Supported by the Wellcome Data Prize in Mental Health, mySociety are providing technical support to the organisation Black Thrive, whose work addresses the inequalities that negatively impact the mental health and wellbeing of Black people. Their question: does disproportional use of police stop and search impact the mental health of young Black people in England and Wales? This project aims to find out.
Late last year mySociety provided some low-key support during the Discovery phase of the project as Black Thrive were developing their statistics package to extract and enhance data from data.police.uk to make the data more accessible and research-ready (for example, by making it easier to combine the data with other datasets such as Understanding Society, a longitudinal household panel study).
We’re pleased to say that the project made an impact, and we’ll now be more actively sharing our expertise in creating data-heavy, citizen-focused services by collaborating with Black Thrive, King’s College London, and UNJUST CIC in the Prototyping phase of the Data Prize.
Now that Black Thrive have built an automated way of gathering the data and creating the analysis, the next phase focuses on presenting these in an open dashboard that’s straightforward for anyone to use and understand. We’ll also be looking at mechanisms for automatically keeping the data up to date, and adding new datapoints when they become available.
Having built several dashboards into our own services including WhatDoTheyKnow and FixMyStreet, we’ve got some great experience to build off; plus bags of experience in sourcing and munging lots of disparate data from our EveryPolitician project. More recently we’ve been making local council Climate Action Plans explorable and accessible, and also creating an easy-to-use data hub for data about local MPs, constituencies, public opinion and the climate and nature movement so this project sits comfortably within our wheelhouse.
In fact, as it happens, we’re currently using very similar tech on another project, our Local Intelligence Hub prototype, and we’re going to use it as the basis for this new dashboard. Nothing like a bit of crafty repurposing where it helps save time and effort!
Here’s a sneak peek of how it’s looking at this early stage:
Watch this space and we’ll be sure to keep the updates coming as we progress.
Image: Chris White (CC by-nc-nd/2.0)
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At our Freedom of Information service WhatDoTheyKnow, when faced with requests to remove material, we operate on the principle of removing the minimum amount possible.
Alaveteli, the codebase which underlies WhatDoTheyKnow and a number of other FOI sites around the world, gives moderators a range of options for removing content – with the ability to surgically remove text ranging from individual words and phrases, to individual messages, or even entire request threads. This is useful when we spot misuse of our service, for example.
What we’ve been lacking, up until now, was a way to apply these types of removals to attachments.
Back in the early days of WhatDoTheyKnow, attachments were less common, but now we see many more: there can often be several attachments to one individual message.
Over the last few years, there have been occasions where we’ve had to remove an entire message, which may contain several useful attachments, just because of a small issue with one of them.
We’d then go through an annoying manual process to download the publishable ones, upload them to our file server, and then annotate the request with the links – here’s an example.
Back in 2013, when the original suggestion for enabling finer grained control was raised, the site contained around 400,000 attachments. There are now more than 3,500,000! We don’t remove content often, but at this scale it’s inevitable that we need to intervene now and then.
After a little code cleanup we were able to make individual attachment removal a reality. This allows us much more control over how we balance preserving a historic archive of information released under Access to Information laws, and running the site responsibly and meeting our legal obligations under GDPR.
As an example, let’s imagine that the FOI officer replying to our request inadvertently makes a data breach when releasing some organisation charts in `organisation chart b.pdf`.
Previously we’d have had to have hidden the whole response. Now, we can go into the admin interface and inspect each individual attachment.
We can then set our usual “prominence” value – offering a few options from fully visible to completely hidden – and include a reason for why the content has been hidden. We always seek to run the site transparently and explain any actions taken.
On saving the form, you can see that only the problematic attachment has been removed, with the remainder of the response intact. This saves us considerable time when reviewing and handling material with potential data issues, and keeps as much information published as possible while we do so.
As an extra bonus, since the main body text of emails is also treated as an “attachment” in Alaveteli, we’re now able to hide potentially problematic material there without affecting the attachments we present.
