Articles on Miscellaneous

I recently wrote about how open source content management system (CMS) platforms like Drupal have gained a foothold in the government sector. However, the majority of enterprise-level CMS implementations at the Federal Government level are run by the big boys, including longtime market leaders Vignette (now part of Open Text) and Autonomy Interwoven.  Other large providers with a significant number of federal clients include Broadvision, Percussion Rhythmyx, Stellent (now part of Oracle), and EMC Documentum.

It has been a long, gradual process for federal organizations to tackle agency-wide CMS initiatives. But we’re seeing some recent momentum. Both the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – two huge agencies – are in the process of rolling out improved CMS solutions.

WebContent.gov provides a frequently updated list of CMS being used by government agencies. It’s always good to keep an eye on what platforms our potential clients are using.

Open Source for Open Government

Drupal is arguably the most well known and widely used open source content management system (CMS). It’s a very robust platform that allows its active, devoted developer community to customize and extend the CMS to do great things.

An unlikely adopter of Drupal over the past couple of years has been the U.S. Federal Government. And it now seems like a very timely move given Obama’s Open Government Initiative. The Drupal community rejoiced with the February 2009 announcement that the new Recovery.gov was running on Drupal. This was arguably the most high profile site (certainly in the Federal Government space) to launch on Drupal. However, the site later migrated to MS Sharepoint.

There’s debate on the reason behind the switch from Drupal to Sharepoint. Some say that Sharepoint is simply the platform of preference for the company that took over the contract, Maryland-based Smartronix Inc., and that they lacked in Drupal expertise. Others say that Drupal ended up being limited in its ability to manage the necessary workflow for the financial data that the site displays.

My guess is that it was more of a case of the new contractor needing to deliver a proposal that differentiated itself from the incumbent contractor. One good approach to doing that is to propose a new platform, and then explain your reasoning for why it’s a better option than the existing technology. The argument was made that going with MS Sharepoint offered a lot of benefit in how quickly the site could be built (apparently they only had 11 weeks).  This is certainly a valid argument over building your own content CMS, but we know Drupal can also be deployed very quickly. Here’s an interesting article on the site’s switch to Sharepoint.

Drupal fans didn’t have to wait long for another, and even more prominent, success story. The new Whitehouse.gov was launched on Drupal around the same time that Recovery.gov dropped the open source platform.

Federal Government Websites Using Drupal

The Department of Commerce and National Institutes of Health have also used Drupal, and NASA has also been reported to have used Drupal for some for internal sites.

Drupal Resources

Find out if a site is running Drupal
You might be interested in knowing if a particular site is built using Drupal. You may be able to tell be checking out the source code, or you can try this site – http://isthissitebuiltwithdrupal.com – which lets you enter a URL and it will run an instant check for you.

Drupal Government Group
http://groups.drupal.org/taxonomy/term/329

List of local and federal agencies using Drupal
http://groups.drupal.org/drupal-state-and-federal-agencies-government

Why Drupal is a good Choice for Government
Gov Fresh talks about why Drupal is a perfect solution for open government Web initiatives.
http://govfresh.com/2010/03/drupal-the-new-gov-2-0-site-builder/

The Future of Drupal in the Government
Presentation from DrupalCon San Fransisco in April.
http://sf2010.drupal.org/conference/sessions/future-drupal-government

Some more sites using drupal

Other Federal Government Web/IT Resources of Interest

Money manInformationWeek’s annual U.S. IT Salary Survey showed a median raise for IT professionals of 0% in 2010. The survey data was gathered from 20,000+ IT professionals between November and January. It’s the first time in 11 years that IT salaries have not increased.  The pay freeze holds true pretty much across the board – managers, staffers, contractors, and consultants.

