On Saturday I was at RewiredState. A bunch of geeks got together to build things. We wanted to show government how it’s done!
At the end of the day, we each got two minutes to present what we’d done to each other, and an assemblage of government types. People did some really cool stuff, from Rob McKinnon & co’s Compani.es, which is the website that Companies House ought to have, to a reimplementation of ActivePlaces. They scraped this multimillion pound website, got all their data, and then did with it in an afternoon what the site hasn’t managed to do with a massive budget and years of time. Great stuff. Emma Mulqueeny’s written some more about the day, and the other hacks.
Sam Smith and I got together to do a project. Given the current economic malaise, it’s quite important for people to be able to find jobs, and a little birdy turned us on to the fact that the JobCentre Plus site really isn’t good. In fact, it’s quite painful. To get any jobs out of it at all, you have to fill in 4 reasonably large forms. Once you have some jobs to look at, you can’t do anything with them. There’s no RSS, you can’t get email alerts for new jobs, and you can’t bookmark jobs you’re interested in, because their URLs don’t work properly. The next time you want to find jobs, you have to go through the whole ordeal again. Bleh.
Our task was to make this better. Sam wrote some scrapers to pull down Jobcentre’s data — which was no mean feat in itself — and I made a website to display it. It’s a bit rough and ready, but it works. You can go to www.jobcentreproplus.com, search for jobs in your area, view them, bookmark them, get email alerts, subscribe in your feed reader and use the API to search and display jobs on your own site. Everything that the real site should do and doesn’t.
We didn’t realise it at the time, but there were prizes for the hacks that the organisers liked the most. Rather suprisingly — given the very high quality of all the other projects — Sam and I won!
We’re really glad that they liked it, and we hope you will too. Have a look, and let us know what you think.