Thursday, May 31, 2007

Makeover for

Users of (over 850,000 unique users per month) will discover a new look this morning. The biggest difference, however, is not in the look of the site, but in some of the features. The site features three prominent search options.

The first selection is a services search which is an AJAX-driven search of over 660 Utah state online services. We have also added a over a 120 local and federal services. From here, the user can go to this page where you can search all of these services by agency, by category, etc. The large number of distinct services dictated a different approach. I imagine we will continue to refine these options as the number of things that a citizen can do online continues to grow. For example, we may want to allow citizens to contribute tags, etc. Right now, the tagging and indexing is based to some degree on user activity, but is not as social as it might be.

The second search allows users to look for an agency and pull up a Google map of the department's location, etc. We will also continue to improve this service with additional enhancements.

The third search is the new Google custom search that we implemented in late April. I just checked and we have had over 194,000 searches performed in the first month.

We have added a multimedia portal branded Utah GovCast. This database-driven portal, just in its infancy right now, will allow users to browse the multimedia content produced by the State, including some very relevant content from the federal government and from Utah's colleges and universities in cooperation with State agencies.

There are several new sub-portals featured under the Explore Utah section that I would encourage you to look at, particularly the new Utah Travel portal and the new State Parks site. Thumb through the beautiful photo book on or checkout this mashup of state parks.

We really hope that all these enhancements will improve the user experience. I'd love to hear any comments.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Missouri Looking at Social Media

Kirk Keller, who works with the Missouri Department of Conservation has an interesting blog on the use of "social media" in government. His blog has some good stuff in it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

eGov Strategies

In his e-Government at Large blog, Alan discusses how he has never seen an email sent to him advertising a government services online. And how perhaps that is the reason why the adoption rate on services is so low. Several months ago, a Utah agency was contemplating this issue and decided to send out a postcard advertising the online renewal service instead of their normal packet of information. Not only did they save a lot of money on postage, but the adoption rates for they online service skyrocketed from around 20% to about 95% almost overnight. Just points out the need, we have to think outside our normal patterns for doing business. If we do, the potential is tremendous.

Surpha buys AFCNet

Dave Rodeback reports that his logo design is the new official logo for the City of American Fork. As a citizen of AF, I like it. I hope he doesn't mind if I post it here. I'm also interested in his report that the city has accepted a proposal from Surpha to buy the municipal fiber network. Sure hope it works out.

National Science Foundation

This collage represents the twelve major research areas funded by the National Science Foundation. Can you tell what they all are?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ecomeme from Spain to the U.S.

Javier Linares wants me to carry the Ecomeme initiative that he is extending "across the pond." The idea is sort of like a chain letter, except using a blog network, to involve people in some kind of proactive environmental initiative. This one originates in Spain, a country I certainly care a lot about. I can certainly support that concept. Carlos Guadian is also participating. Now, if I link to you at the end of this post, the idea is for you to carry it forward.

As far as myself, I have been supportive of a variety of environmental initiatives. Over 10 years ago, I chaired a group to write the State of Utah's first alternative fuels plan. Now, with the price of gasoline spiraling upward, we are maybe seeing the results of not being more proactive. Certainly, it is time to become better stewards in the way that we use this and other finite resources. Last night, Governor Huntsman mentioned his interest in alternative fuel vehicles on a radio show. He also discussed Utah's participation in the Climate Registry. So I'll put in a good word for the Clean Cities program here in the state. While you're looking around, I invite you to sign up for the Utah Energy Office email list.

Finally, I will pass this on to:
  • Ken Thompson, author of The Bumblebee
  • Barbara Haven, insightful blogger working with California government IT
  • Jim Stewart, thought-provoking manager of UEN technical services
  • Tom Warne, former UDOT executive director who understands transportation issues from top to bottom.
  • Steve Clift, the author of the DoWire newsletter for democracies online.
I'm sure that each of these individuals has some great insights on how to improve some aspect of our environment.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heidi Rodeback on AFC Net

In my 12 years of experience on the internet, the service provided by American Fork City Network is unparalleled. For $37 a month, the ethernet connection to my home is outstanding. The service is always available and there is plenty of bandwidth. The only problem is that it is a city service in the red (in Spanish red=network). Here's what Heidi Rodeback (American Fork City Council Member and regular blogger) has to say:

"Much as I love my high-speed connection to the AFCnet-- in my part of town, it's reliable -- I can't look the taxpayer in the eye and tell him we're leaving roads unfinished because we want to go $1 million in the red on municipal broadband."

