We here at the Digital Team have preached the importance of user feedback. We also know how important it is that our tools grow and adapt to our users’ changing needs, so we built our site on an open source content management system, Drupal, that is constantly tended by a vast community of developers. Keeping with that spirit of constant improvement based on input from our users, today we’re releasing Boston.gov as an open source project.
What does that mean? We’re releasing Boston.gov’s source code to the public domain, so anyone can see the code that makes Boston.gov work, point out problems, fix problems, and even use the code for their own city, town, or organization. We’ll also be making everything we build open by default going forward. We’re excited to be part of a growing network of government organizations making the work we do open.
Why are we doing it? There’s a large, civic-minded ecosystem of software developers out there, especially in the Drupal community, and we’re hoping they will lend a hand to improve Boston.gov. As an open source project, we can also more easily work with organizations (like our friends at Code for Boston) or academic institutions interested in helping city governments adapt to 21st-century needs.
How can you get involved? There are three main ways we’re hoping to get you involved:
Tell us about a bug you find or an idea you have for the site. (First, check to make sure it’s not already on the list.)
Contribute code to fix a problem or build something awesome.
Fork the code and use any features that are helpful for your own projects or organization.
If you’re interested in taking on a project, we’ve scoped some out that we’d love help with. Just some ideas for now, but we're open to new ones:
- Make it easier to develop against Boston.gov by creating a Docker container for it.
- Add a super snazzy maps component.
- Research good models for municipal website information architecture.
- Share your favorite open source online catalogue that doubles as an online store.
- Set up a sample database for folks setting up their development environment.
So, are you a software developer, UXer, or designer who sees major issues with Boston.gov? Have you been aching to see a city website do [your idea] for forever-and-a-day? Are you rebuilding digital experiences for your own town/city and there are features you could reuse from Boston.gov? Check out our guides to working on Boston.gov and explore the code. We’ll see you on Github!