The best way to learn a new technical skill is to just play around with the technology. Learning through playing with technology goes for building websites, mobile apps, and now, chatbots. As chatbots have become more popular, some online sites will let you create a chatbot with little or no programming. Now, realize that the easier it is to create the chatbot, the less sophisticated the chatbot will be. However, you may not need a sophisticated chatbot that can handle almost any situation.
The team behind the U.S. Web Design Standards (the Standards) held their first Ask Me Anything (AMA), in August, to answer questions from their public Slack channel community. There was great excitement in the channel leading up to the chat, and more than 40 new people joined the already robust community of federal, state and local government, higher education, industry, nonprofit, and U.K. and Canada government officials that are interested in working with–and growing–the Standards.
This post was originally published by Code.gov on Medium. It’s been a year since the federal government published the Federal Source Code Policy, which created the foundation for Code.gov. In honor of the policy’s anniversary, we checked in with our users to learn more about them, their needs, and the challenges they face. Our users were responsive, proving insights we translated into our newly released metadata schema that powers the Code.
This is part of an ongoing series highlighting the innovations and research happening at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Wounded warriors who dream of returning to playing hockey, climbing mountains or simply brushing their teeth with ease can look to 3-D printing innovations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to help them return to daily living. The five-person team at the 3-D Medical Applications Center can print just about anything, from prosthetic attachments to surgical simulation models and custom cranial plates.
When people think of government software, they often think of COBOL and PowerBuilder 5, with manual software deploys every three to six months on a fixed number of machines in a government-run data center. This perception is sometimes justified, but sometimes entirely wrong. Regardless, the perception makes many developers reluctant to work for the government because they worry about the frustrations of getting stuck in the bureaucracy instead of being able to iterate rapidly, ship products, and deliver value.
As the nation’s primary platform for sharing and improving government software, Code.gov can help the government save millions of taxpayer dollars. It’s no secret that the federal government spends billions of dollars a year on software transactions. So, in an effort to cut excessive spending, the government released the Federal Source Code Policy last year to reduce duplicative software acquisitions. The policy requires that new software developed for or by the federal government be made available for sharing and reuse across all federal agencies.
We’ve recently added two powerful tools to the U.S. Web Design Standards development workflow that allow us to preview, test, and publish the Standards code more quickly and easily. Fractal Fractal is a powerful and flexible framework for building interactive component libraries. It’s similar to Jekyll (which we use to publish the Standards site) in one key respect: It operates primarily on simple file naming conventions. Organize your files in a specific way, using the content and data formats it understands, and it will generate a web site automatically.
If you’re a program manager or a federal web developer you’ve probably been given a seemingly simple task: Create a basic website as part of a new initiative at your agency. The hardest part is often not crafting the content or designing the prototype, but getting the security and privacy compliance in order to launch and maintain the actual website’s compliance status. For that work, you might have to hire a contractor or put extra strain on your agency’s web team.
We wanted to share some high-level guidance for CSPs and 3PAOs we created with the JAB teams to provide insight into the different roles and responsibilities for 3PAOs and CSPs in our authorization process. These roles and responsibilities were created and refined over the last year as we refined the JAB’s authorization process through FedRAMP Accelerated. The CSP’s role (189 kb PDF, 1 page) in the JAB authorization process is to ensure their service offering meets the NIST/FedRAMP requirements through the implementation and documentation of security controls.
Last [month], NASA Open Innovation Program Manager Dr. Beth Beck and her team traveled to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) near Montreal, Canada to attend the Inspiring Data Forum graciously hosted by our Open Data neighbors to the North. The goal of this gathering was to bolster the working relationship between the two Space Agency’s Open Data efforts and to present techniques NASA is doing in Open Innovation. The event was heavily attended by CSA employees and also had participants from National Research Council of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Natural Resources Canada, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, MaxQ and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Over the past 90 days, government websites were visited over 2.55 billion times. According to the Analytics Dashboard, 43.
December 9, 2016, will be the 110th anniversary of Admiral Grace Hopper’s birthday. Admiral Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming who created the first compiler and whose ideas lead to the creation of COBOL. An apocryphal legend also credits Admiral Hopper with coining the terms “bug” and “debugging.” The GSA’s IT Digital Service Team will celebrate Admiral Hopper’s birthday with a beginner-friendly hackathon. The Grace Hopper Day Hackathon is the perfect hackathon for beginners.
When I joined the code.gov project, I had just over a month to make an impact on the project. The most pressing work seemed to be defining a software metadata schema — a way for agencies to format the details of the software they’ve built. In August of this year, the Federal Source Code Policy was signed. It requires federal agencies to, among other things, inventory their custom software and make the inventory available for consumption and display by code.
When: Friday, December 9th, 2016 Where: NARA Innovation Hub, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Register: On Eventbrite The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Digital Service team is excited to be hosting our next agency hackathon on December 9, 2016. Join coders from across the region as we come together in celebration of Grace Hopper’s birthday. Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper was one of the first programmers in the history of computers. As the creator of the first compiler for a programming language, it is largely due to her that programmers use “if/thens” instead of 1s and 0s today.
Around Q3, I was looking for way to test the HTML and CSS of an online application that was to be public-facing. At first, my office’s plan was to connect mobile devices to the network owned by federal employees on a volunteer basis for testing. All of a sudden, a new policy came down that stated, “devices that were not purchased by the agency could not be connected to the network.
Improving the way the government delivers information technology (IT) solutions to its customers isn’t just a goal, it’s our mission. We at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office know that by publishing our open source code, the public can help us come up with new and better IT solutions. In advance of the new Federal Source Code Policy and in support of the Administration’s Open Government Initiative, we have been publishing content on GitHub for over a year, and it now includes source code for a mobile application for trademarks.
I recently interviewed Daniel Kuhns, Web Manager at FEMA, about the site widgets and the FEMA app his organization has been developing. The widgets currently available include: FEMA App, Preparedness, Severe Weather, Private Sector, Kids Fire Safety, and Are you a Disaster Survivor. The FEMA App offers many features such as weather alerts, safety reminders, shelter information and contact information. This information can be very helpful in times of an emergency, and some of it, to include the safety tips, are available offline.
Cancer clinical trials are a critically important step on the pathway for new or improved treatments to make their way to patients in clinics and hospitals in towns and cities across the country. Patients and their loved ones are relying on these rigorous studies to determine whether promising new therapies and approaches might extend how long they live or improve their quality of life. For many years, a steady number of patients with cancer, approximately 5%, have participated in cancer clinical trials.
Many of our cloud service providers (CSPs), federal agencies, and third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) often share common issues and questions when going through the FedRAMP process. To help guide our stakeholders, we will be providing weekly tips and address frequently asked questions and concerns. Email us potential tips and questions that you would like published as a tip. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) Question: Why should CSPs spend time and money developing high quality documentation when their goal is to become FedRAMP Authorized?
In August 2016, OMB released M-16-21, which seeks to ensure that new custom-developed Federal source code be made broadly available for reuse across the Federal Government. M-16-21 also requires agencies, when commissioning new custom software, to release at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as Open Source Software (OSS) for three years, and to collect data concerning new custom software to gauge performance. This approach is consistent with the Digital Government Strategy “Shared Platform” approach, which enables federal employees to work together—both within and across agencies—to reduce costs, streamline development, apply uniform standards, and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information.
