Release Notes: Better portal handling, including special fixes for FOIAonline

Release Notes: Better portal handling, including special fixes for FOIAonline

Plus, ongoing work on rebuilding user authentication

Edited by JPat Brown

Currently, our development efforts are focused mostly on overhauling user authentication across our services, making it easier to log in to any of our sites while also simplifying permissions and organization management.

This past week, we were able to release some improvements for portal handling. Like a lot of our favorite features, if they work well you shouldn’t notice them much: The updates include ways to identify agency web portals not yet in our system, and integrate them properly so you’ll see fewer weird “log in” prompts.

For previous site improvements, check out all of MuckRock’s release notes, and if you’d like to get a list of site improvements every Tuesday - along with ways to help contribute to the site’s development yourself - subscribe to our developer newsletter here.

What’s new on MuckRock

Portal detection improvements

We’ve now simplified our process for rejecting auto-detected portals. This will help us clear through the queue of work more quickly to focus on more interesting things, like writing thank you cards to all the amazing FOIA officers out there.

If you have questions about this works, or suggestions on how to improve our processes, let us know.

Stopping FOIAonline accounts from going stale

We’ve implemented a new feature that automatically logs in to FOIAonline every few weeks, to prevent accounts from getting locked. Every 45 days, by default, FOIAonline now closes accounts that haven’t logged in, even if the request is still active.

It used to be a simple password reset fixed this, but we’re now seeing cases where we have to call over to get an account reinstated. We’ve built a tool that will automatically log in every once in a while to try to keep accounts active; let us know if you see anything weird that might be related.

Apply to build Quackbot’s next super power

A reminder that we’re still taking applications to be our News Nerd in Residence, where you’ll get a chance to work with our team on building new super powers for Quackbot, our chatbot platform for news and transparency tools. To help, we have an open call for “News Nerds in Residence”: Selected developers are given a stipend to work hand-in-hand with us to take their ideas, prototypes, or internal tools and make them available for everyone to be able to take advantage of right within Slack.

If you have a simple, useful tool you think could translate well into a chat-based bot, we’d like to hear from you.

The application is just four questions, embedded right below - but if you have questions, get in touch with Aron Pilhofer and we’d love to talk about whether your idea is a good fit.

Come hack on MuckRock

We have a growing group of volunteer hackers helping to make MuckRock’s suite of tools better every day. We have a project and a weekly newsletter, “Release Notes,” that highlights everything we’re working on. Register to get a summary of site updates each week and details on open issues you can help with.

Check out some of our issues labeled “help wanted” for ideas on where’s good to start, or just pop into our Slack’s #Developers channel.

Subscribers to the weekly newsletter get exclusive data sets, FOIA-related scripts, and other transparency hacker tidbits exclusively for subscribers. You can subscribe to to the newsletter at the top or bottom of this page.

If you want to contribute better FOIA tools for thousands of requesters, there’s a number of ways to help. If you find a bug you can email us directly or open an issue on GitHub.

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.

In addition to the new newsletter, we have a developer channel on the MuckRock Slack.

Image via Wikimedia Commons