Database does double duty for blue pages site

Database does double duty for blue pages site

FTS combines publishing, billing functions for federal directories


Improving the U.S. Blue Pages Web site'the online complement to federal listings in telephone directories'turned out to be quite a trick.

'The rabbit is not all the way out of the hat yet, but you can tell it's a rabbit,' said Tadgh Smith of Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. SAIC hosts the site at its facility in McLean, Va.

The trick was making the publishing database serve as a billing database and freezing it for certain periods of time so that directories could be printed and agencies charged for the costs.

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size="2" color="#FF0000">GSA's Bonnie Seybold handles the government blue pages listings printed in local phone books.

'The problem comes when you've got a [live database] that people can query,' Smith said.

SAIC is publishing blue pages directories in more than 500 markets this year, which means it must manage more than 1,000 directory versions in its Oracle Corp. database of tens of thousands of government phone numbers.

'We've just about got it licked,' Smith said.

The General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service runs the blue pages project. Coordinators in each agency furnish information for the directories, and agencies pay the cost of publication. The printed listings will appear in more than 500 phone books this year, reaching more than 75 percent of U.S. residents.

'Our goal is 97 percent of households,' project director Bonnie Seybold said.

A number of regional Bell operating companies and independent directory publishers have agreed to publish government listings for free or at reduced cost. Negotiations are continuing to get reduced rates from other RBOCs, including Verizon Corp. and BellSouth Corp., Seybold said. SAIC provides material to the publishers from its database either electronically or on disk.

GSA began putting blue pages listings on the Web two years ago, but 'it wasn't as user-friendly as it is now,' Seybold said.

Three-for-one search

The site was relaunched last fall with three search options. Callers can look up telephone numbers using a table of contents, a keyword search or a list of broad categories such as agriculture and food, federal benefits, or money and taxes. Selecting a state and city can further narrow searches.

About a third of each printed blue pages edition consists of local numbers.

Once SAIC has prepared the copy for a print directory, the material is frozen for billing purposes and for correcting the next print edition. An archive copy of the directory is stored in the same Oracle database for Web searching. It receives updates and corrections as needed.

The database resides on four heavy-duty servers, one for data management and one for the Web site, plus a backup machine for each. SAIC wrote the search engine program using ColdFusion Markup Language from Allaire Corp. of Newton, Mass.
The thousands of entries each average about three words and seven digits, and the resulting database takes up only about 300M. But the growing number of files per locality for both print and Web use presents database management headaches.

The ultimate arbiter of what information goes into the database is the agency coordinator, who must verify additions or corrections. 'Right now, that's all done on paper,' Smith said.

Each coordinator can access the SAIC Web server with a password, review the listings and notify SAIC of changes. To be sure it tracks all changes, SAIC itself makes the new entries after verifying them with the coordinators.


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