Talking Drupal #216 - Drupal for Gov

June 23, 2019
In episode #216 with talk with Abby Bowman about Drupal for Government. The audio has some minor issues in this episode, but the content is great.

Listen:

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Topics
  • Why Drupal is a good fit for Government?
  • Benefits of using Drupal?
  • Challenges with using Drupal?
  • Areas where Drupal may not be a good fit?
  • Challenges with Gov (in general)?
  • Accessibility. Multilanguage and Security
  • Drupal GovCon

Transcript
Stephen
This is talking Drupal, a weekly chat about web design and development from a group of guys with one thing in common. We love Drupal. This is Episode 216 Drupal for Gov.

Good afternoon, gentlemen.

Howdy. Howdy, howdy. We are recording on an off day this week I was traveling.

This is Stephen Cross. I was in DC as I am frequently and glad to be home. And with me as usual is john cozy from home. What john what's going on with you this week?

John
Just coming off recording our Drupal nine webinar yesterday. Can if you're interested in that, you can find that on our blog. There are videos that slides up there.

It'll answer most, if not all of your Drupal nine questions. So it was fun. Got to get to do that. It's a little bit.

Not not having that safety net of the possibility of post production with a live webinar is a little little nerve wracking, but right. That's all right. I think Alan and I did just just fine. Yeah, came out.

Stephen
Well, I listened to it. Good job. I think I tweeted it out on talking Drupal feed. And we'll certainly have it in the show notes. So good to you guys for doing that. And Also joining us is Nick Laflin. Nick, we need your weekly update on your yard. What's going on?

Nic
Yeah, so I think I'm gonna have pictures this week. I've been spreading the dense grade gravel over the last couple of days. It turns out that companies that deliver gravel sand that kind of thing fairly inconsistent with their load sizes are the same on both And got vastly different quantities.

John
Was it the same price?

Nic
Yeah, yeah, they didn't charge extra

John
you should just sell for profit.

Stephen
He had enough trouble so get rid of the last stuff for free.

Nic
Yeah, actually I found it once we hit the weekend it actually went in one day. So that wasn't wasn't too bad. It was just during the week people didn't really want to come. But once it was the weekend, you know, people were people came quick and people put dirt in their trunk, the trunk of the car and watch it as I'm not kidding a guy drove 40 minutes and shovel dirt in the back of his sedan and then came back two hours later for another trunk full of dirt.

Stephen
That is crazy. Did he line it with plastic?

Nic
He did. I don't know. I don't know how he could have asked him what he was doing with that dirt. No, I did. He said he's redoing his lawn. One trunk full of Dirt at a time.

John
I need it to cover the bodies.

Stephen
That's That's fascinating.

All right. Well, let's get on to our, our guest today we have a guest who's been very quiet. so far. We have Abby Bowman joining us. She's the chief. Is it just chief? Is that the title? I can't quite get the web media brands. Yeah, you know, it's funny. So I've been working with the government for a while and they have these titles that aren't like CEO and president and vice president. And it's never been quite clear in my head.

What a

Abby
It's different for every agency always. If you go to a different agency, they'll have a completely different structure of titles to

so.

Stephen
So okay, so when you say you're the chief of the web media branch, I picture like a like some sort of emblem you were on your shirt, right? This is chief?

Abby
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've got, you know, the badge, the star all that. Yep. Sheriff. I like to go as the sheriff Exactly.

Stephen
So Abby is also the deputy was also the Deputy Director of Digital Egagement at the US Department of Commerce, Public Affairs Specialist at select USA in the International Trade Administration. She's a member of the organizing team for Drupal. gov con. So we get to talk about that a little bit today. Welcome, Abby.

Abby.

Abby
Thank you very excited to be here.

Stephen
So I invited Abby on to talk about her experience with Drupal and doing government work, which you can tell from our history she's been doing for a while now. So Abby, how did you actually get into computer stuff and the technical side of this to start? Because I don't Yeah, that you like came to a computer science degree in school?

Abby
No, I've kind of a weird history of path of getting here. So well, actually in middle school. I was a Johnston Middle School webmaster. So I was learning HTML CSS back then. And I won't say how long ago that was. But then I got through high school and college I kind of completely dropped that whole career path and I was a lot more interested in history and politics and international relations. I ended up getting a masters and Autumn in history, but I was spending a lot of time over in Istambul. And then I kind of reached the point where I got sick of academia, decided I'd much rather read history books, other people wrote and write them myself. And I was looking for a new career. So I had a lot of writing. And I'd always had that interest in tech and websites from going back a long ways. So when I found a program that is kind of called the Presidential Management fellowship, and if you have a grad degree, it's kind of an open door into the government. So kickstart your government career without falling into the USA Jobs black hole. And so even though I had a pretty unusual degree for that program, it allowed me to jump into government at Department of Commerce. And once I got there, I was doing general public affairs, but I kept which website was part of my responsibilities there. First was select usa.gov I just that was my favorite part of my job, they were part of going to work every day. And so as I kind of moved through different parts of commerce,I just kind of kept getting more and more focused on the website at each level. So I ended up running commerce.gov. For a few years up there, we made the transition from Drupal seven to Drupal eight, which was nerve wracking, but exciting. And then this job opened up at ATFs to help run atf.gov and bring us into Drupal eight as well. And so now I got to the point where I would see Drupal in a job description and get really excited because I knew that was what I love most about the work I was doing on my website.

Stephen
So really, nothing much has changed since middle school. You are a webmaster back then. And you're a webmaster now.

Abby
Exactly. I love that title. People are like no, we shouldn't use that word anymore. I love it. It's just a forever.

Nic
Yeah, so so how big is the Presidential Management fellowship program? Like how many people?

Abby
Oh, that is a great question. I think in my class, there was it was like Probably in the hundreds. So but but you know, thousands of people apply. And it's a pretty tough process to get through. But once you're in, they really put a huge emphasis on training. So they make they require your agency to give you 80 hours of training on pretty much whatever you want in your first two years in government, and require them to let you go on a rotation into a different agency or office. And so unlike I think, coming through the normal door of USA Jobs, it really kind of guarantees that you get to try different stuff out, get a lot of training. And I think it has a better retention rate for keeping people in government careers. There's a similar program called Presidential Innovation fellowship you guys might have heard of, and that's for folks coming especially tech folks coming from private sector to just spend a couple years in the government contribute, make their mark and then hop back out to private sector. So that's another option. your listeners might be might be intersted in.

Stephen
So your experience in the last two jobs has been with Drupal. Have you had experience with other CMSs in in government?

Abby
Not in government? Well, so while Department of Commerce, I ran our web Council and so we had 12 different bureaus within Department of Commerce, anyone from Noah, Patent and Trademark Office, the International Trade Administration. So we really cover a huge range of areas. And many of those, many were on Drupal, but many were also on different CMS is like Adobe, we had one one that was just pure HTML, more power to them. So it was a huge range of sizes of websites, audiences and CMS. And yet we had to create policy at the department level that everyone could follow,even whether they were on a CMS, no matter what CMS it was, or on a regular HTML site.

Nic
So maybe you can answer this question that I've had for a long time. Why is a part of departmner of commerce

Abby
I think originally it was because commerce was so based on ships, right and a naval trade. And so Noah was responsible for all the weather that that determined to trade. Okay, that's kind of the closest I can get.

Stephen
It's is similar to the question often is why is Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms under the Department of Justice? Right?

Abby
Right. It's a historical thing more than anything to do with what we do now. Exactly. But that the logo of the Seal of Commerce has a lighthouse in it. And so that that kind of harkens back to where the weather the sea conditions really determined what you're going to be trading, how they tied together as they are America's data agency. And so whenever we're talking about huge amounts of critical data, whether it's about the economy or the environment, commerce is the home for that. So that kind of links Noah and our other big data

Stephen
Okay, so Abby, you got you said, when the ATFs job came up, you got excited. And you implied that that was partly because of Drupal. Why do you think Drupal is a good fit for government?

Abby
Oh, and I have some experience with WordPress, just on the personal side. But I think the huge difference between Drupal and other CMS is out there is it's incredibly huge and helpful community of contributors and users, and especially in the government space. So not just Feds across the world, other countries, governments, but also state and local, and universities. And so there's a really big community of people who aren't trying to sell anything, but are trying to get information out to the public in a clear way, and are also interested in using open source and open source. And this is Congress has verified this countless times with their laws open source is the perfect fit for government because we are contributing back into our tech sector by putting our code back out into the public and sharing it. And it also helps make our websites and digital products much better to have the public commenting and viewing our code. And so from the open source perspective, from the community of support perspective, Drupal just makes sense for government, it's a really, really good fit.

Stephen
No, no, from a from an open source perspective, let's say we we've just finished building ATFs, Drupal 8 site, let's put that out is that that gets built sometime in the future. Does government have policies around now that code should be should be are is required to be shared to any other government agency?

Abby
Yes, not just the government agency, but shared to the public and don't quote me on the percent. But there is a law that says it's between like 20 and 50%, of all of your code that the taxpayer dollars paid for must be made public. And this is so this is usually implemented in the CIO shop, rather the public affairs shop. And it is very, very tricky, because it doesn't specify is it 50% of any particular code project? Or is it just 50% of all of your code projects? How do you handle if you're building a more sensitive application that there are actual security concerns with releasing? And so that's something I think we have the government are still figuring out? How, how do we even measure how good of a job we're doing complying with that law? And then what even when we do put it out, are we doing a good job with actually engaging with folks who are submitting issues to our code repositories, there's ways you can push your code out in the open. But if your community if your office isn't set up to handle public feedback, and engage on your code base and support people trying to use it, kind of a moot point?

Nic
And then what what kind of channels do you guys use to put code out there? I mean, is it just each shop decides their own process? Or is it like it goes to a library Congress, for example, and that counts?

Abby
No. So right now, it's every agency has their own policy, and then it's almost always out through GitHub. So each agency and office often have GitHub Pages. And they'll put their open source code out through that. So that's the most common way I've seen of sharing your code. But really, it's an agency by agency decision on how it's shared, and where it's posted. And even what is shared.

Stephen
What would you say is some of the challenges you've seen in the Drupal implementations that you've had?

Abby
Oh, I think one challenge. So okay, so kind of in general, stepping back from Drupal a little bit, a big challenge is always adhering with policies, especially accessibility is a huge, huge mission of the government to make sure every digital product we put out there is accessible to our entire community. And so actually, with Drupal, I think this is a lot easier than with other CMSs, especially with 8 , because a lot of those accessible accessibility issues are baked in. But I know a lot of our bureaus from commerce who are on other CMS is that was something that was a struggle, besides accessibility. other challenges with Drupal. Oh, I would say it's a steep learning curve. I think that's fair. Even though you have this great community and a lot of great free training and free conferences and camps, it is still a learning curve. WordPress kind of promises you this, this out of the box, click a button, everything works. And I think with Drupal 8, and their new Umami, and a base site that you can install, we're getting a lot closer to that experience for people new to Drupal, but we still have a long way to go. And we also in government, we have a lot of folks who have been with the government a long time as developers or as web folks, and are new to Drupal, but have experienced kind of did their their learning for web development in an earlier age. We've talked like people who were building cold fusion sites, right? I think ATF one of its earlier sites was on that. So making sure they can get up to speed on Drupal is a little bit tougher than maybe some other CMS is. But once your team is up to speed, I think the maintenance is a lot lot easier on Drupal.

Nic
So, you mentioned the learning curve is those deep when? And it sounds like you first got involved in Drupal at the Department of Commerce. was that? Was your role at that point, like a developer? Or was your role kind of overseeing the project? How did you? How was that process for you?

Abby
Yeah, so I was purely a public affairs person who was interested enough in the website to go bug my colleagues over in the on the dev team and come to them with kind of feature requests. Eventually, I was in Scrum with them every morning, because I was working really, really closely with them to migrate to eight. But at the very beginning, when I joined, we had a weekly meeting with the does to talk through what our needs were from the public affairs point. So I came in kind of being the group, the back end of Drupal to put content in and that was all I knew about it. And so as time went on, I took some site building classes, went to a few DrupalGov cons and started getting more and more familiar with it. And I gotta do a shout out to two colleagues from commerce who've now moved on to bigger and better things. Tim wood and Allison McCauley, were both fantastic people fantastic devs and both of them really kind of helped teach me a lot of what I know about Drupal.

Stephen
So what do you think Drupal does not fit?

Abby
Whoo, good question. So obviously, I think if you are doing a single page site, if you're doing kind of a small campaign where you want to get something out there to the public super quickly, and it's, you don't really need different content types or more complicated data structures. Drupal is probably not your best bet. Because it will take so much investment to get a site running and you don't need a lot of the features that Drupal brings to the table or really any CMS. So there's Federalist is an excellent kind of static site service. That's run I think GSA gives that service out to the federal government. But basically, you use I think it's a Jekyll based, very, very basic CMS to maintain a simple static site. And that's probably what I recommend, especially for really, really small teams, where they're just trying to keep a small website up and running and updated. And then, yeah,

Nic
sorry, I just want to clarify a federalist is different than the Federalists. Like newsletter, right? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. federalist have never heard of it.

Abby
Yeah, no, it's a it's a service just for federal agencies, I believe. Let me find the website for it really quick. But GSA puts it out. And it's they host your site. And you it's a super simple Jekyll a CMS and you just log in and edit your

Stephen
they'll do something in markdown or something. Right. And it generates pages ?

Abby
Exactly.

So it's a good it's a good for folks who don't have a dev team. Yeah, so the site is Federalists.18f.gov. So if you're a Fed agency with with small sites, and not a big dev support group, that's a really good resource.

Stephen
What's a 18f?

Abby
Oh, good question. 18f is this kind of small group of innovators, maybe not so small. Now they started smaller, but they're pretty big now within GSA. And now, so there's also there's kind of a couple different pretty innovative groups out there. And government, there's also TTS the technology transformation service. And, you know, I'm not entirely sure I could tell you the difference between 18f and TTS, but I know they're, they're always putting out really good webinars and blog posts, and innovate on innovation and government and digital services. So they're always kind of great places to look for what's on the cutting edge. That being said, sometimes they are so cutting edge, they're doing stuff that it's very, very hard for us to convince our own leadership and IT folks to agree to in our own agencies. So they're good to see what's coming up. But they're not always indicative of if they're doing something I might not be able to do in my agency today. But it is something to kind of work towards with your general counsel with your CIO shop.

Stephen
So being involved with government the last few years, I can see that government has its challenges when you're doing any kinds of projects or anything, but maybe highlight some of those those challenges that you've seen from a project and tech side, and maybe Are there any that specific to Drupal at all?

Sure. mentioned kind of policies and laws a bit, right, those are constantly being some of them are pretty out of date, Congress a few thousand years or decades ago, they don't really apply to modern website building projects. Others have been recently updated. So the idea act as a great example of this. So it's a new law Congress put out, it kind of brings together a lot of things that were considered best practices or policies and actually enact them, it's like your site must be mobile responsive, your site actually has to have a consistent look and feel a consistent design across your website has to be accessible that was already in section 508. So the idea Act is a good example of the wording is, is pretty ambiguous in some sections, and we as a web community in the federal government, are kind of still struggling to really understand what that means. And so in this example, a really good colleague of mine over at DHS called together this, we call it Tiger team of leaders in the web development federal community. And we made it so that everyone can kind of gather their questions, but from every kind of office and level of government, to push over to OMB and GSA to get some answers on the idea act. So we don't kind of just sit back and wait for policy to come out, all of us that are really trying to be proactive, look at what's coming up, not just hold ourselves to the bare minimum, but really push to best practices, because eventually the laws will catch up with where we we know we need to be. Other issues, let's see, the legal landscape is kind of even just separate from laws and policies. Legal wise, you got to have really good government appropriate Terms of Service. If for any free tool, you use any social media site you're on. And those are not something everyone's lawyers are familiar with. So it sometimes takes us going to our lawyers and the agency in educating them on problematic clauses in terms of service and making sure we can get those free tools like Slack, GitHub, even all those we need to have government Terms of Service signed before we can even start using them. And that's agency by agency, there's no such thing as signing a terms of service that applies to every single government agency.

That doesn't seem too efficient.

Abby
right, too easy. I don't know why. So GSA does have kind of example, terms of service that they share with us on digital.gov. And so but we still have to take those back to our lawyers and get our lawyers to sign them. And a lot of times, your lawyers might not want to sign those.

Nic
Yes, I imagine that's probably due to the fact that each agency has very different needs. I mean, I imagine right, you know, the CIA's requirements are very different than, you know, the FTC. And

Stephen
and maybe privacy issues too. Like, when agencies private, and have you thinking like a generic tool like slack? You know, you would think that an agency's requirements wouldn't be all that different. But maybe there's security and privacy concerns.

Abby
And that's something so that kind of brings us to a final challenge of the relationship between public affairs and the Chief Information Officer, the IT side of the agency, often there's a pretty big chasm between those two offices, because we both have very different needs and very different motives and requirements. And so security is a great example of this, where we say we want to use slack to collaborate, because that'll help us get better websites and content out more quickly, is not true at our commerce. But an example would be the IT side of the house says, No way, you might be putting sensitive information on slack. It was not secure, we don't own it, so you can't use it. And so then you have to kind of go back and forth. Communication is really key here and building those really across that gap. And making sure you work with your IT folks to help them address the cyber security concerns. Right. So this is a project I did a commerce where we use those NIST guidelines for cyber security and figured out kind of a template of how to apply them to free services where it's just, you're logging in with an email address to something like slack or Campbell or another online program like that. What kind of responsibility Can we put on the individual user, we can ask them to have two factor authentication on all of those, like change their password every x number of days, and then on the agency side, they might be monitoring has there been a breach for these certain online services, and if there has notifying anyone at the agency using those. So there are things I think both sides can do when they put their heads together and work together on it. And it's just, it's just a matter of that needs to be a priority for both sides.

Stephen
I can imagine your early days in government that some of these challenges seemed impossible, and I wouldn't, and over time, you get good at dealing with them and, and working your way through the the tangled.

Abby
It is very, very hard. In the beginning, I think the first year or two I was ready to tear my hair out and find another job because it just felt like you couldn't do anything. I was like a private sector company. This would be I wouldn't even need to think it would be done already. But now in government, it's going to take me months of, of working around problems. But a I think I learned I really love challenges like that. It's just a giant puzzle. And it's really satisfying when you do get that new policy in place that helps everybody at your agency do something that they couldn't do before. But also on the other side, I think so not just on the personal level. But I think in terms of making government better and getting government faster and more efficient. That is, you know, you rewriting a policy, are you sitting down with your CIO, folks to hash out a new process is public service that is making the lives of citizens better, because we're going to be able to deliver better products to them. But my biggest advice I think for for new tech folks and government is is don't give up. Find a mentor somebody who's been in this space longer, because they'll be able to kind of talk you off the cliff when you're ready to to jump. And then finally, there's some excellent listserv that GSA puts out. And I think we'll have a link to those in the resources section. But GSA has all these different lists serves on content management, social media, multi lingual sites, and in each of those, you can instantly reach out reach thousands of your digital colleagues and governments and get help on an issue you're facing, you're never going to be the first person to have a particular problem in government. And so it's just a challenge of finding that other agency or office who's tackled this before, and getting help from them.

Stephen
So I'm going to jump back to Drupal a little bit here. Since you've running a Drupal team now, and you've done it in the past, what does a good Drupal team look like to you?

