask anyone who knows us - it cannot be said to have brought Young Robert and Michael the fame or fortune they so richly deserve. For that reason - and probably hoping for a Christmas hit - Young Robert has suggested we pivot to the MacOS native app market. Which does seem quite out of character. The app in question calculates the scrutiny period for statutory instruments before Parliament. Yes, you read correctly: our beloved egg timer is now available as a native application. Which seems very much in character.
In such a competitive market, we’re hesitant to give away too many of our future plans. But rest assured, our beloved egg timer may well be on your telephone in the new year. Providing we can find someone daft enough to buy us a development licence.
Our regular reader will be well aware that general election related data is something of a motif for these notes. This week marks a change of direction as our attentions turned from elections future to elections past. A wee while back, Librarian Anya stumbled across a tweet from Resul Umit linking to his wonderful work compiling UK general election data from 1832 to 2019. Thinking the data might be of some use for checking and tidying unsuccessful candidacies in the Rush database, Michael’s taken a copy and made a sort of website. A browseable space, as Young Robert might say. There are occasional keying errors on names of things that become apparent when you make the thing browsable, though Resul says he plans to fix any he spots, so we may well have a tidier version at some point. It could also use a dash of CSS, not that anyone’s asking Robert to give up his weekend. Thanks are due to both Jianhan and Robert for getting the thing deployed to Azure. Not a thing that sparks joy for any of us.
There are occasions on which people can be quite rude about parliamentary procedure. ‘Arcane,’ they call it. ‘Esoteric,’ they snark. Quite incorrectly. It’s all set out for those who have eyes. It just happens to be a little distributed.
This week we marked another first with the launch of the UK Parliament’s first ever fediverse bot account. Or any parliament’s, to the best of our knowledge. If, like us, you’re a refugee from Twitter with an interest in written answers to parliamentary questions from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDOAnswers might be just the thing you’re looking for. Who’s ‘arcane’ now, eh?