We’ve already used this feature several times to republish material where we’d previously had to hide the entire message due to the technical limitations at the time.
Image: Kenny Eliason
Alaveteli is our platform for running Freedom of Information websites — it underpins WhatDoTheyKnow as well as many other sites around the world. It’s made up of many interconnecting elements, but a key part is the database of public bodies.
On WhatDoTheyKnow, we list over 42,000 public bodies that are subject to FOI and EIR – possibly one of the largest databases of public bodies in the country. Along with their name, we record information like their FOI request email address, publication scheme and disclosure log URLs, and we categorise them so that they’re easier to browse and make requests to.
We often want to add additional insight to help citizens understand more about the public body. This can vary from body to body, from describing the information they hold, what they don’t hold, guidance around how to challenge their poor FOI-handling practices or why we list them when they’re not currently subject to FOI.
We do this via what we call “notes” – a free-text field per authority that admins can update with whatever information is useful for the particular body.
We often find we need to add or update the same note for a group of authorities — for example, we added the same note to all Business Improvement Districts to explain our reasons for listing them.
This can be a major challenge. We list nearly 300 BIDs, and updating each manually, one at a time, would be a several-hour ordeal. An alternative is for our developers to write a quick one-off script to update the text, but that comes with a coordination cost, and can be tricky to work around other text that may be present in the free text field that we want to preserve.
One of the behind-the-scenes ways we manage the categorisation of authorities is through tags. Many of our other records have the ability to add tags too.
This led to the thought that it would be great to be able to apply a note based on a tag, rather than only having one note field per authority. This would allow us to more quickly add useful information to groups of authorities.
Another issue we wanted to solve was to be able to add notes to content other than public bodies, like FOI requests for specific types of information and our category lists. In particular we wanted to be able to celebrate requests that led to particularly useful public interest information being released or having wider impact, and also to add clarification around requests that may be misinterpreted.
We’ve received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to help support marginalised communities to make more well-formed requests, and to more effectively use the information they obtain to engage with and influence authorities in a way that contributes to fairer decision-making. Thanks to this, we were able to add this underlying capability, which we can use to continue to help users more easily understand how to navigate the complexities of public authorities and what information they hold.
We then needed an interface to allow admins to list and search tags for each type of record that has them, and browse all records that are tagged with a particular tag.
As well as it being generally useful to be able to browse our database through our tags, this gave us a place to add our new functionality for adding a note based on a tag.
While Rails’ polymorphic associations make creating a link between one record and another really easy, they don’t cover creating the link through a free-text tag. Fortunately, it took nothing more than a few lines of code to link up notes that are directly associated with a single record, and notes that are applied via a tag.
Now our public bodies can have notes applied to them and only them, and also notes applied to several authorities based on their tag.
In this example, the Environment Agency has some specific notes about it, but since it’s also a local lighthouse authority, we can apply the relevant notes simply by tagging the authority record and the notes for local lighthouse authorities will automatically get applied. Magic!
We’ve also applied this pattern to information requests. Now, we can add notes to individual requests, like this example that points to another source for obtaining the information…
So far we’ve created 46 notes that get applied via a tag. These notes are applicable to 7,998 requests and 15,283 authorities. Using a rough guess of 30 seconds to manually apply a note to a record, it would take 11,640.5 minutes – 8 full days, or 25 working days – to do so for each of these requests and authorities. This just wouldn’t have been possible before.
This new feature unlocks a whole new avenue for us to support citizens and users that we just wouldn’t have had capacity for otherwise.
Image: Keila Hötzel
WhatDoTheyKnow Pro is the paid-for, premium, version of our Freedom of Information service WhatDoTheyKnow.com, designed for journalists, academics, campaigners and others whose needs exceed what our free service provides.
Features available to Pro users include the ability to delay publication of requests and responses; and to make requests to multiple authorities at the same time via the batch request tool.
