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Most Americans Still Want Landlines at Work

By Adrienne LaFrance // The Atlantic // December 30, 2014

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At a time when at least one-third of American households have dropped landlines altogether, old-school phones are still "very important" to Americans at work. That's according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center that explores attitudes toward technology in the workplace.

Pew found email far outweighed phone technology of any kind in importance, according to more than 1,000 American workers surveyed. Some 60 percent of people polled called email "very important" at work, compared with the 35 percent who described landlines as "very important," and 24 percent who said cell phones or smartphones were "very important." About 54 percent of those surveyed called the Internet "very important," while just 4 percent called social publishing sites like Facebook "very important" at work.

Of course, it all depends on what you do for a living. Office workers (68 percent) were far more likely than non-office workers (26 percent) to call the Internet "very important." (And, for what it's worth, only about 7 percent of those surveyed said the Internet has made them less productive at work.) Gender plays a role, too. Men were nearly twice as likely as women to call smartphones "very important" in doing their ...

Why the US Government Should Learn to Fail Fast Like Silicon Valley

By Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn // Quartz // December 23, 2014

Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock.com

The failure mantras of Silicon Valley—“fail fast,” “fail often,” “fail forward”—have spawned a movement to view mistakes as opportunities to learn and change. More and more entrepreneurs, executives, and even customers accept that the path to innovation may involve some failures along the way.

But this concept hasn’t yet permeated the public sector. Take, for instance, the backlash this autumn against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its handling of the Ebola virus. On Oct. 22, the CDC issued recommendations for monitoring and moving people with potential Ebola exposure; five days later, it released new instructions.

The shift in guidance unleashed a firestorm of criticism. Fox News took issue with the health agency’s contradictions, while the Guardian called out the CDC for its “chaotic response” to the crisis. According to a CBS News Poll conducted amidst the change, 57% of Americans said the CDC did a fair or poor job in its handling of Ebola.

Bear in mind the current outbreak of Ebola, for which there is no known cure, is unprecedented. Managing the situation as events are unfolding is no doubt extremely difficult. During a press call, Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of ...

Among Best Federal Agencies to Work, NASA Continues to Soar

By Nextgov Staff // December 9, 2014

A NASA Orion capsule on top of a Delta IV rocket lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014
A NASA Orion capsule on top of a Delta IV rocket lifts off on its first unmanned orbital test flight from Complex 37 B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 // NASA/AP

Last week, NASA’s Orion capsule launched into space on a test flight that could pave the way to a mission to Mars.

This week, the space agency continues to climb in the rankings of the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.”

Out of a score of 100 points measuring federal employees’ satisfaction and commitment to the job, NASA scored 74.6.

This is the third year in a row the agency was named the top place to work among large federal agencies.

The Commerce Department, which under the leadership of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, has made steps to free up the reams of data it generates to citizens and entrepreneurs, finished second among large agencies with a score of 68.7.

Rounding out the top five are the State Department, the intelligence community and the Justice Department.

Overall, about 43 percent of agencies improved in the rankings, compared to about 56 percent of agencies that saw declines.

Overall, the governmentwide score for satisfaction and commitment dropped for the fourth year in a row, to 56.9 points on the 100-point scale.

While a handful of the top agencies are known for their innovative practices -- and agency ...

How to Get Engineers to Work for You Instead of Facebook or Google

By Pete Soderling // Quartz // December 2, 2014

Brt/Shutterstock.com

It might seem self-evident that of course the best engineers in the world go to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook. Why should they go anywhere else? A small company operating from a studio apartment could never compete with Google’s unlimited free food or with Facebook’s gratis on-site barbershop, let alone the name brand cachet that goes along with working for an instantly recognized company.

But this mentality ignores a secret hidden in plain sight—these celebrity companies that offer crazy perks and huge bonuses started out as understaffed, underfunded David’s doing battle against Goliath’s in their own right. They are as much a part of bootstrapped startup culture as any other little guy out there today, because it’s built into their DNA. It’s where they came from.

You already have all the tools you need to recruit the best engineers for your organization. You just need a plan. These are the methods used by the little guys who compete (and win!) in the war for engineering talent.

Put your best and brightest engineers on public display

Good engineers only want to work with people smarter than they are, so show off ...

Government Tech Recruiting Still Overshadowed by HealthCare.gov Blunder

By Jack Moore // November 20, 2014

Todd Park, former chief technology officer of the US, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill
Todd Park, former chief technology officer of the US, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Todd Park left his role as White House chief technology officer nearly three months ago to help the government recruit top tech talent from Silicon Valley.

But his return to Washington this week for a grilling by the House Science and Technology Committee on his role in last year’s disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov certainly couldn’t have been a boon to those efforts.

And that has Democrats on the committee concerned.

“I know people personally who have been contacted by Mr. Park, who he's trying to recruit – bright, young innovative stars from the IT world – to take a break from the multimillion contracts that they have in Silicon Valley and come out to Washington, D.C., and try to solve problems,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, during the hearing Wednesday. “I cannot imagine that this [hearing] helps him make that case. In fact, this probably makes it much harder.”

Rep. Scott Peters, also a California Democrat, concurred, lamenting the sight of Congress “pulling people out of the bureaucracy and beating them up.”

Addressing Park directly, Peters said: “We have to be very sensitive about how we treat people like you and like those folks who can be ...