On the Road with OpenPublic 1.0 at CapitalCamp 2013

#Drupal | Posted

CapitalCamp 2013 is finially here, and  my colleague, Shawn Mole, and myself have been ramping up for our OpenPublic 1.0 session. We'll be discussing the current state of the distribution and wanted to share some thoughts beforehand on the road moving forward.

What is OpenPublic?

OpenPublic is an open source distribution developed to help build content management systems (CMS) and collaboration tools tailored for the needs of public sector and open government initiatives. Built with security and accessibility in mind, OpenPublic provides an enterprise-grade web experience that gives federal agencies, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations a jump-start on creating websites that serve their constituencies.

What are the key features of OpenPublic?

OpenPublic is an incredibly robust distribution with functionality meant to solve the most common problems public sector organizations' regularly face. Some of these features include:

  • Responsive web design (RWD) for content engagement on any device
  • Multi-lingual support for translating content or building audience specific content
  • Customizable workflow for content administration to ensure publishing standards
  • Customizable security settings to meet your organization’s needs (e.g. FISMA)
  • Accessibility baked in, with 508 and WCAG 2.0 taken into consideration for all users
  • Key functionality such as custom promotions, drag-and-drop layout, custom web forms, press releases, blogs, and staff directories

How does OpenPublic align with the Digital Government Strategy?

In May of 2012, the White House issued the Digital Government Strategy which promoted a framework for better government. One of its four core "Strategy Principles" is the notion of 'Shared Platform' to "help us work together, both within and across agencies, to reduce costs, streamline development, apply consistent standards, and ensure consistency in how we create and deliver information." The goal of this 'shared platform' approach is to lower cost and reduce duplication by propagating best solutions and lessons learned. All while increasing the government's ability to 'innovate with less'.

Open source, community-driven solutions like OpenPublic are leading the promotion of shared platforms throughout government. The OpenPublic team plans to continue supporting these efforts by helping to centralize discussion about reducing duplication in government web content management.

How does OpenPublic support Open Data?

The OpenPublic team sees a lot of room for improving the way that open data portals are handled with respect to 'traditional' web portals. Currently, these are deployed and managed in a bifurcated way. At the State and Local government levels, we are working with existing clients to explore how OpenPublic can help integrate those web experiences for the citizen. For example, if a citizen is looking for budgeting information, they should be able to access data sets (via open data/API's) and web content in *one place*, rather than having to swap back and forth between sites. The potential for improvement in this realm is great and definitely something we're working to extend through the OpenPublic platform.

How can a government agency extend the out-of-the-box functionality of OpenPublic?

There are two primary ways that any user can extend OpenPublic's initial functionality. First is the use of Apps to extend specific areas of functionality around to the needs of a user. As an example, a user could choose to install a language translation app in order to extend the capabilities of content creators beyond standard English. The ability to choose exactly what your organization needs helps to keep your OpenPublic site streamlined, without creating unnecessary bloating due to irrelevant functionality. Most OpenPublic sites will be able to use a combination or different sub-sets of apps to achieve what they need, all of which are configurable to tailor even more specifically to a user's needs.

However, in some cases, new requirements will emerge that have not yet been considered. In that case, there is option number two, which is to opt out of the defaults and Bring Your Own Functionality (BYOF). As an example of this, even without apps, many teams have used  Workbench -- developed by Palantir -- as a way to build out custom workflows right in OpenPublic.

How can you get involved?

There are a variety of ways to get involved with OpenPublic, regardless of your role or experience level. Some examples include:

  • Evangelize the use of open source web content management (and OpenPublic) in the public sector
  • Provide feedback to the OpenPublic team for any additional materials you need to do the above
  • Support modules within OpenPublic through code contribution
  • Test any new functionality you build on OpenPublic and then share your story
  • Build a theme to extend the functionality of the distribution
  • Build Apps for things you need or services your offer to the public

What does the road ahead look like for OpenPublic?

Most new OpenPublic features will come as additions, in the form of Apps, to keep the core of OpenPublic as lightweight as possible and allow for a more pluggable framework for users. Part of this move to a smaller, lighter core is to prepare for Drupal 8 (D8). We will continue to support Drupal 7 (D7) OpenPublic in the early days of D8 as the ecosystem embraces and extends the stable functionality of D7 into D8.

How can I get started with OpenPublic?

To get started, you can download the OpenPublic distribution from Drupal.org or you can quickly “test drive” OpenPublic through a one-click install at OpenPublicApp.com.

Meanwhile, direct any comments or questions you may have to openpublic@phase2technology.com or tweet to @OpenPublic.

Hope to see you at Capital Camp!


Greg Wilson