Bay Area Rapid Transit Web Services Manager Timothy Moore discusses the recent upgrade of its flagship website, BART.gov, including a Drupal migration, embracing agile development, encouraging third-party developers to build off its open data and APIs, and plans for the future.
The White House will soon open a limited beta test to developers on a new We the People Write API that allows third-party applications to submit information to official petitions.
“One of the things we’ve heard from the beginning is a strong desire from our users to be able to submit signatures and petitions from other sites — and still receive an official response. Up to this point, we haven’t had a way to accept signatures submitted from other sites, but that is about to change,” writes White House Associate Director of Online Engagement for the Office of Digital Strategy Ezra Mechaber.
According to the White House, more than 10 million users have signed nearly 300,000 petitions.
We the People was built in Drupal and the source code is available on GitHub.
The Read API was opened earlier this year (sample projects here).
While We the People is fairly intuitive and easy to use, there’s huge potential for great designers and developers to essentially build a truly innovative and engaging platform.
We’ve heard a lot about Drupal and WordPress in government, but not much about the open source platform Joomla. We asked Joomla External Communications Lead Sandra Ordonez to share how government is using it, its key features, how it compares to Drupal and WordPress and what governments are using it.
What is Joomla and why should government be interested?
Joomla is one of the world’s most popular open source CMS and its core product is free. It is used by individuals, small and medium-sized business, and large organizations worldwide, to easily create and build a variety of websites and Web-enabled applications. Approximately 2.7 percent of the Web currently runs on Joomla. Due to its power and elegance, it can be used by the most inexperienced website builder to the most seasoned Web developer. Since its inception in 2005, Joomla has been 100 percent community owned and operated, and its software has been downloaded more than 26 million times.
Joomla powers more than 2,900 government websites and you can find examples of those by going to http://docs.joomla.org/Government_Websites_Using_Joomla. We find that a majority of these government sites use Joomla because it is the only content management system that combines the ease of use and powerful extensibility necessary to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of users.
How does Joomla compare to other open source software options like Drupal or WordPress?
Whereas Joomla’s main competitors lack either ease of use or extensibility, Joomla takes the best of both worlds in one powerful and simple CMS. It is a product oriented community whereas other CMS’ are services oriented. What this means is that Joomla users expect the core and extensions to be finished products ready to use out of the box, and don’t require custom development to get ready. Many Joomla sites are deployed with little or no custom development work.
Another key differentiator for Joomla is the project’s focus surrounding security, a priority set by the leadership team. Joomla developers are focused on, and excel at, protecting their users. In fact, Joomla has set up the Joomla security center and strike team http://developer.joomla.org/security.html where security vulnerabilities can be reported on and taken action on instantly. The Joomla Security Strike Team pulls information from the thousands of people in the Joomla community working 24-7 around the world. Those members of the community are constantly probing Joomla and its extensions for the latest vulnerabilities and issues fixes to them as soon as possible. In addition to this specific security site and team, the nearly 500-thousand members in the Joomla forum are constantly informing Joomla members about the latest vulnerabilities as well.
What makes Joomla truly unique is it features the largest community of developers and third party extensions for a CMS (see more details below). The project is entirely community driven and operated with very little hierarchy, no questions asked. Joomla was developed as and continues to be a grassroots software project.
What are the top features governments are using?
It’s hard to pinpoint the top features that governments are using, but here are some of the “killer” Joomla features in our opinion (in no particular order):
- Easy, one-click updates from version-to-version. The new built-in updater also handles updates for Joomla and Joomla extensions. This is a major enhancement improving upon the previous system of manually updating individual files on the server.
- Access Control Levels. This gives sites managers control over who can manage and view content.
- Multilingual capabilities allows site users to implement a multi-language site.
- A separated framework for building apps (the Joomla platform). This means that a developer can use Joomla to build apps without having to make changes to the core CMS.
- Huge, active community with over 8000 contributed addons better knows as extensions. You can find these extensions at http://extensions.joomla.org/.
How can interested public sector IT professionals learn more?
Local governments using Joomla
- Minnesota Management & Budget
- Nevada Department of Health & Human Services
- Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce
- Boulder, Colorado
- City of Atlanta (GIS)
- Destination DC
- Port of San Diego
- Fulton County, GA
- Orange County, FL Comptroller
The next iteration of Georgia.gov will be built using the open source platform Drupal.