Summary: Today we’re launching Code.gov so that our Nation can continue to unlock the tremendous potential of the Federal Government’s software. Over the past few years, we’ve taken unprecedented action to help Americans engage with their Government in new and meaningful ways. Using Vote.gov, citizens can now quickly navigate their state’s voter registration process through an easy-to-use site. Veterans can go to Vets.gov to discover, apply for, track and manage their benefits in one, user-friendly place.
Daily imagery data taken by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera is now accessible via a RESTful API available from the NASA API Portal. The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) is an instrument aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite, which orbits at Earth’s Lagrange point, the sweet spot in space where the gravitational tug of the Earth and the Sun is equal. This allows DSCOVR to maintain a stable position between the Earth and Sun and thus a continuous view of the sunlit side of Earth.
Summary: Take a look at how we plan to preserve and pass on the digital history of the Obama administration. President Obama is the first “social media president”: the first to have @POTUS on Twitter, the first to go live on Facebook from the Oval Office, the first to answer questions from citizens on YouTube, the first to use a filter on Snapchat. Over the past eight years, the President, Vice President, First Lady, and the White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time (while having some fun along the way).
In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber attack that took down Twitter and Netflix. I want to invite you, the reader, to also send in your predictions for the future of Federal government data.
In software development, we use a variety of techniques to help us understand the software we’ve written, whether it works as expected, and whether it will be easy to maintain over time. One of the techniques we use is called static source analysis, and it can tell us a lot about the maintenance requirements of our code. Static source analysis (also often referred to as simply “static analysis”) is the practice of examining source code while it’s not running and gathering a variety of metrics on the code itself, without regard to how it runs in an active environment.
A few weeks ago, Progressive Web Applications, Part 1: the New Pack Mule of the Internet _introduced PWAs and the technologies behind them. We shared that article to the MobileGov Community of Practice and asked about the pros and cons of this approach to winning mobile moments._ What Are Some Benefits of PWAs? PWAs bring a host of advantages over the traditional native mobile and Web methodologies including:
On September 8th, the General Services Administration (GSA) held a Technology Industry Day to talk to industry leaders about the products and solutions developed by our agency and to hear feedback on how we can better engage industry. We’re thrilled that more than 300 members of the technology industry in person and via the live stream were able to join us for this first step towards a closer partnership and more open lines of communication about how we can work together to transform federal technology.
Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.
One year ago this week, we launched vote.gov (also known as vote.usa.gov). It’s a concise and simple site with a single mission: direct citizens through the voter registration process as quickly as possible. It was created by a joint team of USA.gov staffers and Presidential Innovation Fellows, all of whom work within the General Services Administration (GSA). Did it work? Yes. In fact, it worked so well that Facebook made it the destination for their 2016 voter registration drive.
One day, at an unnamed agency, the Outlook server crashed. The server stayed down for the rest of the afternoon. Deprived of email and meeting calendars, employees wandered around trying to remember what meetings they had to attend. Other employees went searching for people who they ordinarily would email. There was confusion that made people realize just how dependent they were on a single software program. As the Federal government moves toward digital transformation, I have been thinking about how agencies can best weather the transition from legacy systems to cloud-based, agile applications.
Private industry and government came together to find best ways to deliver 21st century technology to federal agencies. On September 8, 2016 Administrator Denise Turner Roth of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) hosted the first-ever Technology Industry Day to provide a better understanding of GSA’s path to improve the government’s outdated technology systems. The event featured how GSA buys, builds and shares technology for the federal government. “The General Services Administration has a long history of being a strong leader in adopting technology in government,” said Administrator Roth when giving her opening remarks at GSA’s Technology Industry Day.
****A mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a horse. This new species is stronger and better equipped than the species from which it comes. Overall, mules tend to be healthier, more sound, and live longer than horses. They are favored over horses in mountainous terrain because the mule has a reputation for being more surefooted than their equine cousins. Finally, mules do not require expensive grains, eat less and don’t tend to overeat as horses do.
No Longer an Idea of the Future, Artificial Intelligence Is Here and You Are Probably Already Using It
It might surprise some of you to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use and a routine part of our daily lives, but we leverage this technology when we use our smartphones or other devices to ask Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now, or Amazon’s Alexa a question to get the facts or data we are looking for. Using your voice, you can say, “Where’s the nearest gas station?
Last week we wrote about how we diffuse knowledge through shared interests and sharing best practices on the Micro-purchase Platform. This week, we’ll focus on some of the lessons learned during the (completed) DATA Act prototype. Importantly, though that project has finished, this post is not meant to be a full retrospective or post-mortem; we’ll be focusing on technical decisions. We should also delineate this from the more long term DATA Act broker, which is under active development.
This is post 2 in the 5-part series The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. The last major infrastructure upgrade that DigitalGov Search had was in 2010. Not only has technology evolved significantly since then, but so have business models for right-sizing costs. Moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure allowed us to improve reliability by creating self-healing servers and distributing the service across four physically isolated datacenters, and reduce datacenter costs by 40% per month — no longer do we have to pay for peak throughput capacity overnight, on weekends, or during other predictably low-traffic periods.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is known for managing federal real estate and leveraging the government’s buying power to get the best deal for taxpayers, but it also drives and leads technology and innovation within the federal government. The Technology Transformation Service (TTS) builds, buys and shares tech to help federal agencies achieve their mission. They create better services for citizens everyday. TTS works closely with the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the GSA CIO to be first movers in and apply agile technology in a meaningful way.
This spring, the eRegulations Notice & Comment team began building out a new feature set for the platform — adding the ability for agencies with proposed regulations to show the public more precisely the changes being proposed and allow agencies to receive more granular, contextual, and better-organized comments. One of the challenges we wrestled with was how to share our work out frequently and openly with the dozens of interested parties, while not making that a blocker in focusing on our work of doing many demos for the many different parties interested in and informing our work.
Summary: Today, we’re releasing the Federal Source Code policy to support improved access to custom software code developed by or for the Federal Government. “If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble.
Widgets, Mobile Apps, and SMS: Essential Agency Tools for Summer Heat Safety, Hurricane Season, and Emergency Preparedness
According to recent Pew Research Center surveys, 45 percent of American adults have tablets and 68 percent have smartphones. While the majority of smartphone owners use their mobile devices to keep up with breaking news and stay informed about what is happening in their communities, nearly half, 40 percent, also reported using their smartphones to look up government services or information. As is the case each summer, most of the U.
It is at the intersections of fields where you find the most fascinating and innovative concepts. Recently, a conference on “Open Human Resources and the Cognitive Era” explored the use of chatbots and blockchain technologies in human resources. Human Resources (HR) is quietly undergoing a revolution as many HR practitioners are transforming HR by using open source concepts. It is fascinating to see how cognitive technologies and cloud technologies are changing HR from a transactional and compliance function to an essential strategic organizational asset.
