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mySociety is an e-democracy project of the UK-based registered charity named UK Citizens Online Democracy, that aims to build "socially focused tools with offline impacts". It was founded by Tom Steinberg in September 2003,[1] and started activity after receiving a £250,000 grant in September 2004. Steinberg says that mySociety was inspired by a collaboration with his then-flatmate James Crabtree which spawned Crabtree's article "Civic hacking: a new agenda for e-democracy".[2][3]

In March 2015, Steinberg announced his decision to stand down as the head of mySociety while, in his words, "we've got a good map, a solid car, and we've got enough money for fuel".[4][edit]

The TheyWorkForYou homepage
Web address
Slogan Keeping tabs on the UK's parliaments and assemblies
Commercial? No
Type of site
record of Parliamentary proceedings
Registration Optional
Owner MySociety
Created by generated by Parliamentary proceedings
Launched 2006 or earlier[5]
Alexa rank
negative increase 209,704 (April 2014)[6]
Current status Active

TheyWorkForYou tracks speeches and activities of Member of Parliament, including presenting an accessible version of Hansard. TheyWorkForYou is a website run by mySociety, a project of registered charity UK Citizens Online Democracy, and is a tool for political campaigners and those interested in the Parliamentary activities of UK MPs, Lords, and Northern Ireland MLAs.

The site aggregates content from the Hansard records of the House of Commons, House of Lords, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, along with other publicly available data such as the MPs Register of Members' Interests, election results, Wikipedia entries, and voting records, providing a "digital dossier on your local MP".[7] It also has a facility to alert users by email to speeches by an MP or specific words appearing in Hansard. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph rated it 41st in a list of the 101 most useful websites.[8]


TheyWorkForYou was originally built almost entirely by volunteers using the parsing software of Public Whip, and launched at NTK's NotCon '04 conference.[9] At the time, Cory Doctorow called it "the most amazing, subversive piece of political webware I've ever seen".[10]

As time passed, more features were added and more areas of Parliament were covered, such as the House of Lords back to 1999.[11] Around the 2005 general election, Channel 4 used a branded version of TheyWorkForYou to supply their MP data.[12] The site won the Community and Innovation award in the 2005 New Statesman New Media Awards, with the judges saying that they "were unanimous in feeling that TheyWorkForYou was the nomination that has done most to contribute to civic society in the UK.".[13] In the House of Lords, in a debate on the Power Inquiry, Lord Gould of Brookwood referred to TheyWorkForYou and the other mySociety sites as "probably the biggest single catalyst for political change in this country".[14]

In summer 2006, the Department for Constitutional Affairs funded the creation of an API for the site so other sites could use the data from the site themselves.[15] Later that year, Matthew Somerville added the entire Northern Ireland Assembly Hansard and all MLAs to the site.[16] The concept has also been taken by a New Zealand developer who has created TheyWorkForYou New Zealand and it is hoped[17] someone will do the same for the Welsh Assembly and other political institutions. In June 2008 was launched by the OpenAustralia Foundation with the assistance of mySociety, making the Register of Senators' and Members' Interests online for the first time ever in Australia. In April 2009, an Irish version of TheyWorkForYou was launched in beta form. Called, it contains Irish parliamentary data from January 2004 to the present day.

TheyWorkForYou has become so established in the workings of Parliament itself that one MP has used the fact that her husband subscribes to email alerts on her speeches to remind him of their 30th wedding anniversary.[18]


When the site launched, it did not have the right to reproduce Hansard, and no licence for it existed. A licence was later given, and click-use licences for Parliamentary copyright information were created as a result.[19]

In early 2006, The Times published an article stating that MPs were "making forgettable contributions to debate" or tabling numerous written questions simply to boost their statistics on TheyWorkForYou.[20] This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the increase in questions, led by Peter Luff.[21] The site removed the absolute rankings and added some more explanatory text in response,[22] and held a meeting at Parliament later in the year to discuss better metrics.[23] In summer 2006, Jack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons also mentioned TheyWorkForYou as a site which "seems to measure Members' work in quantitative rather than qualitative terms."[24]

In a Business debate on 26 April 2007, Theresa May stated that TheyWorkForYou had been "threatened with legal action for repeating what was printed in Hansard" but Jack Straw confirmed that "publication... of a fair and accurate account of a debate in either House is protected".[25]


This article is about the software. For the place, see Alaveteli, Finland.
Development status Active
Written in Ruby on Rails
Operating system Cross-platform
License AGPLv3[26]

Alaveteli is free/open source software to help citizens write Freedom of Information requests and automatically publish any responses as right to know software.[27] It can also be used for other similar situations, where holding organisations to account in public is useful.

Alaveteli is described as "a project to create a free, standard, internationalised platform for making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests".[28][29] Alaveteli is funded by the Open Society Institute and the Hivos Foundation.

