GovHelp: How Would You Improve Data.gov, Fed Web Policy and Regulations.gov?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 6 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #138285

    Last week, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra and OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein posted an Open Gov blog in which they asked three questions “related to two of the key challenges – improving public services and increasing public integrity” of the Open Government Plan:

    1) How can regulations.gov, one of the primary mechanisms for government transparency and public participation, be made more useful to the public rulemaking process?

    2) OMB is beginning the process of reviewing and potentially updating its Federal Web Policy. What policy updates should be included in this revision to make Federal websites more user-friendly and pertinent to the needs of the public?

    3) How can we build on the success of Data.Gov and encourage the use of democratized data to build new consumer-oriented products and services?

    Alex Moll and his colleagues at Regulations.gov have framed the conversation for #1 in this excellent blog post and Clay Johnson has shared detailed feedback on each of the three questions.

    You can share your thoughts in this forum (we’ll let the White House know you’re commenting) and the White House is also asking for formal comments by email to [email protected].

  • #138301

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Some initial thoughts on #1

    Regulations.gov – I just tried to leave my first comment on regulations.gov for the new Pathways program. In general, the user experience could still be proved immensely. I still find it pretty hard to find what regulation you are working on and how to comment. I think a simple User Experience audit with some good designers could help a ton.

    Further, I like Clay’s comment on being able to comment in other channels – Facebook, Twitter, etc. Get people to comment where they are.

    Also like the idea that we should be able to see other people’s comments on the topic (or at least should be an option to make it public).

    Outreach/marketing – If regulations.gov’s goal is to get really important feedback from stakeholders, it needs to spend time and money on outreach/marketing. Pretty simple, if you want good people to comment, you have to let them know what’s going on and make it easier to comment. I’m not sure the staffing or budget of regulations.gov but I think it would be essential to have at least 1-2 full-time people doing outreach to various communities (professors, associations, trade groups, etc). Further, I’d make it really easy to be alerted when there is a new regulations – there should be easy email notifications and updates to agency channels FB, Twitter, email, etc where there is an audience who would be interested.

    Would be cool to get follow-up once done. Simple email – we received X number of comments, thanks a bunch, here’s next steps, etc

  • #138299

    Michael J
    Participant

    I’m retired. Not in government so I guess I fall into the “concerned citizen” category.

    After spending 35 years in Print Centric project management, I’ve been continually amazed by the blind spot that technologists have for the power of print to leverage the value created in social media. I assume that the new Print technologies are not on people’s radar. Although I have worked on a number of web centric startups, I don’t have the expertise to add anything useful to that part of the conversation.

    But I did work on Grow Network which was later purchased by McGraw Hill. The founder, David Coleman, has since gone on to be the team leader on Common Core standards in NY State. I bring it up because while Grow started with a web only focus the startup team moved at a very early stage to move into reporting test score results on paper with personalized content. Turns out that was the value that lead to their success.

    In the service of getting some under appreciated new functionalities of print on your radar, I’m including some links..

    We coined the term Printernet to capture what we saw. http://ilnk.me/a1f5 is the media facing post. http://ilnk.me/a1f6 is the Industry facing post.

    My hunch is that with recent changes at the Government Printing Office there is a natural synergy that should be explored.

  • #138297

    Andrea Schneider
    Participant

    Steve’s comments are excellent. Not knowing what feedback has been given, analysis done and at least an overview of successes and failures, it’s difficult to give informed and thoughtful suggestions.

  • #138295

    Alex Moll
    Participant

    Steve, great suggestions. The Regulations.gov team is currently developing the next iteration of the website over the next six months, and part of what we’re trying to do is open up the rulemaking process to include these key ideas. So, the notion of better navigation is key as well as an integrated social media outreach process. More than that, though, we’re planning on providing a means for people to be able to see each others’ comments. It’s a good option. Comment-on-comment features are also in the works. Definitely, we intend to give a follow-up of all the website suggestions we receive and next steps.

    Presently, our communications budget is small with one FTE (me, 1/2 FTE in Sept). We started a process of formalizing communications this summer with the help of two great summer interns when I came on board. Once we gradually ramp up additional communication channels and tactics over the course of a fiscal year, reach out to various stakeholders, build relationships on the Hill & federal agencies, create key content media, we’ll have built a case for additional funding. With a good strategy, focus, public feedback, and synergy of great team, we’ll move the needle.

  • #138293

    There’s a great conversation about this forum over in our Gov 2.0 Does Not Equal Open Gov Group.

    Here’s the string so far (read from bottom up):

    Mark FormanComment by Mark Forman 24 minutes ago
    Delete Comment

    Andrea,

    you have great insights. I think you are right…they see innovative technology and don’t understand that we need need innovation to improve results. We need better management, not just new technologies.

