NASA

Machine Learning Paired with Skilled Data Scientists is the Future of Data-Driven Decision Making

Although the term Machine Learning (ML) was coined in 1959, it’s advancement and development has never been more critical than it is today, particularly within government agencies. As the amount of data being produced, manipulated, and stored exponentially increases, so does the very real threat of cyber-security breaches and fraud. Meanwhile, federal budgets and staff resources continue to decrease. ML can provide high-value services for federal agencies including data management and analytics, security threat detection, and process improvement—but the list does not stop there.

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From Launch to Landing: How NASA Took Control of Its HTTPS Mission

18F Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Karim Said of NASA. Karim was instrumental in NASA’s successful HTTPS and HSTS migration, and we’re happy to help Karim share the lessons NASA learned from that process. In 2015, the White House Office of Management and Budget released M-15-13, a “Policy to Require Secure Connections across Federal Websites and Web Services”. The memorandum emphasizes the importance of protecting the privacy and security of the public’s browsing activities on the web, and sets a goal to bring all federal websites and services to a consistent standard of enforcing HTTPS and HSTS.

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Inspiring Data Forum at the Canadian Space Agency

Last [month], NASA Open Innovation Program Manager Dr. Beth Beck and her team traveled to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) near Montreal, Canada to attend the Inspiring Data Forum graciously hosted by our Open Data neighbors to the North. The goal of this gathering was to bolster the working relationship between the two Space Agency’s Open Data efforts and to present techniques NASA is doing in Open Innovation. The event was heavily attended by CSA employees and also had participants from National Research Council of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Natural Resources Canada, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada, MaxQ and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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NASA’s Journey With the U.S. Web Design Standards

The U.S. Web Design Standards were created by the government, for the government. They’re currently implemented on hundreds of government sites, with an audience of more than 26 million monthly users. They’ve also been recommended by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for all government agencies to ensure a consistent look and feel of their public-facing digital services. Over the coming months, the team will be doing a series of blog posts to share information about the how different agencies are using the Standards.

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DigitalGov University in Review: 2016 Training Trends

DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.

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NASA Addresses OMB M-16-21 Federal Source Code Policy

In August 2016, OMB released M-16-21, which seeks to ensure that new custom-developed Federal source code be made broadly available for reuse across the Federal Government. M-16-21 also requires agencies, when commissioning new custom software, to release at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as Open Source Software (OSS) for three years, and to collect data concerning new custom software to gauge performance. This approach is consistent with the Digital Government Strategy “Shared Platform” approach, which enables federal employees to work together—both within and across agencies—to reduce costs, streamline development, apply uniform standards, and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information.

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New API Brings EPIC Earth Imagery to Developers

Daily imagery data taken by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera is now accessible via a RESTful API available from the NASA API Portal. The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) is an instrument aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite, which orbits at Earth’s Lagrange point, the sweet spot in space where the gravitational tug of the Earth and the Sun is equal. This allows DSCOVR to maintain a stable position between the Earth and Sun and thus a continuous view of the sunlit side of Earth.

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Federally Funded Research Results Are Becoming More Open and Accessible

Summary: Significant strides in improving public access to scholarly publications and digital data help usher in an era of open science. This week marks the 8th annual Open Access Week, when individuals and organizations around the world celebrate the value of opening up online access to the results of scholarly research. It is an opportune time to highlight the considerable progress that Federal departments and agencies have made increasing public access to the results of Federally-supported scientific research and advancing the broader notion of open science.

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GAO to Congress: Federal Agencies Are Making a Difference Through Open Innovation

Federal agencies confront tough problems every day. In searching for solutions, agencies will want to attract different perspectives, test new products, build capacity and communities, and increase public awareness. How do they do it? The answer: open innovation. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, a task made easier by online technologies, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week. OPEN INNOVATION: Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives is accompanied by an infographic and podcast, all well worth your while.

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NASA: Open Gov Plan 2016 Outline

Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.

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Webinar Recap: Snaps and Stripes—Sharing Public Service Stories with Snapchat

What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.