Phase2 Technology announced it was awarded a contract to replace, migrate and support an overhaul of the state’s website and content management system, which will be developed using Phase2′s Drupal distribution OpenPublic. The company will partner with Acquia and Mediacurrent to transition the current site from the Vignette CMS to Drupal.
“We are excited about the possibilities that Drupal brings to the state of Georgia,” said Georgia Chief Information Officer Calvin Rhodes. “This new platform will give us the flexibility to offer more online services to Georgians while making government more efficient and saving taxpayers money.”
I was really happy to have Patrick Lajeunesse present about Agriculture Canada’s experience using Drupal as a prototyping tool. As you can see from his presentation, with a small team of communications staff they were able to set up both a Drupal and WordPress prototype to explore their needed functionality.
I wanted to focus a bit more on why this makes so much sense for so many organizations, but especially government agencies. The implementation of web tools has improved significantly over the last decade and it is no longer something that needs to be left to IT to model.
Defining the requirements is hard
Most folks who need a website haven’t had recent experience building them. It’s relatively easy to visualize what you want, but it’s quite different to be able to define it in a generic way that allows a developer to understand the technical functionality that is required. Often the usability/design requirements are barely defined in the initial proposal.
Websites can be very complicated. If you were defining the requirements for a car would you want to have paid for most of it’s creation before you could sit behind the wheel and see how it felt to drive around the lot?
Wish lists vs requirements
Without having an experienced project manager who has successfully lead a team through developing for the web, you’re likely to end up with a requirements document that largely contains people’s wish lists. It’s really great to have a list of potentials, but having a list of neat things that people find on other sites isn’t going to get your organization what they need.
It’s always easier for folks to focus on the glossy design elements that they’ve seen in other sites. I’ve seen way too many RFP‘s where people have talked generally about wanting many of the features that popular sites like Facebook and YouTube have without understanding the costs and complexity of successfully implementing it.
Taking a long time to define the requirements first is problematic
I think that When Failure Is Intolerable is right on when describing a very frustrating form of failure to be “when someone spent a lot of time and money researching something that could only be learned experientially.”
Many web projects fit this mould. Successful websites are always ones which are experimental and are reacting to the needs of its users after carefully watching their behaviour. Strangely, most web projects do not allow space for experimentation & adaptation.
Needs change faster than requirements
A good requirements document does take some time to establish, particularly if it is being developed by a team. Even if there are other models to work from, it can take quite a while in any government department to settle on the final requirements. After that it needs to be sent off to procurement officers to manage the contracting before any real work begins on the site.
The Internet is constantly changing. Most people’s expectations don’t change quite so quickly, but you don’t want to be launching a website a website which already looks and feels dated. Accommodating social media sites like Twitter and Facebook is the latest trend, but these sites are changing too.
Prototypes are better than wireframes
Having a rough stage where workflow is defined and broad paths are sketched out is very important for any large project, however there is nothing that can replace a quick, functional prototype for users to determine how they want it to work.
Given the flexibility of Drupal and the range of modules and themes that are already out there for this free software platform, most of a site’s functionality can be roughed out quickly to enable people the ability to get some understanding of how the site will work.
Most people need to be able to get a feel for what they are going to build before they commit to do it. In an age where non-architects can download a tool like Google’s SketchUp and create a 3D model of their cottage before building it, we can see the value of visualizing a plan.
Creating content is hard!
This won’t come as a surprise to communications folks, but producing content is difficult. Understanding how your content will fit within the structure of your site is important. No amount of time whiteboarding your site, developing requirements documents or wireframing your site will help prepare the content.
However, building a solid prototype will allow you to write up, critique and visualize how you want your visitors to actually use your site. You can experiment placement and organization of real content that you will be able to use to help your site go live as quickly as possible. We do know that some people still use Word documents to generate the content of their websites before it’s launched, but that’s really a waste of everyone’s time.
Patrick describes how his team in Agriculture Canada used this approach:
“One of the benefits to prototyping in Drupal for us was that we can put real content in and see how it flows from page to page. It also allowed us to use the prototype to do usability testing on that content. For example, you can have a test subject try to find a piece of information. This tests the whole site – the navigation and IA, link and button labels, and the actual content in the pages as well. That would be very difficult to do without a real representation of what the finished site would be, and while you could do that with static HTML or a dedicated prototyping tool, it’s just easier with a CMS like Drupal.”
