MuckRock Release Notes: Improved date handling, easier local installation, and more

MuckRock Release Notes: Improved date handling, easier local installation, and more

Help us keep building a better MuckRock by joining us Tuesdays or on Slack

Edited by JPat Brown

This week we pushed out a number of bug fixes and subtle improvements, while also making it easier for developers to get up to speed if they want to help contributing to MuckRock. We’ve also (temporarily!) removed one of our most charming and beloved features: The magnifying loupe, which made it easier to read screenshots of documents in our news articles.

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 at the top or bottom of this page.

What’s new on MuckRock

Communications now always show the data sent (or re-sent)

Managing communications for 50,000 public records requests can get tricky. Fax machines get turned off, people change jobs, mail gets lost. We’ve tried to make our policies more consistent and clear over time so that users can be confident in how and when communications are sent. A few months ago, we started showing users how a request was submitted (via mail, email, fax, or portal), and now we’re revising which date we show from the original submission date to the date of re-submission, if applicable. We’re still working on making this information clearer when you need it while making sure it doesn’t get in the way when you don’t, so please let us know if you have questions or suggestions.

Advanced “Edit Template Language” feature inserted extra (occasionally inaccurate) language about date requirements

An eagle-eyed user noted that in states without a specific deadline, our advanced request composer would occasionally insert language implying that the suggested response time was mandatory. We’ve revised our templates so that this won’t happen anymore. Thanks to all the users who have provided feedback and suggestions on continuing to improve the advanced editing tools, and we’re looking forward to continue to improve and build upon this functionality.

Disabled image magnification loupe

One of the features that many users found routinely delightful was the loupe, which mangified screenshot text (usually documents) when you hovered over an article in the images. As we started work on more deeply integrating DocumentCloud’s tools into MuckRock, there were a number of conflicts that broken a variety of document embeds. We’re working on resolving this conflicts, and have temporarily disabled the loupe in the meantime.

Improved staging environment

Thanks to everyone who has been working to get MuckRock’s staging site up and running locally to help contribute code or just better understand how we work. We’ve made a few more improvements, including adding a default super user (be careful) and adding some default flat pages so that there are fewer 404 links in various navigation points.

Limited appeal attachments

In order to avoid delays with submitting appeals, we’ve limited appeal attachments to 100 pages and three files. If you have concerns about this policy, please let us know, and we can accomodate occasional exceptions via our normal support channels.

Come hack on MuckRock

We have a growing group of volunteer hackers helping to make MuckRock better every day. We want to make it easier to contribute, so we’re launching a new project and weekly newsletter, “Release Notes.” Register to get a summary of site updates each week, a list of issues you can help with, and details about our Code for Boston meetups.

If you subscribe to the weekly newsletter, we’ll include exclusive data sets, FOIA-related scripts, and other transparency hacker tidbits exclusively for subscribers. Subscribe to to the newsletter at the top or bottom of this page.

And we’re working on some special new stickers just for contributors. We’re still finalizing the design, but right now the CryptoKids make a special appearence:

Bumper sticker for open soure contributors

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.

For those who want to contribute design, code, or otherwise more directly to the site, in addition to the new newsletter, we have a developer channel on the MuckRock Slack. You can also join us at Code for Boston’s weekly hack nights, which take place Tuesday evenings in Kendall Square. We might not make it to every one of them, so if you want to meet up there it’s a good idea to check in on Slack first or check the newsletter. We will be at tomorrow’s meetup.

Right now, we’re particularly looking for designers to help us think through ways of better highlighting our community in our various newsletters, including helping design special callouts for MuckRock Projects, Assignments people can contribute to, as well as recently submitted and completed requests.

Image via Wikimedia Commons