– Best of the Web – The Secret Sauce

City of Seattle Best-of-the-Web Award, 2011

City of Seattle Web Team

Seattle’s City government website www.seattle.gov has been named the #1 City government web portal for 2011 by eRepublic’s Center for Digital Government.  I was honored to be with the City’s web team in Hollywood for the awards ceremony on September 16th.   Our open data feed, data.seattle.gov received a Digital Government Achievement Award at the same ceremony.

Not only that, but www.seattle.gov has been named the #1 City web portal three times in the past eleven years – years 2000, 2006 and now again in 2011.

What’s the “secret sauce” to winning the “Best of the Web” competition?

To answer that, I’ll share the electronic mail note I sent to all 200 employees of the Department of Information Technology (which I lead) on September 1st:

For all City of Seattle Department of Information Technology staff:

Today, Thursday morning,  September 1st, the Center for Digital Government announced its “Best of  the Web” awards for 2011. The City of Seattle’s web portal, www.seattle.gov , is named the top City government web  portal for 2011. The press release from the Center is online. In  addition, our open data website data.seattle.gov received a Digital Achievement
Award in the government to citizen category. We’ve won the “best web  portal” award three times – in 2000, 2006 and now in 2011. When you  consider there are 275 cities over 100,000 in population, and many thousands of  smaller ones, winning three times in 11 years is a phenomenal achievement.

This honor is a direct  reflection of the hard work of the City’s web teams, especially the central web  team led by Bruce Blood and Jeff Beckstrom, and the data.seattle.gov team led  by Neil Berry and Ben Andrews.

But everything we do in  the Department of Information Technology is a team effort. We don’t have a  great web portal without a great server and unix computing team to do the  hosting. Our community technology folks help those without access to the Internet to get that access and use www.seattle.gov . We absolutely need a great data communications team to maintain our data network and Internet access. Solid 24×7 operations is essential, and our data center staff provide that. Information
security is of paramount importance not just to the web site but also in our web applications and throughout our infrastructure.  And our technology planning and oversight unit helps facilitate a visionary strategic technology plan for the City and our department.

Content for the web site comes from departments, and that requires great partners in our department web  teams and content providers like the Seattle Channel.   That, in turn, requires a strong desktop  support team and good service desk to keep our desktop and other technology systems functional. We need  money and good people to support all this effort, and we have a great finance,  accounting and human resources team to support that.

They don’t give awards for  “best telephone network” or messaging team or communications shop or  telecommunications integration team, but “best web portal” is a  direct reflection of the excellence and commitment by work groups across the

But it is also a reflection of Mayor McGinn’s leadership, especially the thoughtful leadership and decisions of Chief of Staff Julie McCoy, with input and support from many others in the Mayor’s Office, on the Council, and in departments.

In addition to the top honor for web portal, our open data site, http://data.seattle.gov received a Digital Government
Achievement Award in the Government to Citizen category.  I especially want to thank Mayor McGinn, Chief John Diaz, Chief Gregory Dean, and Diane Sugimura for leadership in making departmental data available on that site, and Council member Harrell for his support of funding for data.seattle.gov despite the difficult budgets we’ve recently faced.   They lead a true ommitment to an open, transparent, government for Seattle!

We live in difficult  times. The economy is rocky. Budgets are constrained, and we’ve lost a number  of people and positions. I had a meeting with the Mayor earlier today, talking  about budget. I directly told him that despite losing 27 positions and $11  million in funding over the past four years, our workload has only increased as  the use of technology expands in City government. He  acknowledged that and told  me how proud he was of the continued dedication and skilled work of DoIT’s  staff, despite the hard economic times and the reduced revenues available to  City government.

For one moment today, as  you encounter and overcome the everyday problems and challenges of your job,  sit back and bask in the glory of this achievement.



Filed under egovernment, employees, open data, seattle channel, Uncategorized

5 responses to “– Best of the Web – The Secret Sauce

  1. I’m curious how much we spend on licensing fees for the use of proprietary software for which free and open source alternatives exist. Imagine if every city who pays Microsoft for IIS instead donated a fraction of that money to the Apache Software Foundation.

    Public websites should be built with public software unless there’s good reason to do otherwise.

    • schrier

      The City of Seattle website is built with a wide variety of software, some open source and some proprietary.
      “Open Source” software is not necessarily less expensive than software from a vendor. Someone has to maintain it, fix it, install it, which means a City is either depending on an unpaid open source community or hiring our own employees, which is not cheap. There’s no way I’d ever acquire open source software for mission critical functions such as managing utility billing or an electric grid, computer-aided dispatching for 911 calls/police and fire, and so forth. We need a vendor who professionally programs and supports such software – someone who can bring in dozens or hundreds of staff to fix problems if they arise.
      Finally, I’d remind Phil that Microsoft employs over 40,000 people in the Seattle area with living-wage jobs, and supports many more by all the money those employees pump into the Seattle economy.

    • Adam Monsen

      Well said, Phil. Open Source is well-aligned with public interest!

  2. Scott Hatfield

    Congratulations to you and your entire team Bill, this is an impressive honor that anyone would be thrilled to achieve once much less three different times.

  3. Hey Bill,

    I enjoy your blog and
    congratulate you on your web portal award.

    To keep your city’s website #1,
    you should integrate Peak Democracy Inc’s
    Open Town Hall online public comment forums
    into seattle.gov.

    Open Town Hall online public comment forums
    have the order & decorum of government meetings
    and therefore, in contrast to most online forums,
    Open Town Hall is civil, constructive and legal
    (as well as inexpensive to launch and easy to use).

    The company has been working with
    over 30 towns, cities and counties across the US.
    They have posted almost 600 topics, and
    have attracted almost 50,000 online attendees.

    For example, check-out how Salt Lake City
    is using online public comment forums:
    http://www.slcgov.com/opencityhall/ .

    For more info, go to


    866-535-8894 x701

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