Abby
Hmm, good question. So I think obviously having not just your developers who are great at Drupal and having a developer who's comfortable, not just site building, but comfortable enough in PHP to work on custom module code. Besides that, I think making sure you have at least one or two content managers, who you send to site building training, get them you should be moving your content, people kind of closer and closer to site building at the same time as you are getting your dev to understand what your content priorities are. And that's something really unique at ATF, where we have a single team with our content folks, writers and our dev, and we're in Scrum all together every morning, that that is very rare and government. But it's enabled us to set our priorities. And we have much our content folks come up with great ideas all the time for ways to improve the site. And our devs are really great at knowing like, Hey, I have an idea on how to make this easier for our content managers, because I know they're working on this section of the site. So I think the ideal team really does look like that where even if your content people are in public affairs, and your devs are over in the IT side of the house, where you at least have a weekly meeting where everyone actually sits down in person or on zoom and, and really does discuss what their different priorities are and how and how that cross fertilization between those two areas. And I think Drupal especially because everything depends on your content type. Everything depends on how you're organizing your information. I've seen it it's easy for the dev to just go forth and build something that looks okay, but really doesn't meet the needs of the public affairs shop and what they're trying to communicate. And then that just kind of leads to frustration leads to rebuilding endlessly. And so cutting that up and having that communication from the beginning is key.

Nic
So you mentioned a couple times public affairs, like what's specifically is their role in government? Is it like any information going out? Or is it something different than that?

Abby
No, no, exactly. And so so a public affairs shop probably includes intergovernmental, so folks talking with state and local Gov people, it's going to include your Legislative Affairs, so people talking with Congress, understanding what's going on on the hill, that's going to affect you. It includes press, kind of obviously, that's the first thing we think of it includes social media, anything going out over those channels, anything going out over email, and then often the folks deciding what content goes up on the website. So usually those folks, the content folks in public affairs, because every all of that is tied together. So at commerce, we would have these weekly meetings where we'd hear what's coming down from the press side, what's coming down from the hillside, and that would drive our web and social media strategy and email strategy for that week.

Nic
So so it kind of it's analogous to marketing department.

Abby
Exactly, yes. Very similar.

Stephen
Okay, it brings up a question in my mind, and I know we've had this discussion a lot of times around the ATFs website. And maybe we could drill into that a little bit about like, who is the user of that particular website? Is it a consumer? Is it law enforcement? Is it government? And I assume these kinds of, you know, definitions of users is challenging and a lot of different government websites.

Abby
Yes. And so I think there's, there's kind of a joke, like the term general public is verboten right, you should never be using the term general public, because that just means you're not thinking hard enough about who your audiences. But on the other hand, in government, we do have to even if we built a section of our site for law enforcement, as we have at ATF, and another section for industry and business, have to assume we have to make sure those pages are still understandable by my uncle, or grandma or whoever who happens to load that page, they still have to be able to understand what we're communicating to more specialized audiences. And so that's where plain language becomes key. And that's, that's, you know, a law by the federal government, we have to have plain language on our on our pages. So even if the content is meant for a specialist audience, it still needs to be understandable by a non specialist, or resident of the US. And so that, that becomes I think, a lot more of a challenge on the content writing side to make sure that you are conveying sometimes highly technical and regulatory information, that's complex and still readale by your average person

Stephen
What body of government monitors that, or would validate that a government website was meeting those requirements.

Abby
There's, like so many different policies, there's not really anyone who's give you a fine or even slap your wrist really, it's very much self driven by us to make sure we meet those standards. I think there is like an annual report on plain language where, but that's more about like a nonprofit who's assessing us. And even then, like, a lot of times, we have a lot of disagreements with that report. So it's a little controversial, even within our community. I think it's more terms of there are a lot of plain language.gov has a ton of resources to help people meet that standard. But there's no really watchdog, looking to see if we met it, every agency does have a plain language coordinator, whose job it is to help other people, they just seem to be that standard. You know, if you don't need it, you're failing, but there's no one really to come tell you, you're failing.

John
So along those along those same lines, you know, talking about users and accessing the content. You know, you had mentioned earlier how accessibility is a top priority to you, you know, to the government as a whole, but an ATF, what are you guys doing to ensure accessibility? You know, what standards? Are you guys being held to? And are you doing? You know, are you doing accessibility audits and implementing fixes for accessibility?

Abby
Yes, so it's a huge priority for us at ATF. So we have one member of our team who's just kind of her job is focused on accessibility on checking every PDF or every page, when we publish it to make sure it is accessible, we also use and folks, there's a bunch of tools out there that you could use, we happen to use site improve, to do accessibility audits and scans of our site. And that just gives us a really, really rich reporting on what some issues might be. It's also helped by the fact that it used to be section 508, which is the law governing, requiring accessibility used to kind of be different set of rules than the rest of the world, it was kind of a specific set of federal rules. And now section 508 is now aligned completely with the WCAG 2.0 AA level. And so that makes it super, super easy for us to now work or take examples or best practices from other people. Because as long as that's more of a universal set of standards, and it's just super well written, and it's all based on results, and not the how what you do, but the what you're doing. And so it's a lot easier to follow than the old section 508. So we also do a lot of cross training at ATF, where even though it's one person specialty, everyone needs to know how to make a PDF accessible, everyone needs to know on a web page, how the headings need to go in a logical order. What a link text should be, you can't have just click here, right, you need to say what your link is going to. And one thing that I'd love to kind of get more towards is a lot of some of those more cutting edge like a GSA 18f and TTS. Yes, I have accessibility labs, where they'll have a couple Chromebooks set up. And it'll actually be showing your website as someone with color blindness, for example, or you'll have a screen reader reading your site. So you're actually going to be using the tools that people use to to view your website, not in the traditional way. And just kind of, I think that experience of physically you seeing the website or hearing the website in a different way than you usually do. makes it a lot more people put accessibility first when they're writing their content and posting it to the web.