Ouch, I sure hope they can make it successful. Should be if they could muster another 5,000 subscribers.


Last week, I pointed to Swivel where I had created a Utah Data Group for sharing data and graphs. I hope that a few of you will join and participate. Today, I looked briefly at a similar service created by IBM called Many Eyes. You can use the service to create dynamic visualizations based on any data set that you select or upload, such as this chart comparing home ownership in the states over time:

Senate Web Site

Senator John Valentine, President of the Utah Senate, explains on The Senate Site what they are trying to accomplish by hosting a blog that presents opinions and activities of the senate in this format. He discusses the importance of communication from elected officials to their constituents:

"Government needs to communicate with citizens – and vice versa. We try to facilitate this a hundred different ways.
  • Award-winning, citizen-friendly web sites;
  • E-mail correspondence;
  • Direct phone conversations;
  • Live streaming video of chamber activity;
  • Streaming audio of chamber activity (both live and archived);
  • On-line audio of our legislative committee meetings (live and archived);
  • Personal meetings with groups and individuals;
  • Etcetera. I’m sure I’ll think of more as I'm going to sleep tonight."
The Senate Site is an excellent example of how public officials can better communicate with their constituents.

President Valentine further elaborates, "Web 2.0 is different than working through a reporter because we can speak directly to the public, in our own voice, and our constituents can respond, anonymously or otherwise. I like the opportunity and the accountability."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Climate Action Initiative

photo by ashergrey.
Governor Huntsman met with California Governor Schwarzenegger today to discuss their participation in the Western Region Climate Action Initiative. The initiative establishes a multi-state greenhouse gas registry to track, manage and credit entities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA Publishes New Chinese Website

With a population of 1,321,851,888, China will have a growing impact on the global environment. That is certain. With that in mind, the EPA has a new Chinese language website. Utah's Governor, Jon Huntsman Jr. is probably one of the few governor's to speak Mandarin in the U.S. Watch the video as he invites Chinese to visit Utah.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New Format for Government Technology

Nick Mudge announces that Government Technology magazine has a new look. This is a publication that I have accessed for years. They do a great job covering the field of e-government. The publication now includes a media center with video from prominent government IT leaders like California's PK Agarwal.

I also wanted to mention yesterday, the great new look of Google Analytics. We have been using it to track activity on since last October. The newly revised tool, still in beta, provides great reporting capabilities and data that can be extremely useful in determining how to improve your site.

Ray Matthews, one of the great librarians down at the Utah State Library, informed me of their new website, Ray is meeting today with librarians from Utah's depository libraries, the traditional network of libraries where government documents are officially stored and made available. The advent of the web over the past 13 years has significantly changed their role and they are responding to it. provides a number of new useful searches of official government documents.

Utah Web Standards and Guidelines

The new State of Utah Web Standards and Guidelines are now in effect. We have also created a custom search engine that covers the extensive standards document as well as over 60 sites that are referenced (such as W3C standards) in the document. The new standards address many issues that were not covered previously, including Web 2.0, metrics, GIS, mashups, etc.

All three components of the Utah eGov Strategic Plan are also now online. We are planning to release the last two pieces in June and July.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wildlife Disease Information Node

The WDIN is a fantastic collaborative effort that uses social networking tools to share information about wildlife diseases. I immediately subscribed to their WDIN New Content and News Blog RSS feeds in my Google reader. Content looks to be current and dynamic. The following government partners are involved in the network:


Department of Homeland Security – Infectious Disease Informatics Working Group
USDA – APHIS – Wildlife Services and state cooperators
USDA – APHIS – Veterinary Services
USFWS and state cooperators
USGS National Wildlife Health Center

State / Regional

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Idaho Fish and Game
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

I wonder where Utah is in this effort. I know that we have a very creative Wildlife Division that is doing great things with podcasts, multimedia, mashups, online services, etc.

Monday, May 14, 2007

eGov in Utah

I appreciate the nice comments from Steve Urquhart, one of Utah's leading legislators, but I certainly can't take much credit. With over 650 services, is the combined effort of many agencies and individuals. The new portal design and services that will go live by the end of the month will make it easier to find and use those services. With such a diversity of services, we can no longer expect the traditional method of indexing those services to be efficient, so users will have some new ways to get at them. Our services database will also include city and county services as well as some federal government services (those which are likely to be of greatest interest to Utahns) and will be locatable through an enhanced Ajax search as well as a tag cloud, along with the traditional agency and A-Z browse capabilities.

I happened to look at the Utah Senate blog and noticed that John Massey is retiring as the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. I appreciate John's professionalism during the time he has served in this important capacity. I can still remember discussing the use of Acrobat and RealMedia with John many years ago as tools to enhance access to Utah legislative activities.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Swicki Search

Nick Mudge mentions the egov swicki that I created last night in his blog. I just noticed that you can include RSS feeds as a source for the swicki search so I have included the feed for everything tagged with egovernment by all users. So now, everytime someone tags a page with the egovernment tag in, it will be added to the swicki.

I also just noticed that Carlos Guadian from Barcelona has also created an e-government swicki.

I have also created a Utah Data Group on swivel to share statistical information and graphs from the State of Utah.

State Government Websites

Every year at this time, I try to review all of the state websites knowing that this is when many choose to make major enhancements to their portals. Here are a few of the things I have noticed:
  • Indiana - Indiana's new portal is a beautiful site and a major improvement from the previous version. The dynamic photo news element in the center is captivating and dynamic and draws the users attention. The page focuses your attention on news and online services.
  • Rhode Island's "media central" contains pages for blogs, podcasts, calendars (focusing on ical interoperability) and more. Rhode Island (along with Utah) was one of the first states to start publishing RSS feeds. I have been creating a list of government calendars in Utah to do something similar with the calendars, in addition to the statewide calendar of public meetings that will be created in response to this year's legislation.
  • Montana's new site is compact and functional.
  • I still can't decide if I like California's new portal better than the old.
  • I've always liked, but they have made it harder to locate state governments by removing it from its previous location at the upper left hand of the page.
  • Kentucky's Get Healthy initiative has a flash user-focused interface.
  • I like Alabama's e11 directory. Alabama has become one of the better state portals.
  • There used to be several really bad state portals. Now there is only one, but I'm not going to say which one it is.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Time to Explain

Having gone 3 months without a single post is not only unusual, it has not happened since I first started to blog in May 2002. So many things have taken over. The first three years, posting was a religious activity with new posts several times a day. I learned a lot from that activity and made many new friends from around the world who shared my passion for egov. That interest has not dissipated, but the world surrounding it has become increasingly complex for me. At any given time, I probably have 50-60 browser windows open with stuff that I am working on. New tools, new websites, new research, analysis, etc. Then in the hours between 10pm and 2am my life is spent much in virtual realms. Joi Ito and Ross Mayfield and Boyd Webb can all appreciate and understand this.

So, I may get to explain some of the things that I am working on and involved with if I ever get the time: a new release of the portal, our Google GSE and sitemapping partnership, a new multimedia portal, a utahegov wiki, an implementation of Sugar CRM for Utah entrepreneurship, new mashups, a five part Strategic eGov plan, State of Utah web standards, ESB, cataloging over 650 Utah online services, IT support for the Governor's Office of Economic Development, an annual egov conference, statewide GPS systems, USTAR, business continuity, and more. It is all interesting stuff, but it consumes time.

Meanwhile, life goes on, there is more to learn. I have been looking at a lot of fascinating web 2.0 tools, some of which are completely new, others just value-added remakes of things we already have. Here are a few: