The logic behind putting election expenses online

I've previously blogged about how to get hold of your local election campaign expenses, and how to easily put them online – but I thought I'd add a third post explaining why I decided to put them online in the form that I did.

I've scanned each expense document (the return forms; each appendix; and each receipt) separately and emailed them to Posterous separately, so that each has its own blog post. This means that each expense document has a unique URL, so people can link directly to it when talking about it.

If all documents were put into a single PDF or all PDFs put into a single blog post it would make it more difficult for people to identify which document was being talked about.

Separating the documents this way also means that people can comment on individual documents, so it's easier to keep track of which documents have been looked at and which not.

Comments also make it easy to find individual posts, as the comment text itself will appear in search engines.

And finally, it means that each blog post – i.e. document – can be tagged separately.

Tagging is possibly the most important part of the whole process, for a number of reasons:

  1. It makes it much easier to find the documents on a search engine. Sites such as Google use tags to understand the content of a page – this is particularly important when dealing with PDFs, as Google cannot 'read' them in the same way it can read plain text.
  2. It also makes it much easier for users to find particular types of documents when browsing the blog itself. The right hand column of the blog has a list of tags that you can click on so that, for example, you are only looking at the expenses of the Labour Party, or documents relating to the short campaign.
  3. This also makes it possible for people to link to specific types of documents, in addition to individual ones, or the blog as a whole.
  4. Finally, tags make it possible to do interesting things with computer scripts. Someone could, for example, write a script to find every document tagged with a particular company name across a number of areas, or to combine results with two tags, or either of two tags.

If you have any other ideas for better ways of putting the material online, let me know.

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