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NASA Pulls Together National Data to Sleuth Out Air Traffic Improvement Mysteries

For the first time ever, air traffic researchers can view and analyze archived flight data collected and merged from all air traffic facilities across the U.S., with fast update rates ranging from one second to 12 seconds for every flight’s position. Previously, researchers only had access to national flight data that was similar to internet flight tracking, with one-minute flight updates and no information about flights on the ground at airports.

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NASA Space Apps Challenge: 2016 Global Winners!

We’re thrilled to announce the Space Apps 2016 Global Award Winners!! These projects well represent the best of the best innovative thinking this year. Congratulations to all the teams. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming NASA launch in Florida. Best Use of Data: Scintilla, created at the Space Apps Pasadena, California main stage event, mitigates the impact of poor air quality in the global community by democratizing air quality data collection.

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The Data Briefing: NASA’s New Big Data Strategy

Few other federal agencies deal with as much data as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Big science creates big data, and NASA manages many of the biggest science projects in world history. Even in the early days of NASA’s history, NASA pioneered new ways to create and store data. So, in the world of the cloud, Internet of Things, and intelligent agents, how does NASA deal with its big data needs?

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700 Strong: Challenge.gov Crosses New Milestone in Open Innovation

Challenge.gov, the official website for crowdsourcing and prize competitions across government, celebrated its five-year anniversary in October 2015. Now, not even one year later, the site has reached another milestone. On Monday, two agencies launched new challenges, bringing the total number of competitions on Challenge.gov across the 700 mark. The 700th challenge, Start a SUD Startup, comes from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The challenge looks to award biomedical scientists up to $100,000 to help transition their research ideas into viable business opportunities.

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Making a Statement: When It Comes to Hackathons, a Compelling Challenge Statement Is Key to Success

As the civic hacking movement continues to grow in the United States, agencies are starting to adopt hackathons to engage citizens in the challenging work of improving government services and solving real-world challenges using open data. Whether you are planning your own hackathon, or planning in a multi-government agency “mass collaboration” such as the National Day of Civic Hacking, it’s important to design citizen engagement events well. [Side note: Join us June 4 in cities around the nation for the National Day of Civic Hacking!

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The Data Briefing: Engaging Citizens through CitizenScience.Gov

Last month, I worked to create a “Citizen Science Passport” for the federal agencies participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Seven federal agencies offered some form of crowdsourcing or citizen science activity at their booths such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s exhibit on food safety or Environmental Protection Agency’s build-your-own air monitoring kit. Attendees would participate in each of the agency’s citizen science activity to receive a stamp on their passport.

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The Data Briefing: Building an Open Government Data Ecosystem in the Federal Government

It has been over seven years since President Obama signed the executive order that launched the federal open data movement. Much progress has been made, and there is still more to do. Along with the United States, over 100 nations have started programs to provide open access to government data. From large metropolitan governments to small cities, governments are opening up their data to provide better transparency and better delivery of government services.

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Your Trek to Vesta & Mars Starts Now

The NASA Open Innovation team is pleased to announce the availability of the APIs that power Mars Trek and Vesta Trek on api.nasa.gov. The APIs for Mars provide data from the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions with 21 different data products such as MOLA Altimetery Hillshade, Viking and THEMIS. There are also 6 data products from the Dawn mission to Vesta providing various views in True Color, Colorized and Color Hillshade to name a few.

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Using Code to Spur Innovation

This week, President Obama will travel to SxSW (South by Southwest) to talk about how we can use technology to tackle tough challenges. This underscores how important data—government data, in particular—is to improving and fueling our democracy forward. 2015 saw many open data milestones by agencies, including: New advancements in HHS’s syndication storefront New features to analytics.usa.gov dashboard (now with agency-specific dashboards USPTO’s PatentsView Education’s New College Scorecard FEMA’s new Data Visualization Tool APIs from FEC , Labor and NASA (to name a few) There is also more to come (and more that’s needed).

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Analytics.usa.gov: Now with Agency-Specific Dashboards

We’ve added agency-specific dashboards to analytics.usa.gov! Starting today, you’ll see a dropdown from the main analytics.usa.gov page that allows you to view the same dashboard, but filtered for websites that are administered by one of 10 specific agencies: Department of Commerce Department of Education Department of Energy Department of the Interior Department of Justice Department of Veterans Affairs Environmental Protection Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Archives and Records Administration Small Business Administration What Do These Pages Show Me?