This is the fifth in a series describing how the Social Security Administration is working towards a more modern IT infrastructure. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here. In the next three posts we will consider the problem of modernizing old legacy software. In this post we will start a discussion about why modernizing software is important and what is most important to think about first.
How to start an innovation movement: Connect innovators with fellow innovators, and find more innovators to collaborate with. This idea underpins a new pilot from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which seeks to harness the power of collaboration among the public and government to better serve veterans. Currently, eight VA centers around the United States are participating in the VA Innovators Network pilot. The pilot allows VA employees to propose and test ideas in a “test small, fail small” environment, with the goal of scaling successful solutions to the entire VA system.
National Day of Civic Hacking on June 4th, D.C. Edition The fourth installation of the National Day of Civic Hacking aims to be another stellar event, bringing together civic-minded innovators in cities across the nation under one big tent. Just as in years past, it will be powered by the passion of citizens to improve their communities, along with open government data and mentorship from groups like Code for America and numerous federal and local agencies.
Last month, I worked to create a “Citizen Science Passport” for the federal agencies participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Seven federal agencies offered some form of crowdsourcing or citizen science activity at their booths such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s exhibit on food safety or Environmental Protection Agency’s build-your-own air monitoring kit. Attendees would participate in each of the agency’s citizen science activity to receive a stamp on their passport.
The federal workplace is abuzz these days with talk about open data and how agencies can leverage that data through APIs. According to the federal Open Data Policy, data should be managed as an information asset, and making it discoverable and usable (in other words, open). Open data “not only strengthens our democracy and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government, but also has the potential to create economic opportunity and improve citizens’ quality of life.
In the five months since we launched the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards — the U.S. government’s very own set of common UI components and visual styles for websites — over a dozen websites have used components of the Draft Standards on their sites. Recently, we talked to three federal web designers about their experiences using the Draft Standards, which were designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind: Maria Marrero is the User Experience Designer for USA.
Agencies can participate in the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) by implementing the DAP script block. It’s a simple line of of code that enables you to take advantage DAP: (Example) You can use this line to enhance the Web analytics solution with additional query string parameters. The query string parameters pass data that enable features within the code. They can also help configure settings in the code. It allows you to leverage more features in DAP or extract more data out of DAP.
The NASA Open Innovation team is pleased to announce the availability of the APIs that power Mars Trek and Vesta Trek on api.nasa.gov. The APIs for Mars provide data from the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions with 21 different data products such as MOLA Altimetery Hillshade, Viking and THEMIS. There are also 6 data products from the Dawn mission to Vesta providing various views in True Color, Colorized and Color Hillshade to name a few.
Tag managers can assist in collecting valuable data about visits to your website. Here at CFPB, we use Google Tag Manager (GTM), which is a free tool that works in tandem with Google Analytics to record and send data on how users interact with your website on an aggregate level, including which pages they view, where they click and what they download. It requires one line of code to be added to your site.
It seems of late that the focus on coding and technology within the federal space has become out of balance with that of good, solid content. As I believe I have said before with regard to user experience, great technology with poor content is still worthless. Amazing code that delivers poorly written or designed content still can’t help the user. And there is no code that I know of that can make bad content better for the user, aside from the algorithmically-derived content previously discussed.
Summary: Today, we’re releasing for public comment a draft policy to support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal Government. America has long been a nation of innovators. American scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs invented the microchip, created the Internet, invented the smartphone, started the revolution in biotechnology, and sent astronauts to the Moon. And America is just getting started. That is why since the start of this Administration, the President has taken concrete actions to support the spirit of innovation that makes America so strong.
This week, President Obama will travel to SxSW (South by Southwest) to talk about how we can use technology to tackle tough challenges. This underscores how important data—government data, in particular—is to improving and fueling our democracy forward. 2015 saw many open data milestones by agencies, including: New advancements in HHS’s syndication storefront New features to analytics.usa.gov dashboard (now with agency-specific dashboards USPTO’s PatentsView Education’s New College Scorecard FEMA’s new Data Visualization Tool APIs from FEC , Labor and NASA (to name a few) There is also more to come (and more that’s needed).
Algorithms are becoming more important as the amount of data grows, and the complexity of government and business processes grows. Put simply, an algorithm is just a set of steps for solving a problem. If you shop online, use an online social network or a mobile app to plan your route, then you are using an algorithm: A sophisticated algorithm that uses large amounts of data to make hundreds (or thousands) of decisions in milliseconds.
Federal agencies are doing well in fulfilling the 2012 Digital Government Strategy by providing numerous mobile apps for American citizens. According to a report from IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, 76 federal agencies have at least one mobile app. As of July 2015, there are nearly 300 federal government mobile apps that provide at least one of the following: General information and news services Client services such as providing and processing government forms Crowdsourcing Health and safety information Educational services According to the report, mobile devices were one-third of the traffic to government websites, as of July 2015.
Some highlights from the recent fall conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management: Localities that receive disaster mitigation funds also have more disaster declarations. Longer, more detailed proposed regulations receive fewer challenges to implementing the regulation. Agencies that are better at quantifying their results are safer from budget cuts. The findings above were all based on ready access to open government data. In fact, many more public policy and administration scholars can do more detailed, and innovative research thanks to federal agencies’ release of these datasets.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum just released a new educational mobile app, Mobile Missions. From the website: “Find out if you are cut out for a career in aerospace with our free mobile app, Mobile Missions. Take our quiz to discover the best aerospace career for you. Explore objects from our collection related to your chosen profession. Answer challenge questions to receive in-app badges and rewards. Document your journey by inserting your selfie into a historical image related to your aerospace career and share with friends.
We are pleased to announce the beginnings of a new Syndication.Net/Sharepoint module for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Syndication Storefront. The collaborative effort between HHS and National Institutes of Health’s (NIH), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) teams will eventually enable .NET content management system users to publish content directly in the HHS digital media syndication storefront. How did they do it, and what’s next?
A month ago, I wrote about the White House’s call for data scientists and app developers to come together to help combat suicide. On December 12, 2015, there will be five hackathons around the U.S. to #HackSuicide. All the hackathons are free and open to the public. Even if you are not a data scientist, app developer or mental health expert, you may want to attend one of the events to learn how data can be used to solve a vital public health issue.
Standing on the corner, waiting in the rain, I swear I’ll never, ever, use that app again. Why? Because the bad user experience (UX) design was preventing me from determining when the Metrobus would arrive. UX is everything from the visual design to the navigation structure of the website or mobile app. This month, DigitalGov is focusing on UX design. Good UX design is based on understanding how people perceive and process information on everything from websites to mobile apps.
If you or your agency have thought about working with 18F but are unsure of how we work with our partners, we have a new set of guidelines to help you out. The 18F Delivery Partner Playbook is specifically targeted at federal offices interested in working with 18F to build digital services. The playbook is based both on our project experience to date and common questions that come up during our business development process.
18F is an open-source team. We currently have hundreds of publicly available repositories, with dozens under active development. We’ve had numerous contributions from colleagues within government, and contributions from members of the public. But in the next few weeks, we are going to run an experiment: we want to contract for contributions. And we want to do it the 18F way. What’s the experiment? Specifically, we’re going to use our “micro-purchase” authority.
