Week 7: 08-09-2017


A (final) reminder that our 4th Parliament, data and democracy meetup is next Thursday (14th September) at Newspeak House.

There will be interesting talks, nice people and free beer. You should probably come.

The big news this week was our new search service going live on Wednesday. Where live means search forms on the current website now point to the new search results. It’s built on the same technology stack as the beta website and searches over every parliamentary sub-domain we expose to search engines (possibly more than you’d imagine). For now this doesn’t include the new beta pages which currently block robots. As new pages start to replace current pages and redirects are added we’ll let the robots in and the new search will start to include them in results. Many people worked on this. Thinking credit goes to Robert.

Matthieu worked with Usman and James from the website team to gently performance test their new implementation of the search web application, to gain confidence it could cope with the expected load once launched. They used the same load previously used to test the search API service. Results were satisfactory.

Robert and Dia presented the new search at the website show and tell. A feedback mechanism and tracking were set up. Dia orchestrated the internal and external communications including a blog post which is free to read here.

Robert met with Samu on search API development and had more meetings on Friday including planning research and next sprint.

Robert and Michael continued to chummer about the misunderstanding that you fix search by fixing search. It’s the web. You fix search by fixing browse. They feel there is a blog post here.


We were joined by Andy Mabbett (pigsonthewing) on Tuesday and Wednesday for a workshop on the fundamentals of Wikidata and SPARQL. Assorted people from the Digital Service data and website teams and folks from the House of Commons Library came along.

Samu prepared those new to SPARQL by holding a one hour introduction on Monday.

On Tuesday Dan brought his children into the office to say hello. He also brought a pie. Which he had made.

Robert met with Julie on the future work of the Capability team.

Dan sat in on some website team agile ceremonies, including committees retrospective and planning.


Dan met a delegation from Uganda and Namibia to talk about Hansard systems and the indexing thereof.

Domain modelling

Anya, Silver and Michael spent Wednesday morning preparing slides for their Euro IA talk on Domain Driven Design in Parliament. Mike Atherton joined them in the afternoon to talk about the book he’s writing on similar matters and give feedback on the presentation. Consensus was reached that part of the presentation sounded nutbag. They decided to change the presentation.

Anya and Michael paid a visit to the Commons Journal Office to see how government departments, roles and positions are managed. It was… informative.

Data platform

Jianhan worked with Wojciech to set up a gateway for accessing on premise databases. The gateway provides a generic HTTP endpoint accepting parameters including table names, column names, and filters etc.

He also had a chat with the Edwards White and McCarthy about getting committee inquiry data into new data platform. Current data is scattered across a variety of internal systems and the website CMS. As it currently stands, it seems hard to get inquiry data into the data platform.

Matthieu continued work on security accreditation.

Measuring things

Matias created a dashboard connection for the House of Commons Library’s Enquiry database. This will be used by Liz, Sara and Saffiyah to produce better reports.

Sara spent some time setting up queries on usage data of the website to attempt to identify user types.

Corporate data

Matias deployed an update to the events management system to improve the handling of issues.


Still no strolls this week :-(

Things that caught our eye