Release Notes: Subject lines persist in follow up emails to agencies

Release Notes: Subject lines persist in follow up emails to agencies

Plus, a little preview to changing Assignments page

Edited by JPat Brown

Last week, Advay Mengle submitted a pull request that helpfully includes prior subject lines in emailed communications. We’ve also got a test version of a new Assignments landing page that better highlights recent contributions and open Assignments you can help.

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.

Site Updates

Historical subject lines kept in follow-up communications with agencies

Sometimes agencies include helpful context in subject lines; sometimes they also change the subject lines in between different emails. Advay Mengle submitted a pull request to include prior subject lines in emailed communications to agencies, so that they have more context at their fingertips as they’re responding to your FOIA request.

It was merged in last week.

Better FOIA Online handling

FOIA Online has been going through some growing pains lately, including a new system that automatically locks out pretty aggressively without much good recourse short of calling up the FOIA Online hotline.

Since many requests take months or years, this can be very disruptive to the FOIA process, so we’ve been implementing measures to stop these deactivations by regularly logging in to FOIA Online accounts. Last week, we pushed some small changes that better handle the occasional errors that crop up.

Building a better Assignments landing page

The uptake of the Assignments crowdsourcing tool has been fantastic to see, but now we need to design a landing page that highlights all the cool ways people have been crowdsourcing transparency work.

A screenshot of a revamped Assignments page

We’ll be continuing to tweak, test, and gather feedback, and hopefully push out a public version soon. In the meantime, stop by Code for Boston if you’re in the area and would like to take it for a spin. And on that note …

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.

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