We’ve just made it much easier for Pro users to add relevant bodies to a batch request via a list of authorities within specific categories.
Our database contains FOI contact addresses for more than 42,000 authorities. Using our service saves you from having to source appropriate contact details yourself, and we’ve now made it even quicker and easier to make batch FOI requests.
Since WhatDoTheyKnow Pro’s launch, creating a batch request has involved searching for bodies and adding them individually to the batch. WhatDoTheyKnow’s fantastic volunteers curate over 200 categories to help users on the main site to explore and navigate the UK authorities subject to FOI, and we’ve now incorporated these listings into WhatDoTheyKnow Pro’s batch tool.
As a result, requests are more likely to be sent to the bodies that hold the information being requested, and the number of requests sent to inappropriate bodies is minimised.
We’ve been trialling this feature in a limited beta period for a while, and thanks to our funding from the Swedish Postcode Foundation we were able to work with handlingar.se to iron out some bugs and performance issues before making it available to all Pro users.
We hope the new feature will aid some great cross-authority research, while helping to ensure that requests are targeted to appropriate bodies.
Let us know if there are additional categories you’d like us to add!
On 31 May 2022, Northern Trains Limited (Northern) wrote to us to demand that we stop publishing the salaries and job titles of the ten highest paid managers at the company. The Department for Transport had released this data in response to a request made via our Freedom of Information service, WhatDoTheyKnow. The request for removal was not only made on behalf of the company, but was also represented as being a request on behalf of the “director group”, which we have interpreted to mean those senior staff at the company whose salary data has been disclosed.
Having carefully considered our position we are continuing to publish this information.
Table: Salaries of the highest paid managers at Northern Rail Limited in £5k bands.
Job title Salary Banding (£) Managing Director 245,001 – 250,000 Chief Operating Officer 210,001 – 215,000 Finance Director 165,001 – 170,000 Commercial and Customer director 150,001 – 155,000 Strategic Development director 145,001 – 150,000 Engineering Director 140,001 – 145,000 People Director 120,001 – 125,000 Regional Director 115,001 – 120,000 Programme Director 110,001 – 115,000
Source: DfT Freedom of Information release – released on at 30/05/2022
There is a strong public interest in favour of the release of information that helps people to understand how resources are apportioned within an organisation. As we understand it, the Department for Transport has dealt with the FOI request in line with current best practice for transparency surrounding senior officials and high earners in the public sector, and has acted in accordance with current guidance from the Information Commissioner.
Northern Trains Limited, which operates under the ‘Northern’ brand, is wholly owned by the Department for Transport. The Government proactively publishes the exact salaries of the highest paid public sector employees as part of their regular proactive transparency releases. It would seem reasonable that Northern would also be expected to make similar information available about the salaries of its most senior staff, particularly when the salaries of senior officials at similar and related companies are already public. This includes those working for Northern’s parent company, DfT OLR Holdings Limited, Network Rail, and High Speed 2 Limited. Northern’s sister company LNER publishes information on the salaries of its directors in £5k bands on p46 of its latest annual accounts. In respect of DfT OLR Holdings Limited, the Government proactively publishes the salaries of their Chief Executive (£235,000-239,999), Group Finance Director (£220,000-£224,999) and Chair (£150,000-£154,999).
Northern routinely publishes exact salary information for junior roles on their careers website, and the material released by the Department for Transport is very similar to this. Recently, Northern has advertised that they will pay a full-time train cleaner based at Wigan £18,500 and a grade B maintenance worker based at Newton Heath £33,035 a year. We believe that Northern should have no objections to us publishing that their Managing Director receives a salary of between £245,001 and £250,000 a year.
