Will the District’s Web site soon become more reliable? (dc.gov)

The District government’s roughly 125 Web sites, with their 150,000 pages and files and 200 online applications, offer a wide array of useful and informative content. When you can get it, anyway.

This reporter, colleagues at other media outlets and the public at large have noticed in recent months that city Web sites have been increasingly unreliable at times — particularly when downloading multiple files or interacting with Web applications hosted by the Office of Campaign Finance, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Secretary and other sites. Multiple download requests in a short period often lead to sites “timing out” — that is, refusing to respond for at least several minutes.

City technology officials said in a conference call Friday with reporters and agency representatives that they hear the complaints and are working to address them.

“There is no way that that’s acceptable Web behavior for us, and we’re moving aggressively to correct the situation,” said Michael Black, interim chief of Web maintenance for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer.

Black said the performance issues are related to the city’s rollout of a new Web framework over the past two years, and he said some improvements are underway that should improve reliability of city Web sites within weeks. Without getting too technical, they involve upgrading some servers, creating new backup databases and separating the Web system’s publishing functions from its page-serving functions.

Members of the public can help, Black said, by sharing their problems with the folks in the city technology office who can help fix them. To that end, every city Web page now carries a “Report a Website Problem” link at the bottom, pointing to a form where frustrated users can detail their issues.