To try to pull in another metaphor, it’s real estate agents generally will want to show a house that has furniture in it and art on the walls rather than one that’s completely empty. They do this because it’s much easier for everyone to understand how a house will function if you don’t have to imagine everything. The same idea applies to websites, most people need to see where the content fits & flows when they are navigating a site.
Prototyping doesn’t require IT support
Organizations may find that their communications teams have the skills required to set up Drupal or WordPress site to build a prototype before they take it to IT or send it out as an RFP.
Prototypes can be easy to set up. Using tools like Drupal, you can experiment with what you would like and work with your team to define what else you need. Open source tools like Drupal can empower communications teams to define and experiment with technology which is available to them (it can be set up on any desktop and doesn’t require special hardware or expensive software to run).
At the end of the prototyping phase a working example can be either handed over to IT to review before it goes live or used as a benchmark for them to develop in whatever technology they prefer. The communications team would also be left with a development environment which allows them to test out future phases or ideas for the site.
This approach would no doubt increase the effectiveness of any large web development projects.
I was really pleased to read the announcement that Lockheed Martin's social networking platform, EurekaStreams, was released as an open source project today. Lockheed is a very conservative company, and while they're happy to use open source internally and on projects for their customers, this is their first experiment with actually running a project themselves. I think it's a big deal, not just for Lockheed Martin, but for large corporations who are considering a more open, more innovative approach to software development. And yet, Dana Blankenhorn hates it:
I donâ€™t see anything in Eureka Streams I canâ€™t do in Drupal, or a number of other high-quality open source projects that have existed for years. Lockheed has reinvented the wheel â€” why?
So here's the nice thing about the open source community: competition. If I think I've come up with a better way to solve a problem, it can easily compete with the incumbents. Low barrier to entry, we say. Let the best ideas win. Unless, apparently, the best ideas come from a company I don't like.
Then things start going sideways:
The author of Eureka Streams, who goes by the name Sterlecki at Github, has left no previous tracks there. Linkedin lists the same picture as belonging to Steve Terlecki, a Lockheed software developer.
The stuffâ€™s legit, so weâ€™re left again with the question of motive. Is the military-industrial complex reaching out to open source, is this just proof of press reports showing our spy efforts have more bloat in them than a Macyâ€™s Thanksgiving float, are we being co-opted, or am I just too suspicious?
Wait, what? Open source advocates have, for years, been trying to encourage more code to come out from behind corporate skirts. Where companies can build business models around governing and supporting open source projects, we want them to take the plunge. If more code is open, that makes everyone smarter. And that, my friends, is exactly what Lockheed Martin did today. Someone who probably never contributed code in their lives just gave the community a project they've been working on for months, or even years. I think that's amazing. In return, this brave developer gets painted as a nefarious secret agent out to steal our thoughts and bug our laptops. Or whatever.
So here's the great thing about open source: we can prove Blankenhorn wrong. They use the Apache license, and it's on Github. We can go through the code and find backdoors, secret plans, and mind-control rays. This reminds me very much of the reaction to the release of SELinux. Conspiracy theories everywhere, but code is auditable and now it's in the mainstream Linux kernel. Do we really want to throw out these contributions, when code doesn't lie? When it's so easy to ensure there's nothing nefarious inside?
You can feel however you like about Lockheed Martin or the US Department of Defense. You can choose to contribute to the project, or not. You can choose to use the software, or not. But is it in the community's interest to summarily dismiss contributions based on those preferences? Lockheed's thousands of developers are sending up a trial balloon. If they fail, we lose access to those developers forever.
I think this kind of fearmongering is exactly what prevents large corporations and government agencies from releasing their code. These knee-jerk reactions harm the open source community at large. We pride ourselves on our meritocracy. A 14-year-old in his mom's basement is the same as a 30-year-old Lockheed developer is the same as a UNIX graybeard. You are just as good as your contributions. We need to welcome Lockheed's contributions, not throw them back in their face. Whether the project is useful or not, they've enriched the open source community. Let them succeed or fail on their own merits. If they do fail, we hope that they'll do better next time. Maybe this is a Drupal-killer. Who knows? Let's give it a try.
