Month: January 2015

USPTO preps for new website launch



The U.S. Patent and Trade Office plans to move its beta website, located at, to the official agency domain,, on February 5.

The site, developed in Drupal, is an improvement over the current one, but still has a way to go before it is optimal for users. There are large blocks and long pages of text and, coupled with a thin font for the main body text, this makes it difficult to read and skim. The patents and trademark search functionality is not mobile-friendly which, in this day and age, especially with something as fundamental to its mission as this, seems like a pretty big oversight. There are also redundant or unnecessary pages such as the Search Trademark Database that doesn’t actually have search functionality a link to one.

According to the agency, future enhancements will focus on making it easier to do business through USPTO, including patent fee payment and trademark registration filing.

USPTO is asking for public feedback before the new site launches.

Watch the video preview:

OpenFBO: re-imagining the next generation FedBizOpps


Say hello to OpenFBO.

Inspired by a recent General Services Administration request for information to create a “new and improved” FedBizOpps, OpenFBO is a community experiment to re-imagine the next generation FBO.

After reading GSA’s RFI, and working with NuCivic and CivicActions on their own submissions, I began thinking about what I would do if I was in charge of FedBizOpps, leaning on what’s been done with FBOpen, OpenRFPs and particularly former Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd’s leadership and experiments with GitHub-based procurement.

I started thinking, what if the RFI, request for proposal, the development of FedBizOpps and everything around it was more open and collaborative. What if all RFIs and RFPs were public repos where anyone could engage more in the procurement process? What are the other possibilities for making the process fair for small businesses? How can it be a more enjoyable experience for the federal workers who need to use it on a daily basis.

Inspired by Mark’s idea of GitHub-based procurement, I created a simple brand (“OpenFBO”) and website ( using GitHub pages, and am leveraging GitHub’s issues feature for idea submissions. There are currently two repos (one for the website and one for the first RFI).

As with any project like this, it’s also a way for me to learn more about the federal procurement process in the context of a community project. I have a lot to learn and hope OpenFBO is the mechanism for doing so. I imagine this will also open my eyes to community engagement via GitHub, which I’m really looking forward to.

To get involved with OpenFBO, connect on GitHub, Twitter, LinkedIn or subscribe to the newsletter.

So, to start things off, we’re issuing our first RFI:

How would you make FedBizOpps better?

U.S. Digital Service opens itself up to the public

U.S. Digital ServicesAfter getting some grief for not having a strong public presence, the U.S. Digital Service is beginning to open itself up with a new website, video and Twitter account.

The new website highlights projects and team members and makes a compelling recruitment push for “designers and writers, engineers and product managers, researchers and procurement experts committed to untangling, rewiring, and redesigning our government.”

From the website:

We understand the challenges, we’re equipped with the right tools and resources, and every day a growing number of America’s most talented people are joining hard-working public servants to make a difference. This community is the United States Digital Service. Together, we work with seasoned leaders across government to build world-class public services…and redefine public service for a new generation.

Apply for a job at USDS, follow on Twitter at @USDS, sign up for USDS email updates and learn more about its work.

Watch the new video:

Chief data officer as business developer (part 2)

Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk has a great follow-up blog post riffing off my Friday commentary on the CDO’s role as business developer.

Tom talks about his first-hand experience on this front and the challenges engaging businesses, particularly around licensing.

From his post:

Nevertheless, some interesting challenges started to rise. While working with one large mapping company, we were making an effort to provide some of our maps that could be used in an application. We noted many maps were released using the very permissive MIT license. This license seemed to be the best poised to include in a commercial application. However, the following clause created an issue: “The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.”

The application development team was unsure if such a clause could be included in the license. This was a bit of an impasse, but these challenges will pop-up that requires everyone to adjust. So, while including terms of open source licensing has become common for many enterprises, it still may be a challenge for others. Nevertheless, other proactive relationships with businesses do seem an important role for the CDO is the public sector. After all, we usually just supply the data, it’s you who makes it interesting.

Read the full post.

Chief data officer as business developer

I occasionally get asked about thoughts on how to increase open data consumption, and think about this more and more, especially as it increasingly becomes an issue for those seeking validation and return on investment.

Often, the target focus is local (businesses, organizations, hackers), which is important, but one of the biggest missed opportunities with respect to government and open data is that there’s not a more aggressive, proactive reach to larger data-focused companies that would value, consume and re-purpose this information at scale.

Government open data leaders should have a “10x” business development strategy and be proactive in connecting with high-demand data “customers.” This is where data consumption really can scale.

If I was a chief data officer, one of my first action items would be to compile a list of companies, starting with the Open Data 500 list and reach out to them based on the data I’ve released (health, energy, etc.).

I would also proactively reach out to these companies to find out what data they’re interested in that government might be able to provide. This could help determine data release schedule/priority or expose low-hanging fruit opportunities and leverage quick wins. Having an established demand also makes it easier to convince internal stakeholders of the value and gives them an incentive to be more proactive in opening the data they manage.

Collaborating with the business community up front ensures there’s a market demand for this raw material of data. As government open data leaders look for validation, return on investment and mass adoption of this information, government data leaders would do well to put on their business development hats and reach out sooner than later.

New GovLove podcast focuses on local government issues

GovLovePodcasting is all the rage these days, and SeeClickFix is now in the mix with GovLove, focused on local government issues.

