Clay Johnson: Government Apps Contests Shouldn’t Just be About the Application Itself

App contests are a great way to get useful programs for your agency, but there’s something more important which can result from a well-run app competition. Christopher Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER spoke with Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet and How to Run Apps Contests, about what should be the focus of an apps contest, and how to get the desired results.

For starters, in every agency there’s a group of hackers/developers interested in the mission that would love to get involved. The most important part of an app contest is discovering and developing a community of developers who can become integral in furthering the mission of an agency. There are developers who may be interested in educating children about computers, and therefore would be interested in an app contest hosted by the Department of Education, or environmentalist hackers interested in working with the EPA. These groups can help solve larger problems than just creating one bit of software, if the community is nurtured.

However, an app contest isn’t always the answer. If a program requires massive collaboration, an app contest of small teams won’t cut it. Keep in mind, though, that the main product of the project shouldn’t be the application itself, but rather the community built around it. The effort isn’t over when the contest is; continue developing that community.

When hosting an app contest, there are several key things to keep in mind. For starters, get judges which can relate to participants, not to agency workers. If you are hosting an infographic competition, should the judge be the head of the EPA or someone known throughout the infographic community? The answer is someone known throughout the community.

To listen to Clay Johnson’s entire interview, you can catch the full radio show at 
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Chris Cairns

Interesting insight. I’ve never been involved in such a contest, but I can understand what he means by the purpose is to continue developing “that” community.