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Challenges & Prizes Webinar Series Concludes, but Training Still Available

It began with a history lesson and ended with an eye to the future. In between, the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success covered nearly every aspect of what it takes to run successful incentivized competitions. Challenge.gov and DigitalGov University partnered with XPRIZE Foundation to bring together expert speakers from across the federal government and industry for seven webinars that began last summer and ran through January.

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The Data Briefing: Improving the Federal Government Through Mobile Apps

Federal agencies are doing well in fulfilling the 2012 Digital Government Strategy by providing numerous mobile apps for American citizens. According to a report from IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, 76 federal agencies have at least one mobile app. As of July 2015, there are nearly 300 federal government mobile apps that provide at least one of the following: General information and news services Client services such as providing and processing government forms Crowdsourcing Health and safety information Educational services According to the report, mobile devices were one-third of the traffic to government websites, as of July 2015.

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State of Federal Blogging 2016

How government agencies blog has come a long way in the past decade. As we welcome 2016, here is a look at how the White House, NASA and the Department of the Interior run their blogs and share content. White House: Blog Less, Empower More When you go to WhiteHouse.gov, their blog is featured prominently as a main source of news for the administration. It’s not just a repository for past Administration actions, it’s a dynamic and responsive site to help connect Americans with opportunities to engage on the issues of the day, his schedule, and news from the President and his senior officials.

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Tapping ‘Teen Power’—Challenging Youth with Prize Competitions

Sometimes in crowdsourcing, you want to take your problem straight to a specific crowd. And sometimes that crowd is still in school. Challenge.gov has seen many federal agencies launch prize competitions to educate and engage high school students. These include a NASA challenge that asked students to develop devices that could protect astronauts from radiation during space flight. Two current challenges also take this approach, hoping to inspire students to become interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

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Challenges, Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science: What’s the Dif?

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.

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Challenge.gov Honors Federal Agencies, Staff for Raising the Bar on Public Sector Prize Competitions

The biggest advocates for the use of challenges in the public sector gathered at the General Services Administration (GSA) headquarters, October 8, to acknowledge the remarkable rise of a community that has grown steadily in number and influence over the past five years. More than 300 federal employees representing agencies spanning government attended in person or watched via livestream to mark the five-year anniversary of the Challenge.gov. “It is clear that open innovation is here to stay,” said Kelly Olson, director of the Challenge.

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Trends on Tuesday: Is Crowdsourcing the Future of Mobile Design and Development?

NASA recently announced the winners of a smartwatch app interface competition. A Canadian duo won the design competition, and NASA’s plan is to build the app with 2016 funding to have it available for astronauts to use when they are aboard the International Space Station. This is the first government smartwatch app development we’ve talked about on DigitalGov and an example of a great mobile moment use case. Not only is the smart app interesting (see the UI images!

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White House Kicks Off Challenge.gov Anniversary with Wealth of New Prize Competitions

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.

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The Data Briefing: Connecting the (Data) Dots—NASA’s NYSpaceTag App

OpenNASA has recently completed another redesign of their site. With over 31,000 data sets, 194 code repositories and 36 APIs, OpenNASA probably has the largest collection of open data of any of the federal agencies. An especially helpful feature is a set of icons devoted to five types of visitors: the Citizen Scientist, the Developer, the Citizen Activist, the Govvie and the Curious. A great feature to engage NASA’s audience is the Data Stories section where people talk about the projects they created with NASA datasets.

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NASA + Lunar Eclipse = A Super(moon) Match Made in Metrics Heaven

NASA’s reach over the last 24 hours eclipsed that of the regulars typically seen in government digital metrics. But, all agencies can drive the conversation and accomplish a similar feat with a good content strategy. NASA defines a supermoon, which appears approximately 14 percent larger in diameter due to its proximity to the Earth, as a full or new moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and is at its closest approach to the Earth.

