The truth about InfoLink

Dave Reinke
InfoLink Project Manager
APWA Washington, D.C. Office

For a long time now you've heard the words "InfoLink"...this mysterious technology that APWA was touting. You've read in this space about the potential of this product, the plans for it, how it would work. You read in June of last year about the introduction of the InfoLink website, and since then about different aspects of the technology and how it can benefit you as a member of APWA.

But you could never quite put your finger on what it was, or what it did, or why it mattered to you. And one of the reasons was that building and delivering the "product"—something you can put your hands on—has taken longer than originally planned. One of the problems early on was "biting off more than we could chew." Back when the project started, anything seemed possible, with Internet hype in full gear, and dot-com startups on every corner, and plans were ambitious.

Well, some lessons have been learned. Obviously, the business climate is very different now, and people have discovered that technology, however exciting and innovative, cannot exist (or serve as the basis for a business plan) as a means to its own end. Users, and businesses, have discovered that any technology must fit in existing business processes, and serve to solve everyday problems.

So APWA-InfoLink has re-examined where it needs to be, and how it can best serve the APWA membership. And we've got a surprise in store for you at Congress this year. After careful consultation with different member groups, and internally with APWA and IZOIC staff, InfoLink is prepared to put you in the driver's seat, with information and tools you can use every day to help solve your professional problems. On the show floor this year at Congress is where the rubber meets the road.

New Look: The InfoLink site has been completely redesigned to be more useful, faster, and easier to navigate. It works with either Microsoft Explorer or Netscape, and features a new section called "My InfoLink." This section can be personalized to reflect your interests, and can serve as your home page for public works information on the Internet.

New Search: The search functionality has been completely overhauled to provide faster and more accurate results for searches that will access sub-pages within a site, and users don't need to worry about categories of content. Users can search by full text or page title, and registered users entering their own links can add keywords to make their own sites easier to find.

New Mapping: The mapping component, based on AutoDesk MapGuide, will now automatically map a registered users location based on address elements, and a particularly powerful new tool allows the user to define an area of interest geographically. This capability paves the way for future geographically-based enhancements.

New Applications: With the introduction of Right-of-Way Activity Manager, InfoLink begins to realize its goal of making available over the Internet software tools for the public works professional. These applications, available on a subscription basis, will provide easy access to tools specifically designed to address public works needs.

New Canadian Data: Got a Postal Code, eh? No longer a problem, as InfoLink supports all Canadian addressing elements, from Provinces to Postal Codes, and incorporates complete mapping sets for all of North America, including complete data sets for streets updated quarterly for the entire U.S. and Canada.

New Registration: The registration process has been greatly streamlined to make it easier and faster. If already an APWA member, the registration will populate data fields based on your APWA membership records. Registration is now even more important for users, as most of the site's functionality is reserved for registered users. It costs nothing to register, and is easier than ever, so don't hesitate.

So for those loyal registered users (you know who you are), existing information from the site will be transitioned to the new site, and your username and password will remain the same. And if you are one of the almost two thousand new members of APWA this year, don't get left behind. There is a lot that is new, but all the things that made APWA-InfoLink valuable in the first place are still there, just easier to access. Information, Resources, Links, Examples, Knowledge...all the things you've read about in this space in the past year, like the importance of networking, are as important as they ever were, and easier than ever to take advantage of.

The goal of APWA-InfoLink is to provide a single place for public works information and tools, and the site has been redesigned with the user, and his or her needs, first and foremost. It exists as one of a complementary set of many APWA services, from the APWA website at apwa.net to the InfoNOW e-mail communities. If you're attending Congress this year, make a point to stop by (and say hello) and test drive InfoLink on the exhibit floor, and if not take it for a spin at www.apwa-infolink.com. Don't get left behind!

To reach Dave Reinke, call (202) 408-9541 or send e-mail to dreinke@apwa.net.