OpenNASA has recently completed another redesign of their site. With over 31,000 data sets, 194 code repositories and 36 APIs, OpenNASA probably has the largest collection of open data of any of the federal agencies. An especially helpful feature is a set of icons devoted to five types of visitors: the Citizen Scientist, the Developer, the Citizen Activist, the Govvie and the Curious. A great feature to engage NASA’s audience is the Data Stories section where people talk about the projects they created with NASA datasets.
Summary: How the U.S. Digital Service worked with students, families, schools, developers and teams across the federal government to rebuild the new College Scorecard tool. My niece is a smart kid. I’m biased, but I swear she is. And just as I started working on the College Scorecard project as the U.S. Digital Service’s new Chief Digital Service Officer at the Department of Education, I got a call from her—she was trying to decide where to go to school.
We’ve all been there. You walk into a meeting, set your things on the table, and sit down on the chair only to hit the floor instead. In a corporate office you might buy a new chair and get reimbursed, or maybe your company has a process for requesting new furniture. Regardless, that chair needs replacing. In the government, the system to replace something small like an office chair revolves around credit cards, called “purchase cards,” paid by the government and used by specially trained employees.
We routinely publish our best practices in the 18F Guides, and today we’re happy to launch a new one: the 18F Open Source Style Guide. The Open Source Style Guide is a comprehensive handbook for writing clear, accessible, and user-friendly documentation so that your open source code repositories are accessible both internally and externally. It’s important to make sure our documentation is clear both for internal and external audiences.
18F uses HTTPS for everything we make, and the U.S. government is in the process of transitioning to HTTPS everywhere. As part of this effort, we’ve recently partnered with DigitalGov University to produce a two-video series introducing the why’s and how’s of HTTPS. In an Introduction to HTTPS for beginners, we cover what happens when you use the web, how HTTPS helps protect users, and examines why the web (including the U.
Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.
Four years ago, we released our Labor Department-wide API—that is, an Application Programming Interface—with the hope that anyone who wants to build an app using our data could do so easily. At the time, we started off with three datasets. Today, we have around 200, including workplace injuries and illnesses, the unemployment rate, companies’ compliance with wage and hour laws, and many other important topics. We hope that the data we publish can help people who have jobs, are looking for jobs or are even retired from their jobs.
In case you missed it, U.S. Open Data recently launched a tool called: Let Me Get That Data For You (LMGTDY). The name is a play on the very funny Let Me Google That For You website. How LMGTDFY works Let Me Get That Data For You searches any website for data in machine-readable formats and provides a list. Here is U.S. Open Data’s background reasoning for creating this tool:
Finding and getting access to our own health information can be a complex process. And most of us don’t really think about having our health information readily accessible until we really need it – like in the event of an emergency, or when switching doctors or traveling. Combing through stacks of paperwork and contacting providers is daunting for even the most organized among us. However, this familiar scenario is being reimagined.
Anything built should be built right. It doesn’t matter if it’s built of wood, carbon nanotubes or code. So it’s encouraging that the practice of User-Centered Design—getting customer feedback at every stage of a project—is catching on with APIs as well. When we think APIs, we mostly think of developers and not designers. But the experience of those who want to use your APIs isn’t just dependant of the strength and elegance of your API.
We released the United States Public Participation Playbook this week, a new open resource agencies can use to evaluate and build better programs that give a voice to the people they serve—and the response was fantastic. Public servants and citizens around the world have shared it, and already are contributing new ideas that build from the work of the team of 70 federal leaders, more than a dozen engagement experts, and citizens themselves who worked together to launch it.
3D printing has gone out of this world. Earlier this month, DigitalGov covered the NIH 3D Print Exchange, where 3D printing is supporting scientific learning and research. Today, we’re highlighting a project that is reaching brand new heights: NASA’s In-space Manufacturing Initiative. Self-Sufficiency in Space NASA is currently conducting 3D printing experiments aboard the International Space Station. In November, a printer faceplate was the first object successfully 3D printed in space.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently unveiled a new mobile app to help people who have been drinking get a safe ride home. The ‘SaferRide’ mobile app, gives holiday revelers an easy way to find a ride home when they’ve had too much to drink instead of getting behind the wheel. The app encourages potential drunk drivers to stay off of the road by helping them contact a close friend, find their location, and connect directly to a taxi company to secure a safe ride.
The use of 3D printing is growing. From kayaks to pancakes to human and canine prosthetics, a diverse array of 3D printed products have been delivered. 3D printing has also been named one of the top technology trends in 2015 that organizations should incorporate into their strategic planning. In the federal space, 3D printing is evolving. Winners of the White House 3D ornament contest were announced last month. In January, we’re highlighting projects that show how 3D printing can support diverse federal initiatives, from scientific research to space exploration.
As we round out 2014, we’re reflecting on the exciting year we’ve had at DigitalGov since we launched in February. Our mission is to share information and resources from agencies across the federal government that are working in the digital space, and highlight the services and communities that can help you meet your digital government goals. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2015, but first we wanted to highlight the most popular articles on DigitalGov this year.
As part of 18F’s mission to deliver effective, user-centric services focused on the interaction between government and the people and businesses it serves, we are also committed to demonstrating how open source and agile-inspired methodologies are critical to an effective, efficient, modern delivery process. We believe these methods produce better software and services at lower cost than previous models, build trust and goodwill amongst citizens and the tech industry, and help to attract and retain technical talent.
In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.
In May 2015, we’re hosting the second DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. This round we are looking to you—federal innovators across government—to help build the agenda. We want to get you the information you need, ignite discussion, foster sharing, build capacity, even get you to challenge and debate each other in the name of delivering better digital services. So, we’ve set up a crowdsourcing platform where you can suggest presentation ideas and vote for your favorites.
Government mobile code developed to help make tables mobile-friendly in one agency has now been used in another agency’s mobile efforts. Last month, Clair Koroma told DigitalGov readers about code that the Department of Health and Human Services had developed to make website tables mobile-friendly and then HHS shared it on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog. Debra Fiorrito from the Defense Financial Accounting Service and her developer, Todd Posius, have implemented the code on the DFAS.
The federal government captures almost every economic data trend through several agencies. The Federal Reserve of St. Louis offers 238,000 economic trends through FRED® (Federal Reserve Economic Data). FRED® data can be accessed through the FRED® website or the FRED® mobile app (Android | Apple). FRED® data can even be pulled into Excel through a free plugin. Developers can take advantage of the vast data resources of FRED® and its cousin, ALFRED® (ArchivaL Federal Reserve Economic Data).
The recent Ebola outbreaks demonstrate the need for current and authoritative health news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the federal information source for Ebola and other infectious diseases, along with other public health data. Data.CDC.gov lists 48 datasets and views containing statistics from smoking to infectious diseases. Developers can use the Socrata Open Data API to pull JSON data into their apps. For those who are not developers, the CDC offers a way to embed health data into blogs, websites, and social media.
