An hour to make government better

I had the pleasure last week of spending not quite an hour of my time at the U.S. General Services Administration reviewing the public APIs of three federal agencies. We all sat around a table and they let me rant while I worked to understand their documentation, tested their APIs, and discussed what could improve the developer experience. They took copious notes, had great questions, and were even deploying adjustments on the fly.

In¬†talking to GSA’s¬†Gray Brooks, I learned dozens of federal agencies are lining up¬†for these review sessions. It’s an exciting time to be a consumer of government data, and it makes me really happy that¬†they’re encouraging¬†citizens¬†to actively shape this¬†process. It was¬†obvious how helpful it was for these government technologists to hear an outside perspective. If your local government is on the path of ‚ÄúGov 2.0‚ÄĚ see if you can offer¬†even just a little bit of your time to share your expertise.

Unlike someone like Eric Mill of Sunlight (who also gave a round of feedback yesterday), I’m not a regular consumer of government APIs. But¬†as a lead developer of WordPress, a citizen, and a taxpayer, I feel very strongly about¬†an open, transparent, and efficient government; open government data; and an open web enriched by accessible¬†APIs.

You can follow the GSA’s¬†efforts at 18f.gsa.gov,¬†@18f, and¬†GitHub.¬†For the record, the U.S. agencies were¬†ForeignAssistance.gov (State/USAID),¬†FEMA, and the¬†FDA.
Bonus:¬†About three years ago, when¬†Ben Balter¬†was at the FCC, he wrote an API Terms of Service¬†that was heavily inspired by WordPress.com’s own TOS. Ben is now a¬†government evangelist¬†at GitHub ‚ÄĒ where you can now find WordPress.com’s TOS. Anyway: it turns out that the TOS he wrote for the FCC is now used by more than 20 other federal agencies, and the GSA is pitching¬†it as a common template for all agencies. That’s quite the body of derivative work.

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Andrew Nacin

Lead developer of WordPress, living in Washington, D.C. Follow me on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “An hour to make government better”

  1. What a fantastic opportunity. Great to hear of a government calling on expert citizens to help them engage.

    I hope this is one of the things our government decides to copy you guys on ūüôā

  2. Andrew – thanks again for joining us last week. The involvement of local developers as this program has taken off has really been impactful. We’ll be scaling this out much further with more news to come on this front and will definitely be asking your availability again soon.

    Thanks again – your country’s APIs thank you.

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