Nic
So are there things that you guys avoid doing? Because of the barrier to accessibility? Like, video, certain types of video are really, really difficult to make accessible. interactive elements, things like that, do you just avoid those? Or do you?

Abby
Well, one, one thing is our site is a little older, so that we're not doing too many super fancy interactive things that that would maybe be about problem to accessibility. But I do think as you know, when Stephen and our other Dev, Mayela when we're working on a new feature, that is part of what we are testing, so we make sure that we're translating this into Spanish right now. So a big part is our all our alt text translated for every image is our accessibility features coming through on to the Spanish side. But yeah, it's it's a growing process. And I think everyone's maturity in that web shop, and government is a little bit different. So you kind of have to assess your own maturity, see where you are, and then just really work on getting to that next level of maturity.

John
So it sounds like it sounds like ATF is doing a great job with accessibility and, and kind of holding up to the standards kind of patrolling their own their own stuff. Is there a government, you know, is there a government body or somebody that is auditing government websites for accessibility, on a more global scale?

Abby
So there's, I wouldn't even say so auditing their reporting, there's certainly a lot of public reporting on it. So I don't think this is not accessibility Exactly. But there is hope that cio.gov is kind of a dashboard that looks is your site HTTPS, which is required by law. And I forget what it's other doesn't have doesn't participate in this government wide digital analytics program, so that you have transparent analytics on every single.gov site. And then on the back end, there's also this ability to look at to do some measures of accessibility. But again, a computer is never going to really be able to tell you if your content successful, you really need people to test it, and to give you feedback. And so there is there, I'm not aware of anyone, you can certainly pay for a company to come give you an audit. There's no kind of government service for free. Get a team of people to come tear down your website and give you a list of what to do. So that's, that would be wonderful if we had that. But but it's just every agency kind of whatever resources we can put towards checking our own work.

Stephen
I'm curious on your thoughts about if the government should or shouldn't be forcing 508 on the private sector?

Abby
Hello, controversial? Yeah. So I've seen a lot of news articles, you know, like Beyonce is website, she gets sued, because it's not 508. I mean, I might be a hardliner. I think if you are putting stuff up on the web, it needs to be accessible. And it might not maybe not the AA level necessarily, I think in government, we should have held ourselves to kind of a higher standard. But at the very least, as as a web developer, I think we have an ethical obligation to make our content accessible as much as we can. It's just I don't know. So that's more of kind of my, my moral opinion, rather than I don't, I think it's difficult. And of course, money's an issue. But I do think it's, especially with businesses, if you don't make it a law that they have to be at least some level of accessibility, that's never going to be a profit margin for them. They're never going to make that a priority. Otherwise, unless you have a really strong, ethical company that makes it a priority. You know, sort of I'm all for it, along with

Stephen
accessibility is you mentioned that the ATFs working on a Spanish launch of the website, is it a requirement for government websites to provide Spanish content? And how much of it?

Abby
That's a great question. So it is agent that's another agency specific items, so everyone is required. So plain language replies to everybody. But then if you have a significant Spanish, or a service that you provide that is especially important for everyone to be able to access. So yeah, so I don't really know about outside of the oj, but it is a DOJ policy that that web content needs to be in Spanish, and that you need to provide public services in both English and Spanish. There's no deadline that I know have to get that done. And we're I think, as soon as we launch this next month, fingers crossed, we're going to be ahead of the pack in terms of how much content we're making available in Spanish. So a lot of government sites might have just like one or two pages with information on call this number to get help in Spanish. We're putting out more than 400 pages worth of content. So I'm I'm really, really proud of our team and the the work they put in to make this really, really high quality and large Spanish microsite go go live. And it's something that I think across the government, you're seeing more and more agencies, putting resources towards that.

Stephen
All of us on this call have all been intimately involved in translation websites for the past few years. So we know the challenges from a programming perspective, from a tools perspective, and from a cost perspective. So I'm curious to know if like when the DOJ and maybe you don't know the answer to this, but when the DOJ puts on mandate like this, do they understand the implication of the cost? That, you know, the website costs this much when we weren't doing Spanish now, or any other language now, it's going to cost us this much more, those things kind of get considered, like they would be on the private side, I think there's a lot of time spent on project scoping and budgeting and things. Does that happen on the government side?

