APWA InfoLink and infoNOW: There is a difference!

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

What's in a name? Or, in this case, what's in a word? A lot, apparently, depending on the word.

For example, let's take the word "information." The first two syllables-"info"-offered up 12,764 sites when conducting a search through a particular Internet search engine. A short sampler includes Infonautics Corporation, GIS Analysis with ARC-INFO, Info-ZIP, Sno-Info, The Info Xchange, Agri-info, Sci-Info, and Info Zone. And there's more-much more-including generic titles such as infomercials and the Information Superhighway. That's a lot of information being thrown your way, if you'll pardon the bad pun.

Now let's toss a couple more into the mix-APWA's InfoLink and infoNOW. Despite all that has been discussed and written about each, it wouldn't be surprising if there weren't some confusion between the two.

The basic distinction between APWA InfoLink and infoNOW is that APWA InfoLink is designed to be essentially a large workroom with applications on subject-specific matters, and infoNOW is a large chat room on subject-specific matters. Put another way, APWA InfoLink is intended to be a collection of applications in a collaborative environment, and infoNOW is the collection of questions and information in a collaborative environment. Both utilize the same constituency-APWA members-to support the public works requirements for information and applications. But each is unique and supplies its own set of benefits to APWA's members, as described below.

APWA InfoLink: Information network for the planning, design and construction community Powered by IZOIC, Inc., APWA's business partner in this venture, APWA InfoLink is designed to be a web-based portal providing a wide range of applications and information to public works officials and others involved in the planning, design, construction, protection, and maintenance community.

"APWA InfoLink is a project designed to enhance the sharing of information among parties that need it, and to identify-and make available-applications that can be most effectively used by members universally," said Peter King, APWA Executive Director. "A relatively simple concept, but a powerful set of services that we have in mind."

IZOIC has modeled the APWA InfoLink platform for the damage prevention industry in its eBuild Protect suite of applications. Over the next several months, the APWA InfoLink Steering Committee will be asking members to be involved in defining and developing Internet-based collaborative applications for public works professionals. Infrastructure management applications most likely to be considered for development and implementation this year will be permitting, project registration, right-of-way management, joint use, and asset management. Access to eBuild Protect applications will also be APWA InfoLink integrated.

"Instead of just using APWA InfoLink to determine the permitting requirements in a given geographic area, the user will have the option to create and submit their permits," said Kim Moody, Vice President of Damage Prevention Applications at IZOIC. "The benefits are endless when data and communications are organized and applications leveraged to the public works community through the APWA InfoLink project."

According to King, APWA InfoLink-which is being designed to be both information and application rich-has the potential to become a tremendous tool used by public works agencies. "Through this special project, APWA can serve, as it has since 1938, as a catalyst in bringing the best ideas to the forefront for all members and benefit of the public at large," he said.

For a tour of the APWA InfoLink site, go to www.apwa-infolink.com.

infoNOW: Information you need when you need it
APWA's infoNOW Internet Communities, developed specifically for public works professionals, are an ideal way to receive timely information, network with peers, and solve public works problems.

There are several ways to describe infoNOW. The purist's definition would be that it is a collection of electronic mailing lists devoted to specific services or functional areas of public works. For example, there is an Infrastructure and Right-of-Way Management Community-each of the electronic mailing lists being referred to as a "Community"-that can be used as an electronic mailing list to ask questions of other APWA members with a specific interest, responsibility, or expertise in infrastructure and right-of-way management. The same, of course, could be said for the other infoNOW Communities, which consist of Government Affairs, Environment, Transportation, Operations, Construction/Design Engineering, Finance and Administration, and Rural and Small Communities Issues.

If that is the purist's definition of infoNOW, then the practical definition is that it is a series of networks that contain the best and the brightest of APWA's members who are there to respond to the need for information of other APWA members almost instantly.

"It is absolutely fantastic," said John "Mac" MacMullen, Professional Development Manager at APWA's headquarters office in Kansas City. "We've had people post a question in the morning and get 10 responses before lunch. And these were good, first-rate responses. One of the best responses concerned a question that Debra Davis from the City of Worcester, Massachusetts, posted regarding sanitary sewer connections. She received 17 responses in the course of a day or a couple of days at most. And they were all quality responses."

As of this writing, there are currently 3,593 members taking advantage of all of the benefits that the eight infoNOW Communities bring, which include the following:

  • Receiving up-to-date information on issues, trends, and current events.
  • Exchanging information with peers concerning best practices, legislative and regulatory developments, research findings, and more.
  • Solving difficult problems through interaction with public works peers.
  • Receiving selected APWA newsletters and other information via e-mail.
"The tangible benefit that infoNOW provides the members is the ability to instantaneously network with other helpful and motivated members, because these people are indeed motivated to turn around and take the time to send detailed responses back," said MacMullen. "Where can you get a brain trust like that, for the cost of being a member of APWA?" (Not to mention all the other benefits that come with membership.)

All members of APWA are eligible to subscribe, and you can subscribe to any (or all) of the Communities that interest you. To subscribe, visit the APWA web site at www.apwa.net and, on the home page, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Members Only.
  2. Log on using your member ID.
  3. Select infoNOW.
  4. Select one or more of the subject-oriented Communities.
  5. Follow the simple instructions.
  6. For technical assistance, contact infoNOW@apwa.net.