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Last updated: 16 Jun 2022

Modify a change note in Publishing API or Whitehall

Spelling mistakes can creep into change notes, and we are often asked to correct them. The instructions below cover doing this task in the Publishing API and in Whitehall - if your change note lives in Whitehall and is updated in the Publishing API it could be overwritten later.


To modify a change note in Whitehall, perform the following steps:

  1. Run a rake task to list the change notes for each edition, given the document’s Content ID:

  1. From the output of the previous rake task, get the ID for the edition whose change note needs updating, then run the following rake task to update this:

This rake task will fail if you have never logged into Whitehall Publisher in the environment where you are running the task.

Publishing API

Publishing API handles change notes in two different ways. To update the change history of a document, you’ll either need to update an individual ChangeNote or update the change_history in the details JSON of the published edition.


Updating change notes in Publishing API should only be done when unable to from the publishing app (to avoid Publishing API being overwritten).

First step is to connect to the Publishing API console:

govuk-connect app-console -e production publishing_api/publishing-api

Find the document:

document = Document.find_by_content_id("YOUR_CONTENT_ID_HERE")

Find the documents live edition:

live_edition =

Check edition’s details hash for change_history. If this is empty then follow method 1, if not, follow method 2:


Method 1 (empty change_history)

Fetch the change notes for the document:

change_notes = ChangeNote.joins(:edition).where(editions: { document: document }).order(:public_timestamp)

Select the relevant change note manually, or by searching for the note text:

change_note = change_notes.find_by("note LIKE ?", "%SUBSTRING OR FULL CHANGE NOTE TEXT%")

Update change note:

change_note.update(note, "NEW NOTE")

Finally, send the document downstream using the content id.

Method 2 (present change_history)

Fetch details for edition:

details = live_edition.details

Ouput change history:


Select relevant change note manually, or by seaching for the node text:

change_note_index = details[:change_history].find_index { |change_note| change_note[:note] =~ /SUBSTRING OR FULL CHANGE NOTE TEXT/ }

Check the returned change not is correct:


Update change note:

details[:change_history][change_note_index][:note] = "New note"

Update edition:

edition.update(details: details)

Finally, send the document downstream using the content id.


The steps below helped us in a situation where the change note was present in the content item in both Whitehall and publishing-api, but was not being reflected on the page itself. We found this was due to the content-store not being in sync with the publishing-api. This can happen in staging due to an issue with the overnight data sync.

Things we tried:

  • purge the page from cache
  • check the Sidekiq monitoring queue to see if the document is stuck somewhere in a queue
  • look in Kibana - there might be some with the status 409 which might be due to the content-store thinking it’s got more up to date data than the publishing-api
  • compare the payload_version in publishing-api and content-store in the console, if the request from publishing-api is lower it will be ignored (also see this doc on publishing-api messages)