MuckRock Release Notes: A new way to see and share data, plus nicer looking mail

MuckRock Release Notes: A new way to see and share data, plus nicer looking mail

Join us Tuesdays at Code for Boston, or anytime on Slack!

Edited by JPat Brown

This past week, we launched a new experimental feature that does a better job of displaying datasets. It isn’t widely rolled out yet, so see if you can spot it and let us know what you’d like to see happen with it. We also improved how we handled mail and forms, speeding up request processing.

What’s new on MuckRock

Experimental new data display

MuckRock users get a lot of data, and new features like CSV export mean that won’t be changing any time soon. But while DocumentCloud helps our users show and analyze PDFs and other document types, we don’t have a way to let you quickly view CSVs, Excel files, and other databases.

This feature is very rough and experimental right now, but we hope to continue tweaking and evolving it to make it easier to quickly preview incoming data you get, as well as make it easier to integrate MuckRock into the rest of the tools you use to analyze and explore data you get through your records requests. Here’s an example of how it looks in practice right now:

The front end of this feature is powered by the Tabulator jQuery plugin. We’ll roll this out slowly as we work out the kinks, but if you’re interested in improving data display, are interested in contributing, or have feature requests, see below and get in touch.

Improved mail and form handling

Not as visible but equally exciting is continued improvements in mailing out requests. We reformatted letters to be more legible for agencies receiving them and quicker for us to send out (we mail about 260 letters to agencies every month!).

We also tweaked a bug that was hiding appeal addresses when we were sending appeals, which means less time manually inserting that and more time playing Collection Deck.

We also rolled out a new feature that automatically fills out the forms required with requests sent in Pennsylvania. If those goes well, we’ll expand the auto-form filling out for other agencies and jurisdictions, which should make the request process smoother for everyone.

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, so 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