Month: November 2013

Darrell Issa may have just lost the open government vote

Todd Park (Photo: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Chris Smith)

Todd Park (Photo: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Chris Smith)

With a single subpoena to one of the most admired public servants in America, Congressman Darrell Issa has managed to rankle the ire of open government leaders and alienate a key constituency in a movement he co-founded his own organization around.

The subpoena is in response to the White House’s refusal to allow U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to testify before the House Oversight Committee related to technical issues that continue to plague a reliable launch of

A group of Park supporters have rallied behind him and created a website, “Let Todd Work,” where citizens can pledge their support.

“Mr. Park is a fantastic civil servant, who cares about making government more effective and accountable, just like Mr. Issa,” states the petition. “We hope that they can work together on solving the policies that enabled to fail in the first place, by working with the Senate for passage of Issa’s own bill, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act.”

FITARA is Issa’s bill to reform federal technology management and procurement, an issue many see as the fundamental breakdown to the implementation and a general symptom of the government’s inability to deliver IT projects on time and on budget.

“If the people in government technology were made up of characters in the marvel universe, Todd Park would most assuredly be Captain America — someone who selflessly serves, has a strong moral compass, and has an uncanny ability to always be optimistic and see the best in everyone,” writes Former White House Presidential Innovation Fellow Clay Johnson on Google+. Johnson is one of the supporters leading the petition effort.

Issa’s own open government organization, OpenGov Foundation, that he co-founded and serves as chairman, is focused on solving many of the same issues Park has become a key champion for, including open, accessible public data.

“Information and technology are disruptive,” the organization states on its website. “But data-driven disruption is what will ultimately break down the barriers of closed, inaccessible, unaccountable government … We’ll bring the sledgehammers.”

Given the open government community’s focus on collaboration over political conflict, it will be interesting to see how the fallout will impact long-term sentiments towards his own organization’s efforts.

It appears many think Issa should focus his energy, and hammer, on an issue beyond Park’s superpowers.

Letter to U.S. CTO Todd Park from Congressman Darrell Issa

Code for The Philippines: Help urgently needed

The Philippines after October 2009 typhoon. (Photo: <a href="">IFRC</a>)

The Philippines after October 2009 typhoon. (Photo: IFRC)

By now you’ve no doubt heard of the horrific consequences of super Typhoon Haiyan which has devastated the Philippines. In addition to an inconceivable death toll, thousands are displaced and without shelter.

Gia Banaag, from the Office of the President of the Philippines, and Kat Borlongan, the co-founder and CEO of Five by Five have joined forces to request a global effort from coders to create life-saving apps right now, today.

If you are a coder, a hacker or a project manager you can help make a difference from the comfort and luxury of your computer. I urge you to check this link to see what’s happening, read this PDF on the projectand to contact Kat (@katborlongan) or the resources listed on the site to volunteer your services.

Coding to make government better is fantastic. Using your skills to save lives is public service in its purest form. Here is ONE of the projects mentioned in the PDF that needs help:

Rescue coordination

This is a big issue with a lot of places that could be streamlined. What was done in the past online for rescue efforts is there were volunteers who manually monitored the hashtag #RescuePH and the latest updates sent on, for calls for rescue. Lists manually compiled to an .xls file from both these avenues is sent to us, and we forward them to point persons in the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

  • The lists are compiled manually, and in our experience are not checked for duplicate entries from previous lists, entries with inadequate information, entries with the same information. etc. Maybe a way to help automate cleaning up of data?
  • Those monitoring the hashtag also have a hard time because their feeds tend to be flooded with people reminding civilians to use the hashtags and other posts not actually calling for rescue.
  • There is currently no way (aside from checking manually) that reports of people who are safe already are marked and filtered out of being added to the lists multiple times. We’ve run into problems in the past of calls for rescue being retweeted many times even though they have already been reported, and there is also no way for NDRRMC to get back and mark items on the list as resolved.
  • Because the list is unfiltered it’s given to the National RRMC for notifying of Regional RRMCs, instead of directly to the regional offices, which would be more efficient.
  • Is there a way that calls for help could be mapped so that someone out on rescue could see the nearest calls for rescue near them?

Apply now for one of the best gigs in civic technology

Code for America is looking for a developer relations engineer.

From the description:

You will help Code for America develop and sustain paths of communication between the technology team, annual fellowship class, brigade program, and beyond. You will engage the civic technology ecosystem to measure use of existing technologies, gauge need for new technologies, and promote CfA’s work and involvement. You will interface with the volunteer community to identify coding tasks that will allow them to help us develop future applications for use by cities. Your familiarity with the broader community will help you identify promising candidates for future CfA fellowship classes.

Imagine waking up everyday and calling that your job.

Apply here

The State Department’s mobile site is now responsive

In a peculiar approach to web design strategy, the U.S. State Department has upgraded its mobile website,, to a responsive design.

Typically, responsive web design is leveraged to allow organizations to develop one site that fits all devices, whether it’s viewed on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. This approach significantly lessens development resources.

A cursory look appears to show that both sites have the same content, so it’s not quite clear what the strategy is.

Perhaps is the beta site for Or should be?

Regardless, now that the State Department has a responsive website, my recommendation would be to replace the current with the and redirect all traffic going to the mobile to the main site.

This lets State significantly reduce its website development and content management costs and allows it to repurpose those resources into building a stronger, unified web presence.

White House opens huge opportunity for designers, developers to increase We the People engagement

Photo: Pete Souza/White House

Photo: Pete Souza/White House

The White House will soon open a limited beta test to developers on a new We the People Write API that allows third-party applications to submit information to official petitions.

“One of the things we’ve heard from the beginning is a strong desire from our users to be able to submit signatures and petitions from other sites — and still receive an official response. Up to this point, we haven’t had a way to accept signatures submitted from other sites, but that is about to change,” writes White House Associate Director of Online Engagement for the Office of Digital Strategy Ezra Mechaber.

According to the White House, more than 10 million users have signed nearly 300,000 petitions.

We the People was built in Drupal and the source code is available on GitHub.

The Read API was opened earlier this year (sample projects here).

While We the People is fairly intuitive and easy to use, there’s huge potential for great designers and developers to essentially build a truly innovative and engaging platform.

Apply to the We the People Write API Beta.

.gov designer: Lou Huang

Lou Huang

.gov designer is a regular GovFresh feature profiling the people behind public sector design.


Lou Huang
Fellow, Code for America
Creator, Streetmix

When did you first become interested in design?

I’ve always had a creative streak. When I was growing up I was always drawing and building things. I was really into LEGO and drawing maps of fake cities, and I always thought I would go to college for architecture… so I did. My dad, an engineer, wanted me to major in computer science. I didn’t do that, but I was also growing up at the time the Internet and web design was becoming popular, so I dabbled in it.

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