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Challenge Module 2: It’s All About the Teams—The Importance of Operational Incentives in Prizes

A strong incentive is the lifeblood of solving any challenge. That’s the message experts offered August 4 as part of a Challenge.gov webinar series on running successful federal competitions. Sam Ortega, manager of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s Partnerships Office, and Christopher Frangione, vice president of prize development at the XPRIZE Foundation, shared how government agencies can attract and motivate problem-solving communities to deliver decisive solutions. And while the prize purse matters, both agreed it’s not all that counts.

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Explore Space with Smithsonian’s Chandra X-Ray App

We continue our celebration of American history and legacy this July 2015 with the New Horizons spacecraft’s dramatic flight past the icy dwarf planet Pluto and its moons—momentous in space exploration. Just think about it—New Horizons, a NASA space probe traveled over 3 billion miles to the ninth and final planet, making America the first and only country that has sent space probes to every planet that makes up our solar system.

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Dwarf Planet, Giant Numbers: NASA’s Mission to Pluto Goes Global

Even on a “slow” day, NASA is a pretty cool place to work, but the cool factor gets cranked way up when the whole world joins in the adventure. That’s what happened this week when the New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto after decade-long, three-billion-mile journey through the solar system. New Horizons has already sent back never-before seen images of the dwarf planet, and it is collecting so much data that it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.

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Analytics Prove People Care About Space (and Pluto!)

Despite the fact that Pluto has been downgraded to a “dwarf planet”, the analytics of federal government websites prove there are still a lot of people who want to get an up-close look. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a project over nine years in the making, flew by Pluto this morning at approximately 7:49 a.m. The project should produce the highest quality photos of the former planet and its largest moon, Charon, that anyone on Earth has ever seen.

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How Agencies “Pin” Down Their Audiences

While Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media platforms (according to some rankings), your agency can and should evaluate the benefits of platforms like Pinterest, which have seen major growth in users and activity. In the last six months of 2014, Pinterest increased its membership by 57%, while Facebook and Twitter only grew by 6% and 18%, respectively. More than 60% of millennial moms use Pinterest, making it a platform perfect for agencies looking to communicate topics related to children and women’s health; DigitalGov previously discussed how the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health used Pinterest as part of an inter-agency health campaign.

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The API Briefing: NASA Builds API.NASA.gov to Launch More APIs to Developers

NASA has been busy since we last visited their collection of APIs back in August 2014. NASA has just launched API.NASA.gov where developers can learn to use existing NASA APIs or contribute their APIs to the catalog. NASA encourages developers to obtain an API Key to begin using or contributing APIs. Developers do not need an API key, but their requests to the API will be limited. I would encourage developers to obtain an API key.

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NASA APIs: Opening Data Assets

Data is one of the most important assets at NASA. We have data on comets, measurements of Mars, and real-time imagery of Earth. But what good is data if you can’t access it? Not good at all! We’re in the process of building a site (at api.nasa.gov) to catalog NASA APIs that structure access to our data, making it eminently easy for developers to build applications. An application, here, is broadly defined and includes research applications, mobile applications, policy applications—any data use that converts information into insight and action.

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The Content Corner: Catching a Wave

As we all continue to wrestle with the “content beast”, one effective method for generating ideas for content and fleshing out an editorial calendar is to look for trending events or even upcoming holidays. In the spirit of full disclosure, the idea behind this particular post was inspired by the back-to-back Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day holidays (I decided to skip “Do a Grouch a Favor Day”). But its not as simple as picking a holiday or event and then just running with it.

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Digital Analytics Program Among Finalists for Igniting Innovation Award

The federal government has IT challenges, and innovative federal projects are tackling those challenges head-on. As projects gain momentum, outside organizations have taken notice. Recently, Data.gov and DigitalGov’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) were recognized by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), among 30 other finalists for the Igniting Innovation Award. ACT-IAC’s 2015 Igniting Innovation Showcase and Awards recognized tools, solutions, services and programs developed by government and industry leaders.

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NASA Reaches New Frontiers in 3D Printing

3D printing has gone out of this world. Earlier this month, DigitalGov covered the NIH 3D Print Exchange, where 3D printing is supporting scientific learning and research. Today, we’re highlighting a project that is reaching brand new heights: NASA’s In-space Manufacturing Initiative. Self-Sufficiency in Space NASA is currently conducting 3D printing experiments aboard the International Space Station. In November, a printer faceplate was the first object successfully 3D printed in space.

