Five years ago I met Tom Steinberg at a conference workshop where he was tentatively proposing the idea of a “Civic Hacking Fund”. Last night Tom and friends, including social media Minister Tom Watson, celebrated the fifth birthday of mySociety, the high-successful organisation now justifiably proud that:
Using our services, 200,000 people have written to their MP for the first time, over 8,000 potholes and other broken things have been fixed, nearly 9,000,000 signatures have been left on petitions to the Prime Minister, and at least 77 tiny hats have been knitted for charity.
I went along to The Hub in Kings Cross with video camera in pocket, but just as Tom launched into his account of what’s happened over the past five years – with heartfelt tributes to the many hackers and other volunteers who have made mySociety possible – I found I had left the data card at home. Disaster!
Fortunately my friend Simon Berry had a camera, and Tom graciously agreed to a brief replay. Unfortunately the noise level had risen considerably, and the only quiet spot I could find was the commodious disabled lavatory. As you can see here, lighting was a bit dodgy, but content was terrific as always from Tom.
At the workshop in 2003 I shot a brief, low-quality video of Tom, which I’ve now uploaded again as a contribution to the mySociety archive.
… together with the paper that Tom presented to the workshop. I see that Civic Hacking Fund is attributed to James Crabtree, also present last night.
Original workshop report from Usability News here, and Tom’s facilitation of the final session. It reminds me how far we have come on some fronts, if not all. Far more people in the field, but few as focussed and successful as mySociety.
Update: Tom has posted a section about the future from his speech last night. After dwelling on the need for more secure funding, he adds:
Last, but not least, I want as many of you as possible to be part of making mySociety’s vision of easier, more accessible, more responsive democracy the minimum that people expect, not the best they can hope for. This will take lots of volunteers, and lots of funding funding and ideas and newspaper stories. It’ll take lots of brilliant coding and better design. It will take political leaders who understand that the internet is the big, unique chance their generation has to shake things up and get into the history books.
And, more than anything else, I want to do it with you people. I want to do it with mySociety.