The debate over whether (OSS) is good for government is over. A close look will reveal the discussion has moved on to one of two things: 1) the necessary, but subsequent implementation questions to be sorted out – security, regulation, procurement, etc. or 2) organizational confusion about how to take the first step. In either case, the precedent of value has been established both within government and elsewhere to allow us to now move on to the natural next set of issues.
Open source software is here to stay
So the discussion must turn from ‘whether to use’ open source to ‘how to make it work’ for government. These discussions should be especially welcome in the government IT environment – long dominated by IT projects that take too long, cost too much, and never seem to hit the mark by the time they are deployed. Corporate and non-profit organizations of all sizes have been able to demonstrate significant financial, operational and strategic value using open source. Also, we have the precedent and models set by the server stack – Linux has become the dominant operating system and Apache, the webserver for the majority of the world’s most important web servers.
The problem is that taking advantage of the open source opportunity at the application level creates paradoxes for government IT. Our system doesn’t know how to take advantage of free and open software at the application level – government is used to building everything custom or customizing products that already cost a ton to license – ‘there is a catch here somewhere for us’ goes the thinking about OSS.
Rather than move quickly to take advantage of affordable and innovative open solutions, government loses momentum and gets bogged down by concerns over whether it is practical or even ethical to use contributed code: Can we use something that is free? How can we procure it then? Can we use code contributions from the outside world? Will it be secure? Can we contribute our own code to the rest of the world?
Drupal works for open government needs
As if the argument to adopt open source needed more kindling, enter the administration’s unrelenting push for Open Government – with a huge online focus and component. Now we are seeking *new* ways to quickly establish mechanisms to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration in online dealings between the government and its citizens. Yet successful user collaboration solutions are already implemented on all kinds of sites.
The case for free, collaborative software which is developed, tested and vetted in the open by an efficient base of innovative developers has been clearly made when you consider the the open government mandate. These are use-cases made for a platform like Drupal – the ability for a user to respond to content and policy online through commenting, rating, sharing, voting, and an endless array of other social media integration is perfect.
As I have said in prior posts on this site “Drupal is up to this challenge”. This is what we use it for and where it performs best. At this week’s Gov2.0 Expo, a group of my colleagues will try to convince you of this point in a session entitled Drupal and Social Publishing Strategies for Meeting the Open Government Directive.
I realize that is going to take some time for government CIOs and web managers to be fully convinced – as it did with publishers, non-profit execs, education administrators and decision makers in dozens of other industries. For sure, the commercial vendors and embedded custom implementers have other ideas about how to construct the next wave of gov2.0 – and they likely have some good solutions to promote too. But open source Drupal is my choice for this particular set of tasks and here is what I think we can do to help prove that.
We need a government community open source CMS option
In late 2008, my company, Phase2 Technology initiated an effort to put together and then release an open source packaged version of Drupal that would help online publishers of news, magazines, and other publications get started with Drupal right away. We called it OpenPublish, it was a big success, and it is going stronger than ever now. From that project, we learned that Drupal can be made significantly more useful, less intimidating and more powerful through a distribution targeted at a specific set of industry challenges.
So after wrestling with putting government sites on Drupal over the last two years, we have decided to launch a similar project we think will help government and Drupal find each other faster – in the same sort of way as OpenPublish was able to married up publishers looking for the advantages of open source with Drupal. We are calling this project OpenPublic because of the similarities and because we see it as the public sector equivalent of the same experiment.
We believe the project can be successful and provide substantial value to government sites if we can achieve these 7 tenets that are lacking in current CMS options for government:
1. Low barriers to entry.
Someone from, or on behalf of, the government should have the immediate ability to start or prototype a project without an RFP, procurement cycle, Statement of Work or contract vehicle. Download, test, try out and play with it for free. Today. No strings attached.
2. Demonstrable return on investment.
It should be easy to prove that that the tax payer is getting high value for services, without wasteful scenarios in which the government is putting large investments directly into reinventing functionality that exists elsewhere or overpaying for commercial licenses to use relatively generic functionality (e.g. core CMS publishing).
3. No proprietary technology or vendor lock-in.
The solution can’t trap the federal government into a proprietary technology or forced monopoly experience that either requires repeated contractual awards, recurring fees or licensing costs to a single company that is the sole provider of technology expertise.
4. Low total cost of ownership.
It should be easy to prove if agencies are paying a premium over the course of ownership via post-purchase fees that do not involve the delivery of additional value. The government cannot grant annuities to vendors that continue to add cost based upon the justifications that were created because proprietary technology was used.
