Help the Public Find Your Information, Wherever and However You’ve Published It

Aug 26, 2014
Think Outside The Box Concept

As traffic to desktop .gov websites declines, how we publish our content increasingly matters. We need to meet people where they are as they seek information on the Internet. To do so, we need to adjust to the new world of mobile applications, social media, and instant answers provided by search engines.

Freeing Content from Our Websites

In this content sharing era, it is important to separate the content from how it appears on your site.

Web pages and PDF files, while public, aren’t easily shared or consumed. Data and valuable content can be buried within navigation or other text, making it hard to find. This difficulty led to OMB’s open data policy, which encourages us all to manage our information as an asset.

Content management systems (CMS) make it easier for us to move to open content models, in turn making it easier for the public to find, share, and use our information.

Content APIs are relatively easy to create with open source CMS (such as Drupal or WordPress), enterprise CMS systems (such as Percussion, Sharepoint, Oracle), or CMS-less websites (such as those built with Jekyll).

Several commercial publishing companies have published content APIs, including New York Times APIs and NPR Content API. More than a dozen government agencies have content APIs, too.

If you’re interested in publishing your site’s content as an API, below are a few good references to get you started.

18F’s /Developer Program is also able to lend a hand and boost your efforts.

Freeing Content from Our Social Media

Chances are you’re already tweeting newsworthy content on Twitter, sharing your pictures on Flickr, Instagram, or Pinterest, posting your videos on YouTube, or connecting with the public via Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn. That’s because publishing content on social media gets your information into the hands of the public in the places they’re at.

If you’re interested in repurposing your social media content, below are a few of the most popular social media APIs to get you started:

Being Our Own Customer

Some say you should eat your own dog food. Others say you should drink your own champagne. Whichever way you say it, we should be our own customers. Consuming our own content as APIs ensures they’re useful and well-built. It also helps us provide higher quality data as we’re more likely to catch data errors.

By using your own content API to publish content to your website, you can reuse content snippets on various pages of your site. You don’t have to write and maintain it on two (or more) separate pages.

By using social media APIs you can embed Twitter content in a timeline, link directly to your Facebook account through a Like Box, or show videos you have also posted on YouTube.

For example, on agencies’ websites that use DigitalGov Search, searchers automatically see image results from Flickr and Instagram, video results from YouTube, jobs from USAJobs, and rules and notices from the Federal Register. All without any effort beyond publishing the original content to social media, the Office of Personnel Management, or the Office of the Federal Register.

Let’s free our content, repurpose it, and be our own customers. It’ll help us make our valuable government information even more findable, sharable, and usable.This article is part of this month’s editorial theme on our DigitalGov Services. Check out more articles related to this theme.