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Blog Posts by Benjamin J. Balter

Taking a Peek Under the Hood of the New FCC.Gov

by Benjamin J. Balter, New Media Fellow
July 26, 2011 - 12:41 PM

Public dot-gov sites are playing a big role in delivering on the promises of open government. As many people know, government sites -- for example -- are becoming active participants in this conversation between citizens, developers and dot gov teams. We’re proud that the new has been able to contribute, and we wanted to give an overview of the community-driven features that power our site.

wrench rustAs previously announced, the site relies on the open-source content management system (CMS) Drupal to organize and present the content that users see -- content such as the encyclopedia, newsroom and even this blog post.

While the open-source platform offers many features on its own, we’re leveraging other Drupal add-ons, commonly known as “modules,” to add functionality. Modules can either be purpose-built for a particular site, or taken from a common repository of open-source, community-contributed modules. Think of it as the difference between creating your own recipe and using one from your favorite cookbook. On the new, we use a mix of both custom and contributed modules.

Contributed Modules

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Contributing Code Back:’s Open-Source Feedback Loop

by Benjamin J. Balter, New Media Fellow
July 6, 2011 - 12:59 PM

Here at the FCC, we're always excited when we can contribute to open source software. Open source software is just like any other software, except the creator publishes the underlying source code that powers the application, allowing others to improve upon or adapt the project to their own needs, and hopefully, contribute those improvements back to the community to do the same. Think of it as the software equivalent of the “give a penny, take a penny” jar at your local convenience store.


Many popular applications and technologies you or I may use on a daily basis have open source software under the hood: Facebook (PHP) and Twitter (Hadoop), Wikipedia (MediaWiki),cell phones (Android), your web browser (Firefox), even (Drupal, PHP, jQuery, Apache, Solr, MySQL).

Today we follow up on our March release of DeveloperView, with two small open-source releases. The FCC became the first .gov to contribute to WordPress, a content management system that silently powers just over 13% of the Internet, with a faceted search widget. The tool, which we use internally to track migration of content from the old site to the new site, allows users to refine search results - not too dissimilar from the filter by type filters in the right sidebar of's search results.

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