• Transforming an anachronistic organization with Drupal
  • In control of Republican party for 44 years
  • Never had a CIO before January 2009 - focused on internal enterprise IT before
  • People were cutting out and pasting articles from papers, scanning them, printing them, and distributing these reams of paper to offices every day - 1.5 million/year
  • CRM (constituent relationship management) - command-line type system
  • Intranet 1.0 - publishing info, no collaboration
  • Desktop PCs
  • Email 1.0 - intranet only, can't work from home
  • Managing our own data center - not a core competency, but we do a reasonable job

NYSenate CIO Mission

  • Transparency
  • Efficiency - more effective, less cost
  • Participation - give people a participatory role in government
  • Modeling 'best tech practices' for legislative bodies
  • Organize/share data internally/externally, improve internal/external communications

Site dissection

  • No staff with web development experience in January; started out w/ consulting firm
  • Built by April, launched in May
  • Had to train hundreds of staff people to use it as content creators
  • RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook
  • Popular/e-mailed/commented content, events, press releases/blogs/news clips
  • Almost 100 sites in one: 62 mini-sites for senators, 40-ish mini-sites for committees, issues/initiatives, legislation, open senate, about, photos & videos, newsroom
  • Previously, used proprietary CMS and external vendor - one party got better sites than the other, even with tax payer dollars covering everything
  • Senator directory - shows RSS/Twitter/Facebook (when available - been actively promoting this)
  • Senator pages: they stand on their own, all the info about the senator, he can post news releases/blog, news clips related to him, videos, RSS/Twitter/Facebook
  • Senators can create stories with visuals for their pages
  • Committees - each has its own stand-alone mini-site, with chairs, sign-up for newsletters, updates, video archive of meetings (will be live streams in January)
  • Submitting testimony on-line available in January
  • Issues & initiatives - marriage equality (aggregated all content from site), PSA (information about the census)
  • OpenLegislation: information should be freely available, searchable, sortable, permalinks
  • Open Senate initiative: OpenData (administrative info, how much who gets paid, what gets spent on what, etc.)
  • Data available in different formats - PDF, CSV, TXT, XLS, DOC
  • Contact forms for senators individually and for the site in general (press inquiry, webmaster)
  • Photos and videos - recording and, soon, livestreaming everything
  • Also available on YouTube; audio available on iTunes
  • Working on adding automated transcription
  • Blogger who works in the "newsroom" to create web-friendly content/press releases for the site


  • 131 modules + core required: activism, petition, administration, gmap/location modules, content templates, interrelated date & calendar, imageAPI/imagecache, and more!
  • Views: home page image carousel, event calendars, video/photo galleries, press releases, petitions, senators' pages
  • CCK: constituent stories, senate districts, events, expenditure reports, photos, polls, press releases, video, senator, committee)
  • 19 custom modules - custom views/blocks for the most part, permissioning system for Office and Web Editors
  • Upcoming: distributed authentication, ideas crowdsourcing, unified commenting
  • Working on implementing SOLR search - Acquia is now hosting our site as of today, we've so far been using native Drupal search
  • Embedded Media Field for video

Integration with other applications, social web

  • 15,000 viewers on for marriage equality debate
  • Social bookmarking for all content on the site
  • Some senators are using Facebook well and having open discussions with their constituents
  • was re-branding, now we use "nysenate" for everything
  • API so developers can take any of our open data and do things with it
  • Haven't made a final call about whether to keep using Discuss (external product) for commenting, or use Drupal's native commenting (there's a lot of configuring to do to get the seamless experience we want)
  • Sign up for updates about anything on the website; integrating w/ Bronto for e-mail blasts
  • Voting content up and down - needs to be elegant and incredibly easy, using a 3rd party solution right now and themed it like the main site

Everything else

  • New hosting - don't have the resources to host something like this; now moved to Acquia
  • New domain name - wanted .gov to force the issue of what you can/can't say (previously, it'd been used to say partisan, sometimes nasty things)
  • New policies (content creation, copyright, privacy, TOS, release of data, permissions)
  • New processes (requirements gathering, quality assurance - people who had previously done phone service or legacy systems, content creation workflows)
  • New talent (previously didn't have any web developers in-house, consulting contracts, staff)
  • New tools (videoconferencing, IRC Chat, Central Desktop- lightweight project management, Redmine- bug/feature tracking, ticketing tasks)
  • New training materials
  • New communications/PR

Guidelines & miscellanea

  • No political or campaign information - conveniently, with .gov we're not allowed to
  • Copyright policy - states can assert copyright if they want, but we went for CC BY-NC-ND for most things
  • Privacy policy - mirrored White House
  • Terms of participation - also mirrored White House
  • Post all code to Github
  • Use for replacement to paper clipping system
  • Hope that other legislative bodies will be able to reuse code
  • Had an Unconference (CapitolCamp) to hear what people think - some people were excited to pitch in, do things with API

Questions & feedback

  • Node Bulk Operations could be helpful
  • Had to take screenshots for a while to allow very non-tech-savvy senior people to see private things without the risk of them doing anything wrong with it (finding a better way for this)
  • Feedback from senators has been all over the map - actually the inverse of expected, where more Republicans were early adopters even when they weren't saying nice things about it in public
  • More Republicans were effective using Twitter and Facebook, more internally organized to identify opportunities and make the most of them collectively
  • Senators are learning that by making content easy for others to see and share, related content gets more views too
  • Google Analytics stats available for all senators available; special reports around particular events
  • 1.5 mil page views a month, on a big day, 50,000 unique views (marriage equality)
  • 40-50 comments on a hot bill
  • Not massive, shouldn't cause major performance headaches, but we had to do this in such a rush that we have a lot of refactoring to do to make sure it holds up okay under stress
  • If there's something broken, blogs publish screenshots - we have to be very vigilant
  • Want to make custom modules available; just haven't had the bandwidth, just have a code drop on github for now
  • Building relationships with CIOs of various state agencies - some of them have a lot more developers
  • PDFs have been the traditional publication format, including scanned documents; we've maintained that format for most data to accommodate the "I want to download and print" crowd - only last week got wifi in capitol building
  • For born-digital content, making it available as feeds in ways that will make it easier for people to use
  • More and more federal work being done in Drupal (; a couple state entities have put up rudimentary sites (liquor authority for state of New York)
  • Contacted mostly about policy issues for other states - comment moderating, copyright
  • Big national open data initiatives - community of practice around government transparency
  • Haven't sat down with Drupal developers to talk about roadmaps yet - we feel overwhelmedly busy right now
  • Third party to compare roadmaps, sort out implications for working together? It's a major undertaking
  • Sunlight foundation - encourages getting data out in mashable form; they give us feedback
  • Some senators have gamed the system by getting people to e-mail things they post so it gets on the "most e-mailed" list - this upsets other senators

Hoppin - at - Senate.State.NY.US