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Obama open sources custom White House code

A long way from Dubya

DrupalCon The Obama White House has contributed code back to the Drupal community, six months after it made headlines by adopting the open source CMS.

Dave Cole, a senior advisor to the CIO of the Executive Office of the President, announced the code release this afternoon during a keynote at the DrupalCon trade show in downtown San Francisco. The administration is contributing a quartet of Drupal modules it built for the new-look WhiteHouse.gov, a site meant to provide improved communication between the President and his people.

"One of the main reasons that we adopted an open source solution is that it gives us scalability," Cole said. "That's scalability in terms of actually getting people to see the website - we have hundreds of thousands hitting it at any given time - but also in terms of expanding our code base. There are a lot of interactive features, and we need more people to be part of building the platform. The Drupal community is our extended development team in this sense."

"As we contribute code back, we hope to extend that partnership."

In October, the Obama White House announced that it had switched to Drupal from the proprietary CMS adopted by the Dubya administration, and now, a majority of the code driving WhiteHouse.gov is open source. But this is the first time the White House has contributed code back to the community.

We can only assume that Dubya-lovers view this move as some sort of amoral socialism.

Cole and crew have contributed four modules. The first is called "Context HTTP Headers," a means of altering http headers based on the content a site is serving up. The White House uses this to help communicate with its content delivery network (CDN), Akamai, sending caching instructions to edge servers. You can, say, tell the edge server to cache a particular type of page for a particular number of minutes.

This dovetails with a second module open sourced by the White House, known simply as "Akamai." This provides the integration with the Akamai Cache Control Utility (CCU) Web Service, letting you purge cached URLs in response to particular site events.

The third module, "GovDelivery," replaces the standard Drupal mail-send function with a web service call. This is used not only by the White House but also by various other government agencies, letting the lot take advantage of the same mail infrastructure. It isn't something that could be used by sites at large, but in open sourcing the module, Cole hopes to encourage other agencies to use it.

The last module is known as "Node Embed," a means of managing the meta data attached to photos and videos. It's used to layer content atop pages, Cole says, and is designed to keep the presentation of such content consistent. It gives you a button in your WYSIWYG that lets you choose content for embedding in a page.

All modules are now available at Drupal.org, and you can read more from the White House here. ®

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