Multimedia

Multimedia Portal Gets a New Face

By Danny Hart

I’m constantly amazed at the wide range of newly emerging technologies and techniques to deliver rich media. I’m equally a fan of usability so it’s interesting to me when I see really well done new media (or rich media or multimedia, whatever the term du jour is) that happens to be usable as well.

So, recently when I was challenged to find a better way to present our multimedia to the public I looked to how we currently delivered content in other areas of the site as the basis. I felt we could give folks great content without reinventing the wheel and still make it visually interesting.

Like other agencies, EPA has been shifting our rich and social media publishing to sites that specialize in usable interfaces and specialized infrastructure. We found we didn’t need to build whole new photo hosting sites or video platforms, they already existed and our users were already there. These sites had already worked out ways to deliver fast content that is easily searched and deliver it full screen with well-known interfaces. Leveraging our existing relationships with other sites seemed like a slam dunk. Take a look and let us know your thoughts.

About the Author: Danny Hart has been with EPA since 2006. He’s the Associate Director of Web Communications.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Podcasting: Teamwork Makes It Less Difficult Than We Thought It Would Be

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

With decades of EPA service under my belt, I’ve been a part of, and sometimes led, dozens of workgroups aimed at improving how EPA does business. Almost all bore fruit—some with longer shelf-life than others—and it’s easy for me to say that EPA is a good place to raise and lend a hand.

Our initial experience this summer producing the Mid-Atlantic region’s series of podcasts shows what a talented group can do, from scratch and on a shoestring budget. We carefully chose the name “Environment Matters” for our podcast series, knowing that “matters” is both a noun and a verb: we’re providing diverse information about the environment and, we hope in an interesting way, convincing people that what they do everyday makes a difference.

What’s a podcast? Webcontent.gov says it’s “a way of publishing MP3 audio files on the web so they can be downloaded onto computers or portable listening devices, such as iPods …. ” (Please note that they can be video, too.) A best practice to grow an audience is to publish the podcasts regularly. We started on July 25 about saving gasoline, followed on successive Fridays with a unique environmental program for students, water quality monitoring at beaches, a baseball stadium built on a brownfields site, and back-to-school advice for the green-minded. We expect to post two or three a month, and so far there’s been no shortage of topic ideas (and if there’s a little healthy competition among our environmental programs to feature their topics, good).

Back to the collaboration that’s made our quick learning possible. I know, there’s an element of show biz that must be at work here. But “Star Wars” this ain’t, so that intriguing factor can’t explain the enthusiasm and creativity that a dozen people have brought to this environmental education project. The jobs and roles of our podcast team reveal the skills needed to launch “Environment Matters”: senior management for the go-ahead and (surprisingly modest) budget; managers in public affairs and IT to energize and select people for each podcast; communications experts to write scripts, host the podcasts, and coach subject expert speakers; web developers to design and feed our multimedia website; transcribers who make the content accessible to deaf people; and one aspiring movie director with an IT day job; he and his boss are audio editing mavens. (You don’t know your colleagues’ hidden talents until you ask.) And help from our headquarters gave us some needed encouragement. Most of us have known each other for years, but our podcasting has quickly boosted our teamness. Do I sound a bit gushy, after all these years?

Two requests of you: ideas for making better podcasts, and topics you’d like us to cover.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Seeking Solutions from a New Perspective

photo of site with collection lagoon and large white tanks

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

About 5 years ago, I had the opportunity to change jobs within our Dallas regional office. The Region recognized that we were facing new environmental challenges that did not fit entirely within one media division. Sure, aspects of an issue would be adequately addressed by a traditional media program, but no one had the larger view that included cross-program policies and requirements. In my case, the job was monitoring and coordinating energy issues in Region 6. Almost everyday, I get tasked to look at a situation that is not just about air emissions or water discharges or waste handling concerns. It is usually some of each and other factors like community views and economics thrown in as well.

Rob LawrenceAnd just what happens when no one takes a broader view? A fine example comes from my prior state service in Louisiana. A waste oil recycler had gone bankrupt and abandoned the operations, including a waste lagoon. After a heavy rain, the neighbors became concerned about the lagoon overflowing and the waste oil reaching their properties. The state water division sent inspectors to the site, determined that additional capacity in the lagoon was needed and issued a compliance order to draw down the water. Soon after some of the water was removed, the neighbors complained about odors coming from the lagoon. The state air division sent inspectors, determined that the exposed oily waste in the lagoon was the cause, and issued a compliance order to put water into the lagoon to serve as a cap on the odors. The next day the site manager called to say that he was in a Catch-22 situation: he could not meet the requirements of one compliance order without violating the terms of the other one. Clearly, addressing the particular needs of one program would not really address the broader environmental concerns presented by the site. Both media programs did the right thing from their perspective, but the situation was more complex than that.

More and more of today’s environmental challenges are calling for solutions with a multimedia or cross program perspective. How can we expect to address climate change and similar complex concerns without taking a broad view? We need to make sure that fixing one problem doesn’t lead to unintended consequences. One approach EPA is taking is with its environmental innovations program. Check out our website to learn more about how EPA is facing these issues from a different perspective.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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