Common Web Platform: making code sharing better

One of the benefits of the Common Web Platform (CWP) is the ability for agencies to share or open source modules they develop. Ideally this will mean less duplication of effort across agencies − and reduced cost across government − as agencies can leverage investments made by other agencies.

CWP has been live for 18 months now and some code has been shared, but we’d like to see it happen more. An example of an open-sourced CWP module is the Tenon module created by the Govt.nz team. Tenon is a subscription service that automatically tests accessibility and provides reports on what can be improved to help reach Government Web Standards. The Tenon module is now available for anyone to download from SilverStripe.org.

Better code sharing workshop

In October 2014 a workshop was held with agencies that have CWP sites (we invited their partner development vendors too). The focus of this workshop was on:

  • creating principles for a government-wide approach to code sharing
  • identifying issues with code sharing
  • imagining the ideal future states.

Based on the workshop, Cam Findlay (Community Awesomeness Manager at SilverStripe) has written 2 documents. Both are open-sourced and can be viewed on Github and reused under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

In the guide, Cam covers some of the main issues including: how to develop in a modular fashion; the security issues developers need to know about; and, how the licensing works in an open source government environment.

The white paper outlines the strategic case for government to open source, and it's pitched at decision-makers and influencers.

A plan to go forward

Further to Cam’s paper, Bene Anderson (CWP Senior Product Manager) and I have a plan to help increase the amount of sharing that is happening. We have identified 3 key areas:

  • improve awareness of reusable code
  • create opportunities for collaboration on new features
  • increase knowledge of how to share code.

Improving awareness

To improve awareness, we will be publishing case studies of what other CWP sites have done and are currently doing. They will be published here on the Webtoolkit; some have already been published, so check out the blog posts tagged with ‘CWP Case Study’. We’ll be building on the case studies by profiling them in a meetup type format.

Creating opportunities to collaborate – Better Code Sharing Meetup

The meetups will also provide opportunities for networking with people from other agencies. We hope that by making the CWP community aware of what other development is going on with the expectation that this will lead to collaboration for new or enhanced features.

The first meetup has been scheduled, and is open to public sector staff, so if you are keen to learn more about what some of the agencies have developed on the CWP please contact me to attend. At this first meetup Jason Bell (Web Services Manager at the Ministry of Education) and Meredith Cook (Acting Manager, Channels at the Ministry for Primary Industries) will be talking about their websites.

Providing guidance

The guidance that Cam has written in his paper will also be published in the guides section on the CWP website. This will be useful for anyone involved in development on the CWP (developers, project managers, business analysts, product owners etc). Cam will also run a technical workshop for developers, which we will video and post online. The dates for the event haven’t been set yet, but if developers in your team are interested, email us.

Since the launch of CWP, agencies have been making some great progress in this area. This work is meant as a starting point to make open sourcing and code sharing easier and more accessible for agencies. Through open sourcing we have an opportunity to let New Zealand companies and organisations benefit from the code developed by government.

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