We don’t know why the Northern Managing Director’s salary has been omitted from the data proactively published by the Cabinet Office. Perhaps they’ve been confused by the complexity of corporate structures involved, and have not looked beyond companies directly wholly owned by the Government when seeking to identify highly paid and senior public servants who should be included. We asked the Cabinet Office to comment and they shirked responsibility for the data they publish saying:
“Although Cabinet Office compile and publish the £150k list on GOV.UK, other departments provide us with the list of salaries to be included. DfT will have sent us their senior salaries list covering its departments, agencies and non departmental public bodies. You would be best to direct your query to them, and they should be able to advise why this salary fell out of scope.”
We contacted the Department for Transport for comment but as of the time of writing we had not received a substantive response.
We don’t know if there is an issue with the criteria for proactive publication of salaries by the Cabinet Office or if the Department for Transport have not followed the existing criteria.
We strongly believe in preserving and promoting transparency and openness, and the accountability of those in positions of power and in maintaining a public archive of Freedom of Information requests and responses. We carefully consider all requests to remove material from our website. We balance the interests of individuals and organisations asking us to take material down with the interests in favour of continued publication.
Northern’s attempt to keep the salaries of its senior executives secret came while the threat of strike action on the railways over pay was growing. On 7 June 2022, the RMT announced 3 days of national strike action in what it called “the biggest dispute on the network since 1989.” Northern is expected to be one of the companies whose services are affected. When assessing whether to keep publishing the information, we considered the journalistic value of the data released. We expect the senior staff salaries, and the attempt to keep those salaries hidden from the public, may well be considered especially newsworthy during this period. The material that was released will help to inform the ongoing debate around pay levels in this sector.
We list DfT OLR Holdings Limited, and the three rail companies it owns on behalf of the British public, on WhatDoTheyKnow so anyone can make FOI requests to them in public. All the bodies are subject to Freedom of Information law:
We thank Northern Rail for drawing our attention to this release of their senior management salary data, which might otherwise have gone largely unnoticed.
For more information on how we deal with takedown requests like this, and our legal basis for processing personal information see: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/privacy#legal_basis
We recently became aware of extensive misuse of our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow, in connection with the academic status of Taiwanese politician Dr Tsai Ing-wen.
This activity became apparent through a very large quantity of correspondence being sent through the site, all focusing on the validity of Dr Ing-wen’s qualification from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
The majority of this material was repeating the same or very similar FOI requests, and some were not valid requests at all. We also saw mass posting of annotations, some on completely unrelated requests, and new requests which copied the titles of unrelated existing requests in an apparent attempt to evade our attention.
Running the service responsibly
As an organisation, we positively and passionately support the citizens’ right to access information and to hold organisations accountable: this is the very foundation that WhatDoTheyKnow is built upon, and its reason for existing.
Over time, we’ve formulated and consolidated policies to ensure that information on the site is preserved, as far as possible, as a permanent archive. We robustly contest unjustified requests to remove material from our service, and will only remove any substantive Freedom of Information requests and responses if we absolutely have to.
We initially treated this misuse assuming good faith, putting significant effort into removing problematic material from correspondence while continuing to publish elements which could have amounted to a valid Freedom of Information request.
Understanding the problem
Several users took the time to report the misuse of our service to us, for which we are thankful. As a matter of course, we review all material reported to us and assess it before making a decision on what to do. It took our small team of staff and volunteers a significant amount of time to respond to the number of reports made in this case.
Researching the topic more deeply, we discovered a statement from the Information Commissioner on requests they’ve also received on this subject, in which they say:
“The intent of these requests is clearly to try to add weight to theories around the falsification of President Tsai’s PHD, which have already been considered at length by the Commissioner and the Tribunal and found to be entirely lacking in substance.”
Further, both the LSE and the University of London have published their own statements, and a copy of the PhD thesis in question is now available online via LSE’s website.
While rejecting one FOI request on this subject as vexatious, LSE raised the possibility that people in China could be making requests to benefit from the country’s citizen evaluation system, stating:
“We have been made aware that there is the possibility that the LSE has been added to a list of targets to gain social credits in China. As such we believe that your request and the others we received in this time period have not been made for just the purpose of receiving information but for personal gain.”
