Month: May 2014

New Orleans seeks CIO

New Orleans city hall (Photo: <a href="">Wally Gobetz</a>

New Orleans city hall (Photo: Wally Gobetz

In what is probably the best municipal technology job opportunity since Oakland was recruiting a chief information officer, the city of New Orleans is looking for new CIO.

The position was vacated by Allen Square, who served four years as the city’s CIO, inheriting a scandal-ridden department in which his two predecessors pled guilty to bribery charges. It seems those days are past as Square has helped bring a new approach to technology to the city.

From the job description, here’s the best incentive for those looking to move beyond the run-of-the-mill municipal IT opportunities:

“This is a city on the rise due to a healthy mix of preserving cultural traditions that celebrate family, friends and quality of life and an explosion in civic, business and technological innovation. New Orleans is home to a new 80 school public charter school system, thriving local art, music and culture scene, and strong families and communities. Our population has rebounded to nearly 380,000 people and is still growing as we strive to become the best city in America.”

Apply by sending a cover letter and resume to

HHS seeks entrepreneurs for year-long fellowships

Applications for the Department of Health & Human Services HHS Entrepreneurs program are now open to innovators interested in working for a year-long stint alongside federal government employees on “high-risk, high-reward projects.”

“The ideal HHS Entrepreneur is a passionate expert in problem solving equipped with modern tools who is ready to shake government up, push the boundaries of the bureaucracy and act as agents of the IDEA Lab to transform the culture of a large organization,” writes HHS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak on the HHS Idea Lab blog.

Projects include:

Created in 2010 and originally called the HHS Innovation Fellows Program, HHS Entrepreneurs was established “in response to difficulties in finding expertise and unique skill sets necessary to solve some of the critical challenges we face in health, health care, and the delivery of human services.” The program was renamed HHS Entrepreneurs in 2012.

Application deadline is July 16. Apply here.

HHS Entrepreneurs Overview

GitChat with Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is our next GitChat guest. Newsom is also the author of “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.”

For those not familiar with GitChat, it’s an open, informal chat with leading civic innovators using GitHub as a platform for engagement.

Newsom will answer questions from May 6-7 (noon-noon PT).

Submit your questions »

Building a better .gov beta

Recently, a federal agency shared a beta version of its new website for public feedback. I quickly reviewed the site, easily added a few comments (please, no more carousels) with the help of a very accessible feedback tab. Feeling satisfied I’d participated in some form of civic collaboration and engagement with my government, I moved on.

Curious as to its progress, I re-visited the test URL last week only to find the site had been taken offline with a message indicating the beta period had ended:

“We appreciate the time and effort put forth by our users to help ensure that our final launch is a success.”

Since my initial, and subsequent, visit, I’ve been thinking about how government can build a better beta, because I’m unconvinced this process is relevant in today’s development environment, especially when you take into account the increasing role digital government has on civic engagement and collaboration.

While I was able to comment on the beta, as a citizen, I’m not completely satisfied with the process, especially the idea that there’s a “final launch,” typical for .gov beta launches, for two reasons. First, I’m not able to see feedback from others, comment on and vote up or down (and vice versa). Second, the idea that there’s a final launch is outdated and overlooks an opportunity for deeper, continual feedback.

After thinking about this more, here are some ideas to change the way government builds web products and thinks about the .gov beta.

Publicize your user stories

Identifying your user stories is an important aspect to getting external feedback, because each demographic is able to come into the process knowing which lens to wear when doing so. Having these identified also allows you to ask the user which story they associate with (“I am a patient/doctor/insurance provider, ..”) which lets you better put into context that feedback.

Push your code to the public

There are two solid reasons for doing this. First, others can contribute back and help build the site. If you’re a small government IT shop, and you want to expand your development team, opening the code to outside developers and sharing your roadmap (see below) will do this, especially if you’re actively pushing their work back into your project.

Second, you’re giving back to the community which can have huge economic, entrepreneurial and innovation impact. NASA Spinoff, while not just code, is a great example of how government is bringing IP to the commons. Every development agency working for or with government should be doing this.

Publicize feedback and development response

No one does this better than With a public repository on GitHub, anyone can follow development activities and submit issues. lead Jeanne Holm and her team are active in posting comments. You’re also able to open comments and ask questions to the public, such as “Should we have a carousel?”.

Share the roadmap

Building an iterative approach into your development and responding to public feedback suggestions doesn’t mean you don’t need a long-term plan, even if it’s just 3-6 months out (and it shouldn’t be much longer). Giving insight into what features you’re thinking about integrating into your product allows others to understand what you’re working on and planning for. Visibility into both progress and future development expands opportunity for collaboration and even offers you a chance to solicit open requests for information on best practices ahead of time.

The product is never done

As government technology projects see more public scrutiny, we’re becoming more exposed to the benefits of agile (as opposed to waterfall) methodologies and the benefits of shipping early and often. All too often a government website is launched to much fanfare, only to see little changes occur in the proceeding years. We need to get out of the habit of thinking a government website can’t be improved immediately, but should be done so on a daily basis.

The new .gov beta is more than just how government should launch a new website.

Beta isn’t a product. It’s a mindset.

Save the date (May 31-June 1) and hack your city

National Day of Civic Hacking

Source: National Day of Civic Hacking

Civic leaders and organizations around the world are preparing for events surrounding the National Day of Civic Hacking, scheduled for the weekend of May 31 to June 1, with activities already underway.

The goal of the annual event is to “bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs together to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to improve our communities and the governments that serve them.”

How you can get involved:

Keep updated on activities via Facebook and Twitter (@civichackingday) and follow the #hackforchange hashtag.