We’ve had a lot of features roll out over the past week, a few user facing goodies and a lot of backend improvements to keep speeding up request processing.
For previous site improvements, check out all of MuckRock’s release notes.
What’s new on MuckRock
MuckRock users have done amazing work taking advantage of MuckRock Projects, whether public collaborations or just using the feature to help keep their team organized. We’re excited to do a lot more with projects in the future, but one thing we realized we needed to do sooner to make them useful: Let you add requests to projects right from the request page.
This rolled out last week and we’ve been happy with the response. If you haven’t yet made a project, take it for a spin and then organize your requests by topic or story, and use the project description field to keep notes on how your public records campaign is going. Remember that projects are private by default, so feel free to use the project as a scratch pad to remember what you need to look at next.
We’ve also launched a new experimental feature that allows recurring donation for Project crowdfunding campaigns. This will probably be an invite-only feature for the next few months as we work out the kinks, but we’d love to hear what features you’d like to see with recurring crowdfunds.
This builds off of our recurring donation feature launched last week, so if you’d like to support MuckRock operations directly there’s now more ways to do that, including by making a monthly, tax-deductible contribution:
Want to quickly analyze where all your requests stand, or map out all the hard work you’ve put into a public records campaign? Pro and Org users can now export any request search results as a CSV file. If you have a lot of entries it might take a few seconds, but even if you want to download information on every single public records request you can do that easily.
We’ve found this feature super helpful when mapping out requests, and hope it’s useful to you. If you have other fields you’d like to see or notice any quirks, let us know.
Agency pages are due for a full overhaul - if you’d be interested in helping with that, get in touch or read the bottom on how to help contribute.
In the meantime, we’ve started publicly displaying phone number and webpages we have stored for agencies on agency profile pages. We have a lot more data we’re trying to figure out how to make more useful, so keep an eye out on future improvements.
We also overhauled how we store agency address data to make it easier to geolocate and more consistently stored.
Various backend improvements to speed up request processing
Our biggest operations focus the past few months has been on speeding up processes, and in the past week we made a number tweaks to help with that. These features aren’t directly visible, but help us stay responsive and give each request the TLC it deserves.
A small sample of those features:
- Increase communication display area in portal tasks which means less scrolling around.
- Links in tasks were broken which meant a lot of extra copy and pasting.
- Instant handling of incoming FBI responses which means less scanning, a happier planet, and faster responses.
We’re also continuing to work on better spam prevention. We’ve finally cut off spammers from the Q&A forum, but we’ve seen a surge in spam agencies being created. We hope that this stops when the spammers realize that those agencies are never actually made public.
Help build a better MuckRock
MuckRock and FOIA Machine are open source software, and we deeply appreciate the contributions that help us continue to expand the impact of our work. Open issues are all listed on GitHub.
Right now, we’re particularly interested in finding volunteer designers who want to take a swing at redesigning our agency and jurisdiction pages: We have a ton of data that we’re not quite sure how to make more useful, and looking for ideas.
If you find a bug you can email us directly or open an issue. If you do the latter, please search open issues first to make sure it hasn’t already been reported. If it has been reported previously, please leave an additional comment letting us know it’s an issue for you, particularly if you can provide more details about when it crops up or what you think is causing the problem.
For those who want to contribute design, code, or otherwise more directly to the site, we have a developer channel on the MuckRock Slack.
We’re also part of Code for Boston’s weekly hack nights, which take place Tuesday evenings in Kendall Square.
Michael will be at tomorrow’s meetup, but get in touch if you’d like to join us some evening to build better transparency software and we’ll make sure to look out for you!
Image via Wikimedia Commons