City eases Web maintenance

San Carlos is using software designed for newspapers to enable non-experts to manage the city's Web content

The California city of San Carlos is one of the first jurisdictions to use

software originally developed for newspapers and other publishing enterprises

to boost the manageability of Web site content.

The content management software, Vignette Corp.'s StoryServer, enables

users to make global changes to multiple Web pages with just one edit and

enter new information without knowing HTML. It also uses run dates so that

pages can be automatically removed from a site on a given date.

San Carlos Assistant City Manager Brian Moura said that before the city

began using StoryServer, each Web page had to be written by hand and the

person who did it needed to know HTML. That meant that all content for the

Web site had to go through the Webmaster for design and coding.

"Most of the people in our city government just don't have that skill,"

Moura said. "Plus we wanted to find a way to re-use the content, so that

when it was put into the database, it would be a simple thing to just update

it and use it again. For example, we could post a job application and leave

it on the database once it's filled, then pull it up at a later date if

the position becomes open again and just change dates and some other numbers."

The project to build the new Web site using StoryServer cost from $200,000

to $300,000, Moura said, a big jump from the $50 a month the city paid previously

for Web space. But the advantage is that the Web effort has become an enterprise

effort, with the content creation distributed throughout the city government.

That in turn has led to far more information being posted — and at a far

faster pace, he said.

Moura predicted more governments will develop Web sites similarly, as

dozens of companies are offering these sorts of development tools.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

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