Sunday, July 25, 2010

cuts near me

I think everyone's linked to this excellent piece on building a campaign against the cuts already, but I'd like to seize on this bit:
The more we can build up a modern ‘doomsday book’ of the effect of the cuts, the more we can help people to make the second stage of that journey when they realise that they are not alone in being hit with unfair cuts, and that they therefore need to call for a thorough-going alternative. Combined with resources to help people organise locally, and popular material that can put the economic arguments, such a web-site could be an important tool.

I keep thinking of "Cuts Near Me". As far as I can see, it would need:

Cuts ingestion. Obviously it would be cool to get the cuts automatically, but no-one seriously expects the government to issue press releases for each cut, headed "Cut" and provided in a standard XML format for structured parsing. So we need a simple form to gather some details - notably the ministry to blame and some categories - and a location, probably found on a map. Source links would be good, too, as would the nominal value. And a link to any group protesting it would be gold dust.

Validation. Kick open a form on the www and people (and other things) will type any old twaddle into it, so we might want to peer-review incoming cuts.

As far as I can make out, that's it for the write elements.

Search by category

Does what it says on the tin.

Search by date

Also self-explanatory, and the basis for an RSS feed of recent cuts.

Search geographically

Probably the most difficult bit, but it's not much more than getting cuts that fall within a given postcode, constituency, or bounding-box.

Output would need to provide a list/feed, plus a map view. I'd want the individual cuts to come with the TWFY links to the MP whose patch it is and the minister responsible, so need to get the postcode -> polygon -> contains constituency centroid mapped at the point the cut gets written.

Alerts would be nice, as would a couple of eye-catching visualisations. I think this is doable.

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