    Andrea SchneiderComment by Andrea Schneider 28 minutes ago
    Delete Comment

    Good point David and I agree we can save time and money with good web technology. I don’t think this is a mutually exclusive agenda at all. In fact, I advocate for the bigger view.

    I don think we need to make sure the public understands how these dollars are being spent and how it’s of benefit. These messages often have to be sent over and over again.

    I just don’t want to lose the opportunity to be seriously innovative and creative. Sometimes when things are really tough, we get our best thinking and ideas.

    For example, I am interested in re-designing our grant making system, internally and with grantees. Not cool or sexy, but could not only increase our results for dollars spent, but actually save us a ton of money. Having been inside that system in so many ways, it seems clear to me it’s just waiting for us to work on.

    Andrea SchneiderComment by Andrea Schneider 36 minutes ago
    Delete Comment

    It seems like there are at least two different things going on and needing attention. One, is the need to make sure there is a match between the technology being designed and used by various groups.

    Two, is a somewhat separate agenda to look at re-designing actual systems, agencies and practices, using technology as a tool, let’s say crowd-sourcing, but it’s ancillary to the task.

    The United States has clearly focused on all the various ways to use technology, data, applications, etc. It’s a different conversation then looking at how we collaborate, use resources, including money, analyzing to streamline and simplify complexity for people and on and on.

    I’m guessing the reason for such a big focus on tech has to do with the direction the White House has taken the directive. Simple really, they are technology people, not organizational design, change, systems, people staff.

    Early on there was excitement for a broader agenda and a lot of ideas, but it’s gotten somewhat lost. The leadership didn’t seem that interested in innovation outside of IT, websites, data, etc. So that’s what we have…

    David FletcherComment by David Fletcher 41 minutes ago
    Delete Comment

    Getting better websites is nice, but a limited view of a more compelling innovation agenda.

    I couldn’t agree more. Or when I hear someone say they’re innovating by including some social media in their portfolio… no, that’s not innovation, it’s just adopting someone else’s innovation at a time when it makes sense to do so. Still, when we create a new online service that makes it easier for a citizen to get something done quicker and easier, that can have a real payback. It may even save people time… maybe even a lot of time, creating a resource that can be used for further innovation. Hopefully, what we do on the web has an increasingly stronger correlation to what we do in government in a more general way as you suggest.

    Mark FormanComment by Mark Forman 1 hour ago
    Delete CommentI know it would be hard for the Administration, but I like Andrea’s concepts. How about reaching out to key watch dog groups to create a focus group of representatives from the Sunlight Foundation, Project on Government Procurement, FreedomWorks, etc. to get their use cases?
    Andrea SchneiderComment by Andrea Schneider 1 hour ago
    Delete Comment

    I would make sure improvements are based on user experience. What do they have to say?

    What would happen if we were asking how to innovate in government, re-design processes to save money, gain stronger results and communicate with the public about how these initiatives benefit them and their everyday life.

    There are strategic and compelling reasons to re-frame and broaden the conversation, making sure there are tangible results people will count. I think we are missing the point by focusing so much on the technology side of the equation.

    We haven’t started tackling the harder stuff yet. Getting better websites is nice, but a limited view of a more compelling innovation agenda.

    We can expect to see articles coming up on our limited view of innovation and open government, questions about why the U.S. has focused so much on technology. Having done research on this topic and talking with innovation leaders, outside our country, it’s curious.

  • #138291

    Definitely reinforced a couple of these thoughts over on Alex’s blog post

    On thing I’d add as caveat is – if we have people comment over on FB, Twitter, etc., I’d try to figure out an elegant way of feeding it back over to the main conversation (as I just did above with this conversation). Try to pull all of the commentary into one place to have a composite picture for analysis.

    Also, that marketing piece is huge. Sadly, I’ll bet 97% of Americans have never heard of Regulations.gov…much less comment. As just one person (as a citizen), I knew about it, but never commented…which gets to the email – need some way of capturing a person’s interests and have a way to follow-up with them as relevant regs are posted.

  • #138289

    And you’re off to a great start, Alex! 😉

  • #138287

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I’ll take a crack at #3 and data.gov

    To me, there are a couple pieces if you you want folks to build upon data
    -1) Make sure you are getting data that actually is useful for products. With so a big scope, you don’t always know but I’d be consistently surveying and asking folks. For example, it’s much easier to build businesses on top of financial data (see companies like Guidestar built upon 501c3 financial data or Brightscope with 401k data) than on top of say toxic data. If the goal is new business, I think some analysis should be done on this piece.

    2) Communities – Data.gov is already doing this some but I think this is the key to getting people to build on top of your data. You need to be everywhere talking about the data, talking to developers, and facilitating the community. Todd Park is doing this with HHS data but honestly I think you need 5 more Todd Park-types for each data. And you’d get a huge ROI. Imagine someone with deep ties into financial community talking to everyone asking what info they want, making sure it is released, and then telling people about it.

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