It started life as the software running WhatDoTheyKnow, a UK site that publishes responses to FOI requests. The original WhatDoTheyKnow code was written primarily by Francis Irving while working for mySociety.[30] Alaveteli is named after Alaveteli in Finland where Anders Chydenius who was an early campaigner[31] for Freedom of Information worked as a curate. Alaveteli was intended to be a name for the software rather than a public facing website or brand.

Alaveteli is has been translated into many languages, around 25 languages have more than 50% translation coverage.[32][33]

Sites running Alaveteli[edit]


FixMyStreet[34] is a map based application that helps people inform their local authority of problems needing their attention, such as broken streetlamps etc.

The FixMyStreet homepage
Web address
Commercial? No
Type of site
Site for reporting potholes, broken street lights and similar problems
Registration Optional
Owner mySociety
Created by User-generated/Public Authority generated
Launched February 2007[35]
Alexa rank
positive decrease 303,291 (April 2014)[6]
Current status Active

FixMyStreet is a mySociety website through which users can report potholes, broken street lights and similar problems with streets and roads in the United Kingdom to their local council or related organisation, and see what reports have already been made.[36][37][38][39]


The site was initially funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs Innovations Fund and built by mySociety, in conjunction with the Young Foundation; the code for the site was written by Francis Irving, Matthew Somerville, and Chris Lightfoot. The site was originally launched as "Neighbourhood Fix-It", but it was decided to change to a shorter and easier name in June 2007 when one became available.[35] A FixMyStreet app was developed in 2008 to enable iPhone users to report problems using their phones,[40] and since then volunteers have written apps for Nokia and Android, as well as another app for the iPhone.[35]

FixMyStreet won an award at SustainIT eWell-Being Awards in 2008,[41] and has been listed in various newspaper best or top websites.[42][43] The site was an inspiration for the government's "Show Us A Better Way" contest.[44]

A version of the site for reporting abandoned empty homes, in conjunction with the Empty Homes Agency, Shelter Cymru and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, was launched in late 2008, and was called "a model of easy use" by the Guardian.[45] This site was repurposed for the Channel 4 TV series The Great British Property Scandal in December 2011, which was nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy.[46]

In 2010, FixMyStreet was closely integrated with The Guardian newspaper's Guardian Local project. Emily Bell wrote in her launch message: "A hugely important part of this project has been the involvement of MySociety, who we've collaborated with to provide customised versions of their civic tools, allowing and encouraging local residents to report issues, contact their representatives and generally become engaged in the governance and care of their locality.",[47] and Alistair Tibbitt, Development Manager for Greener Leith wrote "the Guardian certainly deserve plaudits for integrating the local FixMyStreet service so tightly into their new Edinburgh Beat Blog."[48]

International reach[edit]

FixMyStreet has inspired similar sites in other countries. The NUUG funded the development of a Norwegian version of FixMyStreet, FiksGataMi,[49] which also led to the FixMyStreet open source code becoming more generic, easier to install, and able to handle different maps, including OpenStreetMap.[50]

Other inspirations include:


PledgeBank logo.png
Web address
Slogan I’ll do it, but only if you’ll help
Commercial? No
Type of site
site for making pledges
Registration Optional
Owner MySociety
Created by User-generated
Launched 2008
Revenue none
Alexa rank
negative increase 2,009,382 (April 2014)[6]
Current status Active

PledgeBank is a website which runs pledges on all topics, of the form: "I will do x if y number of people agree to do the same." Such public commitments are a non-coercive way to solve problems of collective action, especially when the goal is a public good. PledgeBank was founded by mySociety and went live June 13, 2005. Though hosted/run by a UK-based nonprofit, PledgeBank has been translated by volunteers into 12 languages in addition to English. The Omidyar Network has funded outreach efforts for PledgeBank in the U.S.[51]

Notable organisations promoted or started by pledges on PledgeBank include the seed funding for the UK Open Rights Group and publicity and legal funding for the NO2ID campaign.

Other creative efforts to raise money for charity are presented. For example, 1,000 people in India donated books to set up a library. Another is looking for small-scale donations for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Pledges in the U.S. have been created to bolster individual efforts, such as saving books from landfills and donating blood, and organizational efforts, such as raising money for an intern and presidential campaigning.

Furthermore, it has been utilized to drum up global support for online protests, most recently by to boycott CDs with DRM.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair started a pledge himself, to become patron of a community sports club if 100 notable figures will do the same, which succeeded.[52]

Examples of successful pledges include the current NOMEDIA campaign started by Graham Woods. He pledged to completely boycott all forms of media for two weeks as long as 10 other people do the same, and the textbook for Africa project started by Darren Grover. Another overwhelmingly successful pledge was run by "Big Ed" to stop unnecessarily using plastic grocery bags.


