MuckRock Release Notes: Improving the agency picker plus making ourselves more transparent

MuckRock Release Notes: Improving the agency picker plus making ourselves more transparent

Join us Tuesday at Code for Boston, or anytime on Slack

Edited by JPat Brown

Another week of quiet improvements. For filers, the agency picker should be more helpful in getting your request to the right agency - and not getting requests to agencies that don’t accept them. We’ve also made our financial information more prominent.

For previous site improvements, check out all of MuckRock’s release notes.

What’s new on MuckRock

Agency picker now tries to figure out misspellings and suggests possible agencies

It’s easy to miss a letter when typing in a long agency name, and we’ve rolled out a tool that tries to guess what you meant to type. It also looks for similarly named agencies if you try to create a new agency and double checks that you want to create a new agency versus selecting one already in our database.

No more filing with exempt agencies

If you try to file a request with an agency we know as exempt, you’ll now get an error message explaining that the agency is not subject to FOIA or applicable state records laws, and we’re working to include advice on strategies for how to get information from that agency in other ways.

Learn more about why the White House is exempt from FOIA, for example.

More MuckRock transparency

As a pro-transparency organization, we’ve always tried to lead by example and be as transparent as we can. For about a year we’ve had a financial transparency page listing our major funders and providing links to key incorporation documents as well as our annual 990 non-profit filings with the IRS.

That page was kind of buried if you didn’t know exactly where to look for it, so we stuck it on the footer where anyone should be able find it.

Back end routing improvements

We’ve made a number of small improvements on how we route internal help queries, which will help us make sure support issues get handled as quickly as possible. You can’t see this feature directly, but every time you use the “Get Help” button to report an issue, things should get resolved a little quicker!

Help build a better MuckRock

We love transparency. In fact, MuckRock and FOIA Machine are open source software. Anyone can freely inspect, modify, and reuse our code, and if you’re a developer or designer, you can help us continue to improve the sites (they’re actually built on the same codebase!). Open issues are all listed on GitHub. 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.

We’ll be at tomorrow’s event, so get in touch if you’d like to join us then or some other evening to build better transparency software.

Image via Wikimedia Commons