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WebContent.gov Goes Web 2.0

Note: This post is of my own personal opinion and is not endorsed or supported by any local, state, or federal government agency.

The Government’s web community is going “web 2.0” with a focus on increased collaboration amongst its members with the new implementation of the Web Content Managers Forum over at WebContent.gov. I spoke with Natalie Davidson, Web Content Manager at WebContent.gov, and Candi Harrison, creator of the original forum and retired Housing and Urban Development web manager about the new web site and explain the need for the new direction of the forum.

For those that don’t know, the Web Content Managers Forum is a group of federal, state, and local government web managers across the nation that collaborate on anything, and everything, related to the Government web activities. The Forum, which is sponsored by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications and USA.gov, has traditionally been managed through a LISTSERV format. When the LISTSERV was first started, back in 2000, its original intention was to supplement monthly in-person meetings that took place amongst a small group of content managers to help improve government websites. No one expected it to become as large as it did.

“It really wasn’t until January 2004 – when the Web Content Standards Working Group convened to develop recommendations for federal public websites – that the listserv took off. That’s when we decided to broaden the group to include web managers all over the country, including state and local government web managers,” says Candi Harrison. Since the opening up of the LISTSERV, the membership has grown to over 1400 members. Not too shabby. However, the software is very outdated and doesn’t allow for the level of interaction that it’s members have been wanting. Something more was needed.

The new Web Content Managers Forum provides some of the most popular social networking functions that many people are accustomed to on sites like Facebook or MySpace. Members fill out complete profiles related to their professional interests, their areas of expertise, websites, and more. Each member can join various “Groups” that are created based on similar areas of interests. Members also have the ability to contribute to their own blog and photo gallery, as well as see a listing of all their WebContent.gov related class registrations, add links to their other social networking sites and, of course, the ability to “friend” and private message (PM) other members available through “My Connections.”

Moving to a web-based format was the obvious next step. With the proliferation of social networks, professional networks, “web 2.0” sites, and an increasing demand for collaboration it was only a matter of time before the Forum went that same direction. Besides being able to offer a solution with many of the “social” capabilities of today’s most popular sites, Natalie said “we started out by wanting to provide a robust contact directory and a calendar of events that the entire community could actively contribute to.” But the software contract that was awarded through FedBizOpps to YourMembership.com offered more of those networking capabilities that members had asked for with “a great value at a great price.”

Although not all of the available features through the software will initially be implemented, Natalie says that they do plan to open up more features down the line such as an integrated wiki, career postings, and more. The one point she did stress was that although there’s a public view of the Forum, the Members section is strictly for “government employees only”. Contractors and guests are not allowed at this time because doing so adds additional privacy and security hurdles. They are hoping to open it up to others in the future, but for now that’s where it stands.

Personally, I’m very excited about the new site. I’ve been browsing around, adding friends, sending PMs, and updating my profile and I can definitely see how this will encourage even more collaboration amongst members that I email with already and expand my network of web content managers and developers. For those of you that are Mel Brooks fans, you’ll recognize this my next quote when I say, “It’s good to be Govy” 🙂

Cross posted from: http://justagovy.blogspot.com/2008/09/webcontentgov-goes-web-20.html

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Thanks Scott. I checked out yourmembeship.com and am pretty impressed about what they offer for the price. A lot of value for a real cheap price compared to most major IT projects.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Scott – Thanks for this great post. Is there any plan to replicate the use of this platform beyond web managers? My hunch is that others will latch on to this means of communicating beyond email.

Scott Horvath

I’m not sure. I’m not directly involved with managing the site in any way, so the best person to refer to would be webcontenttoolkit (at) gsa.gov…but it’s certainly an interesting idea.