Accountability Statement for the Calgary Democracy Project

[This document is a starting point, and will likely undergo many revisions as feedback comes in to make it better.]

This project is founded on the belief that all information relevant to the decisions affecting our communities should be freely and accessibly available to everyone involved. In particular, we are currently focused on information relating to elections and the individuals running for public office here.

It follows that we should exemplify that belief in how this project is run.

Operating Principles

Transparency

All activities behind making information available through this project will be documented, identifying who did what when.

Additionally, the systems behind the scenes will be exposed in the form of the source code being made available as open source. (I haven’t quite got around to that yet. But, until I do, anyone can email me for a copy.)

Openness

The project will have no “insiders” who get to see information not available to the public as a whole (with the exception of individuals’ private information such as personal phone numbers, private email addresses and home addresses).

Equality

No favouritism will be given to any candidates, groups or issues. (This is why, for example, incumbents aren’t highlighted on lists of candidates as incumbency has generally served as an advantage over other candidates.)

Accessibility

The information should be fully accessible to all people in Calgary, regardless of language comprehension, sensory impairments, education level, or other barriers.

Currently, this is our biggest area of deficiency. I hope we can move to providing plain language translation, multi-lingual translations, better web-accessibility for the visually impaired, print resources for those not online, and more.

Criteria for inclusion

The project is currently focused on information about candidates and elected representatives in Calgary. The intention is to have a well-ordered, accessible, collection of information and links to information. This may include resources produced by candidates and their campaigns, media reporting and interviews, online commentary, government publications, publications and surveys by advocacy groups, and more.

In general, if it is at all relevant to a candidate or elected representative, is available online and does not violate the law (such as hate speech), then it may (and hopefully will) be included here.

Public access to accountability records

Records are kept of all edits made to the data on this website, and are accessible throughout the site. The interface for this is still a little kludgy, but the information is there. (Work continues on making this site friendlier and easier to use.)

Currently, there are just two editors, Grant Neufeld and Jeremy Zhao. As we complete testing of the multi-user system for this website, there will be a gradual roll-out to other people to participate in adding and updating information here, with the eventual goal of being very open to people contributing information (with various moderation measures to help avoid malicious, spammy, or otherwise inappropriate posts).

You may notice that must (but not quite all yet) pages here have a link to “# Versions” in the bottom of the page (in the page footer, following the text “This page:”). That link will show you the edit history for the page. Through the edit history, you can compare versions of items that have been changed (similar to the article “history” available on Wikipedia articles).

I’ve put a call out to people for ideas on an icon design to identify information for “openness and transparency”. I intend to use that to make the accountability information for each bit of info on this site more readily apparent when available (instead of some hard to notice little small-text link at the bottom of the page).

—Grant Neufeld, July 2010, September 2010