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How Government will Accelerate Anytime, Anywhere Services and Information in 2015

Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.

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The API Briefing: NASA and USPS Explore the Holographic Computing Frontier

Big news in the technology world as Microsoft unveiled HoloLens and Microsoft’s use of holographic computing in the upcoming Windows 10 release. Holographic computing or augmented reality uses computer-generated images that are overlaid on real world videos. For example, a user can view a car through their smartphone. An app can project information such as make and model, fuel mileage, and other facts onto a real-time view of a particular car.

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Big in SocialGov in 2014: Services, Access and Participation

Social media for public service is a diverse field that uses platforms and data from both the private and public sectors to improve citizen services, make them easier to access and deliver them more cost effectively. It is not just public affairs or communications, but spreads into customer service, resource development and more. Many of the best examples of social media in government can’t be seen on the surface of a tweet or post, but in how these collaborative, engaging strategies improve the processes of public services themselves.

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Opening Government Through Federal Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a critical corner of the digital government landscape, and our December theme articles have covered the topic from a variety of angles. Before we head into January, where we will discuss upcoming trends on the digital horizon, we sat down to learn more about the evolution and future direction of federal crowdsourcing initiatives as a whole. We spoke with Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

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Announcing the Winners of the First-Ever White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge

This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House. The halls of the White House are decked out with festive holiday décor and the White House Christmas tree stands tall in the Blue Room. In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs.

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Challenge & Prize Competition Round-Up

We’ve had an excellent year of training and community events for the federal challenge and prize community, so for the month of December DigitalGov University has taken a look at the events we’ve hosted this year and rounded them up in line with this month’s Crowdsourcing theme. On Wednesday, December 10, the Challenge and Prize Community of Practice hosted its quarterly in-person meeting to highlight the roles and responsibilities that Challenge.

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How Six Agencies Are CrowdSourcing with Mobile Apps

Mobile devices allow the public to interact with government in new and game-changing ways and users expect those interactions. As a result, many agencies are taking advantage of native apps for crowdsourcing projects. The White House Open Government Initiative recently 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”)…” In addition, they highlighted some native applications like the Federal Communications Commission Speed Test App and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mPing as good practices in mobile crowdsourcing.

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10 Years of Digital Government—A Retrospective

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.

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Crowdsourcing Month: An Overview

This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.

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2nd U.S. Public Participation Playbook Draft Responds to Public Contributions

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.

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Join the Global Climate Change Conversation with NASA’s Earth Now

Wanna join the global climate change conversation? Arm yourself with real-time facts about Earth’s vital signs from NASA’s Earth Now mobile app. Earth Now is an app that visualizes recent global climate data, including surface air temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and water vapor, as well as gravity and sea level variations. This app not only shows you the current vital signs of the planet, but also explains why each vital sign is important to monitor, and how changes to these signs affect the climate.

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Open and Structured Content Models Workshop Recap

People consume government information in a variety of ways: through agency websites, of course, but increasingly through social media, search engines, and mobile apps, whether developed by agencies or third parties. To make sure the information is available seamlessly, accurately, and consistently from one setting to another, more and more agencies are exploring the use of content models. Content models create a structure to tag content in a standardized way and free it from any single format or destination, such as a Web page or PDF file.

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Results Report: Robots Created for Competitions to Help Ebola Response

Challenge competitions were recently highlighted as two potential solutions to help with the Ebola crisis responses. The first is a grand challenge launched Oct. 17, 2014, by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID): Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development. The goal: To help health care workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. Engage the global community to identify ingenious ideas that deliver practical and cost-effective innovations in a matter of months, not years; Forge public private partnerships necessary to test and scale these innovations and; Provide critical funding to get some of the most promising ideas into the field quickly.

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Web Design Changes? Let the Metrics be Your Guide

On September 6, 2013 at 11:27 p.m., EDT., viewers tuned in through the Internet to watch NASA launch its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. As viewers logged onto the website, something unusual happened. For the first time, metrics indicated that NASA.gov’s mobile users outpaced their desktop users. 93 percent of their viewers were watching the launch from a mobile device. At the time, NASA Web managers were already considering changing their website.

