September 15, 2004

Webcontent.gov Web Standards

FCW.com reports today that Webcontent.gov wil be unveiled on September 29. This site will help federal agencies put up more uniform content and adhere to laws and best practices for information accessibility.

A GSA official said today that the Interagency Committee on Government Information's Web Content Standards Working Group has produced webcontent.gov to help government Web site designers with standards for publishing federal requirements, laws, regulations and other information.

"While many federal Web sites are superb, others need improvement," said Beverly Godwin, director of the FirstGov Web portal at the General Services Administration and executive sponsor for the working group. "Up until now, no one has pulled together in one place all the requirements for federal Web sites." Godwin spoke today at a GSA lunch honoring the fourth anniversary of FirstGov.gov.

Webcontent.gov will explain the laws and regulations Web managers should know, in addition to describing best practices. The site includes a discussion, a listserv and a library link.

Source: FCW.com, September 15, 2004

Posted by Ray Matthews on September 15, 2004 at 03:49 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

January 06, 2004

GILS First Ever Meeting in Dixie

The 6th Annual State GILS Conference will be March 31-April 3 in Raleigh, North Carolina for all interested in "Access to State Government Information."

This year's conference will be exciting and informative and a chance to see familiar faces as well as meet new ones. As the information has changed and evolved since the inception of GILS programs, this conference will provide a chance to reflect on the changes and consider the new challenges ahead.

Please note

  • there is an online registration form

  • you must register for your hotel room separately. Please call Sheraton Reservations at (919) 834-9900 and specify that you are with the North Carolina State Library Group. Do not make hotel reservations online.

  • the deadline for conference registration and for hotel reservations at the conference rate is MARCH 1

  • there will be a reception on the evening of Thursday, April 1, at the North Carolina Museum of History. We will have access to the special exhibition, "Pioneers of Aviation."

  • the agenda is still in planning and suggestions of additional topics and speakers are welcome

Best of all it will be spring in Raleigh while it's still winter here in the Rockies!

If you have any questions, please contact Craig Neilson here at the Utah State Library or the program chair, Kristin Martin, at the North Carolina State Library (919) 807-7445.

Conference Website: http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/digidocs/ConfWeb/Conf1.html

Past conferences: 2003 Lisle, IL - RSS presentation | 2002 Scottsdale AZ - State Docs Conference | 2001 Springfield, IL - Presentations | 2000 Sante Fe, NM | 1999 Olympia, WA

Posted by Ray Matthews on January 06, 2004 at 11:10 AM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

November 14, 2003

Upgrade Your GIS Skills

Utah's Automated Geographic Reference Center offers professional education courses to help you better your GIS geographic information systems skill sets. Both AGRC and Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) will offer training classes in using GIS software tools in the new ITS-AGRC training facility at the State Office Building. ATP-authorized AGRC staff will present introductory and intermediate GIS courses while ESRI provides instructors for advanced GIS topics. For registration information and class availability visit the online GIS Training Schedule or call Michelle Baksh, ITS Training Specialist, at 801-538-3461.

A good way to learn more about the impact of GIS technology in Utah government is to visit the Capitol rotunda in celebration of GIS Day 2003 this coming Wednesday, November 19, 2003, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. The event is sponsored by Utah�s Automated Geographic Reference Center, the Utah Geographic Information Council, Utah Association of Counties, Utah League of Cities and Towns, Wasatch Front Regional Council, and the Mountainland Association of Governments. Learn from displays how geographic information benefits state and local governments. Maps and poster presentations represent the substantial contributions that GIS technology is making in communities every day.

Posted by Ray Matthews on November 14, 2003 at 09:24 AM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

October 01, 2003

Making Content Findable Through SEO

Most users arrive at government web sites by using search engines so it makes a lot of sense to prepare content so that search engines can find it. It's so important that there is a cottage industry devoted to the science and art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here at GilsUtah we've been crawling and indexing Utah state agency and local government websites now for over year and we've discovered some all-too-common practices that present barriers to spiders. We've found that the content of some agencies is almost entirely blocked. In other cases UtahGov Search, Google, and others can retrieve some content, but only after manual intervention.

Here are some common problems preventing public access:

(1) Linking within javascripts. There are right ways and wrong ways to do this. Unfortunately, most of the content of an entire branch of government, an entire department, and many division sites is being missed because of this. The trend seems to be worsening.

(2) Creating urls with question marks. Some database and content management systems create dynamic urls with question marks. While most search engines provide a workaround, the workaround can cause other problems. There are usually ways for webmasters to manipulate their scripts to create static looking html urls that are both search engine friendly and easier for users to remember and bookmark.

(3) HTTPS protocol. Secure Socket Layers (SSL) cannot be penetrated by search engines. Agencies sometimes use this for publications and areas when they don't need to. Limit SSL to your financial transactions and other uses where encryption is necessary.

