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Show HN: All Politicians in Switzerland (politiker-politicien-politici.ch)
113 points by faebi on Dec 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Encoding seems to have gotten you in some cases:

Aellig Pentti apparently lives in "D�rflingen". The website of the canton of Schaffhausen (sh.ch) uses ISO-8859-1, you do have to check the Content-Type header and/or the respective meta tag. Not everyone uses UTF-8 in 2017, it seems.

You may also be interested in TERMDAT[1], maintained by the Federal Chancellery. It's a "specialist vocabulary in the Federal Administration"[2]. That should help you keep all the translations in line with what's used at a federal level, including English. They do have entries for things like "Kantonsrat", too, even though that's on a cantonal level.

[1] https://www.termdat.bk.admin.ch/Search/Search

[2] https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/en/home/dokumentation/languages/t...

Uh, that's an obvious mistake. I fixed it now, so it should be correct somewhen after the next deployment and parsing of Schaffhausen.

Thanks for the link to Termdat. I always felt very unsecure using any of those google translations I found.

Does that mean that the encoding of the browser visiting the page (or the server doing the scraping in this case) get ignored? I always thought it was the browser that set the encoding, come to think of it, not sure why I thought that.

Browsers fall back to default encoding if the page doesn't specify encoding, or the encoding is not supported by browser.

Got it! Thanks for explaining.

I'm surprised that this is on HN but it is cool :).

Turns out that one of Switzerland's 200 national parliamentarians lives in the same hundred-person village as me. That's neat. Especially since she's with the Greens rather than the Swiss People's Party :).

I’m not from Switzerland. Can you elaborate on “especially since she’s with the greens rather than the Swiss people’s party”

Just a great example of direct democracy: In Switzerland you can meet the politicians on the street, in the tram, in the local pub and since you have always the theoretically the possibility to punch them in the face, you can really say that they have skin in the game.

I think such projects put even more of their skin in the game. Thanks for building it! (content marketing: if you want to move here, I am a tech recruiter hunting for engineers - my e-mail is in my HN-profile)

You can do this is most small countries.

Being small definitely helps make this possible. That's not all it is though. An interesting question is why this is possible in Switzerland when in other countries (not even very far away) there are threats of abuse against politicians. There's been a spike of threats in the UK over the last year or so. Yesterday the PM of the UK even had to say the obvious that it is in unacceptable. I'm betting it's linked to poverty and desperation, if everyone is decently well off then no one's angry enough to threaten violence?

The UK has a population 8 times larger than Switzerland. When I said small I meant < 10 million people.

Ok but I wasn't saying that the UK has a small population, I think there's more to it. 8 million isn't exactly tiny either.

In Germany politicians drive around in bullet-proof BMW/Mercedes.

Is that all politicians or only fairly high level ones? Insofar as I'm aware most Congresspersons in the US do not receive protection.

Germany has an extremely different history than Switzerland with 10x the population and 357,000 sqkm to Switzerland's 41,000. It is not what most would categorize as a 'small' country.

Great job! The search can probably be improved. Searching for "Cedric" without the accent aigu (é) does not yield any results, despite there being several Cédric in the database. If this was an educational project I recommend spending some time on search methodologies since they are very interesting. Start with using something like Levenshtein Distance and improve either performance or accuracy from there. Otherwise just use one of the existing open source libraries.

Why would you treat e and é the same? Those are two different characters with different pronunciations. You also wouldn't treat capital i (I) and small L (l) the same just because they look similarly.

Accents are generally considered unimportant in the context of a search, at least in French.

It's not just that é looks like e, é is the letter e with a diacritic [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diacritic

In addition to the other replies, this is important for input by keyboards that are not languages with that accent. Us “dumb” Americans don’t know how to type that off the top of our heads.

Or on mobile. It’s a pain on many devices.

Interesting project. If you have email addresses for the majority of politicians, you could build a dialogue platform similar to the German abgeordnetenwatch.de.

What's with the points I gain for clicking on different parts of the website? It's nice that I'm a "Pro User" now, but also a tad odd.

Interesting. It looks like you only have people in the legislative branches, at the Federal and Canton levels. Will you expand to the lower levels of government and include, at least, people in the executive branches? do you have a mechanism to update over time and keep track of people who were in power in the past?

My app currently parses all the data automatically from the respective federal/cantonal government websites. I thought about getting the politicians from the local communities, but then I would have to parse the websites of ~2400 communities. Also I do not know how many communities even publish this information. So for me it is currently to much work, unless the government enforces a law to publish this data in a standard way.

The app does not keep track of people at all. Each new parsing deletes the old data.

Thanks for the point about the executive and judical branches. That would be something interesting to add.

Pretty cool, thanks.

I started once to index all switzerland government websites with yacy. I could index admin.ch and almost all cantons easy. But some city websites did not answer if it was not "a browser" or "google" who asked for the website ;-)

You haven't included the politicians' parties or political affiliations in the data set, is that on purpose?

No it's not on purpose. I just did not prepare all parsers yet to include or detect the parties. For some it is actually already present but not visible. Just search it in the searchbar on top. Example with SVP: https://politiker-politicien-politici.ch/en/people?utf8=%E2%...

Would you mind updating

Werner Luginbühl


Alte Gasse 70 3704 Krattigen


Bundesgasse 35 3001 Bern


At the bottom it has a list of websites with the title: "Who ever made these websites with the lists of People, you made a pretty bad job!"

What is the story behind this comment?

Those are all the websites for the various cantons in Switzerland, as it seems the creator of this site needed to get the data from each canton's registry individually. I would assume some of the sites had harder to scrape data than others, and that is the reason for the differentiation.

Or maybe those sites allowed him to easily download the entire registry from those sites in an insecure way, so "you did a poor job obfuscating / firewalling your data"?

Those are my two guesses.

Maybe it's just a Swiss acting according to the stereotype of Germans on steroids [1].

[1] http://countryballs.net/_nw/9/18482749.png


Fits pretty good! Probably I should add a description why I didn't like certain websites. Also the comment of KamelAufAbwegen hits the nail on the head https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15958534

For me it was astonishing in how many different ways the Kantons publish this data and also how horrible certain websites are. Some publish a nice simple HTML table with all data, the best ones even publish an excel file. Like this, most people at least could generate a series letter in word.

Many websites are an insane mess of javascript and tons of requests for even the simplest informations. Some websites are insane slow. Some websites seem to have a broken server and every N-th request fails. Some are even barely navigatable by a human. And then I think how much I probably paid for that horrible piece of software with my taxes.

Is this PII?

What exactly are these addresses? Work or home address? Phone numbers, are they work, home, or both?

Where do you get these data? It's great.

How is a call or a letter better than an email?

It's probably considered closer to a real life interaction, which has more meaning than an email.

To make a comparison, imagine a close friend wishing you Happy Birthday through email instead of calling you.

Emails are really easy to ignore, letters are _slightly_ less easy, calls are rather hard to ignore, and visits basically cannot be ignored. At least in the sense that you get feedback instantly from the latter two, while the first two leave you wondering whether they got the correspondence or not, or are just ignoring you.

Imagine a 1000 people ...

... send you an email

... send you a letter

... call you

... visit you

What will have the biggest impact/influence on a politician?

A full email-inbox: Impressive, but ignorable.

A full inbox: Impressive, creates a lot of work, even just to trash the letters.

A always ringing phone: You can either ignore the people or listen to their problems. For sure it blocks you in some way

Your home is surrounded by people: It's probably the hardest to ignore that.

That's quite a lot of 'politicians' for a country of 8 million people.

Some cantons have 200K people with 150 'politicians' ???

Bureaucrats - yes - many more, surely.

But Canada has ~350 at the Fed, and maybe ~300 provincial meaning maybe ~400 for about 900 people.

This seems like a lot of managers.

Most of those in Switzerland still have a day job though. Those in the cantonal council (the smallest administrational unit listed on the site) have meetings during 50 days every year. The rest of the year they are mostly working their normal jobs.

Note that most of these are not full-time jobs. Even members of federal parliament only meet four times a year, and go back to their normal jobs in-between.

"Even members of federal parliament only meet four times a year, and go back to their normal jobs in-between"

Ok, so then it's worse but in the opposite direction.

How on earth does anything get down when the Federal Elected Officials have 'day jobs' and 'only meet a few times a year'?

When do the make legislation?

How do they study initiatives, have working groups?

A mid sized company takes a lot of effort to lead ... how is the country led? Basically in the hands of the professional bureaucracy?

It works and provides less way for corruption and lobbying?

Remember it is a public service. It demands sacrifices of personal and professional time. Much like jury duty in USA but more.

On off if not the primary duties of MP's in a parliamentary system is to hold the executive to account - this means proper scrutiny of all bills.

"Remember it is a public service. It demands sacrifices of personal and professional time."

That isn't the issue - the issue is one of the practical amount of time and energy required to actually be a politician.

Full time or not full time - it's still 'public service'.

We don't have many 'part time brain surgeons' or 'part time police chiefs' ...

Politics is a profession like most others.

How on earth does the 'Minister of Finance' manage a national budget part time?

I can see a lot of fluffy ministers who don't do a lot - but most cabinet level positions (Parliamentary) and other senior legislators - there's no reason they can't or should not be full time.

"It works and provides less way for corruption and lobbying?"

+ You haven't said 'how it works' - how does a national minster of finance prepare and manage a national level budget on a 'few meetings a year'.

+ Less corruption? How? Given that 'everyone in politics also has a day job' - the lines of politics/business are considerably more blurry!

   - Is the 'Minister of Finance' allowed to work in banking?
   - How do politicians create taxation legislation when that could create significant conflicts of interest?
   - Canadian Minister of Finance - and others - have to put their assets in 'blind trust' to avoid corruption. Can't do that if everyone has a normal day job. It has to be considerably more difficult to manage issues of conflict of interest, surely.
There might possibly be an advantage to having part-time politicians - in the sense that full time one's often don't earn a lot of income, they have to be re-elected etc. so perhaps they are more vulnerable than those with normal jobs.

Don't feed the troll.

By any metric you care to look at Switzerland is a pretty great country. Life expectancy, crime, education, people wanting to immigrate, indices of economic freedom and ease of business, you name it Switzerland looks good. And it is by far the most democratic country on Earth, the closest to a direct democracy. The EU talks a good game on subsidiarity, delegating decisions and authority to the lowest sensible level, but Switzerland actually does it.

The EU is a national federation of 500M people from vastly different cultures - all of which already have their own governments.

Switzerland is barely bigger than Toronto - so they hard hardly comparable.

Switzerland is almost a 'city state' and at that level, direct democracy is much more achievable. Many municipalities in the west also have more direct ballots - that said - they don't cover the heavy-duty things like human rights.

It's also worth noting that more than 1/3 of the world's offshore wealth sits in Switzerland, largely due to privacy and detachment from regimes that can (could) not access information - and of course stability.

This is an incredibly historical advantage that yields enormous wealth for the nation as they manage incredible amounts of passive income. Buying and trading low risk assets.

It's a lot easier when you're rich, money papers over a lot of problems.

I am not a banker but I was almost recruited by a family office in Geneva a while back.

Considering that it is well known that Switzerland has one of the better democracies in the world you're frankly talking out of your ass to put it politely :)

See here https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index (number 8 in the world in 2016) for instance or do your own research.

" you're frankly talking out of your ass to put it politely "

Well I'm from Canada, and we rank HIGHER than Switzerland with 'full time politicians' - as do 100% of the nations that rank higher than Switzerland - as 'proven' by the very data you provided!

So to 'be polite' - maybe you're 'talking out your ass' x2 by providing research that repudiates your own logic, and while taking smack to others on a thread?

Consider 'reading your own research' and 'not calling others names'?

The research I provided invalidates your claim, not mine. You asserted that Switzerland has a crappy democracy, I pointed out that independent analysis shows that it has one of the best democracies in the world. Therefore your assertion that they need to have full time politicians is bogus. And you know it is given your defensive tone. That there are a small number of marginally better democracies according to the source I gave is _irrelevant_ as is the composition of those democracies with respect to Switzerland. It's your logic that's faulty, not mine.

I _did_ read that research, and I read others. It is _well known_ that Switzerland has one of the world's best and robust democracies. Given how other countries regularly copy[0] what Switzerland does should be a bit of a clue. Look, I have no idea why you would make such a bogus claim, but it is just that, bogus.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Citizens%27_Initiativ... “The initiative was inspired by Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU. The country has several tools of direct democracy such as the federal popular initiative (since 1848) and the optional referendum (since 1874).

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