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Helpful Hints: Writing RFPs So Real Businesses Can Respond

If you have a hand in contracts for crowdsourcing initiatives and challenge and prize competitions, here are some helpful hints for you. We’ve gathered this list from the expert businesses that provide competition services. Haven’t heard about that? See GSA Schedule 541-4G. Background: Over the last two years, competition providers and consultants have become more specialized in niche areas where they have expertise, access to specific solver communities, and experience in driving outcomes based on the competition structure and goals.

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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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Challenge, Contract or Grant – Which tool is right for the job?

Choosing between a contract, a grant, or a public prize competition to get solutions to the problems your agency faces is a difficult task. Each is a tool that has different qualities and each might be the best choice for varying situations. Sam Ortega, the manager of the Centennial Challenges program at NASA, spoke about the subject recently on a DigitalGov University webinar. Being the head of a large federal public prize program, he had a lot to say about the benefits of crowdsourcing innovation through prizes.

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The Trend is Diversity, in Challenge and Prize Competitions

The U.S. government has launched more than 45 challenge and prize competitions so far in Fiscal Year 2014. What trends are we seeing? Well, the trend is…diversity. That might sound like an oxymoron, but federal agencies are really putting themselves out there, asking the crowd to help tackle a wide array of problems. Until August 3rd, NASA is seeking ways to improve email for astronauts on the International Space Station.

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508 Accessible Videos – How to Make Audio Descriptions

What are Audio Descriptions? Audio Description, also called descriptive video or video description, is an additional audio track that describes and gives context for essential visual information. Audio Description makes videos and multimedia accessible to people who have “low vision” (very poor vision), or who are blind, by capturing what is happening on screen into audible descriptions that are played during natural pauses in the audio track. Here is a video that explains why audio descriptions are important to include.

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Is It Tweet-Worthy?

The Web now contains over 1.51 billion pages of content, according to WorldWideWebSize.com. That’s a lot of reading material, and a lot of content competing with yours for attention. People won’t waste time (even a few seconds) on an article that doesn’t matter to them in some way—not when there are so many other interesting things to read on the Web. But what makes something “tweet-worthy?” What can you do to capture your audience’s attention and entice them to share broadly in their networks?

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The Golden Metric

Are you looking for the “golden metric” that is the best measure of your agency’s website performance and cross-comparable across .gov websites? If so, stop looking. The concept of the golden metric is a dangerous one because it oversimplifies performance analysis of your website and overlooks the truth hidden behind other, more relevant metrics. Don’t get me wrong—it is easy to fall for the concept of the golden metric.

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4 Ways to Connect, Engage & Expand Your Community with Google+ Hangouts

When you think about your community, you may think about your neighborhood, your city, your office or the organizations and activities you’re involved in. The Peace Corps has many of the characteristics of a community, however our reach spans the entire globe. Because we need to regularly connect with national and international audiences, Peace Corps actively explores new and cost-efficient tools to help us achieve communication goals. Fortunately for us, the digital age has given federal agencies the resources to do exactly that.

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Challenge and Prize Practitioners Gather at GSA

Got innovation? Well, we do! On Wednesday May 28, the Challenge.gov team gathered the Challenges and Prizes Community of Practice. The group covered two topics: Highlights from challenge competitions run in 2013. Concepts and tips for working with solvers to build teams. Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, shared the results of a recent report on challenge and prize competitions conducted under America COMPETES Act Authority.

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Unleashing Data Innovation for Action on Climate Change

Last June, President Obama launched a Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, prepare communities for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge. The plan recognizes that even as we act to curb the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, we must also prepare our citizens and communities for the climate impacts that are already underway across the country. One of the efforts described in that Climate Action Plan is the Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely-available climate-relevant data resources data to spur innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in order to advance awareness of and preparedness for the impacts of climate change.

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This Weekend: Event List for Civic Hacking

Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.

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The Federal List of #HackforChange Projects

You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.

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Citizen Engagement at NASA

Recently, the White House hosted Stakeholder Engagement Workshops—an informal meet-up for citizens and federal agencies to discuss progress on Open Government. The third version of our Open Gov Plan is due June 1st. My Open Innovation teammates and I took the opportunity to attend the event. We gained valuable insights from citizen activists on what they want to see in agency plans, as well as how they will judge our progress on White House mandates for transparency, collaboration, and participation.