(4) File naming. You'd be surprised how often content creators include spaces in file names. The search engine retrieves them, but inserts "%20" as the escaped encoding for the US-ASCII space character. Users often find that the resulting links are bad or that the urls have become cryptic and undecipherable. It's not advisable, but if necessary use underscores or other unreserved characters like such as - ! and . instead of spaces and avoid other reserved characters like these: & : = / ; ? + and $.

(5) Directory hierarchies. Some agencies dump their entire content, including images and scripts, into a single directory. You should create subdirectories for administrative functions or programs that naturally lend themselves to being in their own directory. This aids search engine crawling and rule writing.

(6) No site map. It's amazing the number of sites that still lack site maps. Every site should have a site map linked (using a static A HREF link) from at least the homepage. This helps get around the javascript linking problem, and site maps can be used to as crawling starting pages.

(7) Use robots.txt files, appropriately. All search engines respect robots.txt files. If you want directories and files excluded, use robots.txt (or .htaccess protection) instead of hiding resources or limiting them to the innerweb. Be careful, though. I can think of at least one agency whose important services are inaccessible because of an improper use of robots.txt.

What we hope to do in the coming year is to create a dialogue amongst agency webmasters and content creators to come up with best practices for optimizing our sites for search engines. We'll be offering workshops here at the Utah State Library and creating an easy to use and open knowledge base and code library of some nature so that we can share our discoveries and communicate.

Some of this gets technical beyond my experience, so I'll need your help. For starters, you can leave comments here with this story or links to resources that you've found helpful. Please contact us at the Government Information Locator Service with suggestions or to let us know that you're someone that we should get with. You can also subscribe here to receive helpful news by email.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on October 01, 2003 at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1) | Send this story to a friend!

June 16, 2003

Michael Sauers Web Training - Don't Miss!

Our two Michael Sauers web design seminars our rapidly filling up. Michael is the author of XHTML Essentials and the forthcoming XHTML and CSS Essentials for Library Web Design, and he teaches Internet and Web design workshops full-time for BCR. Don't delay if you're interested in attending.

July 11 -- Web Design: Designing for Accessibility -- 9-12 a.m. -- Utah State Library
This half-day seminar addresses a variety of accessibility issues and demonstrates how good web design can minimize the problems that impaired users have in using Internet-based library resources. Fee: $10.00.

July 11 -- Web Design: Moving from HTML to XHTML -- 1-4 p.m. -- Utah State Library
Welcome to the new generation of Web-based publishing. HTML has been completely rewritten and is now called XHTML. Spend this half-day in a hands-on environment learning about this new version and the hows and whys of migrating to it on your Web site. Fee: $10.00.

You can register for these from the gilsUtah training page.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on June 16, 2003 at 09:49 AM | | Comments (3) | Send this story to a friend!

May 27, 2003

Summer Seminars for Webmasters

The State Library is pleased to announce two half-day summer seminars for Webmasters taught by Internet authority Michael Sauers. Michael teaches Internet and Web design workshops for BCR, and is the author of XHTML Essentials.

Web Design: Designing for Accessibility, July 11, 2003 (9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon), addresses a variety of accessibility issues and demonstrates how good web design can minimize the problems that impaired users have in using Internet-based library resources. Workshop Fee: $10.00.

Web Design: Moving from HTML to XHTML is offered July 11, 2003, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Welcome to the new generation of Web-based publishing. HTML has been completely rewritten and is now called XHTML. Spend time in a hands-on environment learning about this new version and the hows and whys of migrating to it on your Web site. Workshop Fee: $10.00.

Both seminars will be held at the Utah State Library Computer Training Lab, 250 N. 1950 W., Salt Lake City. For more information, contact K. C. Benedict, Continuing Education Coordinator at 800-662-9150, 801-715-6744, or kbenedic@utah.gov.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 27, 2003 at 02:53 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

May 06, 2003

Web Accessibility Developments

Dave Fletcher reports today in Government and Technology Weblog, that Utah CIO Val Oveson has, in a memo to state agencies, "reconfirmed the State's commitment to website accessability standards. The Utah State Library is supporting the effort by providing third party assessments of agency compliance and training for agency personnel." Lou Reinwand at the State Library is coordinating this Section 508 Compliancy Program and training.

Yesterday, the State Library was contacted by HiSoftware Company regarding possible statewide licensing of AccMonitor Server, AccVerify, and AccRepair desktop client for Utah state agencies. Although we've been reviewing AccMonitor with them since last November, the licensing offer is new. The State of Kentucky, through their Governor's Office for Technology, negotiated a similar deal last month.

Those unaquainted with these products may appreciate two recent reviews appearing in TechRepublic of AccVerify and AccMonitor. HiSoftware has offered to provide a short online demo of these products to the monthly eDG meeting.

The State Library's Section 508 Accessibility Training scheduled for May 13 is being rescheduled because one of our instructors, Colleen Eggett, will be out for the week for her daughter's wedding. Please contact Lou for information about attending future training.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 06, 2003 at 03:55 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!