New York's XML Web site gets good grades

Officials from five New York state agencies presented last week encouraging benefits from a test bed project using Extensible Markup Language (XML) for Web site management.

Last summer, the five agencies were selected to be part of the XML project to create an XML-based Web site prototype and business case analysis.

Although XML is well-known for facilitating effective data exchange, researchers at the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) are testing its applicability in managing Web content as an alternative to HTML.

CTG’s project is the first known to examine how government agencies can see such improvements. Agency representatives participated in six months of hands-on training and workshops before sharing findings at a Jan. 25 event.

“The goal was achieved and we have all learned many valuable lessons that we will help us evaluate the key management, policy, technology and cost implications for XML for government,” Derek Werthmuller, CTG’s technology director, said in a written statement.

Tim Bray, co-inventor of XML and Sun Microsystems’s director of Web technologies who provided the keynote address at the event, welcomed the early results from the test bed. “The future is looking increasingly open and non-proprietary,” he said in a written statement.

CTG researchers said XML could improve workflow management from content creation to publication, increase productivity by reducing time, effort and cost and provide consistency of content throughout multiple pages, delivery formats and devices.

“The prototype not only served as a proof of concept, it is also already saving the Internet Unit an estimated five hours per week,” said Dan Irizarry, a spokesman for the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, one of the participating agencies, in a press release.

Lizette Rivera, Web site manager at the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, another participating agency, said XML has the potential to offer more output formats, save time and energy and improve accuracy, reduce server space and provide more accessible Web pages.

Kevin Anderson, Webmaster for the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation, said the benefits his organization gained were “not originally what we anticipated, however we have gained a knowledge base of what our next steps should be.”

“Based on the prototype, it will enable us to move forward to our original goal of converting our public Web site to XML,” he said in the press release.

The Department of Civil Service and the Office of Cultural Education, which is part of the state’s education department, also participated.

CTG, which is part of the State University of New York at Albany, will create practical guidelines and case studies based on the test bed findings to help other agencies considering Web site improvement. The center will also create a library of XML technical resources by this spring.

CTG partnered with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, state Office of the Chief Information Officer and Office for Technology on the project.

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