Over the last 6 months, 18F has embarked on a mission to transform the way the U.S. Government builds and buys digital services. We’re currently working with more than half a dozen agencies to help them deliver on their missions in a design-centric, agile, open, and data-driven way. How do we say yes to a project? We ask ourselves: Is there an opportunity to improve the interaction between government and the people it serves?
Open government, open source, openness. These words are often used in talking about open data, but we sometimes forget that the root of all of this is an open community. Individuals working together to release government data and put it to use to help their neighbors and reach new personal goals. This sense of community in the open data field shows up in many places. I see it when people volunteer at the National Day of Civic Hacking, crowdsource data integrity with MapGive, or mentor with Girls Who Code.
There are many ways the public can get information from the federal government. For example, you can check out Data.gov to find scores of datasets and APIs, agency websites for information about their work, or other important information in online FOIA Libraries. Or you can also just ask for it. Since 1966, the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, has granted the public the right to access information from the federal government.
More than 100 digital engagement and open data managers from across government met with leaders in the private sector startup community August 7 at the White House for a summit on integrating our digital services with public participation to create more opportunities for innovation and tackle tougher challenges. The SocialGov Summit on Open Data Innovation was organized by the 700-member SocialGov Community and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, launching a new inter-community initiative to apply combined open data, digital engagement, and innovative technologies to fields ranging from the Internet of Things and emergency management to modernization of the regulatory process.
My name is Kin Lane, I am the API Evangelist, and a round two Presidential Innovation Fellow. I spend each day looking through the developer portals and hubs for API across the private sector. Recently I’ve also spent time looking at 77 federal government API developer portals and 190 APIs, and after all this review of some successful, and some not so successful APIs, you start to get an idea for what the minimum viable building blocks for an API hub in federal government should be.
Introduction Transparency in coding makes code more secure. Open-source development is development in the light, sometimes a harsh light, that shows every blemish. At 18F we strongly believe this improves the rapidity of our coding and the quality and security of the code. We keep the code open to each other, which allows us to quickly scrub in on projects and to dexterously apply the most talented resources to a problem without too much concern for who is formally working on or in charge of a given project.
As federal agencies release APIs on an almost daily basis, keeping track of the numerous datasets has become a vital service for developers. The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) manages HealthData.Gov which currently lists 1,680 datasets in 36 categories such as “Public Health,” “Health Care Cost,” and “Health Statistics.” To help developers find relevant datasets and keep up with newly-added datasets, the HealthData.gov API was created. Developers can use the Catalog API to search the catalog and receive meta-information about a dataset in the JSON format.
In the wide world of software, maybe you’ve heard someone say this, or maybe you’ve said it yourself: “I’ll open source it after I clean up the code; it’s a mess right now.” Or: “I think there are some passwords in there; I’ll get around to cleaning it out at some point.” Or simply: “No way, it’s just too embarrassing.” These feelings are totally natural, but keep a lot of good work closed that could easily have been open.
Food deserts are areas where residents have little or no access to nutritional food. Food deserts exist because of low-incomes, lack of transportation, or too few stores that stock produce and other healthy food items. Governments from the local level to federal have implemented grant programs to encourage grocery store construction in the food deserts. Community activists have also worked to create food co-ops and encourage farmer markets to target the food deserts.
You’ve just found a great open source fed agency app on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog, and would love to use one of its cool functionalities for your own agency’s app. As federal agencies release more and more code to the open source community, this dilemma is becoming increasingly commonplace. Agencies who open-source their entire app’s code are taking an excellent first step; the next challenge is to get the really interesting and useful code reused more readily.
Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps are then presented to subject matter experts for suggestions on creating the final app. There are many government hackathons on a variety of public issues. Visit Challenge.
The Census Bureau recently released a “machine-readable dataset discovery service” that lists 41 Census data sets. It’s in spreadsheet form and gives a description of the datasets along with links to the API and developer documentation. What makes the discovery service machine readable is that’s based on Project Open Data’s “Common Core Metadata Schema” that uses a standard way to describe and index government information sources. The discovery service makes it easier for developers to find and mix different APIs together to create sophisticated apps.
Not only does the Department of State have a great set of APIs, State also has an excellent example of how to build an informative and useful app. EducationUSA is a network of State Department advisers who help international students apply for U.S. university programs. The EducationUSA app has the most popular resources and services from the EducationUSA website, such as the ability to: Search for EducationUSA advising center information Follow the primary social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube) View Frequently Asked Questions (in 8 languages) Discover new financial aid opportunities, and Utilize the Ask an Adviser (in five languages) function The EducationUSA app is an excellent example of designing for multiple-device experiences.
Got innovation? Well, we do! On Wednesday May 28, the Challenge.gov team gathered the Challenges and Prizes Community of Practice together for its quarterly meeting. The group covered two topics: Highlights from challenge competitions run in 2013. Concepts and tips for working with solvers to build teams. Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, shared the results of a recent report on challenge and prize competitions conducted under America COMPETES Act Authority.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released the OpenFDA Research Project. At the heart of the project is the OpenFDA API, which allows developers to perform searches on FDA’s drug information database. Coming soon is the ability to search FDA information on medical devices and information about food. Visit the FDA’s API Basics page to learn how to access OpenFDA including interactive sample queries. The FDA’s API documentation is a great example of how to create detailed guidance for developers.
As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.
During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?
We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]
The Food and Drug Administration collects drug labeling information for human prescription, over-the-counter, homeopathic, and veterinary products through a special markup language called “Structured Product Labeling” (SPL). The database created from the SPL submissions is a treasure trove of health information that is valuable to pharmacists, doctors, and the ordinary health consumer. The problem is that data is hard for developers to access and process. Until recently, when the National Library of Medicine released open source code for “Pillbox.
Have a DigitalGov success?—published an API? Got buy-in from leadership? Changed a part of your customer-service paradigm? Developed a cool dashboard? Got the app out the door? Heck! Have you prototyped a wearable, drivable or flyable? Have a DigitalGov opinion?—think we should be focusing more or less on something? Have an idea on how to improve development? Want to share your digital gov mantra? Internet of things? You are doing and thinking a lot, and we have a place for a few of you smarties to share with other agencies.
APIs and User Experience go together like gummi bears and ice cream. An API is a product just like a car, a website or a ballpoint pen. It’s designed to help someone do something. Products are either designed well—they meet expectations and deliver value—or they are designed poorly and create frustration and confusion. Inevitably, bad products are abandoned without a thought, like an old T-shirt with holes in it.
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
The National Day of Civic Hacking is actually a weekend. An awe-inspiring two days of collaborative work where coders, designers, writers, innovative thinkers, and data geeks get together to solve problems and build things for their communities. For the Challenge.gov community, this is a fantastic opportunity to get live, hands-on experience talking with and working next to people in a real-time hacking environment. If you’re thinking about running a competition around data sets or have an idea you want to float to developers, you can do it here first and see what feedback and traction you get, before committing to a full-fledged prize competition.
Search is easy, right? You type a term in a search box and the exact page you’re looking for appears at the top of the list of results. But search is hard and has many shades of grey. On April 10, 2014, Loren Siebert, our DigitalGov Search senior search architect, presented on: Complexities of recall and precision, Popular open source search technologies, and “Search magic” like stemming, synonyms, fuzziness, and stopwords.
