Coding HTML By Hand in Government

Gwynne Kostin has written about how efforts like the Online Presidential Town Hall can reveal larger problems. In her article, she mentions that world-class government web sites, like the Centers for Disease Control, hand-code web pages.

Most large-scale web sites use some sort of content management system (CMS) to publish and organize their web sites. Even small-scale web sites (like this one) use a CMS for their work. This site runs on WordPress, for example. I don’t need to know code to update my site; I just have to type into a box on a web page.

Why does this matter? Who cares if some government sites hand-code web pages? Hand coding means that you need people who know how to code HTML in order to update your web site. Using a CMS means that anyone can update the site. This is only one of many advantages (templates, editorial workflow, security) that a CMS has over hand-coding.

The lack of up to date tools means that many in government use off the shelf tools like Blogger, Flickr and Google Docs to get their work done. This is admirable and creative – smart people will always develop solutions to problems – but does not come without cost, as Kostin underlines:

The reliance on the cheap and the intuitive rather than the quality and the researched supports the lack of a cohesive government-wide approach to using technology to improve government.

The poor folks stuck hand-coding web sites would certainly welcome such an approach, especially if it resulted in a content management system designed to make their jobs easier. It would also make government sites – and government workers – much more productive and efficient. This is type type of Web 1.0 activity that government should be working on.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer and photographer from Washington, DC. He is the author of the mystery novel The Swamp, as well as articles, short stories and screenplays. In his spare time, he likes wandering about the city with a camera.

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