There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.
United States Geological Survey
In a call to action issued Oct. 7, the White House announced several new programs challenging citizens to help federal agencies solve problems in areas ranging from space exploration to education. Hosted in conjunction with Georgetown University, the Case Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, the event featured activities and discussions aimed at creating more ambitious and effective cross-sector prize competitions. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation for White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), used the forum to issue a challenge of his own to the invite-only crowd, which consisted of prize experts from government, industry and academia.
Julia Child and the OSS Recipe for Shark Repellent: http://t.co/q3cC4QiJhR #SharkWeek #OSS #WWII pic.twitter.com/Idbo1OkPLP — CIA (@CIA) July 9, 2015 The Central Intelligence Agency launched their Twitter account with the second most retweeted inaugural post in the platform’s history: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” Now for the first time, on the DigitalGov podcast, learn from the CIA itself the best practices behind one of the most high-profile social media accounts in both the public and private sector.
Having experienced everything from little tremors to violent shaking, I know what it is like to live in an earthquake zone. Hiding below a large table or under the sturdy doorframe, and at times with the entire building swaying back and forth—it can be quite frightening and confusing at the same time. Your thoughts are flying at 200 miles an hour, flitting from one to the next, concerned about your and your family’s safety.
When one thinks of social media, usually it is thought of as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family. Behind all the social networking lies vast amounts of data that can be used in a multitude of ways. This data is an opportunity for government agencies to improve the services they provide to the public. There are a number of agencies that are using social media data in order to improve services and cut costs.
While examples of government social media content may initially seem like mere fun—the YouTube video of President Obama on Between Two Ferns or the Transportation Security Administration’s “good catch” pics of lipstick stun guns and batarangs—the potential of applied social data to build, evaluate and improve diverse citizen services is only increasing. As we recently discussed on DigitalGov, social media tools are for more than one-way marketing and communication: they provide a connective, responsive capability to public services.
I recently found an app that provides a great service through crowdsourcing. Be My Eyes connects visually-impaired people with volunteers. Using the smartphone’s camera, the volunteers can perform tasks such as reading an expiration date or helping someone navigate unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a federal app, but I wanted to highlight it to demonstrate how crowdsourcing apps can make it easy for everyone to make a difference through microtasks.
iPlover is a new app from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for data collection about habitats on coastal beaches and the environment surrounding them. That sounds like a really difficult and important task, but luckily for us, the app is designed for trained and vetted professionals. It is an example of another federal crowdsourcing app, but for experts. The app is actually intended for use by USGS officials and partners and will not function without an approved log-in.
“I tell the interns: In this lab, we’re all about failure. If you’re not failing, you’re not really doing anything.” –Sam Droege, USGS biologist, in Audubon magazine The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is actively working with citizen scientists to discover, collect, and organize a variety of scientific data that is critical for the future of understanding broad trends and findings across a variety of categories—from geological mapping to tracking bird species.
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.
The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.
Access to clean water is fast becoming a vital issue in the 21st century. Changing climate patterns are drying up aquifers and limiting the amount of water runoff from thawing snow packs. Drought conditions in California are effecting hydroelectric production while dry conditions in the West have increased the frequency and harmful effects of forest fire. Monitoring and mapping water conditions across the U.S. is a vital government service.
If you are a coastal resident, go to the beach, or are interested in digital volunteering, you can be a tremendous help in identifying and classifying changes that storms make to our coast after severe storms. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched iCoast, a Web application where you can view aerial photographs and help classify them. The iCoast Team explains: We are looking for online volunteers to classify photos taken before and after Hurricane Sandy, and particularly targeting people with different kinds of coastal expertise, disaster skills, and volunteer interests.
This week, we will look at three different APIs that demonstrate how agencies use different technologies to serve out data. Presenting data in various formats encourages developers to build on federal APIs. As past columns have shown, the innovative apps created with federal data are quickly growing. The latest API news this week is how quickly the Department of Labor (DOL) built a Software Developer Kit (SDK) for Apple’s new programming language.
In 1994 when the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched it’s first website, the Web was a very different place. Many websites that were launched had little consideration given to, or even had an understanding of, things such user experience, content strategies, or design. Over the next 20 years our USGS Web presence has grown immensely as we’ve pioneered new research, tools, and applications in the support of understanding our planet’s complex environment and the ground on which we stand.