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United States Office Of Personnel Management

Finding Usability Testers: Tips from an Army Recruiter

After spending 22 years in the U.S. Army, including 3 years as a recruiter, Julie Jackson realized that not only was she qualified to work in usability, but had a knack for it—especially because of her ability to strike up a conversation with nearly anyone, anywhere. Julie shares how her training in the Army has helped in her approach to usability testing, and gives a peek inside how usability testing works for USAJOBS.

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Analytics Success Series: USAJOBS

USAJOBS’ Analytics Success: using analytics to create accurate testing strategies. Accurate testing strategies are crucial to ensure quality products. Hi-fidelity approaches ensure QA efforts are testing in a true-to-life manner, similar to real-world users. Inaccurate, lo-fidelity testing can miss situational bugs that become showstoppers in production. USAJOBS is leveraging the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) to form high-fidelity, accurate testing strategies that mimic production site-usage in the most accurate way possible.

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The Data Briefing: An Interview with USAJOBS on New Changes to Their Data Services

The Office of Personnel Management released a new look and functionality to USAJOBS in February. I recently contacted Michelle Earley, the USAJOBS Program Manager, to ask about the changes to USAJOBS and the data it provides. 1. What are the priorities this year for the USAJOBS team and the site? “The priorities for this year include: Unifying the experience Incorporating a comprehensive content strategy to transform the readability of the website Improving the Job Opportunity Announcement (Represents the agency) Improving the User Profile (Represents the job seeker/applicant) Improving Search, which is the mechanism that brings together the job seekers and agencies USAJOBS hopes to continue to act as a trusted public service career platform that creates a responsive and transparent experience for its users.

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Creating a Culture of Engagement – Webinar Recap

Employee engagement, evidenced by displays of dedication, persistence, effort and overall attachment to organization and mission, is a key factor in business success, but it can be a struggle for government organizations. Organizational leaders seeking to cultivate a culture of engagement need tangible examples of how to successfully move the needle in a positive direction. The annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) can provide agencies with a tangible way to measure employee engagement.

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The Benefits of Being Push-y: Reaching Your Audience Through Push Notifications

Need to get in touch with your audience? Give them a little push. Push notifications allow agencies to connect with their audiences for immediate communication. The Office of Personnel Management’s OPM Alert app provides a real time look at the current operating status for federal offices in the Washington, DC, area and uses push technology to alert users of status changes. While the most well-known use of the OPM Alert is for weather closings, the app can be used to alert users of other events: for example, the app was used to announce the lapse in federal appropriations in 2013 and the resulting office closures (and the later re-opening).

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OPM Wants to Hear from You by December 9

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is looking for agency subject matter experts (SMEs) to participate in an occupational study of the Public Affairs Series 1035. OPM is accepting SME submissions until Wednesday, December 9th. The study will review the “current classification and qualification standards for public affairs work” and allow OPM to make any revisions or updates. OPM is interested to learn from agencies how public affairs work has changed since the current position classification standard was issued in 1981.

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Government Product Managers Play a Key Role in UX

Government product managers sit at the intersection of three circles—business, design and technology. We play a key role in user experience (UX), because we are tasked with understanding users to build a product that is desirable and viable. This product could be a paper or online form, a website or a mobile app. Product management is different from project management. Product managers are the defenders and voice of the product’s customers, while a project manager is more concerned with balancing costs, scope and schedule issues.

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The API Briefing: EPA’s Water Quality Portal API Merges Three Data Streams

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.

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The API Briefing: CDC’s API Delivers Free Up-To-Date Health Information for Your Blog or Website

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.

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The API Briefing: A Great Start For an API – NLM’s TOXNET Web Service

Glad to be back after a three-week absence. I was preparing for the South Eastern Conference on Public Administration held in Atlanta this year. Great conversations and I can tell you that the academic community is hungry for more government data and APIs. A great example is this week’s API Briefing: the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s TOXNET Web Service. TOXNET lists 16 databases ranging from TOXNET, which maps chemical releases, to the Hazard Substances Data Bank (HSDB).

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The API Briefing: Finding Help for the Elderly – The ElderCare Locator API

If you have ever been a caregiver for an elderly family member or friend, you know that there are many resources to help you in giving care. But finding these resources can be difficult and frustrating. The Administration on Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been guiding people to local resources since 1991. Starting with a phone service, the Administration on Aging created its first website in 2001.

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System Usability Scale (SUS): Improving Products Since 1986

Trying to measure usability can be a head scratcher. How easy something is to use depends on where you are, who you are, and a number of other factors. Luckily in the world of usability, there exists a post-test survey known as the System Usability Scale, introduced in 1986 by an engineer named John Brooke, who was trying to solve this very dilemma. The SUS is no stranger to federal agencies.

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Help OPM Use SocialGov to Reinvent Fed Recruitment and Recognition

Here at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, we recently announced two exciting new government-wide working group teams with the mission of helping us use social media in ways we haven’t explored before. We’re hoping to recruit federal employees who are eager to dive in and help us tackle two important topics: employee recognition and recruitment and hiring. The first team will work on building a government-wide digital recognition program.

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The API Briefing: Mining the Rich Data Resources of NASA – The International Space Apps Challenges

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has an enormous collection of aerospace and science data sets. NASA missions and projects can create amazing amounts of data. One example: the Earth Observing System Data and Information System has collected enough information to fill the Library of Congress (Data.NASA.gov). A more recent example: the Solar Dynamics Observatory receives 1.5 terabytes of data a day. As NASA admits, this much information can be overwhelming for agency API development.

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The API Briefing: Back to School – U.S. Department of Education APIs

As the new school season approaches, it is a good time to see what federal datasets are available for educational app developers. Visit the developers’ page at ED.gov to find 36 educational datasets for educational levels. The datasets can be accessed in CSV, JSON, XML, and API formats. What is especially helpful is a PDF document that explains the data and the methodology behind the data collection. This is useful information for app developers when they combine datasets.

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The API Briefing: Writable APIs – The Federal Register.gov Commenting Feature

Up till now, all the APIs that have been written about in The API Briefing were read-only APIs. That means that information is only one way: from the API to the user or app. These APIs do allow limited interactivity in that the database behind the API can be searched, but the existing data cannot be edited, or new data added to the database. There are some federal government APIs that are writable.

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The API Briefing: RealTrack – How Hackathons Help Create Apps from APIs

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.

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Lean Startup: Changing Government Services and Agencies to Better Serve the Citizens

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.

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The API Briefing: APIs Come In Many (Data) Flavors

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.

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The API Briefing: Quick Guide to Using GitHub – FDA’s OpenFDA Research Project

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.

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The API Briefing: NARA’s Federal Register API – Learning How APIs Work

Application programming interfaces (APIs) can be confusing when people first hear of the concept. There are the many acronyms like REST (Representational State Transfer) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) that further obscure what APIs do. The idea behind APIs is quite simple: APIs are how computer programs share information between themselves. You can experience this for yourself by using the National Archives and Records Administration’s interactive documentation to the Federal Register API.

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The API Briefing: USDA’s Farmers Market Directory API

Around the D.C. area, one of the first signs of spring are the numerous farmers markets. In my neighborhood alone, I regularly visit four farmers markets that have a wide variety of produce and baked goods. Farmers markets are good for the local economy, and the easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps local communities. Realizing the importance of farmers markets, the USDA released the Farmers Market Directory API so that developers can create apps to help people find farmers markets in their area.

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Make Gov APIs Better with User Experience

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.

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PolicyOps—A Better Way to Create and Implement Government Policies and Programs?

“PolicyOps” is a better way to create and implement government policies and programs through cutting-edge data analytics and new collaboration methods. PolicyOps (“Policy” plus “Operations”) is a new proposal for improving policy making and policy implementation. Based on a cutting-edge IT management method, DevOps (“Development” plus “Operations”), PolicyOps has two major concepts. First, closer collaboration and coordination between policy designers and policy implementers. Second, a single view of the policy environment reality agreed on by the policy designers and policy implementers.

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Agency Digital Strategy Pages

In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.

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