The Department of Education unveiled a new website on Monday, Teach.gov, aimed at helping recruit people into the teaching profession. The site offers a number of inspirational "teaching success" stories, as well as gives visitors information about college degrees, funding opportunities, and licensing regulations.
It's important to recruit and good teachers, so I applaud efforts to make the profession more attractive. A website is, of course, just a tiny step.
But I want to point to the website nonetheless, because it's yet another U.S. government site that's been built in Drupal, an open source content management system. Teach.gov joins the White House, Commerce Department, and other federal sites that have, under the Obama Administration, moved to Drupal.
Drupal was originally developed by Dries Buytaert and was open sourced in 2001. It's become increasingly popular, with over 1 million registered users and 300,000 downloads a month. That gives Drupal a strong developer and user community, something that's crucial for a healthy open source ecosystem.
Drupal developers have built a lot of features and functionality that go far beyond the forum and blogging features that content management systems are most often associated with. But it's those core elements, and the ease with which people can contribute content via Drupal, that are part of its appeal.
The choice of Drupal for these government sites is also a real boost to arguments that Drupal specifically and open source in general are secure systems. As the argument goes, open source means more eyeballs on the code, increasing the likelihood that bugs and threats will be identified and fixed promptly.
As an open source platform, Drupal is cost-effective. But being open source also gives it -- and website developers -- a great deal of flexibility. You can choose to add or build new modules as you deem fit, rather than being beholden to the product specifications and upgrade cycle of proprietary software. Furthermore, you're not locked in to a single platform. In other words, Drupal lets you import and export your data -- and that's crucial for fostering open data and open content.