WhatDoTheyKnow[53][54] — a site designed to help people find out (through Freedom of Information requests) what the British government and public services are doing. The site receives over 30,000 unique visitors a week.[55]

The WhatDoTheyKnow homepage
Web address
Slogan Make and explore Freedom of Information requests
Commercial? No
Type of site
Engine for making Freedom of Information requests
Registration Optional
Owner MySociety
Created by User-generated/Public Authority generated
Launched 28 February 2008[56]
Alexa rank
negative increase 87,256 (April 2014)[6]
Current status Active is a website run by the registered charity UK Citizens Online Democracy (under the MySociety brand) which provides an integrated service for making UK Freedom of Information request in public.[57][58][59][60] The site acts as a permanent public archive of FOI requests made through it.[61][62]

Around 15% to 20% of requests to UK Central Government are made through[63][64] Over 15,000 public bodies have been added to the site, mainly by volunteers.[65] More than 120,000 requests have been made using the site.[66]

The site has been described by the Guardian as "an idiot's guide to making a freedom of information request." [67] The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that it believes "the most up-to-date informal list of all public authorities is held on the website".[68] Information released through the site has given rise to serious and less serious news stories.[69][70][71] The site is used by a number of MPs.[72]

The site's parent project Alaveteli is "a project to create a free, standard, internationalised platform for making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests".[73][74][75]

The site was originally available only in English but a partially translated Welsh version has recently been released.[76]


The site costs around £12,000 a year to run.[56] The server costs are partly sponsored[77] by Bytemark Hosting.


WhatDoTheyKnow started life as the winning idea for mySociety competition in 2006 for ideas for public interest websites to build.[78] Both Phil Rodgers and Francis Irving entered idea.[79] Francis Irving later became the main developer of the site [80] which was launched in 2008.[81]

The site was nominated for a number of awards:

WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer Alex Skene gave evidence to Justice Committee related to Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 21 Feb 2012.[85]

In April 2012, Brighton and Hove Councillor Jason Kitkat announced: “We [the Council] are working with MySociety to adapt their WhatDoTheyKnow system to support a better workflow for freedom of information requests and proactive publishing of everything we release." [86]


Web address
Slogan Contact your Councillors, MP, MEPs, MSPs, or Northern Ireland, Welsh and London AMs for free
Commercial? No
Type of site
Site for contacting elected representatives
Registration Optional
Owner mySociety
Created by mySociety
Alexa rank
negative increase 399,718 (September 2012)[6]
Current status Active

WriteToThem provides contact details for elected representatives at all levels of UK government, and users can send messages to them directly from the site (formerly FaxYourMP)[87][88] In 2006, it was reported by the Guardian that the Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger appeared to admit in an email to the site to attempting to "up" his rating by sending himself queries.[88]

Other projects[edit]


Previous projects[edit]

Office of Public Sector information[edit]

In response to the EU Directive on Reuse of Public Sector Information 2005,[98] the UK government created an Office of Public Sector Information[99] to promote public sector information reuse. OPSI now runs a government data unlocking service[100] to help people find and reuse government data with licensing or format restrictions.

In March 2006 The Guardian started a "Free our Data" campaign,[101] which got Inspire[102] a proposal for free open geodata, passed into EU law.