The first episode features Emerging Local Government Leaders co-founder Kent Wyatt, a great, new organization bringing a fresh approach to public sector engagement and community.

Kudos to SeeClickFix for expanding beyond traditional marketing and putting the focus on the community, providing interesting, valuable content, and making it less directly about its own brand. While there’s some mention of SeeClickFix is the first episode, hopefully it doesn’t turn into a customer spotlight program (Ben Berkowitz, are you reading this?).

Subscribe to GovLove on iTunes and follow on Twitter at @GovLovePodcast.

Inside the new FCC consumer help center

FCC Consumer Help Center


In an effort to make the agency “more user-friendly, accessible and transparent to consumers,” the Federal Communications Commission launched a new consumer help center this past January.

The new site, powered by Zendesk, provides FCC with a full-scale, cloud-based help center and internal support ticketing system with an elegant, simple, flexible and intuitive interface.

FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray shares more on the process of getting it launched.

From start to finish, how long did it take to build?

From purchase of the technology to the launch of the platform, the process took approximately six months to complete. This process included an aggressive requirements analysis of the current processes and the development of more streamlined processes for the future. The new system dramatically modernized both internal and external processes. For example, the old process required mailing 18 different forms to consumers wanting to file a complaint, while the new system provides a user-friendly website that allows consumers to file a complaint with a few clicks.

How many people were involved?

The project was led by two members of the FCC’s IT team, who collaborated daily with other stakeholders within the FCC.

What was the development process from content development to input to design to launch?

Launching the new consumer complaints system was done using a non-traditional, agile process. We assessed the existing system, developed an eight-page requirements document with input from stakeholders, outlined implementation tasks, set a deadline, and went full steam ahead on execution, all while maintaining the flexibility to shift daily in order to address needs and issues as they came up.

What costs savings did you realize?

This new system uses the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which embodies the FCC’s approach to IT moving forward. For systems using the traditional in-house, “on-premise” model, we received estimates of approximately $3.2 million over 1-2 years. The new system’s price tag of only $450,000 represents savings of 85 percent to taxpayers, and it was completed in less than half the time.

Read more about the new site on the FCC blog.

Talk to the hand: New Covington logo breaks government convention

Source: City of Covington

Source: City of Covington

I’m a huge fan of government re-branding to modernize away from the antiquated look of the traditional seal, mostly because I believe it can play a huge role in citizen sentiment and how employees see themselves and their roles as public servants.

The City of Covington, Ky., takes a bold approach on this front with its new “Covington’s Alive!” re-design.

Opinions in the “Brand New” comments section vary and, sure, the icon could be co-opted by clever designers, but it’s great to see a city getting creative and bringing personality into the citizen experience.


GSA takes a big step towards baking agile into federal procurement

The U.S. General Services Administration is working to make it easier for agencies to procure agile development services via a government-wide blanket purchase agreement, which could be finalized as early as the end of this year.

GSA initiated the effort with a request for information and an Agile Delivery Services Industry Day tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 27, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. eastern time.

According to GSA, the industry day aims to discuss “establishing a new, governmentwide Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), which will feature vendors specializing in agile delivery services (e.g.; user-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps).”

To get a better understanding each vendors qualifications and understanding for the agile process, the RFI asks each to explain in 500 words how they would improve the federal government business portal, FedBizOpps. Responses are due by January 23.

From the RFI:

To ascertain your agile delivery capabilities, the government is requesting that you describe how you would approach creating a new and improved version of an existing government digital service called FedBizOpps (FBO).

FBO, which you can view at, is used by government buyers to share information on federal business opportunities with the public. The system is intended to serve as the central portal for federal agencies to solicit products and services from commercial vendors in support of their missions. Using FBO, vendors can search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community.

Based on this brief description of FBO, how would you go about designing, developing, testing, deploying and/or operating a new and improved system that produces such outcomes as user needs being met, risk of overall project failure (in terms of cost, schedule, quality) being mitigated, the architecture being adaptive to change, and taxpayer dollars being spent efficiently and effectively? Please be sure to include a listing of all the labor categories your company would use in this effort.

GSA will start an alpha test phase within “2-3 months” that will include vendors currently on Schedule 70 and apply only to GSA procurement, particularly to help “18F’s burgeoning delivery services team.” Afterwards, within 6-8 months, a beta phase will work to establish a government-wide BPA for procuring agile services.

“To keep pace, software acquisitions need to move at the speed of agile development cycles,” write 18F’s Chris Cairns and Greg Godbout in a blog post announcing the effort. “Ideally, this means less than 4 weeks from solicitation to contract kickoff, and from there no more than 3 months to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP).”

Bonus: RFI tips

Here are a few ideas you can use for your RFI submission:

  • Start with “API first.” FedBizOps desperately needs a more useful way to access the information available, especially newly-posted RFIs and requests for proposals.
  • Push all the front-end code to GitHub, where you’ll publicly address interface issues.
  • For design inspiration, start with FBOpen. Emphasize you’ll make searching easier and less convoluted. If you’re not familiar with this project or its predecessor RFP-EZ, start here.
  • Put all support/FAQs into Zendesk, much like the Federal Communications Commission has done with its new consumer complaint website.