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Drupal in da House? Kinda!

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, January 14 2011

Cross-section of the Capitol dome and rotunda by
Thomas U. Walter; image credit: Architect of the Capitol.

Here's a bit more on the news that the U.S. House of Representatives has embraced the open-source content management system Drupal, a move noted by Drupal's original creator Dries Buytaert and covered by O'Reilly's Alex Howard.

To start, some context. The White House, of course, made the switch to Drupal on WhiteHouse.gov back in October 2009, with the help of Buytaert and his company, Acquia, a Drupal vendor. But an important thing to keep in mind here is that House.gov isn't WhiteHouse.gov's equal.

That's because House.gov is, on its own, more or less a portal site pointing people to the 520 or so sites that run on the House.gov domain. Each individual office -- say, adamsmith.house.gov or foreignaffairs.house.gov -- operates its own website, with its own budget and vendors, running on the House infrastructure. There's not much to House.gov itself.

There are three main things that happened with Drupal here, from what one can suss out. The first is that the Chief Administrative Officer of the House has named Drupal "the preferred web hosting environment for the House," and as part of that, put out a call for Drupal shops [pdf] who might want to be added to the list of "pre-approved vendors" that CAO gives to House offices who might be looking to build a website. Second, the set up, by default, each of the 94 newly-elected members of Congress on a Drupal website as they start their terms. And third, House.gov (as in, the portal site alone), will be transitioned to Drupal "during the next several few months," said CAO communications director Dan Weiser.

Shorter version, from Weiser: "Yes, we're offering Drupal. We think it's a win, because it allows offices more flexibility. But no, no one has to switch over. The 500-plus offices -- the individual offices and committees -- can be on whatever system they want to be on."

Shortest version: has the House of Representatives switched to Drupal? Kinda. (Yes, you could have stopped at the headline.)

NextGov's Brian Kalish has a longer, broader take on the news.

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