What is PopIt?

PopIt is a tool that just exists to do one task, well.

That task is the business of making and maintaining lists of politicians and other public figures. List like this:

  • Every politician in the South African Parliament
  • Every politician in the Finnish Parliament

Why do lists of politicians deserve a special tool?

Before it is possible to know what politicians are doing, and whether they are doing a good job, we must first know who they are. This data is often far harder to get, and far more inefficiently shared than you would ever imagine.

Bad data on who politicians are is especially problematic if you are trying to build websites or apps to help with the business of tracking them. And, as of today, bad data, or no data, is the global norm.

How does PopIt Help?

PopIt makes it easy to make lists of politicians, and keep them up to date. It provides an easy user interface that makes the task simple, an interface suitable for campaigners, journalists, or indeed government officials. We hope very much that governments and assemblies start to use PopIt to publish official lists of politicians.

Crucially, though, PopIt converts this data into a format that makes it easy for programmers and computers to use the data for other purposes. So if you’re a coder wanting to build a civic or democratic site, you want people in your country or city to use PopIt so that you don’t have to build and maintain your own constantly-changing databases. Just suck in the JSON every day and stop worrying.

PopIt is Open Source and Open Standards

We want every assembly in the world, national or local, to have good quality, up to date data about members. We think that it will be easiest to achieve this by making a tool that is free, and based on open standards. There’s no cost, and no lock in. PopIt also functions as both a hosted service and as a self-hosted tool, so there’s no questions about data security or making it compatible with your systems.

So, what’s the formal mission of PopIt?

“PopIt is being built to lower the costs and speed the delivery of democracy, accountability and civic websites and apps. It will do this by dramatically improving the process by which lists of people and institutions are created and maintained.”

And how do we think it will deliver on this mission?

  1. By lowering the cost and increasing the speed of building and maintaining lists of people and institutions.
  2. By filling the internet with highly re-usable lists of people and institutions on top of which people can build services both predictable and unpredictable.
  3. By providing a tool which allows non-technical enthusiasts and activists to create real value for programmers, allowing them to work together more productively.
  4. By powering some of mySociety’s own tools, both reducing our long run costs and acting as exemplars.
  5. By offering instant, free, hosted lists for getting started quickly, as well as a deployable, open source codebase for people who want complete control.