18 June 2009

MP Expenses 2.0

All credit to the Guardian which today launched a web application which had been built in the space of about a week, allowing its audience to collaborate with its journalists in analysing the newly released MP expenses documents. Charles Arthur explains how they did it here.

This is absolute genius and in a short space of time tens of thousands of pages have been reviewed and the interesting ones flagged.

Crowdsourcing is a tried and tested Web 2.0 technique for analysing data and producing content cheaply and quickly - arguably the comments feature on every website is a method of crowdsourcing content as much as it is about providing a feedback mechanism. But it is surely a first in the UK that a major media outlet has put so much reliance on the good judgment of its readership and in relation to such a major story.

Maybe next year, we could each read a single page of the budget report and flag up whether there in anything interesting in it?

On a professional level, I have used litigation databases which rely on large sets of documents being profiled through a web interface - but the lesson of the Guardian's experiment is surely that by directing the analysis and keeping it very simple (with a very friendly user-interface) you can sort through masses of data very quickly.

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