PortlandOnline.com. We can rebuild it. We have the technology.
PortlandOnline.com is the City of Portland’s official government web site. It is, largely, a broken web site. Information that should be accessible on a web page is typically hidden inside a PDF file. Resource allocations of amounts like $84 million cannot be found without first tracking down the relevant ordinance number, and even then there is precious little information available. (Ten points for whoever can find the $84 million item on this page!)
And no, this isn’t just another one of Pete’s pointless rants — at the end of this post, I’ll explain what’s new and unique about the YouTube video below:
Anyway, back to PortlandOnline.com. The City did a survey last fall on the site’s usability, but I don’t have much confidence that the kind of fundamental change that’s necessary (which is more about office culture and design principles than it is about technology) will be forthcoming. I’ve talked with enough City Hall employees to be convinced that the needed changes will not be coming from within City Hall. And this is no surprise: the public sector is often the last to figure out how to benefit from new technology.
But don’t despair! In 2008, a centralized web site is not nearly as important as it used to be. What we really need is a web presence for Portland government — and a centrally-produced, centrally-located web site is only one of many ways to get there. It’s the old way. It’s the boring way, and the frustrating way.
But interested citizens and interest groups can — and increasingly will — augment what the City puts online with the materials they need. A few examples: the Wikipedia article on Portland City Hall; the “Next up at City Council” features Amanda Fritz has been diligently posting on her blog every week; and the Protect Portland Parks blog, in which the Mt. Tabor Planning Group has (er, I have) kept some notes about the progress of our endeavor.
Anyway — I’ve just figured out another piece of the puzzle. Citizen activists/journalists, take note! I’ve managed to free some City Council video footage from its RealPlayer prison on portlandonline.com, and republish it on YouTube. Scroll back up and take another look at that video clip of the goofy lookin’ guy arguing with Randy Leonard — my guess is you’ve never seen anything like that on a blog before. Not from Portland City Council.
Is the process incredibly time-consuming? YES!! Is specialized equipment needed? YES!! But it’s possible. And worth doing, for any 5-10 minute clip of a Council meeting that might be of interest to the public. So let me know if you need any such clips converted!
More of the hearing: