This post was originally published on the 18F blog. At 18F, we have employees across the U.S. Over time, we’ve cultivated our best practices for distributed teams and design methods. Yet, doing research as a remote team is still really hard. Here are some things that we’ve found make it easier. Six icons showing different types of video conferencing. Use tools like you would in real life Being a remote team doesn’t mean you should forgo any of your research rituals.
This post was originally published on the 18F blog. It is the first in a series that will share effective and efficient ways to manage software development, even if one doesn’t have a background in software engineering. As custom software development becomes integral to accomplishing any program’s mission, many managers in government find themselves faced with handling the unfamiliar: overseeing the design and implementation of a digital product that is functional, user-friendly, and necessary for realizing your program’s mission.
Joel Minton, a member of the U.S. Digital Service, is working with GSA’s Technology Transformation Service as the director of login.gov. Tom Mills is the Chief Technology Architect at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In early April, the U.S. Digital Service and 18F launched login.gov, a single sign-on solution for government websites that will enable citizens to access public services across agencies with the same username and password. Login.gov is currently in action at the U.
Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unveiled their new website at FEC.gov. This new site is the result of a years-long collaboration with GSA’s 18F and features completely revamped tools for exploring campaign finance data. It provides user-centered content for understanding the reporting and compliance requirements for people participating in federal elections, redesigned tools for exploring legal resources, and more. Why it matters On the agency’s “About the FEC” page, it says, “The FEC was created to promote confidence and participation in the democratic process.
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.
18F Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Karim Said of NASA. Karim was instrumental in NASA’s successful HTTPS and HSTS migration, and we’re happy to help Karim share the lessons NASA learned from that process. In 2015, the White House Office of Management and Budget released M-15-13, a “Policy to Require Secure Connections across Federal Websites and Web Services”. The memorandum emphasizes the importance of protecting the privacy and security of the public’s browsing activities on the web, and sets a goal to bring all federal websites and services to a consistent standard of enforcing HTTPS and HSTS.
On May 9, we took a big step toward creating a bug bounty program for our agency by issuing an award to HackerOne for a Software-as-a-Service bug-reporting platform. The TTS Bug Bounty will be a security initiative to pay people for identifying bugs and security holes in software operated by the General Service Administration’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS), which includes 18F. This will be the first public bug bounty program run by a civilian agency, and follows in the footsteps of the Hack the Pentagon and Hack the Army bug bounty programs run by the Department of Defense.
The Office of Information Policy (OIP) is pleased to announce its collaboration with GSA’s 18F team on the development of a National FOIA Portal. This is the next step in a long line of OIP initiatives working towards a National FOIA Portal going back to 2010 with the launch of FOIA.gov. Most recently, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 required the creation of a National FOIA Portal that is interoperable with agencies’ current systems and allows the public to submit a request for records to any agency from a single website.
As mentioned in our recent Q&A with the team at NASA, the U.S. Web Design Standards team is sitting down with various agencies that are using the Standards. In this second post in our series, we met with the team at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and learned how they used the Standards to train, develop, and design their various websites and applications. Standards team: Why did you decide to use the U.
To folks new to government, one of the most surprising differences between our work and work in the private sector are the barriers in accessing commercially available software, and commercially available Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in particular. There are good reasons for these barriers: the government places premiums on considerations such as security, privacy, accessibility, license management, and competition. It takes great care to work within those considerations while also providing digital teams with great tools to get work done.
The U.S. Web Design Standards were created by the government, for the government. They’re currently implemented on hundreds of government sites, with an audience of more than 26 million monthly users. They’ve also been recommended by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for all government agencies to ensure a consistent look and feel of their public-facing digital services. Over the coming months, the team will be doing a series of blog posts to share information about the how different agencies are using the Standards.
The U.S. Web Design Standards are a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers quickly create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. Last month, we announced the 1.0 release of the Standards, a milestone that signals the Standards are a stable, trustworthy resource for government designers and developers. By using the well-tested and easy-to-implement code from the Standards, developers can quickly create new websites or have a leg-up in updating existing services to have a modern, consistent feel.
A key part of agile development is constantly shipping new features. The team behind the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) beta website ships new features at least once every two weeks. Sometimes the features are big, noticeable changes, such as the new home page we recently launched. And other times they’re small (a copy edit, an adjustment to a button) or under-the-hood (changing the way a database works). With so many changes happening to the product every two weeks, it can be hard to keep track of how the product is growing and improving.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
Our work can transform government The potential to transform government and impact the lives of Americans is tremendous. Our country needs the government to work well, and technology is the key to that. TECHNOLOGY IS NOT PARTISAN “If it’s important, it’s important for all administrations,” said GSA Technology Transformation Service Commissioner Rob Cook. GSA Admin @DeniseUSGSA on the future of technology in the federal government. #GSATech #InnovateGov pic.
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.
This past summer, 18F held an agile workshop for the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. An agency with roots going back to World War II, NTIS is facing a future that requires a strategic realignment towards open data and services. This strategic alignment will also require that NTIS operate in a more nimble, proactive fashion when working with partners in the public and private sectors.
Built on the lessons learned during the pilot phase of the Digital Acquisitions Accelerator, the accompanying playbook examines the current acquisition landscape and provides an approach to procuring custom software solutions. Our goal is to make the government a smarter and more informed buyer of digital products and services. The playbook has four main sections: Overview Case studies Process Primers The overview section provides background on digital acquisitions and highlights some ways to lower risk when planning this type of activity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some months ago, 18F started playing with kanban as a way to manage and improve our processes. (It turns out that “DO ALL THE THINGS!” was maybe not the best motto.) Kanban is a methodology that helps you to remove inefficiencies and reduce waste by visualizing workflow. It’s also used to balance capacity and demand by implementing a “pull system” and limiting the amount of work in progress. You don’t have to change anything when you first start to use it, you just put up a board, represent your current work process, put in some work limits, and start tracking what you’re doing and learning from it.
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.
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.
The CALC team is an agile team of four — six if you count the Scrummaster and the Product Owner — building a simple means to load price data into the original CALC tool. They’re an Agile team, which means everybody pitches in on everything to some degree, and here, in their own words, is some reflection on what happened when they all scrubbed in on the Discovery phase. How have you been conducting the Discovery phase?
We’re incredibly excited to announce the launch of the new FedRAMP Marketplace dashboard! It’s loaded with all sorts of ways for you to see how everyone is participating with FedRAMP! When we launched the FedRAMP Marketplace about 3 years ago, our intent was to create a place for agencies and cloud service providers (CSPs) to connect. As FedRAMP has grown, so has our marketplace. It’s become a space where all of you interact – CSPs, agencies, and third party assessment organizations (3PAOs) – and in more than just a one way interaction.
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.
A few weeks ago, the State Department held its first conference dedicated to user experience design, UX Exponential. The conference organizers invited me to speak, and in this two-part series, I’d like to summarize (as best as possible) the presentation I gave, “Foster The People: Building Empathy with Stakeholder Interviews.” In this post, I’ll cover what stakeholder interviews are, why they’re valuable, and how to prepare for them. In the second post, I’ll cover how to actually run the interviews as well as some tips for synthesizing and integrating the results into the team’s shared understanding.
Much of our work with government partners to deliver better digital services has resulted in full websites, applications, and embarking on large-scale transformation efforts. In addition to those types of projects, we also work on shorter, faster, smaller-scale projects designed to show our partners different points of view and different techniques to approach their most challenging problems. Recently, we partnered with the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) here within the General Services Administration (GSA) on a four-month effort to develop a plain language guide, informed by research and interviews, to help technology companies interested in doing business with the federal government better understand how to join IT Schedule 70.
We’ve expanded analytics.usa.gov to include 15(!) more agency-specific dashboard pages. We now offer agency-specific analytics data pages for a total of 25 major federal agencies, and each one is accessible from the dropdown menu at the top of the site. Additionally, we’ve moved the downloadable datasets to their own pages, rather than be located on the dashboard pages themselves. The page to download aggregated data for all participating sites is now analytics.
