Innovation That Matters

Crowd efforts make parliament videos searchable

Telecommunications, the site that helps the British public keep tabs on their politicians, has just made the government’s goings-on even more transparent and accessible. Its full archive of video clips of debates in the House of Commons can now be searched, thanks to a new initiative to link parliament transcripts with video footage. The website created a timestamping application in June 2008 to match up each clip–recorded from BBC Parliament, the British equivalent of C-SPAN–to the correct transcript. Even though all of the timestamping needed to be done manually without a budget, two months after launch all 42,018 video clips were fully searchable. The non-profit site managed this by involving the general public, creating a small incentive by naming its top taggers, one of whom is responsible for over 8,000 entries. It also encouraged participation by making it incredibly easy for anyone to pitch in: all users need to do to get started is to click the ‘Give me a random speech that needs timestamping’ link. They’re then shown a video, and just need to press the ‘now’ button when they hear the words displayed below the player. The Houses of Parliament are currently in their Summer Recess, but when they get back to work in October, will be able to match up videos and transcripts as soon as they become available. By relying on the simple system of text search, finding important parts of debates in seemingly endless sequences of video suddenly becomes much less daunting. The project’s aim is to make it easy for citizens to watch relevant footage, and to remind politicians of the promises they’ve made. While Google and other tech behemoths work on making video searchable, the fact that this low-tech project was completed so quickly demonstrates the power of harnessing the crowds, and how ready and willing those crowds are to help create a greater degree of transparency. Politicians, beware: there’s no place to hide 😉 Spotted by: Simon Blair



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