New in Alaveteli: importing & presenting blog posts

Alaveteli is our platform that anyone can use to run a Freedom of Information site in their own country or jurisdiction.

We’ve added new functionality that allows Alaveteli sites to highlight blog posts on the homepage, so they’re more visible. In this way, Alaveteli sites can not only help users with the ‘how’ of making an FOI request, but also show, in a very tangible way, the ‘why’  — especially if the posts are highlighting impactful uses of the site.

Previously, Alaveteli had a basic way to pull in an RSS feed of blog posts. These were only available on the blog page (/blog), which often does a disservice to all the great work that gets written about.

We wanted to better signpost the blog from other pages in Alaveteli to celebrate great FOI use, and help users understand how a seemingly simple FOI can go on to have an outsized impact.

When the site runner configures a blog feed, posts are pulled into Alaveteli and cached in the database. This makes them available on the homepage. Here’s what that looks like on WhatDoTheyKnow:

Latest News and Campaigns screenshot

They’re also visible in the admin interface via the Tools > Blog Posts menu item.

Blog posts lists on Alaveteli

At present only the title, URL and publication date are cached in Alaveteli. These records are intended to be “pointers” to the canonical URL of the article hosted on the external blog service.

In the admin interface, blog posts can be tagged to indicate their subject matter.

As FOI requests and authorities can also be tagged, this allows the blog posts to be highlighted in the sidebar of appropriate pages where there’s a matching tag. So, if someone’s browsing requests or visiting an authority that deals with the climate emergency, for example, they’ll be shown relevant blog posts – hopefully making them more visible to people who have already displayed that they have an interest in the topic, and giving those people a bit more contextual knowledge.

List of FOI request climate action plans on Alaveteli Climate Action plans on Alaveteli's front end Authority - Geraldine Quango Showing where the related blog posts are on Alaveteli

In future we’d like to make these posts more visible, by importing header images and a short summary, and give the ability to display some posts when there isn’t a direct tag match.

You can read about the initial design and subsequent conversation and pull requests starting at mysociety/alaveteli#6589.

Banner image: Patrick Perkins