Why reinvent the wheel, when you can have your infoNOW!

John T. Davis, P.E., PSM
Chief Engineer
Jacksonville Transportation Authority
Jacksonville, Florida
Member, APWA Transportation Committee

Almost every day, people engaged in providing public works services are faced with what appear to be "new" and challenging issues. Almost none of those issues are "new," but have been faced and addressed by others somewhere in the vast public works arena. The real challenge is to find those who have already solved the problem and ask them, "How did you solve it?" and "If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?" Then go and improve on their solution as you implement your own solution to the problem facing you. That's where networking with fellow public works professionals enters the picture, offering an opportunity to find those problem solvers and profit from their experience.

That's where membership in the American Public Works Association offers a huge advantage—the opportunity to network with 29,000 members having a wide range of experience in every area of public works. Even more valuable now is the opportunity to "network" and field questions to those 29,000 members (researchers, professors, managers and practitioners) within a few minutes and receive responses within 48-72 hours! Sound interesting? Then, read on...

Over its more than 70 years of existence, one of the most valuable benefits and tools APWA has provided to its membership is infoNOW. InfoNOW is a web-based e-mail system of 15 public works "communities" (subject areas), allowing community subscribers to post a question to the entire community. The infoNOW system e-mails the question to all community subscribers, who may respond to either the community or the individual posting the question. Voil…! Almost instant feedback and the questioner did not even have to wait two more months to ask the question at the upcoming APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition. What a valuable resource!

All APWA members can utilize infoNOW. APWA members can subscribe by going to the APWA website: www.apwa.net. Once you've signed into the website, look for the "infoNOW Communities" link near the top of the left-hand column. "Help, Tips & FAQs" (Frequently Asked Questions), available from the "infoNOW Home" page (bottom of left-hand column), can assist with subscribing to communities and utilizing the system.

Haven't registered a sign-in for the APWA website? No problem. To register, just access the website and follow the online directions. APWA members will need their membership number from their membership card or other source. APWA members who have not subscribed to a community are welcome to view past messages posted to the various communities. Not an APWA member? Here's another reason to join!

After logging into the website, APWA members can subscribe to the infoNOW Communities by choosing "Subscribe to infoNOW" (left center of page). Members may select one or more of the following 15 communities:

  • Canadian Public Works
  • Design Engineering and Construction
  • Education and Training
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Environment
  • Fleet
  • Government Affairs
  • Infrastructure Protection and Right-of-Way Management
  • Management, Administration and Finance
  • Operations
  • Progressive Women in Public Works
  • Public Works Historical Society
  • Rural and Small Communities Issues
  • Transportation
  • Urban Forum

Subscribers may elect to receive e-mails as they are posted, to receive daily e-mails containing all postings from the previous day (recommended to avoid a barrage of separate e-mails), or other options. APWA members can read messages, search past messages, or post messages (questions or responses). Recent searches for "consultant selection policy" returned 10 matching messages; "traffic calming" returned 37 matches; and "project management" returned 60 matches.

Sounds like the best thing since sliced bread, doesn't it? Unfortunately, infoNOW, although a very valuable tool, is very underutilized. Membership in individual communities ranges from just over 100 subscribers for the smallest community to just over 1,100 for the largest. Not much use by an organization of 29,000 members. How do we improve it? By every APWA member subscribing to at least the community associated with their field of expertise, and every member inviting a nonmember to join and subscribe (after all, APWA membership has other great benefits). As subscribers increase, the infoNOW resource becomes even more valuable through the availability of more knowledge and experience for response to posted issues.

Along with subscription comes an obligation. Subscribers, who expect help when posting questions, assume an obligation to respond to questions posted by others or to forward those postings to people within their organization, who can provide a good response.

Still continually trying to reinvent the wheel? No need for that, when lots of info is available NOW (infoNOW, get it?). Get on board, and let's get the wheel repaired and rolling again with answers from infoNOW!

John T. Davis is a member of the Transportation Committee and a past member of the Leadership and Management Committee. He can be reached at (904) 630-3169 or JTDavis@jtafla.com.