Hamish Fraser
Hamish FraserDesigner (degree), programmer (20yrs), director, researcher, former paid public servant, former elected councillor

Happy Valentine's Day, Nerds 💌

Dear Parliamentary Counsel of the world,

It’s that time of year, can you believe it? I wasn’t sure if I should make this valentine’s day post a thing, but here we are. Figured I should make you something and I did and I’ll get to that.

After I wrote you my love letter last year, a lot happened, and so first I’m going to tell you about it.

The highlight was taking my four boys to Singapore where I spoke at the 2023 Computational Law Conference. I also got to hang out for six weeks with the deliciously nerdy crew at the Singapore Management University’s Centre for Computational Law (who hosted the conference).

Then myself and Tom Barraclough launched Syncopate as a way to recognise how we work together and give you all a way to engage with us.

Oh, and some work we’d both been engaged in got selected to represent New Zealand at the World Summit Awards which (blushes) is pretty special.

I’ve spent a lot more time on the project I introduced to you as the “Love Letter” last year, which has been fun (but very much unpaid). This saw me publish a number of “finished” versions of New Zealand legislation, including the Social Security Act and the New Zealand Social Security Regulations.

In my manner of preferring to demonstrate than explain, I’ll leave it for now why I’m focusing my attention there.

I also wrote a critique of my experience working with New Zealand’s XML which you might find interesting regardless of where you’re based.

So.

Screen shot of the thing

I made a thing, it’s just a small thing, but it’s an example of what I keep being asked to demonstrate - that is, what is possible if we publish legislation as I outlined in the love letter a year ago?

Part of the demonstration is this thing I’ve made is running directly off the love letter content still hosted on my blog. It’s an exploration of how we might grapple with the complexity inherent in modern legislation. It lets you select a piece of legislation and then search that legislation for a word or phrase.

As a starting point - select the Social Security Act, the latest version and the word income. It will render for you an interactive map.

The map currently shows things as follows:

  • Blue dots for individual bits of legislation that include your search term.
  • Orange dots for main section/article pieces that have more than one sub section that include your search term.
  • Green dots for other bits of the legislation that are explicitly referenced by the ones your search term found.
  • Red dots for the bits of legislation that include definitions for your search term.

The thicker white lines show explicit references between blocks of legislation, and the thin white lines connect the smaller pieces of legislation to the articles they are a part of.

If you click on any of the dots, it will then render the content that dot represents on the right hand panel, love letter styles. You can drag the slider between the two panels depending on where you’re focused. It will also highlight your search term if it exists in the right hand panel.

Depending on what you click on, the right hand panel may only have one block or whole sections of legislation. When there’s more than one, you can click on the different ones and see their respective ids at the top of the panel.

For the computer nerds, there’s no ‘react’ this time baby, it’s all web components, raw dom and a focus on speed speed speed. Also the graph has me utilising the famous d3 library, which has been really fun to work with.

What I would love however is to hear your reactions. I want to hear all about what it inspires you to WANT to do with it that you can’t currently, what else you’ve seen like it, and of course, if you love it.

Yours truly

Hamish Fraser