Abby
It definitely does. And honestly, you know, mandates can be sometimes a bad thing. But often they can be a good thing. Because having that mandate from DOJ means we can go to our leadership when it's budget time, and say, we need this amount of money for our Spanish site. And hey, your big bosses up at DOJ said we need to do this and, and that's a really easy way to get leadership and other people on board. When otherwise, it just might be Oh, Spanish would be a nice to have. But we have other priorities. So maybe next year, it gives it a little bit more urgency and importance when we're trying to get resources for it. DOJ also has just come out with this really great Blanket Purchase Agreement, which is kind of this contracts that all of us sub agencies can hop on to and use without going through the very arduous government contracting process. And kind of choose from a small pool of pre approved and pre contracted translators. And we can do documents, websites or audio. And having that resource just makes our lives a ton easier. I kind of wish we had had that or not we but when you first started this project, I think there's a lot you can do. I think they also realized we need to come up with some easy way for folks to fulfill this mandate.

Nic
Okay, so unless you guys have a follow up. But I'd like to change gears here. So this is one question that's kind of been on my mind, ever since we talked about doing this show. And that's security, security, something that you know, all my clients, you know, it's a day you always talk about clients. And depending on what type of project it is you might have, implement more secure site or less secure site, or maybe not less secure, but you might pick up security for a particular system, if they're processing credit cards or dealing with PCI or something. I imagine being a government, not only their mandates is also it also kind of puts a target on your back. Yeah, just be, you know, security agency as well. How does that translate to when you're making a plan to release something? How do you how do you approach that? How do you determine what, what needs to happen?

Abby
Right. So actually, I think DOJ is a great example of this, because and this is, you know, not so much malicious, but just making sure your systems can handle. Muller report came out, they had something like 9000 times the amount of usual traffic that they had to their website, because people all over the world were coming to read this report. And they worked with. They're server providers and worked with their hosting company to make sure that they could handle that huge load. And we've done a similar thing, when we've had smaller launches of kind of really important documents, things that we think the public will be really interested in. From the more malicious standpoint people trying to get in government, I think just default, just by having a.gov site, you are putting that target on your back. Because the consequences of somebody getting in and changing the content or taking the content down, are so much higher than for a normal com site. So someone coming in and putting up a fake press release someone coming in that says, Okay, we're going to do this. And for commerce, I mean, at for an agency website, this is especially a big deal, because someone could come and put a press release up that we're putting tariffs on somebody, or we're changing, we're, you know, leaving NAFTA leaving whatever. And, and that will have international consequences, just from changing a few words on a.gov. site. And so a lot of folks this is we were just talking about this with Stephen about making sure that your your methods for editing the site are really locked down, often locked down to just within the network of agency you're working for. And that kind of makes it hard to tell the work sometimes. But it also ensures that it helps one method to ensure that you don't have folks editing the content or changing your website. Another thing that that we do, we have several web forms, including one where people can submit anonymous tips. And those those go to an email inbox, but they're processed through the Drupal site. And so this is something that I didn't even know we could do. But we're basically as soon as it's sent through Drupal and sent through, we instantly erase that from our database. So we don't hang on to any of that anonymous information that people are submitting that passing through us. And that's I think, really, really critical to preserving PII. So there's someone did get into our Drupal site, they're not going to be getting any of this information people are submitting. We also generally don't ask for email addresses. So you'll notice if you submit comment on atf.gov, we don't ask for your email. And in fact, we tell you don't give us your email, because we don't want to be holding on to a list of emails that then could be potentially taken by a actor. And so I think there's a lot that PII rules, the personally identifiable information laws, help kind of guide us in that area. And, yeah, just in general, I think we work really closely with our IT side of the shop to make sure that we are as secure as we can be. And we're not collecting anything that we don't need to be collecting.

John
So switching gears just a little bit here, before we wrap up.

ATFs current site is on D7 you guys are working on a D8 version, what new features new functionality, are you really looking forward to in Drupal 8

Abby
Good question, and I can maybe talk a little bit more about our commerce move from d7 to the d8, because that was something that we're done with. But a huge benefit, I think was really cutting down on our content types. Because we can do so much more with display modes, twig templates, were really able to have kind of a single content type and display it in a ton of new ways. When in d7, I'm not as familiar with the seventh from like a site building standpoint, but that was a little harder. And so and this might just be a matter of kind of our evolving mindsets as we move towards the D8, maybe we could have built all this in D7. But I think how we approach content and information architecture has really evolved since when most of these these D7 sites were built in the first place. And so I've been going through I think we had 20 content types right now on the current ATF. gov, which is probably 15. Too many. And so I've been starting to work on how we can cut those down. What we can bring in through API's from other sites like we post a lot of justice. gov press releases that have to do with ATF successes, things ATF has worked on with US Attorney's across the US. And that's a great example of, we don't need to be copy and pasting that that information in justice.gov has RSS feeds, we can get an API from them and easily Cross publish that on our site without doing all this work on our end with our CMS. So So I think it's the that mantra of working smart, not hard. What we can be bringing in. The other thing I'm super excited about is the ability to push back out via API that everything in Drupal is API first, and that you're really able to make connections between different digital products we're building that you just, it was a lot harder to do before. So for example, one of our kind of in the future projects, we really want to build as an ATF licensing center with specific information for explosives and firearms, licensees kind of at their fingertips. We also have regulations.atf.gov, which is a non it's that's built in Django and Python, not in Drupal. But because all of these are d8 site will have an API because Django we can have an API from that we can have that content appear on each other site, so that this is a little dream, every time we like site, a law on the atf.gov site, you can actually click on that in Drupal 8. The idea is you click on that, and you can get a little sidebar that explains in plain language, what that law means. And then you can always get more information or detail. But that would be that's just kind of connecting our different sites. So we're not trying to build one single Drupal eight site that can do everything. We're instead building kind of little sites that have different content types and different user groups. And we're able to just connect those via API.

