Rolling right along is GSA’s USASearch product that’s newsworthy this week for several complementary reasons. The search service developed by the GSA and a team from startup Blue Beacon has three shiny new features, was awarded recognition by a major publication and, most important, continues to market its “Affiliate Program” allowing anyone to have best of class site search for a grand total cost of … nothing.
Let’s start with InformationWeek, which recently highlighted 15 leading agencies for ambitious initiatives in an effort to do more for less.
“USASearch developers employ agile development to deliver new features quickly,” the report noted. “Helped by USASearch’s open architecture and improved licensing, an affiliate program includes more than 300 websites that share data through the platform, ranging from the state of Connecticut to the city government of Reno, Nev.”
That affiliate number has already since grown to nearly 400. The importance of that number has always been understated — simply not enough people and agencies (despite the growing number) are aware of the benefits these hundreds of affiliates are offering their visitors and reaping for themselves. Let me break it down quickly: USASearch is a full-on site search backed by Microsoft’s Bing and optimised for bounded search results by key thought leaders and developers in search — primarily from the private startup sector, but also empowered by GSA. It seems to be a model that works.
Why this matters in particular to contractors doing business with federal (or state, local, tribal, territorial) agencies is because they can tap the affiliate program to offer a free search tool as part of their offering. This could mean an entirely new user-centric benefit or a cost savings, in the event a contractor is replacing an outdated or expensive search solution.
Additionally, that bleeding-edge team from Blue Beacon continues to add improvements making “free” sound even better. For instance, recent launches (they run an “agile development” shop at GSA ) included three significant features:
- On-demand indexing makes it much more efficient when adding URLs using Bing’s process. Essentially the lag between posting and crawling has been clipped.
- Featured collections, as defined by USASearch folks, “allows you to post collections of topically related links in the ‘Boosted Content’ area. You can also include an image to attract searchers’ attention to the links.”
- The Drupal module allows government sites running Drupal (the hot open source CMS) to embed the USASearch solution into their pages.
Anyone wanting to take advantage of these tools and deploy them should take a look at the program here.
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