Median Base IT Salaries

  • Managers: Base $103,000, Total $111,000
  • Staffers: Base $81,000, Total $85,000

Interesting Survey Statistics

  • Highest paying market segment: Financial services (Securities & Investments). Managers earned a median total compensation of $156,000. Runner Up – Biotech ($142,000)
  • Lowest paying market segments: Local and state government, non-profit, education

Highest Paying Titles (total compensation)

  • $120,000 – Architect
  • $110,000 – Systems Engineer
  • $105,000 – Project Leader
  • $99,000 – Software Engineer
  • $94,000 – Systems Programmer
  • $91,000 – Database Administrator
  • $91,000 – Software Developer

To me there’s not a great distinction between some of those titles listed. Systems engineer, software engineer, systems programmer, and software developer are all pretty similar roles in my mind.  The report didn’t contain much information on the geographic differences in salaries and 2010 raises. Obviously some parts oft he country are doing better than others. I believe the average raise in the Washington D.C. area for IT professionals was somewhere around 3%. Not great but certainly better than the average.

Here are the most popular NFL team websites – ranked from 1st to 32nd. It’s not much of a surprise that “America’s Team” tops the list and ranked #1 in traffic for all three statistics providers. The Titans came in last. Maybe Titans fans were so disappointed with the 2009 letdown – after a great 2008 season – that they just couldn’t bear to watch (or browse). I also thought it would be interesting to include the total dollar value rank for each team.

Popularity * Team Website Alexa Traffic Rank Quantcast Rank Compete.com Unique Visits Team $ value rank **
1 Dallas Cowboys 1 1 1 1
2 Indianapolis Colts 4 4 3 15
3 Philadelphia Eagles 2 7 5 7
4 Minnesota Vikings 12 2 4 31
5 New Orleans Saints 7 3 9 22
6 San Diego Chargers 5 5 10 24
7 Green Bay Packers 11 8 2 17
8 Pittsburgh Steelers 6 9 7 16
9 Chicago Bears 3 10 12 9
10 New England Patriots 13 6 8 3
11 New York Jets 10 12 6 5
12 Washington Redskins 9 11 14 2
13 Cincinnati Bengals 8 14 15 21
14 Baltimore Ravens 16 15 11 11
15 New York Giants 15 22 13 4
16 Buffalo Bills 14 18 18 26
17 Denver Broncos 19 17 17 10
18 Cleveland Browns 24 16 20 13
19 Oakland Raiders 26 13 21 32
20 Miami Dolphins 22 20 19 18
21 Arizona Cardinals 23 23 16 23
22 Seattle Seahawks 25 19 23 20
23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18 28 24 8
24 Houston Texans 28 21 22 6
25 San Francisco 49ers 17 25 32 27
26 Jacksonville Jaguars 20 32 27 29
27 Carolina Panthers 27 27 26 12
28 Atlanta Falcons 21 31 28 30
29 Kansas City Chiefs 31 29 25 14
30 Detroit Lions 30 26 30 28
31 St Louis Rams 32 24 31 25
32 Tennessee Titans 29 30 29 19

* These rankings are based on traffic rankings provided by Alexa and Quantcast, and unique visitors provided by Compete.  The numbers generally reflect the 2nd half of the 2009-2010 NFL season. As I’ve talked about here, Alexa and other traffic ranking providers can be pretty inaccurate.  But I needed some metrics to work with – otherwise the Ravens would be at the top of the list and the Steelers would be at the very bottom!

** Team $ valuations by Forbes, 2009

About a year my company was tasked with customizing a Ning installation for a large client. In addition to the standard design and CSS tweaks, our developers also took on the challenge of building a custom front-end interface to validate new members against an external database, and then pass them to Ning’s registration if they were validated.  It was a nice solution.  During this project I was introduced to Firebug – a free plugin for Firefox that eases the pain of inspecting websites code when you don’t actually have access to the source code.  There are plenty of other ways to go about this, but Firebug is the quickest and easiest that I’ve found.  The expandable panel allows you to clearly see the associated HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for each page element you hover over.  This tool is a real time saver when you’re trying to decipher extremely complicated nested CSS – like Ning uses.

In this example I’ve got the Firebug panel at the bottom of Firefox expanded. As I hover over a button the HTML code is shown on the left side and the corresponding CSS code is shown on the right side of the panel.  When Ning’s CSS has 5-10 styles influencing a single page element, this plugin makes life a lot easier than trying to dig through a bunch of separate style sheets to determine the CSS inheritance.

Firebug Screen shot

Firebug makes life easier...