Today we’re announcing our first product launch: FBOpen, a set of open-source tools to help small businesses search for opportunities to work with the U.S. government. On the surface, FBOpen is a website: fbopen.gsa.gov is a simple, Google-style page where you can search available federal contracts and grants. We’ve used the latest in search technology to make finding opportunities easier and more effective for everybody. FBOpen is more than a search website, however.
At DigitalGov Search, we keep an eye on on our what our government counterparts are up to, both in the U.S. and other countries. We recently came across Gov.UK’s philosophy on and approach to coding in the open. It caught our attention and we realized we should also articulate our open source strategy. Use and Contribute to Open Source Projects Since 2010, we’ve embraced and leveraged open source software to build our site search service for federal, state, and local government websites.
As the definition of “developer” has grown and expanded, GitHub has become a place where anyone can do simple collaboration. It’s a free social network that tracks changes to any data, not just code, where stakeholders and developers can work on the same data simultaneously. Project Open Data, a cross-agency initiative developed by the White House, that looks at how to manage information as an asset in the 21st century, is powered by GitHub.
Interested in building an app that incorporates biofeedback data from multiple wearable body sensors? Check out BioZen, available on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog, one of the first mobile applications to provide users with live biofeedback data covering a range of bio-physiological signals, including electroencephalogram (EEG), electromyography (EMG), galvanic skin response (GSR), electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), respiratory rate, and temperature biofeedback data and display it on a mobile phone.
This is a phenomenal month for federal challenge and prize competitions with 12 new programs launched in February. The challenge.gov platform usually averages four to six new challenges a month, so we’re excited to see the year start off with a big push to engage citizens in creative problem solving. Take a look and see what these agencies are doing to drive innovation: White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
So: You decided to purchase a car that takes advantage of more environmentally friendly fuel. Congratulations! Now, you need to find a place to fill the tank that offers more than just regular gas. The new Alternative Fueling Station Locator app from the folks at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a must-try. The new iPhone app will find and map the 20 closest stations within 30 miles of your location that sell alternative fuels such as natural gas, biodiesel, E85 ethanol, propane and hydrogen.
We’ve written a few times about the changes that we’ve been working on for Data.gov to make it easier for users to find, understand, and use government data. Today you’ll notice even more changes to Data.gov – here’s a quick rundown of some of the main changes you’ll see, and why. Works on your mobile device The site is now responsive to the device you’re using. Pull up Data.
Feeling the need for [more] speed? Well, so is the mobile team at the Federal Communications Commission. As part of the agency’s Measuring Broadband America Program, the FCC is looking to the crowd (that means you!) to help them assess America’s mobile broadband performance on a national scale. Their hope is to use the data they collect anonymously through their new FCC Speed Test app—Android-only for now—to create a detailed picture that could improve both the cellular and WIFI speeds you experience on your mobile device.
USA.gov offers two different types of URL shorteners – 1.USA.gov and Go.USA.gov. No matter which URL shortener you use, there are some usability, accessibility, and SEO issues you should keep in mind. 1.USA.gov 1.USA.gov is powered by bitly.com and open to everyone. If you go to bitly.com and shorten a .gov or .mil URL, you will get a 1.USA.gov short URL. This is a free service and you do not need to register for an account.
The pursuit of happiness for many of us might mean a fresh new start and a new place to call home. But where? In such a large and diverse country as ours, the choices can seem endless — and overwhelming. Now, your data friendly U.S. Census Bureau has harnessed the power of its vast trove of demographic, neighborhood-specific and housing information into a new smartphone app on both Google Play and iOS called, aptly, dwellr.
Working on getting your agency to release an open source policy? Awesome! But if you want an effective open source program, you have to tightly integrate open source into how your agency procures, builds, and distributes technology. You’re not alone! There’s a growing community of government technologists on GitHub working on these issues – a place where you can quickly get the best advice. We’re contributing to this forum because we saw governments at all levels dealing with the same kinds of questions:
After having the same look and feel on our website since 2010, Commerce.gov is embarking on a fresh redesign to put the user in the driver seat. Drawing on anonymized user input, we have made some significant changes and are excited to announce the launch of our new site – Beta.Commerce.gov. First, you’ll notice that we’ve made search front and center. Our search feature was visited by one in seven users, and we’ve made it even easier to find and use.
“Future-ready content,” “responsive design,” “create once, publish everywhere” are all buzzwords you hear when talking about the present and future of Web publishing. But how do we get there? We all know that technology is only part of the answer. Open content models and structured data are a big part of the answer. Lakshmi Grama, Senior Digital Strategist in the Office of Communications and Education at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) discusses what structured content and open content models can do to help government agencies create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent in this November, 2013 webinar.
Looking to jumpstart your mobile website development? Check out the Web Experience Toolkit (WET) available on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog. The toolkit includes reusable components for building and maintaining innovative Web sites that are accessible, usable, and interoperable. Developed as a collaborative open source project by the Government of Canada, the WET has reusable components that are open source software and free for use by departments and external Web communities.
A few weeks ago, the Go.USA.gov URL shortener introduced several new features to improve the user experience. Go.USA.gov now offers users faster speeds and downloadable metric information about their links. The service, which launched in 2009, gives government agencies the ability to provide trustworthy shortened links to their audience. Just a few weeks ago, we finished completely re-engineering the back-end of the site to fix the slow speeds. Additionally, the back-end improvements have allowed us to re-enable the CSV export function that was taken offline back in 2010.
There has been a shift in consumer behavior during the last few years, a move toward immediacy and convenience, and with the responsive redesign of USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov, consumers can now have access to the same information and services when they need them, and on any platform and device. The number of mobile users is growing rapidly. In 2012 USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov received more than 2.5 million visits from mobile devices, not including tablets.
Since the launch of Next.Data.gov, your help and ideas have made it possible to make two updates to the site. We’re naming these biweekly releases after the presidents so the one that launched this week is the Adams Release. We’re pleased to announce that much of the work was done by the Data.gov Presidential Innovation Fellow, Dave Caraway, whose passion is open data and how it can be used by entrepreneurs to build businesses and create jobs.
Security testing is used to ensure that a mobile product does not pose a threat to agency IT systems and databases. In addition, privacy testing ensures that an app does not put the user’s personally identifiable information into a compromisable position. This article was developed as part of the Mobile Application Development Program. See our general guidelines to testing article for more resources on mobile product testing. Government Guidance Please coordinate with your ISSO when creating mobile or digital products.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has developed a responsive design website for the HUD Office of Inspector General. The website provides: news, the latest reports and publications, locations to field offices, and more. Whether you are using a smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device, the screen automatically adjusts to your device’s screen size making it very user friendly and easy to navigate. The site, developed in Drupal, provides all the essentials needed to quickly direct the user to where it is they wish to go, without limiting the content.
Like website development, API security revolves around three stages—planning the API, testing the API, and monitoring the API after it has launched. The planning stage requires those involved to conceptually map several design decisions and the impact that they will have on security. The second stage applies your agency’s security program to the API release candidate. Lastly, the third step integrates your API in your agency’s continuous monitoring frameworks.