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Ten Earth Day Activities in Digital Government

On this Earth Day, federal social media managers are hard at work, sharing and promoting what government and citizens can do to protect the environment. We’ve compiled a sample of the activities that also show how different agencies are using different social media tools in support of a common goal. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been leading the way all month, hosting Twitter chats every Tuesday at 2pm EDT, with the hashtag #ActOnClimate.

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Digital Analytics Program (DAP): Oceans of Data

In the last 15 months, the federal Digital Analytics Program (DAP) monthly Web traffic has grown to more than 1.1 billion views gov-wide, providing Web analytics to 29 U.S. federal cabinet-level agencies and nearly 3,000 public-facing government Web properties. The mission of the DAP is to help improve digital citizen services by providing comprehensive digital analytics, training and best practices to agencies. Information reported in DAP Web Analytics is a gold mine for research and analysis for improving the effectiveness, efficiency and relevancy of information and services provided on the government websites.

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In the Beginning…of Web in Federal Government

[ ](https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalgov/_legacy-img/2014/03/Birthday-Cake_Internet_World-Wide-Web_25-years-old_Featured_301x212.jpg) With the 25th anniversary of the Web, we wanted to share stories from the beginnings of Web in the federal government and how online government has evolved in the years since. The State Department may have been one of the first, in 1991, with a bulletin board presence launched thru the Government Printing Office, according to Janice Clark, Director in the Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs.

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We Love it When a Plan Comes Together…

Federal agencies are currently hard at work developing revised Open Government Plans—blueprints that are published every two years, highlighting agency progress towards making their work more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and outlining new open government commitments going forward. This iterative, biennial process grew out of the December 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget, which instructed executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to incorporate the principles of openness set forth in the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which he signed on his first full day in office.

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Creating E-Books: Think Functionality, Not Aesthetics

E-books are great for one thing: reading on mobile devices. Their reflowable text adjusts to fit the reader’s smartphone, tablet or e-reader in the type size the reader chooses. They are essential for reading on smartphones, and better than pdf’s for all but the biggest tablets. But e-books are not great for design. They’re generally single column, with images “anchored” within the text flow. Graphical enhancements are very limited, and are supported differently (if at all) on different devices.

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Lights, Camera, Action! 7 Tips to Run a Successful Video Challenge

Not sure how to craft a video challenge that will result in the creative solutions your agency is looking for? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Jason Crusan from NASA and Tammi Marcoullier from Challenge.gov joined a recent DigitalGov University webinar to share best practices and hurdles in running video competitions. We’ve recapped their advice and key takeaways here: Video challenges are a great way to engage the public around a visual story.

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Software/Apps Challenges: Getting Results for Your Agency

Federal agencies are rapidly finding that software and/or app prize competitions have the potential to harness innovative ideas from the public. But as with any type of challenge, software/app competitions bring with them a unique set of aspects to consider before launch. Brandon Kessler, founder and CEO of ChallengePost, was our guest on a DigitalGov University webinar to talk about the things you need to account for in order to run a successful software/app challenge.

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Innovation Means More, Better, Cost Effective Digital Training

A recent FedTech Magazine article asked, “When There Are No Barriers to Technology, How Can the Government Innovate?” We thought we’d take up the challenge and let you know how government uses innovations from digital communities to grow a social media education and training program that provides more opportunities than ever for agencies to share, learn and measurably improve our programs for citizens. And by more we mean almost four times more with the same resources.

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Surviving Thanksgiving With Your Smartphone

Oh, Thanksgiving! If you need to take a time-out from the dinner table for a little of your own (cyber)space, give these apps a try: Does a holiday with your extended family put your nerves on edge? The Breathe2Relax and TacticalBreather mobile apps are specially designed to help you control physiological responses to stress through the simple yet scientifically proven act of guided deep breathing. Both offer customizable settings. Just lighten up on the onion dip before trying them out.

