Texas

ArchiveSocial helps keep government social media on the record books

ArchiveSocial

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What

ArchiveSocial

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

ArchiveSocial enables public sector organizations to embrace social media by minimizing risk and eliminating compliance barriers.

What problem does ArchiveSocial solve for government?

Laws requiring “freedom of information”, and hence record retention, are critical for government transparency. Governments at all levels are struggling with social media records, and most are non-compliant. It is often cited as a top 5 technology issue, and many public entities are limiting usage or refraining from social media entirely.

ArchiveSocial eliminates the compliance risk that is (a) preventing some government agencies, especially at the municipal level, from having any social media presence, and (b) preventing those agencies that do have social media accounts from fully engaging with citizens and not just using these platforms as one-way communications tools.

Citizens benefit from increased engagement with their government, and the promise of government transparency (i.e. freedom of information) being fulfilled.

What’s the story behind starting ArchiveSocial?

In 2011, Anil Chawla was developing consumer social media applications when he stumbled upon the idea for ArchiveSocial. It was clear that social media had become an “official” communication channel for most businesses and government agencies, but that these organizations were struggling with record keeping.

He originally intended ArchiveSocial for private businesses in regulated industries, but while talking to a friend at a brewery, heard that some government colleagues were copying and pasting tweets in order to satisfy open records requirements. As it often happens with beer, he had a eureka moment: retention of social media records was becoming a major pain-point across the public sector, and ArchiveSocial had exactly the right technology to solve it.

ArchiveSocial started a pilot archive with the North Carolina State Archives — a leader in digital preservation efforts — in early 2012, and soon after we began reaching out to municipal governments. Within a year, ArchiveSocial had acquired state & local government customers across more than a dozen US states and was archiving social media for federal agencies such as U.S. National Archives. We also worked with government partners such as North Carolina, South Carolina and the City of Austin to launch Open Archives of their social media records. The strong need for our technology, and the overwhelmingly positive response in government, inspired us to focus on the public sector and ultimately led us to joining the Code for America accelerator this year.

What are its key features?

ArchiveSocial is a robust social media archiving solution that goes well beyond a simple data capture to ensure that records are maintained in a forensically sound fashion. It archives additional content related to the record such as high-resolution photos and background images. It preserves relationships between records and ensures that the necessary context is maintained in the archive. Most importantly, ArchiveSocial is designed so that government agencies can easily locate and make sense of the records when they need them.

ArchiveSocial is a pure SaaS solution, and allows any sized organization to start archiving in minutes with zero IT deployment.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Customers pay based on the number of records they produce in a month, starting at $49 per month for up to 100 records. We offer a free 30 day trial (no credit card required) on our website.

How can those interested connect with you?

Video

What happened to Manor?

Ines Mergel asks a great question about a government 2.0 icon emblematic of the potential local open government had in its nascent heyday way back two years ago:

What happened, Manor?

For those unfamiliar with Manor and its young gun superstar and former CIO Dustin Haisler, Manor was symbolic of the “small town startup” that could strategically leverage modern technology to better serve citizens and run more efficiently while still keeping IT costs to a minimum. Haisler leveraged QR codes, WordPress, Google Apps, engagement platforms and other experimental technologies that brought Manor into the digital 21st century.

Today, that Manor is gone.

Haisler eventually left for the real startup world, and it appears the baton was either not properly handed off or just dropped altogether.

I asked Haisler about this, and here’s his reply via email:

I think this shows the need for a few things:

(1) Forming a social norm around innovation and experimentation in government, which requires significant measurement and reporting in order to combat the risk that comes along with a change in administration.

(2) Government innovation programs should not be run solely from within City Hall. There should be controlling interests from community stakeholders (businesses, non-profits, academia, etc.)

(3) The need for education. Current and future leaders of government agencies need to be educated on the business value that comes from using participatory technologies within government.

This presents a unique opportunity to reinvent civic innovation within Manor (where I still live) from a truly grassroots perspective driven from the community.

Design is inherently subjective, so it’s difficult to argue whether the new site is prettier than the previous version, however, there are several non-aesthetic components now missing from Manor’s previous “beta city” vision that should be standard in all new government websites:

  • no integrated content management system (it appears they’re now using Google Blogspot to post site updates, but these are separate from the site’s primary pages)
  • less prominent social media accounts (previously, Manor had a Facebook, Twitter and Flickr presence, but now only Facebook is accessible, albeit hidden)
  • no commitment to open source (previous WordPress theme was developed and made freely available to any government)
  • no site search
  • no accessible email or online contact form
  • no open data portal
  • no open 311 reporting
  • URLs no longer mapped to cityofmanor.org domain
  • basic disregard of 508 compliance

I’m not familiar with Manor’s current operations and technological leadership but, judging by its new website, I concur with Mergel that “they apparently went back in time and put up a horrific website in a design that reminds me of the early days of the Internet.” (disclaimer: I helped set up and design the previous version)

Whatever the reason for the set-back, there’s a lesson to be learned in how to better transition an IT environment developed by a tech-savvy CIO to leadership that appears to be less informed on today’s technological standards.

Most importantly, it’s seems there’s an opportunity here for the Gov 2.0 community to come together and address how small towns manage IT sustainability and help those that are less tech-savvy better understand and implement strategic, experimental and open technologies.

How can we do this?

Voter ID and Civic Innovation

Since 2008, there has been a wave of voting law changes that impose barriers to the ballot box. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of “Bloody Sunday,” called the new laws “the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act.”

The right to vote is being chiseled away by voter ID laws that require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Cost of Freedom Project Logo

In December, the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds it would make it harder for minorities to vote in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mississippi and Texas voting ID laws also must be pre-cleared but Texas is not waiting. The Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to speed up a decision.

Strict photo ID requirements will be in place in at least five states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin — In November. With Election Day less than nine months away, voters without an official photo ID cannot wait for the challenges to play out at the Justice Department and in the courts.

In Wisconsin, for instance, voters must navigate “The 4 Proofs.”

I am a founding member of the Election Protection Coalition. Still, looking at the infographic makes my head hurt. More worrisome, it discourages voters from completing the application process. So I presented the problem of TMI (read: disenfranchisement by design) at Random Hacks of Kindness and the Hackathon for Social Good. Citizen programmers developed solutions to quickly provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID.

During Social Week Washington, DC, I gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom web-based app developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users in Wisconsin can forget about “The 4 Proofs.” Instead, in four clicks or less, they will be able to access information about the state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

I also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we plan to launch the Cost of Freedom App on April 4, 2012.

I will post regular updates about the Cost of Freedom Project and other initiatives that are using civic innovation to protect the right to vote. The conversation about voter ID also gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about disruptive technologies in the public sector beyond election administration.

For more information, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom. You can sign up to receive notice when the Cost of Freedom App is launched. Continue reading

NIC wins $30 million Texas contract

The Kansas City Star reports e-gov services provider NIC won a $30-$35 million contract from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The contract runs through August 2016 and includes “motor vehicle inspection-related services, criminal history records, concealed handgun regulations and salvage regulation.”

The Star also says “according to NIC, the work will require a ‘significant investment’ by the company to rebuild the state agency’s database.”

That’s one serious schema.

2011 GovFresh Public Servant of the Year: Matthew Esquibel

2011 GovFresh Public Servant of the Year Matthew Esquibel

Photo courtesy of Matthew Esquibel

Fresh off off getting recognized as the 2011 GovFresh Awards ‘Public Servant of the Year,’ we asked the City of Austin’s Matthew Esquibel, Programmer Analyst Supervisor for Internet/Intranet Web Design in the Office of Communications & Technology Management, to share more about his work.

What are you working on in Austin that inspires you most?

We just launched a new Open Source website (austintexas.gov) and Open Data Portal (data.austintexas.gov) this week. It was the culmination of a lot of work between the city and the community and puts Austin in a great position to advance our goals of transparency, efficiency and collaboration. It is great to work with a variety of teams and individuals who believe so strongly in these initiatives. I am particularly excited about the City of Austin’s 2012 partnership with Code for America and look forward to working with them to bring great solutions to Austin.

