Having rebuilt Whitehouse.gov on the open source Drupal platform, President Obama's new media team is calling on the open source community for new ideas and technology. By J. Nicholas Hoover
"We can call upon the expertise of the community to say, hey, this has been our experience with this module, are there any ways to improve this? We're excited to rely on the community even more for ideas," said Lo Bue.
In developing WhiteHouse.gov on Drupal, the Obama team used mostly available code, but it wrote some custom code to meet scalability and security requirements. The new media team is now working with the White House legal counsel to determine how to contribute that code back to the community. "I can't promise a time line, [as] it's somewhat unprecedented for our organization to take that on, but we feel strongly about it," Cole said.
Cole and Philips provided insight into forthcoming features on WhiteHouse.gov, including new search and authentication capabilities. The site's search engine was built with Apache Solr, which Cole called "one of the best improvements," since it goes beyond keyword search. Moving forward, the White House plans to make it possible to subscribe to topics, so that people can receive alerts when there's a speech, document, or blog post on that topic.
The White House is also working to add user authentication, but it's not yet clear what form that will take, as the new media team continues to weigh privacy concerns. "We want a site that can work both for people who are skeptical of the government and for those who want to participate fully with government," Phillips said.
The White House is planning to make increasing use of RDFa, a way of tagging metadata to content that could make hard-to-find data more searchable. "We have a lot of primary source content and have it exposed in ways that traditionally hasn't been done by government," Cole said. "Instead of just having PDFs that are scanned, we're trying to reverse that trend."