Stefan Magdalinksi

Online Civic Activist

Forgiveness, Not Permission
31 minutes, 14.5mb, recorded 2005-03-16
Topics: Politics
Stefan Magdalinski
The collision between traditional democracy and the semantic web is rich with transformative potential. In 1803, the UK Parliament began publishing Hansard, a precise record of all its speeches and dealings. Since 1997, Hansard has been posted on under Parliamentary copyright. However for the layperson, the existing online version of Hansard is near-useless. Its size, impenetrability and sheer ugliness succeed in deterring most constituents from tracking the activities of their Member of Parliament. is a volunteer-built website which scrapes the Hansard from Any layperson can then try and slice and dice the data to get useful information out of it. In this presentation, Stefan Magdalinski focuses on some tactics and techniques which civic hackers in the UK are using to demonstrate many of the benefits of the semantic web and social software without first asking permission.

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Stefan Magdalinski has been an online civic activist for over 10 years. Previous projects he founded include (currently redirects to and the groundbreaking online geocoded information source and community UpMyStreet. His most recent project TheyWorkForYou is an activist-created and run re-implementation of Hansard, the UK's parliamentary record. With no co-operation from the authorities, it adds comments, outbound links, trackbacks, functioning search and finally Wikipedia and Technorati magic to the previously static document as well as detailed statistics on the performance of UK Politicians.


This presentation is one of a series from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference held in San Diego, California, March 14-17, 2005.

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