John
Really cool. So in closing, and

Abby
Stephen are you ready to build all that?

Stephen
Just waiting.

John
Stephen smiling and nodding a lot, which is, which is awesome. So as we wrap up the show, I'm going to be going down to my first Gov con this year, which I'm really excited. Can you tell me a little bit of what I should should expect? And is your whole team going?

Abby
Yeah, literally, I think every single person on our team plus my two bosses are going it is it's fantastic. So I started going I probably went first three years ago. I think what's so first, it's the biggest Drupal camp outside of Drupal con. It is it's huge. It's three days chock full of programming plus a day just for training. So you can take training and not miss any of the sessions. The other thing about it that I think is amazing, is that the contracts for sessions aren't just coding aren't just Drupal specific stuff, they really do an awesome job, we have a track on content management, a track on project management, on the business side of Drupal, on accessibility. And so having all those contact tracks, calm session tracks means that my entire team can show up and there is something for everybody. You don't have to to know Drupal or know how to code in order to get a ton out of this conference. So So as I've loved going to it every year, and then this last year, it was finally like, Okay, it's time for me to give back a little bit and help out. But I, I strongly encourage it's not just for Feds it is it's completely free, including all of the training. And it is open to anybody who can who can get to us in DC. And so I think it's this is one of those conferences that is really full team friendly, not just for Dev, and I really encourage you to come as a team that at lunch and talk about all the cool different sessions you went to during the day it is. It's just you come away from it with so many ideas and inspiration for what to build next.

Stephen
So what I think's interesting this year, from because I've been passed, this will be my third year, I think going to is in the past the conference, run from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And they would have training and they still do training during the sessions this year. They've also opened up Tuesday to be trainings all day as well. So you can actually get a four days of conference with all free content, free half day, full day trainings, free sessions, food, t shirt. And really all you've invested is your time. Exactly. Pretty amazing.

John
And you get a T shirt. Sweet.

Stephen
Yeah, right there on T shirts, right.

Abby
But you gotta register now. So yeah, it's July. Welcome, including Tuesday, it's July 23, through 26. But I think we do the T shirts are limited. So the earlier sign up, the more guaranteed you are to get your free lunches and to get your T shirt.

Stephen
And you will find all of the big vendor Drupal vendors that you'd expect at a conference at a big conference. They'll all be there. And they have their private parties that they invite people to like, the conferences and then there's after parties that are sponsored by Gov con as well. Right.

Abby
Exactly. So I'll put on a little pitch. So I am hoping to host our on Thursday night we're having a board game night at the at the Gov CON hotel. And so everyone is welcome to come there'll be drinks and food and a lot of board games. That's kind of my my nerdy pastime. So looking forward to anyone who wants to join us on Thursday to learn some games.

Stephen
Think that includes magic. Nic, right isn't like one of your games?

Abby
I won't inflict that on you guy, thats my secret...

Nic
magic the gathering? I'm a fan of my favorite podcast besides talking Drupal is drive to work with Mark rosewater.

Stephen
All right. Well, Abby, thank you for joining us.

Abby
Thank you guys so much. That was really fun.

Stephen
Great. So if anyone wants to reach out to you or learn more about Gov con, what would be the best places for them to do that?

Abby
definitely send me a note on LinkedIn, or Twitter, lockdown, but send me also an email and you can reach me at [email protected]. And I'd be happy to talk with you.

Stephen
And we'll have that contact information as usual in the show notes. And john, how about you?

John
You can find me next week or or this week. Once the show's released at design for Drupal up in Boston. I'll be speaking on Friday. with Kathy Beck from oomph, you can find out about our webinar at the oomph inc blog, which you can find at oomphinc.com and you can find me on all the major social networks at john picozzi

Nic
Great, how about you Nick? can find me online pretty much everywhere at NICXVAN. And I'm actually planning on being there, I think Friday as well, a D4D but I have a site launch plan for next Tuesday. And so if that site launch gets delayed to Friday, I may not make it so fingers crossed.

Stephen
So I'll be speaking at Gov con on Thursday. So I think if you're looking for talking Drupal people, you can find least one of us there any one of those days. And Abby, I think you're going to be there as well.

Abby
Yes. So So me and my colleague Nikki, we will be there. So come say hi if you see us

John
and he meant he meant D4D. He did Yes,

Stephen
I did. Okay, thank you. Yeah, D4D. All right.

Abby
He's speaking at Govcon too, he's got two different sessions. Yes, he is. And we'll have a session on I think first one on Wednesday morning on the process of translating the site from more of a project management perspective. So we'll ATF will be well represented at Gov CON this year.

Stephen
Great. Well, thanks everybody and talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai