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Guardian releases crowd-sourcing app to pick over MPs expenses

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Perhaps stung by the fact they were never offered – or perhaps just didn’t offer enough money? – the UK MPs expenses story which the Telegraph has made so much hay with, The Guardian is taking a different tack. Parliament has now released all of the expenses online, so the Guardian has released an application to pick through the expenses using crowd sourcing.

Users can dig through the 700,000 documents of MPs’ expenses to identify individual claims, or documents they think merit further investigation. Duck houses anyone?

You can work through your own MP’s expenses, or just hit the button below to start reviewing anything. About 1,000 have been reviewed already. Here’s the pitch:

We hope that many hands can make light work of the thousands of documents released by Parliament in relation to MPs’ expenses. We, and others – perhaps you? – are using these tools to review each document, decide whether it contains interesting information, and extract the key facts.

Some pages will be covering letters, or claim forms for office stationery. But somewhere in here is the receipt for a duck island. And who knows what else may turn up. If you find something which you think needs further attention, simply hit the button marked “investigate this!” and we’ll take a closer look.

Examples of things to look out for: food bills, repeated claims for less than £250 (the limit for claims not backed up by a receipt), and rejected claims.

There’s a prize for anyone who finds “iPhone application” on a receipt. Ok, just joking…

  • selina howells

    Should it put the results in the public domain or on guardian servers running advertising?

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform Matt McAlister

    We’ve already posted loads of MP Expenses data via the Data Store here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/jun/18/mps-expenses-houseofcommons

    example:
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=rvWgEEGK9xuUQBR1EFcxHWA

    The data people are contributing is appearing on the site for everyone to see.

    example:
    http://mps-expenses.guardian.co.uk/mp/608/

    But, of course, we’ll also make the raw data people are contributing available somehow, too.

  • http://www.38minutes.co.uk Ewan McIntosh

    This kind of technique was done first in 2007 in the US when a slew of juicy data was released – but the juicy bits were hidden in the mass of PDFs. TPM got readers to split up the task and find the scandal, and oh how they did. No apps, just a comment tread on a blog post:

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/002809.php

    Had the Telegraph done with their exclusive copy of the information what the Guardian had chosen to do now, they might have lost the ability to launch the day-on-day editorialised version of events, but they would have had, sooner, a crowd-sourced set of revelations from the very people these MPs are supposed to represent. In that, you have much more powerful stories, surely?

  • Jules Morgan

    Isn’t this obviously open to abuse ? Surely any MP can just request to review their own expense claims and mark it all as in order ?

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