5. True technical flexibility.
The government must be able to modify the solution to meet continually evolving needs and be able to improve, modify, maintain and grow the solution over time.
6. Community innovation & contribution.
The government should benefit from the continued contributions of the open source technical community at large as it relates to inheriting solutions to similar problems and . It should gain from the innovations of this larger pool of talent.
7. Minimal barriers to extend.
The government should have the ability to get free and open access to knowledge, code, training and best practices on the platform – to the extent that others are willing to share – but not required to withhold.
OpenPublic: A community solution
OpenPublic is being developed as a community effort with Phase2 taking what we have learned from building Drupal distributions to lead the efforts, but we – by no means – want to go at this alone. In fact, we believe the quality of the solution and the value it can provide are both infinitely improved by community participation.
So we are looking for both people with technical experience in open source (Drupal preferably) and the business of government itself.
We are also actively looking for feedback and help from the opengov community that haunts events like the Open Government Workshops, the Gov2.0 Summit and Expo, the Open Government & Innovations conference and Transparency Camp. We are looking for the people that hang out and read GovFresh, GovLoop and the Sunlight Labs blog. We want the inputs of people on the Gov2.0 Heroes List and on Twitter lists like this, this and this.
If you believe in the same things and want to help, then please email us (openpublic at phase2technology.com) to let us know of your interests and share your ideas.
Version 2.0 of USAspending.gov launched this week and includes a cleaner, more elegant user interface and search filtering on all federal government spending. The new site was developed in Drupal and is partially hosted on NASA’s Nebula cloud service.
USAspending.gov first launched December 2007 as part of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006 that required the Office of Management and Budget to ‘establish a single searchable website, accessible to the public at no cost’ on all federal government spending.
From USAspending.gov What’s New in 2.0?:
- Compare spending across agencies â€“ understand types of agency spending understand types of agency spending
- View agency spending dashboards – see how and where agencies are spending money and who the recipients are
- Explore spending trends with interactive charts â€“ use interactive motion charts to see how spending trends have changed from year to year
- See spending where you live â€“ use interactive maps to see dollars being spent in your state
- Quickly find what you are looking for â€“ use interactive search features to customize your search across multiple dimensions
- Filter, analyze and share â€“ share your feeds, exports and results with friends via social book-marking and RSS feeds
- Analyze contract and award transactions â€“ review all transactions for a single contract or award in one simple list
- Download bulk data â€“ download all spending data for offline analysis
- Get spending updates every day â€“ access new spending data on a daily basis
- Expect more transparency â€“ look for more spending data in the future as 2.0 is engineered to support full FFATA compliance
Drupal is an open source platform and content management system (CMS) for building dynamic web sites. Supported by a vibrant developer community, Drupal is establishing itself as a leader among social software solutions. Having already gained a small but significant share of the domestic and worldwide public sector CMS market, the solution appears on-track for continued growth. The expanding list of high-profile government organizations adopting the solution, along with its recent recognition by industry analyst Gartner as a visionary product in the marketplace, will only accelerate its growth.
One of the most important â€œfeaturesâ€ of Drupal is the breadth and depth of its community. This was made evident recently when DrupalCon 2010 San Francisco attracted over 3,000 attendees. Within this community, there is widespread support for leveraging Drupal to innovate new public sector solutions. In fact, one of the keynotes of this yearâ€™s three DrupalCon keynotes (and the only sector-specific one) was entitled â€œOpen Source in Government,â€ which featured representatives from the White House and New York Senate. The overwhelming sentiment shared by these officials and others is that the strength of the Drupal Community is a key reason why the public sector is embracing the solution. In conjunction with the emergence of Drupal enterprise service providers, the growing Drupal Community extols confidence in the platform and its long-term innovativeness, security, and supportability. (Disclaimer: Michael Walsh served on the DrupalCon keynote panel as the moderator.)
