Oval Office Goes Open Source

Whatever your political affiliations — or lack thereof — may be, it's surely good news to hear that the government is giving back, and doubly so when that giving is to the Open Source community.

Such is the news out of the West Wing this week, as the team behind the White House website announced yesterday that they are donating some of the code they have developed for WhiteHouse.gov back to the community.

WhiteHouse.gov runs on the popular, and Open Source, Drupal content management system, which powers thousands of other high-profile sites, including our own LinuxJournal.com. The code in question consists of four modules: Context HTTP Headers, Akamai, GovDelivery, and Node Embed. In a posting to The White House Blog, Dave Cole — Senior Adviser to the Chief Information Officer of the Executive Office of the President — described the modules, which are already available from the Drupal repositories:

1. Scalability: We're releasing a module called "Context HTTP Headers," which allows site builders to add new metadata to the content they serve.  We use this to tell our servers how to handle specific pages, such as cache this type of page for 15 minutes or that type for 30. A second module that addresses scalability is called "Akamai" and it allows our website to integrate with our Content Delivery Network, Akamai.

2. Communication: Many government agencies have active email programs that they use to communicate with the public about the services they provide. We have a mailing list for the White House, where you can get updates about new content and initiatives. To enable more dynamic emails tailored to users' preferences, we've integrated one of the popular services for government email programs with our CMS in the new module, "GovDelivery".

3. Accessibility: We take very seriously our obligation to make sure WhiteHouse.gov is as accessible as possible and are committed to meeting the government accessibility standard, Section 508.  As part of that compliance, we want to make sure all images on our site have the appropriate metadata to make them readable on by screen reading software. To help us meet this, while making it easier to manage the rich photos and video content you see on our site, we've developed "Node Embed."

Cole made his announcement yesterday during the Open Source in Government keynote panel at this week's DrupalCon San Francisco. Linux Journal's Webmistress, and resident Drupal goddess, Katherine Druckman was on hand for the presentation, and shared with us her impression:

Dave's presentation was great. He briefly went over the sections of the whitehouse.gov site, giving a basic idea of the site structure and modules used. Just the idea that they are releasing code back is so significant with regard to attitudes toward open source.

Linux Journal readers can look forward to seeing some of the White House's code in action, as Katherine plans to implement the Node Embed module right here on LinuxJournal.com.

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