Americans are rocking open data! From getting people to the emergency room faster with iTriage to helping them navigate road and rail after a disaster, people are innovating, building businesses, and creating safer communities. As developers get more sophisticated and businesses get better analytics, Data.gov needs to change to support them in new ways and your ideas will help to build that future. You are invited to create that new vision.
The Department of Labor’s DOL Timesheet, OSHA Heat Index Tool and LaborStats apps are available anytime and anywhere for the public. Now their code is available for agencies to leverage for mobile development. All the apps’ code are available on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog –a resource for developers that can help them find source code for native and web projects from a variety of sources. DOL Timesheet allows users to keep track of the amount of hours worked in a week and calculates an estimated income.
What It Is Do you remember the days when web pages had banners announcing that they were “best viewed with browser X”? Veteran web developers and designers certainly do, because they had to consider numerous exceptions for certain browsers and their versions. Today, building websites isn’t as challenging and that’s because developers are moving toward standards. Why It’s Important Developing with standard-compliant code—that is, using code as it is intended—will help you build your website so that it can be viewed and accessed on more web browsers, platforms, and devices than developing with browser-specific code.
As you know, last month Data.gov launched its new open-source Data.gov 2.0 catalog (catalog.data.gov). Based on CKAN, a data management platform used by many open-data catalogs around the world, Data.gov’s new catalog has received nothing but kudos from users. For the first time, our raw datasets, tools and geospatial datasets are in one place making search and discovery easier than ever. To make exploring the new catalog even easier, Data.
Do you know what the most important technology will be 12 years from now, in 2025? A recent report on Disruptive Technologies from McKinsey & Company predicts a number of evolving technologies that will have the biggest impact in the next decade or so, including for government agencies. Disruptive technologies are those that have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, rearrange “value pools” and lead to entirely new products and services, the report says.
On June 1st and 2nd, more than 11,000 civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs around the country came together for the National Day of Civic Hacking. Civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs in 83 cities developed software to help others in their own neighborhoods and across the country. More than twenty federal agencies took part by submitting challenges for participants to tackle and opening up datasets for them to use.
Techcrunch. com reports Mary Meeker’s much anticipated annual Internet Trends report released at the D11 Conference last week shows astounding growth regarding use of smartphones and tablets. Among the highlights; Mobile Internet users have reached 1.5 billion, up from 1.1 billion a year ago, a 30% increase The number of smartphones is up to 5 billion mobile phones worldwide Mobile usage is now 15% of all Internet traffic, up 50% from 10% the year before Tablet shipments outpaced desktop and notebook shipments 3 years after being introduced There seems to be a shift from smartphones and tablets to other types of mobile enabled devices that Meeker is calling Wearables, Drivables, Flyables and Scannables See the complete slideshare for more Government mobile strategists who pay attention to Meeker’s stats will likely stay ahead of the curve regarding the expected continuing exponential growth in mobile usage, devices and applications and keep citizens and stakeholders engaged on whatever device they use.
Anytime, anywhere government information and services are becoming more important as the public increasingly consumes information and services on the go. As we announced last week, agencies can now get assistance with their mobile development efforts with our new Mobile Application Development Program. Tomorrow, we will host a webinar and a wikithon to highlight our program that helps agencies plan, develop, test and launch anytime, anywhere, any device mobile products and services for the public.
Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device. The 21st century imperative to deliver government information and services to the public anytime, anywhere and on any device makes mobile a critical tactic in the federal Digital Government Strategy. Today, GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center and the Federal CIO Council launch the Mobile Application Development Program to provide agencies with tools they need to make great mobile products available to the public. The program–developed with and by 25 agencies across government–will help agencies in each stage of mobile development.
Data.gov launched a major upgrade today, moving to a new catalog based on an open source data management system calledCKAN. In the process of migrating to a new data catalog, Data.gov had the opportunity to do another round of usability testing. Lucky for us, the DigitalGov User Experience Program, that teaches agencies how to test federal websites, is right in our own backyard. With today’s launch, you’ll see the initial results of what we learned from our testers; an expert Data.
These are the elements that make up a well-rounded developer hub. Homepage The API efforts of any agency should all be accessible via one easy to reach developers hub. This Web page should provide a path to all public APIs and any associated resources. Once an agency has begun to publish multiple APIs, certain resources may make sense to be specific to each API whereas others may make sense to be provided more generally for all of the agency’s APIs.
The new Healthcare.gov will sort content according to user demand with a new plugin developed for the site. For a content-heavy site like healthcare.gov, this option will allow HHS to serve popular content to readers quickly. In April we told you about Jekyll. The new Healthcare.gov will use this free open-source solution to create flat webpages without the long load times associated with a traditional content management system (CMS). Developers created a new plugin to work with the system to make it possible for the Department to quickly and dynamically provide the site’s most popular information to visitors .
These are the elements you should include in your federal API release. Homepage Each of your public APIs needs a page to serve as a hub to provide access to all information and tools associated with it. By using the page’s sidebar, footer, and sub pages, you can directly include or link to each of the following components that exist for the API. This allows for ready discovery of anything a potential developer may need, minimizing the effort that is asked of them and maximizing the adoption.
The National Day of Civic Hacking is bringing together thousands of civic hackers on June 1st and 2nd. But what is a civic hacker, anyway? “Civic hackers” as we think about it for theNational Day of Civic Hacking are technologists, civil servants, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers – anybody – who is willing to collaborate with others to create, build, and invent to address challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country.
Federal agencies have a new resource to help them make content and services available anytime, anywhere, and from any device–the federal Mobile Code Catalog sponsored by the Digital Services Innovation Center. This catalog is hosted on GitHub (more on why that matters in a moment). Here, agency developers looking to jump-start their efforts can find source code for native and web projects from a variety of sources: federal agencies, other governments, and third-parties in the private sector.
“APIs for WhiteHouse.gov? What in the heck does that mean?” Like President Obama, you may be asking the same question. DigitalGov University set out to answer that question during its API Standards from the White House webinar with Leigh Heyman and Bryan Hirsch, from the White House Office of Digital Strategy. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bJo6zii7lw&w=600] After launching the We The People petition site, citizens using the tool were asking how they could improve their own engagement levels on the petitions and wanted to look at the data.
Last week, we told you about the upcoming relaunch of Healthcare.gov and its use of the Jekyll website generator. Jekyll allows users to build dynamic websites served by static pages. To help manage large websites using Jekyll, developers working on the new healthcare.gov published the ‘Prose.io’ editing interface last year. Content editors will use this lightweight editor to create and manage content across the site. Prose is an open source web application that allows users to manage web content stored on GitHub’s code sharing service.
Recently HHS CTO Bryan Sivak outlined a new vision for healthcare.gov. The site will relaunch this June with a completely rethought design and architecture. The new healthcare.gov follows a new CMS-free philosophy. It will be a completely static website, generated by Jekyll. This shift will allow HHS to move away from the use of a content management system for managing Heathcare.gov. Website generators like Jekyll work by combining template files with content and rendering them to static html pages.
