Release Notes: Come say hi at RightsCon and IRE

Release Notes: Come say hi at RightsCon and IRE

Minor tweaks this week include small bug fixes

Edited by JPat Brown

If you’re in Tunis or Houston, come say hi and see what’s in store as we continue integrating MuckRock and DocumentCloud. On the development front, only minor updates this week, including a tweak to stop our site statistics from breaking and more robust username handling.

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.

MuckRock talks at RightsCon and IRE

This week, we’re at two conferences. If you’re at either, we’d love to say hello.

First, we’re at RightsCon in Tunis, Tunisia. On Thursday afternoon, we’ll be joining together with our friends at Alaveteli to talk about using our platforms to empower the public to understand government, including through petitions, large-scale FOIA campaigns, crowdsourcing, and more.

Next, we’ll be at the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Houston. On Sunday, we’ll be talking about managing large scale public records projects with MuckRock and DocumentCloud, including everything from coming up with ideas and scaling from a few requests to hundreds to analyzing the documents through our search and crowdsourcing tools

If you’re at either conference, we’d love to say hi — just shoot Michael Morisy an email. We might even have a few items from the MuckRock Swag Store to give away.

Site Updates

Consistent statistics

Pretty quiet on the features front as we shift most of our focus to DocumentCloud. Last week, our daily statistics database skipped a beat. We believe we have resolved that issue, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it. Relatedly, if your curious how many requests MuckRock processes, most of that information is available via our API.

We also fixed some minor issues where names with certain unicode characters could cause parts of the site to act up.

Help us hack on — and name — our government website scanner

If you’re the kind of person who gets excited about building cool, impactful open source software, you might also be interested in our Tuesday meetups in Cambridge, Massachusetts or our other open source efforts.

We’re working on a website that scans government websites to check on how well they’re doing on a number of important factors, ranging from mobile friendliness and accessibility to ease of contacting them. Since we already have a database of over 10,000 agencies and an API to access information about them, this gives us a chance to do more with data we’ve just had sitting around collecting dust (and, er, FOIA requests).

We’ve blurred out the agency name because all the data being gathered is still very preliminary and needs lots of verification, cleaning, and correcting.

Check out the source code for this project here, and then join us Tuesday evenings or in the #MuckRock channel on the Code for Boston Slack.

Last week, we added an updated README file to explain the project, set it up so that the scrapers push data to the backend via an API, and merged in a few other nifty tweaks.

We also need a name for the project. If you’ve got a good one that’s available with a decent domain and isn’t the name of something else, let us know. If we use it, we’ll send you an extra special Mystery Swag Item.

MuckRock is open source, and you can help us make it better

There are a number of OTHER ways to help us continue to improve the core MuckRock site experience. 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 the newsletter at the top or bottom of this page.

If you spot a bug or have a feature request, you can also help by opening an issue on GitHub.

If you do, 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