Gov 2.0 Radio interview with Andrew Hoppin (New York Senate) and Michael Walsh (Forum One Communications):
DrupalCon Keynote Discussion with Dave Cole â€“ White House, Andrew Hoppin â€“ New York Senate, and Michael Walsh â€“ Forum One Communications
As an open source solution, Drupalâ€™s success is tied to the Drupal Communityâ€™s ability to innovate new modules (plug-ins for Drupal that extend, build, or enhance Drupal core functionality) to address marketplace needs. The modules can take two forms: contributed modules (shared under the same GNU Public License as Drupal) and custom modules. While the public sector benefits from many of the same contributed modules that are in use by other sectors, a number of public sector modules have been created by government for government, and subsequently contributed back to the Drupal Community, as outlined below. These modules now form a growing code base â€“ specific to Drupal â€“ which public sector organizations can quickly leverage for their own requirements. By reducing development costs and improving the efficiency of government web site design and development, modules like these are helping to justify the business case for Drupal for an ever-expanding list of organizations.
- GovDelivery Integration – Provides integration with the GovDelivery On-Demand Mailer service, a web service for GovDelivery customers that sends messages directly based on configured account information;
- Node Embed â€“ Improves web site compliance with accessibility standards for specific content types;
- Akamai â€“ Enables integration with the Akamai Cache Control Utility (CCU) Web Service, thereby supporting the purge/invalidation of cached URLs in the Akamai Global Network in response to different site events;
- Context HTTP Headers – A set of context reactions that allow developers to set HTTP Response Headers for each context on a site and thereby add new metadata and instruct servers on how to manage specific pages, such as cache scheduling;
- Whitelist â€“ An Input filter that can be used to specify and limit outside domain names that can be referenced in content created on your web site;
- OpenLegislation – Retrieves legislation information from the NYSS OpenLegislation search engine.
Senior members of the Drupal Community have been championing the value of distributions for some time. These â€œready to useâ€ solutions offer developers pre-configured Drupal installations, usually including a selection of modules and themes coupled with Drupal core. The value of distributions is that they provide the developer community with extensible solutions that can be rapidly implemented to meet the functional and technical needs of a specific sector/vertical. This supports economies of scale in open source development by eliminating the need for each independent developer or development shop to develop their own baseline solution for the common set of requirements for a given sector/vertical. This allows developers to focus more on derivative innovation and reduces the total cost of feature development and software defect fixes. For these reasons, distributions are a critical component to the growth of Drupalâ€™s adoption, especially in the public sector. As Dries Buytaert says: â€œWithout Drupal distributions, (the Drupal Community) won’t be able to successfully compete with commercial vendors.â€
Downloaded over 125,000 times, Acquia Drupal is a social publishing platform developed by Acquia to simplify the development of interactive, community-based publishing web sites that feature both editorial and user-generated content. By selecting only the most important modules for online communities (e.g., blogs, articles, forums, mashups, and web content), Acquia Drupal enables developers to quickly stand-up high-quality web sites that can be easily customized to meet the specific needs of their users. This GPL licensed distribution is available for free download and organizations can turn to Acquia for 24/7 private paid support. (Disclaimer: Forum One Communications has implemented web sites for clients on Acquia Drupal.)
Pressflow is a specialized distribution of Drupal developed by Four Kitchens which features extensive performance, scalability, availability, and testing enhancements required to support high traffic sites. One of the key features of Pressflow is that it supports multi-tier proxy layers. Since no version of Drupal can properly handle this architecture, this is a key benefit of the distribution. To date, Pressflow has been implemented by a number of governments and multilateral organizations, including the United Kingdom and World Bank.
Downloaded over 90,000 times, Open Atrium is a collaboration platform distribution developed by Development Seed to meet the knowledge management needs of large and mid-sized government organizations. The platform provides â€œout-of-the-boxâ€ team collaboration functionality, including blogs, wikis, microblogs, and content dashboards, that enables web developers to rapidly deploy highly customizable social intranets and extranets. This free and open source solution therefore allows a growing number of organizations to substitute proprietary social business software solutions (such as Salesforce and Jive) with Drupal. Within the U.S. federal government, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Veterans Affairs have already adopted the platform. Looking ahead, one of the platformâ€™s key strengths is its supportability, as demonstrated by the growing ecosystem of open source development shops implementing the solution and the recent announcement that the platform will soon feature private paid support. (Disclaimer: Forum One Communications has implemented web sites for clients on Open Atrium.)
Currently under development by Acquia and its partners, Drupal Commons will be a free, open source distribution designed to make the process of building intranet and extranet community sites easier and less costly than commercial social software applications. Slated for official launch this summer, Acquia expects that Drupal Commons will enable the Drupal Community to more easily develop web sites and web applications that require basic social collaboration functionality, including blogs, status updates, and social networking, coupled with seamless document sharing through customized wikis, group discussions, task reminders, and activity streams. Like Acquia Drupal, Drupal Commons will be commercially supported by Acquia.
