Posts Tagged ‘Help Me Investigate’

More links and things we’ve been up to: Care Data and some other stuff

Posted on 21st March 2014 by

The end of Stirchley Community Centre and some fab social reporting.

We’ve been working to get local volunteers and local officers sharing the changes around Stirchley Baths.  A couple of peopl we taught with out social media surgeries di some cracking social reporting of the last days of the Stirchley Community Centre (closed down because of a Tesco development and being moved to the Stirchley baths site when the work there is done:

Here a link with plenty of videos from Stirchley.   And here’s a video of the Stirchley Stitchers created by the brilliant Jess Allen – who’s natural social reporter.

Bishops Castle and Household Energy, homeless young people and women in Wolverhampton!

Steph has been all over this week – helping out some people starting a social enterprise in Bishops Castle – the Household Energy Service -  and also a group of women as part of the work we’ve been doing with Women of Wolverhampton.    Lloyd Davis has been an loved extension of Podnosh with our work with the Foyer Federation in Stratford,  East London.  Some young people in the E15 Foyer have started a site about life in East London (after a good discussion about ways to build stronger relationships with the local community and potential employers) – although we’ve still to crack the business of getting them publishing between out visits!.

Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery

We worked with fbec a good while a go to help them get a site set up which gave them control over what they could publish.  We also supported them with a number of sessions of one to one help to encourage them to share useful material and share it often.  Sometimes you look away and hope things stick.  I looked back today  and can see how often they’re publishing now – simple things like a notice for the AGM – or a report on a visit from the Lord Mayor.  I wonder if they’ll be bold enough to liveblog their AGM?

How much does it cost to look after people?

Lesley Curtis of the Personal Social services Research Unit in Kent has published this research on the Unit Costs of Health and Social Care 2013>  Only available as a pdf – would be much more useful if the data were available as a spreadsheet.   Potentially useful for Paul Bradshaw’s Help Me Investigate Health.

Unit Cost of Health and Social Care 2013.

Help Me Investigate short listed for NUJ award

Posted on 19th June 2010 by

Help Me Investigate and my very clever colleague in that venture, Paul Bradshaw,  have been nominated for Multimedia Publisher of the Year in the 2010 NUJ Regional Press Awards.  The full list of nominees in Paul’s category are:

The site has had an number of big investigations, from uncovering the £2.8 million price tag for Birmingham City Council’s website (which in turn led to the council’s own inquiry on the spending) to stripping away the layers of what lay behind a new free newspaper in London.

The site allows citizens to collaborate which each other to ask civic questions and find the answers.  HMI  was also recognised in Talk About Locals Un Awards earlier this year – (full result on the Guardian site) thank you!

We’ll find out on the 29th whose won this one.

Scrutinising swimming pool facilities

Posted on 23rd March 2010 by

I’ve been a bit annoyed with the provision of swimming facilities here in Brum for a while. Nick Booth suggested I compare them with those of the other core cities to see how Birmingham rated. So I’ve just had a little go.

What I did

First I went to each council’s website, found its list of leisure facilities and then checked each one to work out which were swimming pools. Occasionally, in the case of Manchester, that was easy because it was quite handy. In other cases it was a pain, because the council had different ideas about presentation. Anyway, I managed to make a crude tally of the number of pool facilities.

I wanted to do more, but as this spreadsheet shows it’s hard to get all the data.

Newcastle Swimming Pools

Some councils provide more information than others, some are completely inconsistent about what they do present. You’ll also see that, scandalously, I’ve added some Scottish cities and left out the likes of Sheffield in my list.

I then had a look on the same sites for population statistics. I didn’t always find them. On some occasions the website provided a mid-2008 census estimate, and sometimes it was just the numbers from the 2001 census. Sometimes it was in a nice HTML format, and other times it was buried in a PDF.

What I produced

I managed to collate the information into this incredibly crude spreadsheet, where I divided the population of the city by the number of pool facilities.

Swimming pool comparison

I then used Many Eyes to upload my spreadsheet and turn it into a visualisation, which you can see here:-

Now, this isn’t a great analysis. After all, Birmingham has Moseley Road Baths, which is something like 20m long, while the Manchester Aquatics Centre has two 50m pools in one facility. Yet they each get a score of one. Deeply unfair. If I could find out how long and how wide each pool was then I could add it all up and then compare the total swimming area to population. But that depth (pun intended) of information isn’t available.

So what does this mean?
For me this is a scrutiny issue, because working out how Birmingham compares to other cities in terms of facilities helps us to understand whether it needs to improve. But the information isn’t there, or if it is it’s inconsistent. And it’s not just geeks who’d like to know how big a swimming pool is, how long it’s open for and even how warm it is. It’s all information that’s relevant to users.

What can be done?
Making comparisons between councils’ services would be made easier if we all were engaged in a discussion about what information needs to be made available and in what formats that information is presented in.

As this little experiment demonstrates, it’s not technically challenging to collect data and then use a free, web-based tool like Many Eyes to interpret it. And, for the time being, I’m considering setting up a site that looks specifically at swimming pools to work out how that process could become more useful and accurate.