What general trends do you see in government technology and open government that are changing the way government works?

I think there is a strong trend to try and learn lessons from the private sector and startup companies and to figure out how to apply those strategies to how government does business. It is clear that there is a large gap between the agility and innovation you typically find in a startup company and the business-as-usual approach often found in government. Focusing on open platforms, open data,agile project methodologies and collaborative community/non-profit partnerships–government is finding ways to do things smarter and we are starting to see the positive effect.

What big plans does Austin have for 2012?

2012 is all about building on the open platform and data initiatives we started this year. In many ways, our work in these areas is just beginning. We are obviously very excited about our partnership with Code for America and know that this relationship will really help keep the momentum going. We definitely want to show the world that being open to new solutions and partnerships will lead to great things for Austin and government in general.

Who gets a shout-out?

I definitely want to recognize the leadership at the City of Austin who have embraced open platform and data initiatives–it is crucial to have support at all levels to be successful. I also want to thank the web project team leaders Chris Florance and Charles Purma who never gave up on helping to push these initiatives forward–and the staff of the web team who did all the awesome work to implement them. Also, the Austin community, particularly OpenAustin, for being an articulate and energizing force. Raja, the Master Blaster! And finally, Mackenzie Kelly, a neighbor I have never met, but appears to be equally deserving of this honor.

Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn and Twitter at @escribbles and Austin Government at @austingovonline.

Gov 2.0 guide to a city makeover

My name is Dustin Haisler and I’m the Assistant City Manager and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Manor, Texas.  Manor is a small community, located just east of Austin, of approximately 6,500 citizens. More recently, Manor has received a lot press for some of our innovative projects; such as our QR-code program, citizen idea portal, and pothole reporting system.  In fact, we are in such a state of continuous improvement that we even added the word ‘beta’ to our city logo.

Over the past year, it’s been my pleasure to be one of the many evangelists of these new citizen-empowering technologies for government agencies across the country.  In the process, I’ve realized that there are many bureaucratic constraints, fears and misunderstandings about how these technologies fit within municipal government.  Further, I understand that type of innovation within government is sometimes seen as a risky concept; however, I would argue there is a science to what we do in Manor that can and should be replicated by other municipalities.

So let me brake down what we’ve done by starting at the beginning.  Manor’s innovation journey began like most- out of a means of survival.  With dwindling revenues and rising costs, we faced a significant challenge to continue providing the services our citizens demanded.  As a result, we were faced with two choices: finance industry solutions over a period of time or leverage what we have to make our own.  We chose the latter.  Now it’s difficult to leverage 34 employees beyond their current capacities, but we  do have 6,500 citizens that are each an expert in something.  It was time to tap the wisdom of the crowds.

Almost five years later, we have overhauled every department within our agency, actually reducing our information technology budget, with our citizens helping drive the change.  My next goal was to help educate other cities that they could achieve the same thing.  During this process, I continued to hit the same roadblocks, around the lines of “I don’t know where to start!”

In talking through this frustration, Luke Fretwell, the founder of GovFresh, and I decided we were going to do something to help catalyze a municipal innovation movement.  We had both been to numerous conferences that were very inspiring to the participants, but lacked the action-oriented approach needed to make things happen.  As a result, manor.govfresh was born with the intention of demonstrating that everything we had done in Manor could be replicated by other cities.  We determined that the best way to demonstrate this was by performing a makeover on another city.  Essentially, we took every citizen engagement technology we use in Manor (plus some) and applied them to America’s next ‘beta’ city, the City of De Leon, Texas.  The most amazing aspect of the makeover is that we did it in under a month.

So what does a Gov 2.0 makeover look like?

Website

For the website portion of the makeover, we used a free web technology that is typically used for blogs, called WordPress, along with the free GovFresh Gov 2.0 template, to make it easy for De Leon staff members to maintain and keep their citizens up-to-date.  Price: Free + Hosting (Approximately $54.00 per year).