As the age-old adage goes, â€œthe proof is in the pudding.â€ Perhaps no better driver exists for the adoption of an emerging software solution than real-world examples of successful implementations for comparable requirements. In the last few years, the list of successful adoptions of Drupal by domestic and worldwide public sector organizations has exploded. This is especially true of federal, state, and local governments in North America and Europe, particularly in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. To illustrate this point, the showcase below features some of the most important examples of government and multilateral organization web sites and web applications currently powered by Drupal.
In 2009, the White House decided to re-launch WhiteHouse.Gov on Drupal. The decision to power one of the most targeted web sites in the world with an open source content management system garnered significant interest from both media and industry. The White Houseâ€™s decision and associated media coverage helped validate Drupal as a mainstream CMS solution for all-levels of government.
New York Senate
The implementation of Drupal by the New York Senate demonstrates the potential for Drupal at the state level. Experimenting with the platform, the organization was able to extend the existing platform through new innovations specific to their organizational needs, including OpenLegislation and Whitelist.
United States Army
The U.S. Armyâ€˜s Black History Month web site, ForLoveofLiberty.Net, features powerful, audience-centric design (including interactive Flash-based elements) and deep integration with social media sites (including YouTube, Flickr, and Issuu). Designed primarily for students, educators, and veterans, the site serves as a great example of how government organizations can use social publishing to bring history to life and enable public discourse on important topics. (Disclaimer: Forum One Communications developed ForLoveofLiberty.Net for the US Army.)
U.S. Department of Education
Drupal is the foundation behind the Department of Education’s main organizational web site. The site demonstrates how a federal department or agency can leverage Drupal to help make information, resources, tools, and funding opportunities more transparent and accessible to citizens.
The â€œPortail du Gouvernementâ€ serves as the official French government portal. Like the White House, it serves as an important example of a trustworthy Drupal implementation by a high-profile government organization. It also demonstrates the ability for Drupal to easily support localized content requirements and customizable design.
City of London
The Greater London Authorityâ€™s web site demonstrates a successful implementation of Drupal at the local-level. This informative web site makes excellent use of the content management features of Drupal but also leverages social features to encourage public participation with their government and community.
U.S. Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce chose Drupal to power its Open.commerce.gov site, which was launched in response to the Open Government Directive. The site provides a great example of how government organizations can achieve a simple, yet effective, implementation on Drupal that fosters transparency, accountability, and collaboration.
New Zealand ‘s Ministry for the Environment
NewZealand’s Ministry for the Environment chose Drupal to power its sustainability web site. The features of the site enable users to participate in polls, establish conservation and sustainability goals, discuss topics related to the environment, share ideas, and rate and comment on content. This site is a compelling example of how Drupal can be used by government agencies to shape behavior, change perceptions, and build momentum around important public policy and social issues.
Earlier this month, the World Bank launched Data.WorldBank.org, an open data initiative aimed at making the 2,000+ World Bank data indicators more transparent and accessible to the public. Using MapBox, OpenLayers and Flot, the World Bank was able to create a powerful data analysis and visualization web application supported by an intuitive user interface. This visually appealing site not only demonstrates the potential of off-the-shelf Drupal modules like Features, Context, and Views 3, but also points to the inherent extensibility of Drupal when properly coupled with other open source solutions. (Disclaimer: Forum One Communications was a subcontractor to the vendor who designed and developed this web site.)
United Kingdom Datastore
Whereas many other government sites utilize Drupal’s social and interactive features and emphasize citizen participation, the UK’s Data.gov.uk site builds on Drupal’s other skill set: content management. The UK leveraged Drupal’s content and database management capabilities to build a publicly accessible data store.
Young Professionals in Foreign Policy
While not specific to the public sector, Young Professionalâ€™s in Foreign Policyâ€™s organizational web site is a wonderful example of a Drupal implementation to support large, globally distributed user communities seeking to collaborate on foreign policy issues. The organizationâ€™s simple design reflects the tradeoffs international governmental and multilateral organizations can make to enable cost-effective social functionality with Drupal. (Disclaimer: Michael Walsh is the Chair of the Public Diplomacy and Cultural Relations Discussion Group at YPFP.)