New York Senate
Open Source Social Publishing Transforms the New York Senate
This case study examines how the New York Senate was able to leverage Acquia, to restructure its online presence, improve internal collaboration, and establish the NY Senate as leaders in the Gov 2.0 space.
2009 represented a dramatic shift in the makeup of the New York State Senate. In response, the challenging party embarked on a dramatic new direction—bringing the Senate and critical information to the people, by way of Acquia and its support for open source Drupal.
The Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to creating transparency in government, proposed replacing fragmented static sites with Drupal, the open source social publishing framework. They recommended hiring dedicated CIO Andrew Hoppin, whose recommendations included engaging Acquia for commercial support of Drupal.
When complete, NYSenate.gov represented a new standard for government sites.
“We are currently regarded as having one of the best legislative sites in the country,” said Hoppin. “Our policies and software code are now being used by other government entities looking to match our success.”
The first thing Mr. Hoppin did was to put the brakes on previous plans. “I saw there was of a mad scramble to get the new site up. Page mock-ups were already being scripted—there was too much action without enough planning. My concern, shared by the Senate, was that a failed attempt would be worse than doing nothing at all. There were actual political ramifications tied to the success of the relaunch.”
Mr. Hoppin took the site back to drawing board—including policy development. He successfully argued the case to use Creative Commons licensing to keep all content open and free. Policies and technology were built to prevent respective microsites from being used for inappropriate campaign purposes, such as requests for campaign contributions.
A third-party development and design shop created the look and feel for the new site, and helped establish a compatible set of user groups. With senators, staff, and constituents all contributing content, the site required a myriad of user types with complex permissions. Actively engaged in the Drupal developer community, the Senate web team has submitted custom modules it developed during the process for free distribution via the Drupal community website at Drupal.org (http://drupal.org/project/nyss).
Because the Senate had concerns about the reliability and availability of support, Hoppin followed the example of leading federal government entities already using Drupal; he turned to Acquia, who would provide hosting and support.
A contentious debate over marriage legislation demonstrated the new site’s strengths. The New York Senate streamed the event live, with senators’ speeches embedded and available for download and public comment. Over 15,000 voters watched the debate live online, and one senator’s rousing speech was viewed online hundreds of thousands of times.
With streaming and archived footage, online town halls, mailing list sign ups, and the ability to republish content through social networks—the New York Senate’s online presence is now visible and highly interactive. Mr. Hoppin cites Acquia as a major factor in helping NYsenate.gov thrive during such rapid growth.
“Acquia is responsive and proactive. They aren’t content just to see the site running smoothly—always looking for new modules and features that can help us better realize our vision for our site,” he said.
“It’s impossible for me to overstate the great job Acquia has done. Hosting with Acquia allows them to provide immediate support and keep the site tuned with remote administration. Their support staff is amazing. Acquia is always ready to offer assistance and keep us on track.”