With this information in hand, we were confident to treat the issue as mass misuse, more akin to spam or even a disinformation attack than to people making misguided requests.
During the course of this situation, we have banned 108 user accounts, most of which have been created to circumnavigate previous bans and to post inappropriate material to our site. We removed more than 300 requests from the site and 1,640 comments from pages.
To put this in context, we only banned 126 newly created user accounts in the whole of 2021, mainly for spamming (see more details in our 2021 Transparency Report).
Current approach to the misuse of service
As a result of this misuse we are taking the following actions.
While we will continue to adhere to our reactive moderation policy in most instances, we may occasionally review activity by new users while this incident is ongoing. When we are alerted to correspondence on the subject in question, we will not be taking our usual approach of trying to preserve any valid FOI request contained within broader correspondence. We will instead make a very quick assessment of whether it appears to be a genuine request for information or part of the concerted misuse campaign, in which case the request will be hidden.
The users making these requests will then be banned without warning or notification. The same will apply to any comments being made on existing requests. It will be up to any users that are banned in this process to make a case to us that they are making genuine FOI requests.
This approach is in line with that we have taken in other instances of misuse of our service.
We have also enabled enhanced anti-spam measures on the site, which will help us deal with other instances of misuse more efficiently.
We may never fully understand what exact circumstances instigated this wave of misuse, but it has been instructive, and has helped us formulate new ways to tackle the always surprising means by which our work – to help citizens make valid requests for information in public – can be temporarily derailed.
Image: Olga Safronova
With the aim of making large scale Freedom of Information investigations easier for community newsrooms and campaigning organisations, we’ve spent the first half of 2020 developing collaboration tools for WhatDoTheyKnow to speed up and bring others into the FOI management process.
In an initial pilot, 17 contributors saved a journalist 6.5 hours by taking on half of the work of managing responses to requests.
We’re actively looking to partner with membership-driven news organisations or impactful campaign groups to run further pilot projects to help refine the features. If that’s you, please get in touch.
FOI can be hard without dedicated tools
We know FOI can be hard work, especially when you make large batch requests that return a huge amount of data.
While our Pro tools make life easier, much of the work simply involves triaging whether you got a response or just an automated acknowledgement, and whether the authority actually released the information you requested.
After that, you then need to sift through various different formats of data, different understandings of the questions, and follow up with clarifications.
All this comes before you can start analysing the data to build up a narrative for a story.
A compelling membership proposition
News organisations are increasingly looking for sustainability by offering memberships – where you pay a monthly fee to support the organisation – instead of relying on advertising revenue to support themselves.
Memberships are still a relatively unproven and unexplored area, and organisations are still in the process of discovery over what makes someone want to pay for their news output. Is it just being able to read the stories, or do people want more involvement?
There’s evidence to suggest that members do want to get more involved.
Crowdsourcing some of the work of the FOI process from the membership presents an opportunity to help take some of the load off journalists, while also bringing members into the reporting process so that they value the final output more.
Many hands make light work
With this new functionality, once you’ve made your requests – either individually or as part of a batch – they can be added to a Project. Contributors can then be invited to the project where they are briefed on what the project is about and the tasks they can help with.
Helping to classifying responses
When you’re making FOI requests, each response to each request needs to be read to establish whether the authority has provided the information asked for – a process that is difficult to automate, given the huge variety of language that can be deployed by authorities. With large batch requests this can be a time-consuming process.
Projects creates a pool of responses that need classifying that contributors can work through to take some of the onus off the project owner.
Contributors read the original FOI request and latest response, and then classify its current status appropriately. This doesn’t take much specialist understanding of FOI, so it’s a really easy way to get lots of people to help out.
Helping to extract data
In larger FOI investigations requesters are usually looking to build up a dataset so that they can compare responses from different authorities.
