This week, we worked behind the scenes to continue to tweak and improve our integration with agency FOIA portals.
Here are some of the details plus information on how you can help keep us improving. For previous site improvements, check out all of MuckRock’s release notes.
What’s new on MuckRock
Improved integration with agency portals
Last week we launched our first pass at agency portal integration, and most of the last week was spent tweaking and improving that integration. So far, the rollout is fairly limited: We have five portals implemented in our database covering about ten agencies (some portals cover every agency within a city).
There’s a lot of catch up work as we move requests over, manually recode request communications, and otherwise get used to the new backend tasks we have to take care of, so if you see something off, please use “Get Help” buttons liberally and let us know.
We’re hoping to have our portal integration rolled out to every agency that uses one by the end of the year. The implementation should mean that a user never has to login to an agency’s portal directly to access their documents, submit an update, or do anything else that they’d like to do with their request. Requesting should just work like it does with any other form of communication through MuckRock, so if something isn’t living up to that goal let us know at email@example.com.
Tweaking tracking numbers
We scaled back one of the other new features that was rolled out last week: Automated tracking number detection. We try to manually capture as many agency provided tracking numbers as possible (they’re displayed on the left-hand side of the request page if we have them). If we have one, we include them when we follow up with agencies, which makes it much easier to coordinate.
Our early attempts at automation were a little too eager, grabbing a variety of numbers and letters and sticking them in as tracking numbers. We’ve since tightened up the regex used to just look for combinations of numbers, letters, and dashes that appear directly after the phrase “Tracking Number:”, to reduce the false positives. We’ll work on expanding it when we’re comfortable it won’t grab and insert bad data.
We also squashed some ongoing problems with missing dates in communications. The data wasn’t lost, it just wasn’t being displayed. If you see anything missing or off in this regard, let us know with the Get Help button!
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 won’t be at tomorrow’s event, but get in touch if you’d like to join us some evening to build better transparency software and we’ll let you know next time we do attend.
Image via Valve Corporation