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Contracting Officers: Take a Look, It's in a Book

By Rebecca Carroll // September 19, 2014

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.,
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A bill to reform how the government buys and manages technology came up this week at a hearing about the security of HealthCare.gov -- but contracting officers willing to plunge into some heavy reading may discover they already have a lot of the capability they need.

While Republicans grilled Obamacare officials about a recent hack -- and other vulnerabilities -- of their signature website, one Democrat used the occasion to plug what may be his favorite piece of pending legislation: The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA.

“Isn’t information security related to how well we’re managing our IT assets?” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., asked officials. He gave a brief description of what FITARA would do for IT managers; the bill actually has plenty of support and seems only to await action.

Until then, though, it's not as though contracting officers have no recourse.

On Friday, DigitalGov.gov, a unit within the General Services Administration, blogged about a few new resources acquisition officers already have at their disposal to buy technology smartly.

Procurement staff can use the new Digital Service’s TechFAR Handbook as they try to make Federal Acquisition Regulations work for agile projects, which the document ...

Officials Pulled HealthCare.gov Code From GitHub Because of ‘Bashing’

By Rebecca Carroll // September 18, 2014

scyther5/Shutterstock.com

Less than two weeks after HealthCare.gov launched last October and proved initially unusable, the federal Obamacare website’s source code disappeared from GitHub, a site that allows the public to comment on and improve open-source projects.

Why?

Officials at the time didn’t comment or respond to questions about the disappearance, and critics wondered what had happened to the Obama administration’s dedication to transparency. Allies, meanwhile, noted that the public comment on the code had devolved into political diatribe as well as sometimes-mean-spirited technical criticism.

Now, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have their own take -- based on emails sent at the time from officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was overseeing the site.

From their report:

On October 11, 2013, CMS employee Jon Booth, complained to top CMS officials including Administrator [Marilyn] Tavenner and Mr. [Henry] Chao [the deputy chief information officer], that “this Github project has turned into a place for programmers to bash our system.” He recommended that CMS remove the code from Github and noted that, “I am sure there may be some blowback from this decision but I think it is better to take a short ...

Archives Hackathon Wants to Make Wikipedia Even Better

By Rebecca Carroll // September 12, 2014

Eric Risberg/AP File Photo

What could the power of the tens of thousands of government data sets do for Wikipedia? That’s what the Open Government WikiHack aims to find out.

Participants will try to find interesting data sets and come up with ways to incorporate that information into Wikipedia entries. There are a few challenges: The data must be free to use, with limited or no restrictions, and it can’t be dumped into a Wikipedia page but instead has to be incorporated into prose entries written from a neutral perspective.

If the data inspires any genius new ideas or revelations, you’ll have to do something else with those. Wikipedia is not a place for “original research.” In fact, all the encyclopedia’s rules and etiquette will be followed at the hackathon, where numerous “experienced Wikipedians” will be on hand to help find appropriate uses for the new data.

Hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration and Wikimedia DC, an official affiliate of the online encyclopedia, the hackathon will take place in Washington during the last weekend of September.

Organizers are calling for coders and noncoders alike. You’ve never contributed to the online encyclopedia? “Everyone is welcome to participate,” the ...

Wanted: Twitter-savvy Feds to Help OPM Get This Whole Social Media Thing

By Rebecca Carroll // September 3, 2014

Quka/Shutterstock.com

The Office of Personnel Management wants feds from across government to help figure out how to use social media to recognize current employees and to recruit new ones.

The agency is building two working group teams for this job: The first focuses on recognition and builds off #SocialGov community efforts, and the second aims at hiring.

“We need the most creative and hardworking among you to join us in jumping in and buckling down,” said a blog post by OPM’s Social Media Director Mark Anthony and Jennifer Dorsey, a public affairs specialist at the agency. “These efforts will change how we use social media across government to both recruit and honor federal employees — two crucial missions.”

Feds wishing to volunteer can sign up before Friday for the Recognition team here or the Recruitment and Hiring team here. Email questions to socialmedia@opm.gov.

(Image via Quka/Shutterstock.com)

OK, Feds -- Go Ahead and Edit Wikipedia

By Rebecca Carroll // September 2, 2014

360b/Shutterstock.com

Federal employees make great Wikipedia editors, according to Wikimedia DC -- the online encyclopedia’s Washington-area outreach chapter.

“Government staff are experts in areas of public interest, including very new hot topics,” Wikimedia DC Treasurer Peter Meyer and President James Hare said in a blog post. “They play a promising role in our mission to make a better online reference work, with notable, neutrally phrased, verifiable content.”

The post was in response to recent issues with inappropriate, anonymous edits that inspired Wikipedia to suspend certain congressional IP addresses. The disruptive edits came to light after a Twitter bot -- @congressedits -- was created earlier this summer to automatically tweet anonymous edits from Capitol Hill; the account has more than 30,000 followers.

Some federal agencies have already issued guidance and best practices for editing Wikipedia. Now, Wikimedia DC has offered its own general best practices for editing the website from within government:

If you or your agency are interested in participating as a Wikipedia editor, we recommend these basic best practices:

  • Register individual accounts. By registering an account, it helps you develop goodwill with the Wikipedia community. Fellow editors get the sense that they are working with another person, not a shadowy figure ...