What Are APIs? An Application Programming Interface, or API, is a set of software instructions and standards that allows machine to machine communication—like when a website uses a widget to share a link on Twitter or Facebook. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVeiRCEwJx8] [Extended Version] When we talk about APIs we are referring to Web services or Web APIs. This aligns with the current trends to use Web APIs to support sharing content and data between communities and applications.
One way agencies can offer APIs for their data is to use the built–in functionality of Data.gov. The information that is hosted as interactive datasets have an API layer which agencies can make available through documentation in the developer’s section of the agency’s website. The guide below will help you do this. Process Upload a dataset as an interactive dataset in Data.gov. A. Your agency should have a Data.
The Canadian government is changing how we think of traditional Web management. They built a platform of standards-compliant (HTML5, WCAG and WAI-ARIA), accessible and secure components that its agencies (and even provincial and municipalities) can use to build and maintain their sites. They are also focused on optimizing for mobile devices and improving usability and interoperability through their platform. Paul Jackson, project lead and one of the lead developers for Canada’s Web Experience Toolkit, or WET, shared details about the toolkit and how anyone can get involved, during a DigitalGov University webinar, April 17.
Government agencies are working hard to communicate complex mountains of data clearly and effectively through graphics. The Census Bureau, known for their great work creating visual images, has done just that. They have created a great data visualization game just in time for March Madness! The game, “Population Bracketology” tests your knowledge of state and metropolitan area population estimates. How it works Start by choosing your geographic level: metro areas or states.
Similar to website analytics, API analytics focus on reliably reporting the metrics which are most useful to its stakeholders. There are a many ways of collecting, reporting, and consuming API analytics but all revolve around the industry–accepted norm that some form of analytics are crucial to any API program. The most basic metrics will track the number of API registrations and the number of API requests, but as important as understanding how much an API is used is understanding how it is used.
Design At their core, developers want APIs for very straightforward, pragmatic ends. You should always design your APIs and document them with the goal of making it easier for developers to use them. Doing so results in greater adoption and a healthier, more successful API. The least efficient way to support developers would be to work with each interested developer individually on any question or problem that they have.
After choosing a set of information or services to offer via API, some of your next steps are to plan and implement the API. You’ll still need to prepare documentation, tools, and other elements that make a complete package for the API, but at the center is the actual Web service itself. In many situations, existing IT resources or the current system operators handle this step. There are several options at this stage, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Hosted API Tools Labs.Data.gov is a repository of shared services to prototype and provide developer resources to government agencies. Each tool uses Web services and lightweight, open source code to provide powerful functionality. Agencies are encouraged to improve any project and submit pull requests in order to share the improvements with others. API Standards Template With the open source release of the White House’s API Standards template, agencies have a complete model for API design and best practices that includes the best practices and agreed–upon norms of the developer community.
Audit Research existing APIs Regardless of your agency’s level of progress in API production, your first step is to create a developer hub that links to any of your agency’s existing APIs. This can help identify current efforts and connect you with others in your agency already working on APIs. Follow up with a deeper scan for APIs that your agency may already be publishing:
Common Technical Choices Protocol API protocol is the set of rules that govern how an API functions. The protocol outlines the structure and definitions of the API. The two common forms are REST and SOAP. REST is the dominant choice for API protocol because it uses the http protocol that powers the Web. REST supports more data formats, requires much simpler documentation, has better performance, can be cached, and is faster to use.
Understanding the benefits of API production allows you to coordinate with system owners and other stakeholders to modernize the agency’s systems and unlock the sizable potential. Here are just some of these opportunities. Efficiency Providing API access allows for content to be created once and automatically published or made available to many channels. Your agency’s content is ready for easy sharing and redistribution to deliver your mission directly to more citizens.
QR Codes or Quick Response codes are two-dimensional codes that are scanned with a smartphone, connecting individuals to additional online content or information. They are made up of modules arranged on a contrasting background. How QR Codes Work To use barcode technology, a barcode reader must be enabled or downloaded on your smartphone. Each reader is a little different, but the user typically lines up the code in their viewer and activates the reader.
Agencies have been working away at building better digital services and here, at the Digital Services Innovation Center, we’ve been building resources to help. We have been focusing on three areas, The Digital Analytics Program. We announced this program in early October to help agencies better measure performance and customer satisfaction to improve service delivery. It includes digital metrics guidance and best practices, training and a federal-wide Web analytics tool and support.
What It Is The U.S. Department of Labor sought to go beyond merely making data available to developers and take ease of use of the data to the next level by giving developers tools that would make using DOL’s data easier. The target audience was not just experienced developers, but even those who may be just starting out with a how-to book and a great idea. The developer should not necessarily know what JSON or XML are.
In September, the General Services Administration (GSA) launched a registry of all federally-managed social media accounts. We want to explain a little of the history behind the registry and talk about a few things that make it a truly remarkable innovation from GSA. Before I start, I want to emphasize when I say “we” from here on, I’m referring to the entire team at GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) that made this happen.
There’s an easier way to get content and data into the hands of citizens. Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are web services that allow people to more easily consume content and data in multiple ways–via mobile devices, mobile apps, innovative mash-ups, and much more. Simply put, “APIs are a better way to get government information and services into the hands of the people who need them.” To help agencies better understand APIs, DigitalGov University hosted a webinar, An Introduction to APIs, with experts from NASA and CDC.
_ Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by Healthfinder.gov_. The actual healthfinder.gov site was launched approximately twelve years ago, while the API is a fairly recent development that has occurred in the past year and a half. Why We Did It The reason to go with an API rather than an app or another any other format was in large part due to the type of information we were providing to our audience.
Some agencies are turning to responsive design to support device-agnostic content delivery which was called for in the recently released Digital Innovation Strategy. Last week, GSA’s Mobile Program Management Office held a responsive design webinar in conjunction with DigitalGov University outlining agency experiences with responsive design. Agency experts covered responsive design technical approaches and strategy and you can listen to the whole webinar below. One topic interesting to listeners was why agencies decided to implement responsive design.
The Mobile Platform Development Series was developed to help government agencies learn how to deliver government content–information, data and services–anytime, anywhere and on any device. One way to deliver content to citizens is via applications on mobile devices or native mobile apps. Government agencies need technical expertise on developing apps on the various platforms. Today we bring you a recap of the Blackberry webinar from this series. The Blackberry webinar featured Richard Balsewich who provides application development guidance and technical architecture expertise for RIM/Blackberry.
Today at the#SocialGov Summit for Social Media Week DC, we’ll showcase two new initiatives for citizens, agencies and small businesses that help unlock the full potential of social data for the next generation of government services and engagement. Leading innovators in government will also be on hand to show how social data is empowering them to improve federal programs. The first initiative is the release of new baseline social media metrics for federal agencies, developed by the Federal Social Media Community of Practice.
When agency folks gather together to talk about mobile gov, the number one question asked is, “Should we do a mobile app or a mobile web site?” To help people with that question, we became fight promoters and sponsored THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY!! Mobile Web Vs. Mobile Apps Two champions debated this hot topic: Neil Bonner, from the Transportation Security Administration, is a proponent of mobile websites.