This usually involves lots of spreadsheets, copy & paste, and hours of hard work.
Projects provides dedicated tools to help build this dataset by creating a pool of requests that contributors can extract data points from using structured forms.
Allowing contributors to help build up a dataset that will be used for real-life reporting and research helps them feel more directly involved and connected to the organisation, hopefully adding value to the membership proposition.
Project owners are then able to download the crowdsourced dataset to investigate, using their analysis tools of choice.
What we learned from our pilot
In our pilot project contributors took on 50% of the classification tasks, accounting for 57% of the 14.8 hours overall spent classifying, saving the journalist around 6.5 hours of the administrative work required before she could start reviewing the data releases. This is a clear indication that crowdsourcing key parts of the FOI investigation process can save a significant amount of time.
The journalist we worked with was enthusiastic about using the Projects interface again in the future, even if she wouldn’t be inviting external contributors. She expressed that it would be ideal to collaborate with interns to help sift through classifications and responses.
With an 82% conversion rate from joining to taking action and nearly 40% of contributors returning for more than one session there’s clearly an appetite from contributors to get involved and help out. The contributors we interviewed understood that by helping with menial tasks, they were allowing the journalist more time to focus on work which required specialist expertise.
A potential for global benefit
Through the Nesta Future News Fund we worked with openDemocracy to design and develop WhatDoTheyKnow Projects to support this collaboration, and ran a pilot collaborative project made up from a batch of over 800 FOI requests.
Projects is of course built into Alaveteli – the platform that powers WhatDoTheyKnow and many other FOI sites around the world, so it’s not just going to be of use in the UK, but for every jurisdiction where an Alaveteli site is utilising the Pro add-on.
Image: Duy Pham
Over the last few months, we’ve been working with Hackney Council to design and make a Freedom of Information management system, imaginatively named FOI For Councils — and last time we left you with our pre-development thoughts. Well, now it’s up and running.
With this project, we had two main aims:
- first, to make the process really slick and easy to use for citizens;
- second, to reduce the quantity of FOI requests submitted, relieving some pressure on the Information Officers at the receiving end.
The solution we came up with achieves both those aims, and there’s one feature in particular that we’re super-excited about.
Case Management Integration
One of the development decisions taken early on was for the system to be a very lightweight layer, largely powered by the new Infreemation case management system that Hackney were in the process of commissioning.
Infreemation is targeted primarily at Information Officers, so there was no use in reinventing the wheel and building a heavy backend for our own FOI for Councils software.
Instead we built the FOI request process, using our experience in designing for citizens, and submitted the data directly to Infreemation using their API. This means that every request goes straight in to the case management system used by Information Officers, with no need for double entry; a set-up we’re very familiar with from our work integrating council systems with FixMyStreet.
Information Officers respond to the FOI request through Infreemation, and when they publish the response to Infreemation’s disclosure log, FOI for Councils can pull that response into its innovative suggestions engine, which we’ll discuss shortly.
All this means that Information Officers get to use the tools that are designed directly with them in mind, but citizens get the best experience possible for the process at hand, rather than trying to battle the typical generic forms offered by one-size-fits-all solutions.
On the user side of things we managed to reduce the process to a maximum of 6 screens for the entire process.
Throughout the whole user journey we ask for only three details: name; email address and then the actual request for information.
Each screen provides contextual help along the way, maximising the chances that the FOI request will be well-formed by the time it gets submitted.
Making the process intuitive for the people using it is a key factor in building citizens’ trust in an authority. Too often we see complex forms with terrible usability that almost seem designed to put people off exercising their rights.
So far, so good. But for us, the most interesting piece of the process is the suggestions step.
Before the citizen submits their request to the authority, we scan the text for keywords to see if anything matches the pool of already-published information.
If we find any matches, we show the top three to the citizen to hopefully answer their question before they submit it to the authority. This helps the citizen avoid a 20-day wait for information that they might be able to access immediately. If the suggestions don’t answer their question, the citizen can easily continue with their request.