Idea Suggestion

In order to channel new ideas, we deployed a Spigit platform to apply a structured and transparent process the citizens of De Leon to suggest new ideas.  In addition, citizens are rewarded for their participation, through game-mechanics, to make the process sustainable.  Price: Starts at $499.00 per month.

QR-codes

QR-codes are a type of barcode that can be read with most newer model camera phones.  Using can download a free application and simply scan the barcode using the camera on their phone.  Once a code is scanned, their phone will display the information that was linked within it.  For the De Leon QR-code program, we used a free online creator and a local sign printing company to provide a physical hyperlink for 35 points-of-interest throughout their community.  Price: Free (Just the cost of printing).

Open Data

In order to make public information more accessible to citizens, we deployed a Socrata platform to allow citizens to view and analyze public information on a deeper level without the need of an open-records request.  In addition, local developers now have access to make web applications that tie-in to these data sets.  Price: Free Version Available (Plans start at $499.00 per month).

Citizen Reporting (311)

To encourage citizen reporting, we deployed SeeClickFix to empower citizens to help ‘fix’ their community from a variety of channels including a dedicated mobile application, toll-free phone number, e-mail and embeddable web application.  Price: Starts at $40.00 per month.

Crime Reporting

Using CrimeReports, we took the City of De Leon’s public crime data, that was not accessible online, and embedded it within an easy to understand visual map.  Price: Starts at $99.00 per month.

E-Forms & Processes

Using Firmstep, the City of De Leon now has electronic forms and applications that are apart of a bigger electronic process.  This means that city forms can be processed without ever needing to print them out. Price: Starts at $300.00 per month.

Social Media

We setup the City of De Leon with a Facebook and Twitter account to better engage with their citizens using online platforms where the conversations are currently taking place.  Price: Free.

Records Retention (Online)

In order to maintain and comply with records retention laws, we used PageFreezer to auto-archive all of the City of De Leon’s online activities. Price: Starts at $199.00 per month.

Mobile Application

The City of De Leon will also have access to the first location-based-service application for government (Think of Foursquare for government). This application will empowers citizens to interact with their city no matter where they’re at.  Price: Free (Extra features are available).

Internet Telephone System

Developed just for this conference, the City of De Leon now has access to the MuniVox Internet phone system (VoIP). MuniVox makes it easy for small local governments to implement a sophisticated phone system using open-source software.  Price: Free.

E-mail/Document Management

Using Google Apps Standard Edition, the City of De Leon has access to a very cost-effective and robust e-mail and document management system.  Price: Free (Up to 50 users).

Project Management

Using Manymoon, with direct integration to Google Apps Standard Edition, the City of De Leon can better manage their daily operations and tasks.  Price: Free.

Are We There Yet?

Nope, and we will never fully arrive. In the spirit of being in a continuous state of

improvement (‘beta’), we can never fully arrive. Technology and citizen services

will continue to change and we must always be listening.  I hope that what we did inspires you to go ‘beta’ and embrace technologies that can revolutionize the way you interact with your citizens.

There is a guide available on the BetaCities website with more detailed information for other cities interested in deploying these technologies.

Special thanks

Luke and I didn’t pull this makeover off on our own. We built this with the help of our community. Along with the partners listed above, and our planning committee, supporters and sponsors should get most of the credit for making this vision a reality:

Planning Committee

  • Mark Headd
  • Geovanna Ricaldi
  • Kevin Curry
  • Sara Moore
  • Robert Greenberg
  • Andrew Krzmarzick
  • Sid Burgess
  • Margarita Quihuis
  • Pam Broviak

Supporters

  • Code For America
  • OpenPlans
  • Gov 2.0 Radio

Sponsors

  • Texas.gov
  • Spigit
  • OpenPlans
  • Manor ISD
  • Manor Education Foundation
  • Bluebonnet Electric
  • BLGY Architecture
  • Bridge Born
  • G&H International Services, Inc.

Small(town) is beautiful and the manor.govfresh wrap-up

manor.govfresh

E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful neatly summarizes my beliefs on how society should work and provides the most appropriate slogan for the way I approach much of my life.

‘Small is beautiful’ best describes manor.govfresh, held this past Sept 20-21, in Manor, TX, and exemplifies where I believe we can have the most impact on changing how government works and where the open government community should turn its focus. The theme around manor.govfresh was government and technology, but the underlying premise was learning how we can strengthen community at its most local. So much is discussed at the federal, state and major metropolitan levels that we see small-town America as an after-thought. It’s not sexy, but it’s where change can happen faster and have a more immediate impact on citizens.

manor.govfresh was a special event for me personally and professionally, and I want to thank the City of Manor, TX and the Manor Independent School District for letting GovFresh (and me) play a little part in your big role in changing the face of government.

I also want to thank ‘Team manor.govfresh,’ including Dustin Haisler, Geovanna Ricaldi, Mark Headd, Kevin Curry, Sara Moore, Bob Greenberg, Sid Burgess, Margarita Quihuis and Andrew Krzmarzick for your time and hard work in planning everything. You guys helped put on a big-time event in small-town America and believed in its importance from the beginning.

Much of what was reported real-time came from Alex Howard, and I can’t thank him enough for making the trek, re-introducing me to Scotch and being a great friend.

manor.govfresh highlights include making over City of De Leon, having U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Beth Noveck attend and speak, getting a warm welcome each morning from the Manor ISD student choir and band (video below), connecting in real life with people I greatly admire in the open government community and, of course, getting a key to Manor.

More manor.govfresh coverage and discussion here:

Thanks again to everyone who participated in such a wonderful event. Until next time …

My Gov 2.0 Hero: Phil Tate

Phil Tate

Manor, Texas has received lots of recognition for the innovative technologies that have come out of it, but many people don’t know all the individuals that are responsible. My role as Assistant City Manager and CIO is to steer the development of emerging technologies in Manor, but the real hero is our City Manager, Phil Tate.

Phil is a Gov 2.0 Hero because he chooses to say “yes” to new emerging technologies that allow us to be more efficient and transparent. It would be so easy for a city manager to say “no” to new ideas and concepts, but Manor has been fortunate to have such a progressive leader with the drive to serve citizens and instill government accountability.

Don’t mess with new Texas.gov

Texas.govThe official Texas government Website, Texas.gov, has a new makeover, including prominent search powered by Google, 24/7 live help, activity stream, open datasets, subscription notifications, social media directory, crowd-sourced customer service powered by GetSatisfaction and a mobile-accessible version. The site was developed using Microsoft Sharepoint “without tax funds through a public-private partnership” between the state of Texas and NICUSA.

Announcing the new site, Karen Robinson, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Information Resources, the department responsible for Texas.gov, said:

“We want Texas.gov to be the first choice for Texas government information and services. We talked to thousands of Texans to understand what they wanted to see on our official website. With today’s launch, we are responding to their requests while making government more approachable and giving Texans the opportunity to quickly and easily complete transactions online.”

Why government should go beta

City of Manor BetaIn the spirit of innovation, we are happy to announce the launch of the City of Manor in open beta. Manor launched in alpha in March of 1913, and has been operating as such for the last 97 years.

What does open beta mean?

Open beta is the stage of product release where the alpha product is released to a larger community group, usually the general public, for feedback. The testers report any bugs that they found and sometimes minor features they would like to see in the final version.

How will Manor operate in open beta?

Manor has become a model for municipal innovation and we understand that our model must continue to change and adapt to forces at work within our community. We want our citizens to be able to respond to our agency like individuals testing out a beta product (beta-testers). If they see a problem- they can report it. If they have an idea- they can submit it. If they have a question- they can ask it.

What’s next?

We think it is in the benefit of other cities to operate in open beta. We want to demonstrate that it is OK to say to our citizens, ‘that we’re re-inventing ourselves with your help.’ Operating in beta does not degrade the permanence of your established city, it only adds value by demonstrating to your citizens that your listening and acting what they have to say.

More information about how you can participate is forthcoming.