Friday, 8 January 2010

Renewing the European Parliament website: First thoughts

Two days ago, the European Parliamen web editors announced that they are having "A Blank Sheet Moment", that they can totally reform the European Parliament website.

This announcement has not found a single comment in their blog so far. There are three possible reasons for that:
  1. People don't read the blog.
  2. People don't care.
  3. People can't formulate their ideas (this quickly).
I have no idea how many people read the blog or how many read this particular post. I can't do anything about people who do not care. But I am definitely belonging into the third category: It's really hard to figure out a new EP website. Nevertheless, I'll give it a try.

What do I want from the European Parliament website?
  • I want to see what is happening today/this week/etc.
  • I want to be able to quickly find and track decision-making processes.
  • I want to understand the actual debates, find the opinions and the opinion leaders.
  • I want to be able to find all documents as easy as possible.
How should it look like?

I have no idea. There are so many conflicting possibilities that it is hard to figure out. Maybe one could divide it into three parts:
  • the informative part
  • the political part
  • the technical part
In the informative part you put everything for people interested in the institution, history, MEPs, visitors' information etc. This one is not very dynamic and thus easy to handle.

In the political part you put everything from plenary sessions and committee meetings (summaries, cut videos etc.) to a new subsection mapping the decision-making procedure for every dossier in a way that most people immediately understand what is happening, without having to go through technical documents. You can link to seminars organised, Facebook debates or online debates between MEPs and the public. This part needs to be simple in design but lively in content. This part is the most difficult when it comes to multilingualism.

In the technical part you put all the raw material, linked by file numbers, people involved, political groups involved, bodies involved, and time, so that you can jump from a person you find to all her/his amendments and to all videos in which s/he appears or where you find all amendments to a specific dossier, including voting records (if they have been voted already). This technical subsection needs a real good search engine and maybe one could even involve MEPs, their assistants, or the public to tag documents or audiovisual material so that the work load is less for the EP staff. If the tagging functions well and tags exist in all EU languages, multilingualism should be a minor problem here.

These three layers should be interconnected very intelligently.

One could, for example, explaining what a Rapporteur is in the first part including a link to "All current Rapporteurs" in the technical part, and next to each Rapporteur in the "technical" list there are three links, one to her/his own EP site (CV, memberships etc.), one to all debates linked to the Rapporteur in the political part, and one linking to the dossier and all documents s/he is responsible for in the technical part.

These initial ideas are far from final and far from thought through and probably also far from being realistic - but let's start the debate and see where it brings us!

4 comments:

robert said...

It's interesting that I once asked the europe direct service whether it was possible to find out on the Parliament website a list of all current proposals under consideration. They said it wasn't. Incredible!

Anonymous said...

Awesome recommendations, Julien! Your blog rocks! Keep up the excellent work! Cheers,

Jorge

Johann Fuermann said...

It´s kind of funny that a blog, complainig about nobody cares about another blog gets even more! comments.

By the way, good work, would love the website!

Grahnlaw said...

Robert,

An approximative way to find pending proposals is to go to Eur-Lex, Preparatory documents and access the Directory of Community legislation in preparation:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/prep/latest/index.htm

If you now (enough) about what you are looking for, you can check the EP Committee in question.