Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Democracy Implemented in XML

All 110 years of transcripts of parliamentary proceedings are now available for the Australian Parliament as search-able web content. Hansard, as the record of the Senate and House of Representatives, is known, display by default in HTML, but can be downloaded as XML (under a Creative Commons licence) for analysis.

Here is an example. Starting at the search page, I entered my name "Tom Worthington", which produced 66 Matches:


Nine of these are catalog entries for my books held in the Parliamentary Library, such as Green Technology Strategies. Twenty are mentioned in Parlimentary committees. Only seven are actual mentions by parliamentarians in the Senate.

One mention I get in Hansard is from 1999:
so ago. This year's theme `The Bush Telegraph for the 21st Century' targeted questions of information technology for non-metropolitan regions. The range of speakers included Tom Worthington , who is the immediate past president of the Computer Society; Fay Lamont, a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Awards...
Clicking on the link brings up that the portion of the Hansard, as a web page. There is an option to Download the Fragment as PDF, or as XML.

While it is good that Hansard is available online, the interface could be improved:
  1. Have a link on the word "Search" in text on the Parliament home page (currently it is in an image with the phrase "ParlInfo Search"),
  2. Include the word "Hansard" on the search page,
  3. Add an option on the search page to limit results to the Hansard,
  4. De-clutter the search results page, by moving from the top to the bottom: "Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document", "View Or Save XML" and "Download Fragment". Those who need these options are likely to scroll to the bottom and find the, for everyone else it will not matter.
  5. Check the search page displays correctly on a range of browsers, including those for non-Microsoft operating systems, smart phones and tablet computers (on my Firefox 3.6.17 browser, the search box is off the right side of the page).

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