shutting down howdtheyvote.ca
August 23, 2012
I've decided to shut down howdtheyvote.ca effective 2012-09-01.
Over the years several contributors helped tweak the website (to whom I owe thanks), but I was solely responsible for acquiring the data (and scrambling to fix it all every time parl.gc.ca rearranged things).
The API, which was only consumed by dozens of researchers/NGOs/techies, was my favourite part of the site; I hope to see others reproduce its functionality. I also consider the "open budget" experiment to be quite successful, which started in 2010. Illustrating costs brought many donors forward (ultimately covering 75% of the costs associated with the site, leaving only $1000 in "debt" in the end). I'm confident all costs could have been covered had the donate button and deficit been posted on the front page (but I didn't want to harass visitors). Updating the cost/donation values frequently is important, as I recall other sites that I borrowed the idea from that didn't do so lost my confidence.
The stats on dissension, missed votes, and words spoken were popular but often abused by partisans. The words spoken count was intended as more of a joke than a serious statistic, but it unfortunately ended up being a core part of the site. I did enjoy pointing out the MPs who buck the party line, as these are the folks who are representing their constituents the most.
While I was pleased with the decentralized data contribution model that came to be, it failed to get critical mass before I burned out. I had hoped for howdtheyvote to become the central repository for federal and provincial legislative data and have other sites present it with competing innovative interfaces, but that was too ambitious a task for me to succeed at alone.