This past weekend I attended the Dundee public data hack. The event coincided with the launch of the city’s new data portal. Held at Abertay University, the hosts did a great job of creating a welcoming, creative environment. It was also refreshing to see a diverse crowd attending the hack too.

I mainly spent my time picking people’s brains and chewing over the questions of what makes a good open data initiative. Taking a step back and playing observer generated some ideas that I’ll need to feed into a checklist of engagement best practices I’ve been working on.

Petition data

Aside from bothering people for my ulterior motives, I joined in by having a play around with data from the parliament petition site. The site’s petition data are made available via a JSON API and incldues signatures broken down by constituency. This is the data behind the petition map you might have come across:

Petition signatures mapped across the UK

Petitions often generate counter-petitions. In this case a response to the “Ban driven grouse shooting”, Source: UnboxedConsulting

Using the API I downloaded data for all the petitions created since the start of the 2017 government. For each petition I combined the Dundee East and West constituencies to create a single Dundee signature count. Dividing the Dundee count by the total gave a percentage for each petition.

At the time there were 5,509 petitions. Some of them had no signatures in Dundee so I discounted these. I also discounted the petitions with less than 1000 signatures leaving a dataset of 268 petitions.

Below I’ve summarised and picked out some results I found interesting. You can also explore the results in full for yourself.

Top petitions in Dundee

Independence and constitution-related petitions were the main issue for Dundee petition signers. At number one spot was “Allow Scotland to host a second referendum for Scottish Independence”, with 51 signatures out of a total UK wide of 1072 signatures.

Number 2 and 3 were also constitutional: “Return Tax raising powers in Scotland to the UK Government” and “Return Scottish devolved powers to UK Government and Parliament”.

The highest non-constitutional petition was #4: “Universal Credit applicants to receive adequate payments throughout assessment”.

Ban fireworks and legalise cannabis

I asked around about these two. It wasn’t clear why these were high up. Perhaps there are a lot of easy-going dog lovers in Dundee?

  • 8: Ban the sale of fireworks to the public and have only licensed displays.
  • 10: Legalise cannabis for medical and recreational use.

WASPI Women and Electric cars

Another interesting two:

  • 17: Make fair transitional state pension arrangements for 1950’s women
  • 19: Make parking of ICE vehicles at EV charging points a more serious offence

I learnt the WASPI pension equality campaign has a strong Dundee presence. I tink they’d appreciate seeing the impact of their efforts in the city.

Likewise, Dundee has a high number of electric vehicle users and this local representation turns up in the petition.

GCSE Martial arts and homework

Two of my favourites way at the other end of the scale:

  • 218: Allow Martial Arts to be on the GCSE/A Level syllabus
  • 266: Make homework voluntary for children

GCSEs aren’t taken in Scotland, so it makes sense Dundee doesn’t give a hoot. However, Scotland does have homework, and Dundee would like it to remain obligatory.

Eyelash extensions regulation

Working with the data I came across a few niche petitions, particularly when I didn’t filter out petitions with less than 1000 signatures:

  • “Regulate the eyelash extension industry making training compulsory” with 663 signatures (4 from Dundee)
  • “I would like the UK government to legally recognise polyamorous families” 115 signatures (2 from Dundee)

A rather blokey statement but I had no idea eyelash extensions could go so wrong.

The results in full