The Telegraph have finally published their MPs’ expenses data online – and it’s worth the wait. Here are some initial thoughts and reactions:
- Firstly, they’ve made user behaviour an editorial feature. In plain English: they’re showing the most searched-for MPs and constituencies, which is not only potentially interesting in itself, but also makes it easier for the majority of users who are making those searches (i.e. they can access it with a click rather than by typing)
- There’s also a table for most expensive MPs. As this is going to remain static, it would be good to see a dedicated page with more information – in the same way the paper did in its weekend supplement.
- The results page for a particular MP has a search engine-friendly URL. Very often, database-generated pages have poor search engine optimisation, partly because the URLs are full of digits and symbols, and partly because they are dynamically generated. This appears to avoid both problems – the URL for the second home allowance of Khalid Mahmood MP, for example, is http://parliament.telegraph.co.uk/mpsexpenses/second-home/Khalid-Mahmood/mp-11087
- The uncensored expenses files themselves are embedded using Issuu. This seems a strange choice as it doesn’t allow users to tag or comment – and the email/embed option is disabled for “secret documents”
- There’s some nice subtle animation on the second home part of expenses, and clear visualisation on other parts.
- The MP Details page is intelligently related both to the Telegraph site (related articles) and the wider web, with the facility to easily email that MP, go to their Wikipedia entry, and ‘bookmark’.
- Joy of joys, you can also download the MPs expenses spreadsheet from here (on Google Docs) – although this is for all MPs rather than the one being viewed. Curiously, while viewing you can see who else is viewing and even (as I did) attempt to chat (no, they didn’t chat back).
I’ll most likely update this post later as I get some details from behind the curtain.
And there are more general thoughts around the online treatment of expenses generally which I’ll try to blog at another point.