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Partnerships Can Add Value to Prize Competitions

The right partner can be the key to a successful challenge competition. If you’re planning a challenge for your agency, you’ve probably had to ask: “Do we have the tools and capabilities to pull off this challenge on our own?” Why we form partnerships Often times, the answer is, “no.” But that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing solutions to your problems. Challenge managers weighed-in on partnerships at a recent community meeting, and here are a few of their tips on how agencies partner for success.

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Best Week Ever in #SocialGov: 2

(This is the second installment of an ongoing series charting the programs, events and people that make the emerging field of social media and data in government From where I sit, I think we just had a great week in #socialgov. From a sold-out international forum that demonstrated how we can use free tools to host a world-class event, to milestones in the Defense community and new colleagues in Italy, there are no shortage of great things happening in federal social media — and it will only get better next week.

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Digital Analytics Program Goes To The Moon!

On Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia. Users flocked to NASA.gov for info, and we spiked to nearly 12 million page views that day, ~16 times the daily average. Our real-time analytics showed over 300,000 active visitors on the site at peak, about 100 times more than normal traffic. And, not surprisingly, we could see a huge chunk of this traffic was coming from Russia.

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NASA Space Place Prime App

In May, NASA released the Space Place Prime app for both iPhone and iPad. This app’s target audience is not only kids, but for teachers, parents, and all space enthusiasts. Based on NASA’s website, The Space Place, this app presents some of the most recent and best offerings of NASA: Timely educational and easy-to-read articles from the website Daily updates of NASA space and Earth-from-space images and the latest, informative videos and articles Interface is a slidable, looping grid of images with icons indicating whether they represent an image, a video, or an article Alternatively, a list mode and a carousel mode present images, videos, and articles sorted separately Content is updated daily and favorites can be tagged and permanently saved You can check out other fun apps like Space Place Prime on the USA.

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SocialGov Summit Diagnoses Viral Gov

The social media landscape changes every day, and viral content heralds trends to come. Government must learn to adapt in order to deliver more effective and efficient services for citizens. At this SocialGov Summit we explored the world of Viral Government and continue our efforts to bring the most advanced capabilities and strategies to agencies’ missions. Take a look at the presentation from TSA’s blogger Bob on how they respond to viral content and make their content interesting and learn how you can do the same.

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Tips for Creating Great Digital Content for Kids

Great websites for kids have many of the same features as websites for adults, but some key differences are worth noting when writing digital content for kids or teens. Kids have short attention spans, so it’s important to keep your site engaging, fun, and active. Here are a few tips from Kids.gov on ways to create great online content for kids: Make your kids’ website fun and interactive When your site is interactive, kids don’t even realize that they’re learning.

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NASA’s Be A Martian App

Solar System fans, space shuttles are not the only way you can visit a planet! In July 2012, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA developed a mobile app called “NASA Be A Martian”, which allows you to become a Martian citizen on planet Mars. A Martian citizen can explore images, videos and animations on an iOS, Android or Windows mobile device. The images, videos and animations deliver an epic view of the rocky terrestrial planet, known as the Red Planet.

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Resources and Tools for APIs

Hosted API Tools Labs.Data.gov is a repository of shared services to prototype and provide developer resources to government agencies. Each tool uses Web services and lightweight, open source code to provide powerful functionality. Agencies are encouraged to improve any project and submit pull requests in order to share the improvements with others. API Standards Template With the open source release of the White House’s API Standards template, agencies have a complete model for API design and best practices that includes the best practices and agreed–upon norms of the developer community.

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How NASA Chose a New Content Management System

A case study on how NASA is choosing a new enterprise content management system (CMS). The Challenge NASA.gov needs a new enterprise CMS. They’re facing issues such as software obsolescence, inconsistent website governance, and a large amount of unstructured content stored in flat HTML files. Their current system is almost a decade old, and the vendor no longer provides technical support. They need an enterprise solution that will enable offices throughout NASA to collaborate on content creation, instead of having each component create content in isolation.

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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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Introduction to APIs

There’s an easier way to get content and data into the hands of citizens. Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are web services that allow people to more easily consume content and data in multiple ways–via mobile devices, mobile apps, innovative mash-ups, and much more. Simply put, “APIs are a better way to get government information and services into the hands of the people who need them.” To help agencies better understand APIs, DigitalGov University hosted a webinar, An Introduction to APIs, with experts from NASA and CDC.

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