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Klaxon Cloud: Free, simple alerts when a webpage updates

The power of the Marshall Project’s Klaxon site monitor, no server required

Written by
Edited by Tom Meagher

Want to know when your favorite government agency posts new information? Wondering if a corporate press release might see some post-publication revisions? We’ve brought the power of The Marshall Project’s Klaxon site monitoring tool into DocumentCloud, and it’s now easier than ever to track changes and get alerts from websites you care about.

The Marshall Project originally launched the open-source reporting tool Klaxon in 2016 as a way to assist with beat reporting and breaking news. With Klaxon, anyone could quickly mark a web page or just part of a page for monitoring. Klaxon then regularly “pings” that webpage and grabs a copy. If there’s any changes in the two versions, it will send an alert to the user, indicating what changed.

This can be useful in a broad range of scenarios, such as monitoring a court’s website for newly posted orders — in The Marshall Project’s case, potentially a stay of execution or a denial of an appeal. It can also be used to get alerts when new data sets or documents are posted, or, as in the example below, updates when the White House issues new statements.

At MuckRock, we’ve been using Klaxon to monitor for new contact information to add to our agency database as well as newly posted FOIA logs.

Klaxon has always been free and open source, but required each newsroom to set up, configure and maintain its own server, creating one more thing to manage. To help broaden who can take advantage of this powerful tool, we worked with The Marshall Project to bring a version of Klaxon into DocumentCloud (read more from them here).

The result is Klaxon Cloud, which anyone can start using immediately with their existing MuckRock or DocumentCloud account (no verification required). Our goal was to make it easy as possible to get started:

  • Go to the Klaxon Cloud Add-On (via that link or by searching for “Klaxon” under Add-Ons).

  • Drag the bookmark link into your bookmark menu.

  • Visit the webpage you want to monitor, click the bookmark and then follow the prompts.

You’ll then get email notifications whenever there is an update to the page, as well as a link to the new snapshot, an option to download a copy of changes, and the ability to visualize the changes in the Wayback Machine.

Advanced users can also set up a webhook to get alerts sent directly to a Slack channel, keeping your whole team in the loop.

To simplify running Klaxon Cloud, we take advantage of a few different services to remove the need to have your own server:

  • Snapshots of the website are now stored in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

  • Rather than keeping a server running all the time, each scheduled website check is run via Github Actions through DocumentCloud’s Add-Ons architecture.

  • Access management, email notifications and other authentication and data storage needs are handled via DocumentCloud and MuckRock’s services.

We’re continuing to refine the experience of Klaxon Cloud and a growing array of DocumentCloud Add-Ons, building a toolkit that lets your newsroom tap into everything from free audio transcription to AI summarization all within one interface and ready to use against your existing documents.

Help build the future of Klaxon and newsroom tooling

This is the first version of our rebooted Klaxon. We have a lot of ideas about where we want to take it, but we’d like your help — let us know how you’re using it, where it can improve and any questions you have. You can open an issue on Github or drop a note in the #proj-klaxon channel on NewsNerdery. We would also love to hear your success stories and use cases. You can also email us at info@documentcloud.org.

If you’re a developer, we welcome your contributions directly to Klaxon. You can make a pull request to the code itself or drop into the Slack channel to discuss your ideas. We’re particularly interested in better user experiences for notifications; ensuring it works across a wide range of sites; and building out any additional features that serve journalists and researchers.

And if you need to host site monitoring software on your own server, the original Klaxon is still available to run yourself.

Header image by Zef Art. All rights reserved.