In April 2007, Cabinet Office Minister Hilary Armstrong commissioned Ed Mayo and mySociety director Tom Steinberg to draft a "Power of Information Review" on how the government could serve the public's information needs better.[103] The resulting report[104] led Cabinet Minister Tom Watson, MP to create a Power of Information Task Force.[105][106] They launched the ShowUsABetterWay competition[107] to award £20,000 to the best application reusing public government data.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Jaques (30 Oct 2003). "Calling Coders for the Greater Common Good". The Register. Retrieved 2 Dec 2014. 
  2. ^ James Crabtree (6 Mar 2003). "Civic hacking: a new agenda for e-democracy". Retrieved 2 Dec 2014. 
  3. ^, Heise open source UK, September 13, 2008.
  4. ^ Steinberg, Tom. "mySociety’s Director Tom Steinberg to step down – new leadership position will be advertised soon / mySociety". mySociety. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  7. ^ Booth, Jenny. "Checking up on the ruling class - Times Online". The Times (London). 
  8. ^ The 101 most useful websites
  9. ^ New Statesman - MAKE THEM WORK FOR YOU
  10. ^ TheyWorkForYou: finest advocacy web-app in the world - Boing Boing
  11. ^ We've added the Lords, and more: TheyWorkForYou news (
  12. ^ Enter a postcode on
  13. ^ New Media Awards 2005 - The winners
  14. ^ Democracy: Power Inquiry: 15 Jun 2006: House of Lords debates (
  15. ^ UK Citizens Online Democracy - Finances
  16. ^ The Northern Ireland Assembly: TheyWorkForYou news (
  17. ^ Welsh Assembly: We need you! on
  18. ^ Social Policy and the Relief of Poverty: 11 Jul 2007: House of Commons debates (
  19. ^ Brooke, Heather (8 June 2006). "Make it work for us, Ms Tullo". The Guardian (London). 
  20. ^ Booth, Jenny. "The MPs who can't stop talking - Times Online". The Times (London). 
  21. ^ I am grateful for that point, with...: 28 Jun 2006: House of Commons debates (
  22. ^ Help (
  23. ^ New Statesman - The net effect on parliament
  24. ^ - Straw attacks MPs' researchers
  25. ^ The website has...: 26 Apr 2007: House of Commons debates (
  26. ^ "Alaveteli - GitHub". 
  27. ^ "About « Alaveteli – international Right to Know software". Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  28. ^ Credits,
  29. ^
  30. ^ "About". WhatDoTheyKnow. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ a b c FAQ, FixMyStreet
  36. ^ Social sites develop a social conscience, Victor Keegan, Guardian, January 2008
  37. ^ Politicians are using the internet to harness your bright ideas, September 2008
  38. ^ Residents turn to web in lane fight, Western Mail, February 2008
  39. ^ FixMyStreet now covers Northern Ireland, July 2012
  40. ^
  41. ^ eWell-Being Award, mySociety blog, May 2008
  42. ^ Top 100 sites for the year ahead, Guardian, December 2008
  43. ^ Best Green websites, Telegraph, November 2009
  44. ^ Websites set government data free, BBC News, November 2008
  45. ^ How web tools could help the economy, Guardian, 20 November 2008
  46. ^ BAFTA and Emmy nominations, May 2013
  47. ^ Emily Bell "Guardian Local project launches with Leeds blog", The Guardian, 17 February 2010
  48. ^ Alistair Tibbitt "Let's fix our streets!", The Guardian, 24 March 2010
  49. ^
  50. ^ FixMyStreet in Norway, mySociety blog, March 2011
  51. ^ UK Citizens Online Democracy - Finances
  52. ^ "Ideas for web activism sought out". BBC News. April 5, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  53. ^
  54. ^ MacLeod, Michael (October 19, 2010). "Bookmarked: Michael Traill's online soapbox". The Guardian (London). 
  55. ^
  56. ^ a b WriteToThem research report, Tobias Escher
  57. ^ Information revolution, New Statesman, Becky Hogg, 2008
  58. ^ Foi tips for communications professionals, Information Commissioner
  59. ^ Victory for WhatDoTheyKnow, BBC website
  60. ^ Local by Social, Andy Gibson
  61. ^ ICO Twitter advice fuels open data drive
  62. ^ Rogers, Simon (2012-03-20). "Freedom of Information: an FoI request for every day of 2012, listed". The Guardian (London). 
  63. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow’s Share of Central Government FOI Requests – Q2 2011, MySociety
  64. ^
  65. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow homepage
  66. ^ Categorisation Game,, accessed 15 July 2012
  67. ^ No Minister: Keep skunks out of Whitehall, Guardian, Dick Vinegar
  68. ^ Information Commissioner's Office response: IRQ0365760
  69. ^ Child Trust Funds: families count cost of child benefit delay , Telegraph
  70. ^
  71. ^ Morris, Steven (2011-07-07). "When zombies attack! Bristol city council ready for undead invasion". The Guardian (London). 
  72. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow Beats Parliamentary Question, MySociety, November 2009
  73. ^ Credits,
  74. ^
  75. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow project page, MySociety
  76. ^ WhatDoTheyKnow now 6% in Welsh, WhatDoTheyKnow blog, 16 January 2013
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^
  82. ^ archived
  83. ^ archived
  84. ^
  85. ^
  86. ^ Brighton and Hove News
  87. ^
  88. ^ a b
  89. ^ "4iP". Channel 4 Education Newsletter (Channel 4). August 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  90. ^ Fawkes, Piers (June 1, 2009). "Live Where It's Most Scenic With Mapumental". psfk. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  91. ^ "House-hunting goes hi-tech". The Independent. November 25, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  92. ^ Gadney, Max (Winter 2010). "Understand, visualise, survive". Eye (78). Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  93. ^ "MySociety launches Mapumental". Recruiter. Sep 14, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  94. ^ "Say hello to Mapumental". My Society. 
  95. ^ Mapumental Property
  96. ^
  97. ^ Mapumental
  98. ^
  99. ^[dead link]
  100. ^ now at
  101. ^ Free Our Data
  102. ^[dead link]
  103. ^ The Power of Information Review: online advice sites could improve citizen empowerment
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^ About the Task Force « Power of Information Task Force
  107. ^ ShowUsABetterWay

External links[edit]