It has been busy and productive for the FOIA Machine team. In the past month we have fixed major bugs, solidified core features and begun to add initial beta testers. We will also be hosting a conference call next month to give a full update of progress and answer any questions you may have.
We have completed all development that we assigned to our first phase of development and started on much of what we assigned to our second stage of development. We have:
- Fixed user design and other bugs that prohibit the user experience. FOIA Machine should be more intuitive to users and easier to use.
- Streamlined the contact system. Now, any user can add contacts or agencies to send requests.
- Updated the system to send alerts when records request are overdue or have been dormant for a longer period of time.
- Added statute information for all 50 states, the federal government and the District of Columbia so users can use the request generator for U.S. jurisdictions.
Currently under development and nearly complete:
- Group functionality, where members of the same project can view status and details of associated requests.
- Add searchable database of public requests, allowing users to easily view successful requests.
- General design and site UI work.
What’s left to do?
- Add more agency contacts. This is probably the most noticeable aspect of the system that is incomplete. We have focused on development and not adding agencies, but will continue to add federal and state agencies where appropriate. Users can always add an agency or contact to whom they wish to send their request.
- Add additional features, open source the code and finish building out the API.
- Finish a template system allowing one request to generate multiple versions for different agencies.
- Broaden our legal statute database. We’ve added the broad basis of laws for all 50 states, but many states have different exemptions. In some cases, certain departments may have different rules on records requests. Our database of knowledge will become more robust in the coming months.
- Most importantly, we need to develop and improve based on user feedback. That leads us to...
Initial beta users invitations
Beginning earlier this week, invitations to beta users were sent out. Some of you may have already received an email notifying you of how you can create an account. Some of you may receive an email in the next few weeks. We are slowly sending out invitations to build a sizeable sample population of users. Invitations are randomized from everyone who expressed interest in beta testing and will continue to be sent out.
Why are we doing it this way? The system is stable and functional, but not yet complete. Adding a few beta users at this time helps us test features as well as user interface or design issues. We know where some of the pressure points in the system are, but hope that fresh eyes can let us know what’s working and what can be improved upon. User feedback is extremely valuable.
Save the date: Thursday, Dec. 12 – FOIA Machine Conference Call
Lastly, mark your calendars for Dec. 12. The FOIA Machine team will host a conference call to update you of our progress, explain how the system works and answer any questions that you may have. We will happily discuss all technical and non-technical development of the project, what’s worked and what we’re hoping to improve upon. We hope you can join us.
We will post more information here closer to the call and there will be additional information on The Center for Investigative Reporting website.
Gifts sent out
You should have received your gift if you selected one with your donation to the project. All gifts were sent out a few weeks ago. Please send us a note if you feel like you’re missing a gift.
Thank you for following our progress and being a part of this project