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Opening the Hood-and Code-Behind FCC.GOV/Maps

by: Eric Spry, Deputy Geographic Information Officer

March 20, 2012 - 02:33 PM

We have released a new module that drives our FCC.gov/maps page.  Often referred to as open sourcing our code, we are excited to release this for wider audience use and enhancements.

Over the past year, FCC.gov has gone through a major transformation.   The evolution of FCC.gov has been described on several occasions in the following blog posts: Taking a peek under hood new FCC.gov, MyFCC-BetaNew Features and Enhancements- FCC.gov, and Understanding Maps.  We use the open source software, Drupal, to drive our site. Presently, Drupal is the CMS behind more than 70.gov websites, (see: http://dotgov.benbalter.com/cms/drupal/ for a complete list) and more than 600,000 other sites. 

Open source technologies like Drupal allow users to add modules, features and enhancements, which plug-in to the main software.  The web experience can be easily tailored to the needs of each site's users by drawing from a wide range of contributed Drupal modules without the long development cycle of other website solutions. The result is a fast, customized website. 

The FCC uses TileMill, another open source software application, to make high-end cartography which is made available online as map tiles via our MapBox hosting account: http://tiles.mapbox.com/fcc. We saw an opportunity to bring these fast and flexible maps into FCC.gov to create a totally new maps. The result is SlashMaps for Drupal: http://drupal.org/project/slashmaps. This module automatically reads the maps in our MapBox account http://tiles.mapbox.com/fcc and publishes them on FCC.gov.  The released module is generalized so that any user can stand up a “/maps” page with MapBox.

The FCC takes a /maps approach because we recognize a very specific need in Internet map delivery.  Rather than  publishing a single large platform to meet multiple needs, we create customized maps for a specific Commission issue or a FCC policy action.  In this approach, the public, our stakeholders, and other consumers have fast and instant access to data about decisions made by the Commission without having to rely on a bulky application. Our approach, producing single map pages for single issues, found under /maps, is very easy to browse, search engine optimized, and delivers customized content cleanly and quickly. 

We strongly believe that by providing this module to Drupal.org and open source communities, the public will significantly benefit.  Drupal and MapBox users will instantly be able to stand up their own /maps page for their own sites. Moreover, other users will see how we approached this issue, add to our module, or innovate their own new features and contribute back to the open source community.  We look forward to these additions and making our own site even better.

Updated: April 18, 2012 - 08:45 AM
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