Suggestions also benefit the authority, by reducing workload when requests can be answered by existing public information.
We’ve tried to make this suggestions step as unobtrusive as possible, while still adding value for the citizen and the authority.
The suggestions system is driven by two sources:
- Manually curated links to existing information
- The published answers to previous FOI requests
The curated links can be added to the suggestions pool by Information Officers where they spot patterns in the information most commonly requested, or perhaps in response to current events.
The intelligent part of the system though, is the automated suggestions.
As FOI for Councils integrates with the Infreemation case management system, we can feed the suggestion pool with the anonymised responses to previous requests where the authority has published them to the disclosure log.
By doing this the authority is making each FOI response work a little harder for them. Over time this automatic suggestion pool should help to reduce duplicate FOI requests.
FOI for Councils also analyses the number of times each suggestion is shown, clicked, and even whether the suggestion has prevented any additional FOI requests being made.
This allows Information Officers to see which information is being asked for, but where existing resources aren’t providing the information necessary to the citizen.
We’ll be keeping a keen eye on how this works out for Hackney, and we’ll be sure to report back with any insights.
As you’ll know if you read our first blog post from this project, we did originally envision a platform that would process Subject Access Requests as well as FOI. In the end this proved beyond the resources we had available for this phase of work.
For us, this has been a really instructive piece of work in showing how authorities can commission process-specific services that connect together to give everyone a better user experience.
If you’re responsible for managing FOI requests or data protection in your own public sector body and you’d like to talk about project in more detail, please get in touch at email@example.com.
We’ve just released Alaveteli 0.26! Here are some of the highlights.
Request page design update
After some research in to where people enter the site we decided to revamp the request pages to give a better first impression.
We’ve used the “action bar” pattern from the authority pages to move the request actions to a neater drop-down menu. We’ve also promoted the “follow” button to help other types of users interact with the site.
Since lots of users are entering an Alaveteli on the request pages, it might not be obvious that they too can ask for information. We’ve now made an obvious link to the new request flow from the sidebar of the request pages to emphasise this.
The correspondence bubbles have had a bit of a makeover too. Its now a lot more obvious how to link to a particular piece of correspondence, and we’ve tidied the header so that its a little clearer who’s saying what.
The listing of similar requests in the request page sidebar has been improved after observing they were useful to users.
Also in design-world we’ve added the more modern request status icons, made the search interfaces more consistent and helped prevent blank searches on the “Find an authority” page.
Admin UI Improvements
As an Alaveteli grows it can get trickier to keep an eye on everything that’s happening on the site.
We’ve now added a new comments list so that admins can catch offensive or spam comments sooner.
For the same reasons, we’ve added sorting to the users list and made banned users more obvious.
The CSV import page layout and inline documentation has also been updated.
The new statistics page adds contributor leaderboards to help admins identify users as potential volunteers, as well as a graph showing when site admins hide things to improve the transparency of the site.
Extra search powers
Conversion tracking improvements
The full list of highlights and upgrade notes for this release is in the changelog.
Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed!
We’ve just released Alaveteli 0.24! Here are some of the highlights.
We’ve added better management for censor rules in the admin interface. Previously, only request and user censor rules could be managed; now you can manage rules for authorities and global rules that get applied to everything.
We’ve added support deleting incoming messages in bulk on a request page. This is useful if you’re experiencing spam to the holding pen. You can zap them all in a couple of clicks.
Facebook is a big driver of traffic to Alavetelis. We’ve added support for a specific opengraph image for pages when shared on Facebook. You’ll need to add a custom version for your site in your theme. Take a look at the upgrade notes for more info.
Long Term Support
Alaveteli 0.24 adds support for the most current versions of Debian and Ruby. Jessie has security support until May 2018 and Long Term Support until May 2020.
The full list of highlights and upgrade notes for this release is in the changelog.
Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed!