Fed web managers preview cool new tools

Wednesday - 4/28/2010, 7:05am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

Some of the federal government's top web managers and producers are talking about common concerns, discussing best practices, and getting a peek into some new, cutting edge tools for the federal agency websites they support -- along with drinking lots and lots of coffee -- at the 2-day 2010 Government Web and New Media Conference, which concludes today at the Renaissance Hotel in D.C.

Those tools are being developed by the General Services Administration's Federal Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement, just created within the last year.

Members of the new media team were given four minutes each for lightning-fast presentations on some of the new initiatives they are spearheading.

  • Dan Munz was first up to discuss how he helped adapt Idea Scale -- a commercial application procured by GSA to support the public engagement, or social collaboration mandates of the White House's Open Government Directive. In particular, he talked about a tool that has something of interest to all fed web managers:

    During the entire process of standing up this tool, we did a lot of work looking at Section 508 accessibility, usability testing, as well as some of the policy compliance things I talked about. Working with Idea Scale, working with the vendor, we actually baked that functionality into the platform. So now, anybody who goes into IdeaScale.com, signs up, and looks at the back-end, sees a check box that says "Enable Government Compliance". And that triggers 508 compliance, P.R.A. compliance, all those things that you need to get to action quickly with a platform like this.

    In other words, IdeaScale allows an agency web manager to make the social collaboration portions of their Open Government Directive websites almost instantly compliant with section 508 mandates.

  • Ever wonder how to get your federal website and agency working with social media or social collaboration tools like Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites? Last year we reported to you GSA had negotiated groundbreaking "terms of service agreements" collectively with many of the major sites. Now, Andrea Sigritz says there's a tool to make it easy for federal web managers to sign up.

    "You go to the social media portion of apps.gov. When you find a tool that you want to use, you just click on the enroll button. This will send an e-mail to your agency's point-of-contact. Your point of contact will let you know if your agency has signed a terms of service with that particular vendor, and how to proceed."

    Sigritz says the New Media office has complied a list of all the points of contact for all the major cabinet-level agencies and independent agencies on the WebContent.gov website, complete with contact information. A link to this list is also on the social media page of apps.gov.

  • Lots of gossip, and chatter on the floor of the web managers conference for this next site, now under development, and set for unveiling in the Fall of this year, according to Tiffany Smith, a developer on detail to GSA from the State Department.

    FedSpace will be a social media-enabled collaborative intranet for the federal government. This will provide broader, and yet more secure options for everyone who needs them. There will be an integrated suite of tools that will make it easier for employees to connect to others, and to share knowledge across the federal enterprise. These are the useful web tools we have come to depend on to get our work done. There will be tools for teams to have conversations and to share authoring, and to find information across the federal workforce.

    Smith says FedSpace will closely resemble public blogs or wikis now popular with many internet users. In recent years, the nation's Intelligence Community led the way in implementing social collaboration sites for employees including Intellipedia and A-space.

  • Ever have one of those two-mile long website links that is clumsy to deal with online? Bev Godwin, director of the New Media Center has something for you:

    Its a .gov URL shortener, that you can find at Go.USA.gov. Anyone with a .gov or .mil e-mail address can use it to shorten government URLs. It's still in beta, but we already have over a thousand users across government who, as you can see by these stats, have been shortening lots of popular URLs.

    Godwin says the New Media team created Go.USA.gov for three reasons: first, to allow web managers to maintain the official government brand when you shorten URLs for Twitter, Facebook, text messages, or where ever you have character limitations. She says the shortener "maintains the authenticity of government information, and users can tell it's government information before they click." Second, she says its a matter of long term viability. Because its hosted on federal servers, there's no chance that the short links will go away, as they might with some of the commercial link shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl.com . Finally, she says, because the link is a .gov URL, it makes it easier to compile information across the federal government, and make that information more valuable.