So, you’ve recently joined an agile team — congratulations! Here at 18F, we work in an agile way — in other words, we base our designs on user needs, conduct usability testing, iterate quickly, and release MVPs (minimum viable products) rather than highly finalized releases. We take an agile approach to content too. While there’s really no “ideal” project or process most of the time, we’ve found that these guidelines help us develop useful services for millions of people.
I first came across the redesigned IdentityTheft.gov on Reddit, of all places. Someone had posted a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) newly redesigned site and wrote: I hope this never happens to any of you as the entire thing can be really stressful. The identitytheft.gov website is a true breath of fresh air…You can talk to an actual person. They also have this extremely easy wizard to click through your situation and it will auto-generate a “Recovery Plan” including dispute letters, steps to contact law enforcement, putting credit freezes, and basically protecting yourself.
We are in an era of digital transformation across many different industries, including government. Those organizations that have successfully led in this area or have fully transformed into digital organizations are succeeding at a faster pace than those who have not. The imperative for the federal government to provide effective digital service is clear. The public expects a responsive, transparent and efficient government that mirrors their experience with private sector entities.
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.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.—Agile Manifesto My team has experienced a lot of change in the past few weeks. We were a team of seven, and now we’ve been reduced to two. We’re off-boarding two developers, a content specialist, and the product owner, and we’re onboarding a new content specialist and another developer. This is a lot of change to absorb at once.
The concepts of agile may not be new, but there is a renewed push across government to embrace this customer-feedback driven methodology, in everything from software development to project management. A government community has even sprung up to help feds learn from one another what it takes to incorporate agile into more efficient and effective government services. So this month we’re throwing the spotlight on what agile looks like in the federal government right now:
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.
One of the most common questions we receive is: Should I integrate the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards into my existing project? The answer is: it depends. A lot of design research supports the notion that many people who use government websites or services may benefit from consistency across interactions, user experiences, and behavior across those websites. A consistent look and feel with common design elements will feel familiar, trustworthy, and secure—and users will be able to navigate government websites more easily because of a common palette and design.
Since our launch of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards last September, hundreds of people have provided feedback on the project through GitHub issues and via email. We’ve received dozens of feature requests as well as over 400 contributions from the open source community. Over the past five months, we’ve incorporated suggestions from the feedback we’ve received, resolved a number of outstanding issues, and made various updates to our content and structure.
Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices. In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government. Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.
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 is part three of a series detailing the findings of a team of researchers from 18F and the General Services Administration who studied broad trends in people’s perceptions of and interactions with the government. You can find the introduction to the series on our website and a complete pdf of the research findings on a new microsite that details the themes the research team is investigating. In yesterday’s post, we shared the strategies people use when interacting with the government.
In our last post, we introduced the Federal Front Door project and briefly described a six-week discovery phase, in which we set out to better understand how the general public feels about and interacts with the federal government, so that we can design and build products that improve people’s experience across government agencies. We think of the federal front door as the places the public first interacts with their government.
We’ve added agency-specific dashboards to analytics.usa.gov! Starting today, you’ll see a dropdown from the main analytics.usa.gov page that allows you to view the same dashboard, but filtered for websites that are administered by one of 10 specific agencies: Department of Commerce Department of Education Department of Energy Department of the Interior Department of Justice Department of Veterans Affairs Environmental Protection Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Archives and Records Administration Small Business Administration What Do These Pages Show Me?
_Author’s note: Anyone can contribute to the development of the Open Opportunities platform via the project’s GitHub repository. The Open Opportunities program itself is only open to federal employees. _ Open, agile software development projects can improve government initiatives. As discussed in last week’s article on agile projects in government, the Open Opportunities platform has benefited from increased collaboration within government as well as from contributions from outside of government.
When we launched analytics.usa.gov with the Digital Analytics Program, the U.S. Digital Service, and the White House last March, we purposefully made it very easy to adapt and wrote language on the website to let people know they could use the code without restriction: This open source project is in the public domain, which means that this website and its data are free for you to use without restriction. You can find the code for this website and the code behind the data collection on GitHub.
Agile methods help agencies deliver projects and products more efficiently and effectively. The benefits aren’t limited to deliverables: Going agile can break down the silos that exist between and within agencies. And collaboration doesn’t need to end at the federal level—agile projects done in the open provide a way for the public to contribute to government initiatives. Transitioning to agile development has benefited Open Opportunities, a platform that helps agencies tap into federal expertise and provides professional development opportunities to federal employees.
2015 was a big year for 18F. We almost doubled in size, worked with 28 different agency partners, and released products ranging from Design Method Cards to cloud.gov. Internally, we improved onboarding and our documentation by releasing guides on topics as diverse as content, accessibility, and creating good open source projects. To mark the end of the year, we reached out to everyone at 18F and asked them to reflect on a meaningful project they worked on this year.
If good content is essential to good user experience, as Tyrus Manuel proposes in his November 23, 2015, DigitalGov post, then plain language is also part of good user experience. Plain language helps the public do what they need to do—find forms, apply for benefits, look up information and more—when they use federal websites and other digital tools. All federal agencies are supposed to implement the Plain Writing Actplain-writing-act-of-2010/), the law that requires plain language when we communicate with the public.
Over the past year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has undertaken a broad initiative to transform the way it delivers digital services. We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the EPA to make this transformation a success by supporting such programs as eManifest. Working with 18F is just one of many ways in which the EPA is trying to build greater capacity for delivering valuable, high-quality digital services. They are also working on ways to contract with high-quality digital service vendors, which is why the EPA just released a Request for Information (RFI) for creating an Environmental Digital Services marketplace.
As of writing this post, 25,225 of the 124,878 total visitors on federal government websites participating in the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) are NOT located in the United States. And as a result of a new location feature on the expanded analytics.usa.gov, you are free to check for yourself how many current users are from outside the country, anytime you’d like. Back in March of this year, DAP released analytics.
In honor of World Usability Day, which happened on November 12, we’d like to demystify two extremely important and oft-confusing acronyms—CX and UX. Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX), while related, focus on different aspects of service delivery. The New Landscape We first discussed this issue in the summer of 2014, in our UX vs. CX article, but a lot has changed in this space across government in the past year or so.
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.
GSA unveiled a refreshed GSA.gov website yesterday with a more crisp design layout, improved usability, and features geared more toward mobile users. Increasingly, website traffic is coming from mobile users. With this in mind, GSA unveiled a newly refreshed GSA.gov website on Nov. 16. “Our ultimate goal for the refresh was to continue our work to get important government information into the hands of users–no matter how or where they’re accessing the information,” said Sarah Bryant, Director of GSA’s Enterprise Web Management Team within the Office of Communications and Marketing.
As the 2016 presidential election heats up, here at 18F we’ve been working with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to make campaign finance data more accessible to the public. Today, we launched betaFEC, the first piece in a complete redesign of the FEC’s online presence. We were excited to work on a project that allowed us to delve into intricate campaign finance data, plain language, and the FEC’s first API.
USDA has been looking for ways to improve content delivery to our customers and making their first interaction with USDA and government a positive one. In 2014, USDA launched New Farmers, a website dedicated to helping new and beginning farmers and ranchers find the resources they need to start farming. But even back then, we knew we could do better. Our reimagined New Farmers website features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner will need to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner, to obtaining affordable healthcare for themselves and their employees.
Launched just three years ago, the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) continues to drive the 2012 Digital Government Strategy’s mission to improve the citizen experience by streamlining the collection and analysis of digital analytics data on a federal government-wide scale. The DAP officially launched on October 15, 2012 with a release of its first version of the government-wide Web analytics code. The first agency to implement DAP was the Department of Interior, on doi.
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.
Joanne is a young Army Veteran who is looking to make use of her GI Bill Benefits and apply for federal student loans to attend college. In trying to access the federal programs which will allow her to afford college, Joanne must navigate the websites of multiple agencies. She finds dozens of government websites which all seem relevant to what she’s looking for. Joanne is confused. Are these programs related to each other?
At 18F Consulting, we experiment with ways to empower agencies to build cost-efficient, excellent digital solutions. Recently we partnered with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to run a two day “Design/Dev Agile Sprint.” Background: Investigators in Wage and Hour Division The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing a wide variety of federal labor laws, including those requiring the minimum wage, overtime, child labor protections, and family and medical leave laws.
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.
In January, 18F Consulting announced a new kind of process for vendors to compete for software acquisition contracts. The Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) process would be open to existing vendors on Schedule 70, and require vendors to submit a working prototype based on a public dataset—and then show their work in a publicly available git repository. A number of decision factors led to the request for information (RFI) and then the request for quotation (RFQ).
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.
Digital communities of practice come in many stripes. DigitalGov communities span eight (and counting) focus areas and have thousands of members, but strong collaborations exist in all corners of government. In honor of this month’s communities theme, we are offering a list of communities that foster connections and strengthen the digital capabilities of federal agencies. Here is a list of some communities working in the digital arena: 18F /Developer Program CIO Council: Accessibility Community of Practice CIO Council: Privacy Community of Practice Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Drupal for Government eCPIC Federal Steering Committee (FESCom) Federal Communicators Network Federal Intranet Content Managers Federal Knowledge Management Community Federal Librarians Ideation Community of Practice Mobile Health (m Health) Training Institutes Training Institutes”) Open Data listserv: Anyone with a .
Around this month’s Communities Theme, the DigitalGov team thought we’d round up your community rock stars. These are people in your communities who’ve gone above and beyond, who’ve contributed content, organized events, participated in developing toolkits and more. Let’s kick it off with the DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board. DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board For the 2015 DigitalGov Summit we pulled together innovators from across the federal government to guide the programming, promote the CrowdHall (and Summit overall) and help identify speakers.
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.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) empowers citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions about their democracy. Since opening its doors in the ‘70s, the FEC has evolved to better serve the public with that information. As the years progressed, records have gone from paper to microfilm and eventually to the web. Today marks the launch of the FEC’s first API. With that API, searching for candidates and committees will be easier and more interactive.
Analytics company, Localytics, released a new report about mobile app retention rates from the past 4 years that agencies should heed when considering their needs for building native mobile apps, compared to mobile-friendly websites. In the U.S. the number of users that re-engage more than once after installing is pretty low, with 19% of American users abandoning after just one use. The number of “regular” users who have opened the app more than 10 times is also low—42% in 2015, but that is trending upward from 41% in 2014 and 35% in 2013.
With the release of a new dashboard to measure best Web practices in the federal government and the establishment of a government-wide HTTPS Only Standard, the time to make the switch to HTTPS has arrived. Agencies have until December 31, 2016, to make the switch. The move to HTTPS is not only happening in government; it is also becoming the standard in industry as well. Firefox and Chrome have begun taking actions to phase out HTTP to make browsing more secure.
The U.S. federal government is launching a new project to monitor how it’s doing at best practices on the Web. A sort of health monitor for the U.S. government’s websites, it’s called Pulse and you can find it at pulse.cio.gov. Pulse is a lightweight dashboard that uses the official .gov domain list to measure two things: Analytics: Whether federal executive branch domains are participating in the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) that powers analytics.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmyOKPSGPg&w=600] Animated gifs are increasingly found throughout the digital experience of today’s users. They offer a dynamic presentation of information in a format that can be both more performance-effective and cost-effective than standard video or images, making them valuable for federal teams looking to bring their programs to the modern digital space and improve customer satisfaction. To find out how animated gifs can be developed to measurably improve public services, we hosted “Essentials of Animated Gifs for Gov” for almost 200 managers in the U.
Ever since we announced IFTTT was available for federal use, dozens of ideas have been shared for how program managers can use the tool to increase their productivity. I asked some API enthusiasts in the SocialGov community which of their favorite recipes were must-haves for all digital teams or for those new to the platform. First, for those not familiar with it, IFTTT (as in “If This Then That”) combines 166 channels like Twitter, Android and iOS Location, and RSS into “recipes” that can integrate government social media, data, location-based services, and the Internet of Things.
Many forces are converging to strengthen the political, economic and commercial ties that bind the United States, Canada and Mexico. The GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has anticipated this drive toward collaboration for decades, building a network of links among the three nations’ Chief Information Officers and other national technology and data experts. Annual OCSIT-sponsored North American Day (NAD) talks have contributed to improved digital services in all three countries.
DigitalGov University has hosted some great events over the last year in partnership with Data.gov, the MobileGov Community and 18F to bring you information on opening data and building APIs. This month we’ve rounded up the events over the past year so that you can see what’s been offered. Use the comments below to offer up suggestions on what else you’d like to see on the schedule.
For a seminar organized by DigitalGov University, Robert Read, the Managing Director at 18F, gave a presentation on agile methodologies in the federal government. Risk mitigation is a big advantage of using the agile methodology. The methodology deals with risk through the use of multiple iterations or “sprints” that ultimately lead to the development of a better product. “Sprints” involve the release of software that is functional and will allow for testing.
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 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.
Crowdsourcing has created new paths for public interaction with the government, as we’ve been highlighting on DigitalGov with this month’s theme. However, crowdsourcing can also be used to harness support for internal agency projects. The Department of State is using crowdsourcing to find talent within and outside of government to support agency activities. Through the Virtual Student Foreign Service and CrowdWork initiatives, State benefits from new wellsprings of skills and talent.
They say that customer experience (CX) is the new marketing. People will tell their friends about their experience with your agency, and social media makes it easy to broadcast whether the experience was easy and enjoyable, or terrible. In 1992, Congress proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week, and as we close out Customer Service Week 2014, here’s a recap of some great customer-service-related articles published on DigitalGov.
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?
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.
As traffic to desktop .gov websites declines, how we publish our content increasingly matters. We need to meet people where they are as they seek information on the Internet. To do so, we need to adjust to the new world of mobile applications, social media, and instant answers provided by search engines. Freeing Content from Our Websites In this content sharing era, it is important to separate the content from how it appears on your site.
Campaign finance information is not very approachable, even when made available as open data. The laws that regulate how money can be spent around elections are important to our democracy, but sometimes it’s difficult to understand how these laws apply. Between Senate, House, and Presidential campaigns, thousands of people run for office on a regular basis (every two years for the House of Representatives, every six years for the Senate, and every four years for the Presidency).
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 technology changes, government must change with it to address new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. This Administration has made important strides in modernizing government so that it serves its constituents more effectively and efficiently, but we know there is much more to do. Last year, a group of digital and technology experts from the private sector helped us fix HealthCare.gov—a turnaround that enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance.
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.
A growing trend both inside government and outside is to have a simple welcoming page for outside developers who may be interested in your team’s efforts. This material is often located at website.gov/developer 1 and points visitors to technical material that developers may be interested in, especially APIs. Collecting technical documentation in one place facilitates the developer experience, ensuring that they can find and begin using APIs with as little friction as possible.
We recently released the first version of our API Standards—a set of recommendations and guidelines for API production. It is our intention that every 18F API meet these standards, to help us ensure a baseline quality and consistency across all APIs we offer now and in the future. These standards guide the user-facing implementation details of an API. Wherever possible, the standards prescribe a goal instead of a specific technology.
In a recent event titled: “Intro to APIs: Working with URLs, JSON, APIs, and Open Data—Without Writing Any Code,” federal practitioners and supporters interested in open data attended an in-person workshop, led by Eric Mill, a key developer on GSA’s 18f team. This event was especially targeted to non-developers and explored the basics of APIs, using the Congress API, offered by the Sunlight Foundation, as an example. The purpose of the event was to showcase that anybody of any skill level can understand and use APIs without any coding knowledge!
It is easy to start a business today and especially an Internet-based business. Using the cloud, APIs, and hosted applications, an entrepreneur can quickly build a website/mobile app. The entrepreneur can hire freelancers to do everything from creating a logo to writing a business plan. Virtual assistant services can provide on-demand staff to meet business needs. Yes, it is easy to start a business. The hard part is creating and sustaining a business.
Facebook is now the first social media platform to start verifying all federal government pages with their signature blue checkmark using the Federal Social Media Registry API. The Federal Social Media Registry provides the singular source that allows social media platforms to quickly collect real government accounts—emphasizing the critical need to ensure the trust, quality and security of citizen engagement. When the public searches for the new Central Intelligence Agency Facebook account, many different accounts pop up—but only one of them is managed by the actual CIA.
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.
You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.
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.
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.