Sunday, November 24, 2013

Salesforce Hackathon: Y U No Understand, Bigger != Better

I'm reading through the some of the news about the Salesforce Hackathon, and while I'm disappointed in the outcome, with a bounty that big I'm not surprised. The event organizers are focused on the one thing in a hackthon you can scale, which will not actually scale any value of the hackathon.

I've attended, sponsored, mentored and thrown many hackathons and anyone who is a lover of the hackathon knows that value of these events is never the resulting prize.

Like so much else in this world (ie. startups, college education), when you focus on just the end goal, and scaling, you will lose so much value and meaning along the way. The increasingly big bounty in hackathons has occurred right alongside the demise of this very valuable event format.

The best hackathons I've been at, were small in attendance, and size of the prize. Teams formed organically around a topic or cause, and people shared ideas, skills, knowledge and genuinely got to know one another in an intimate environment over good food and drink. They are never about the finished project or prize--these are all things you cannot scale. Sorry. :-(

Some of the worst hackathons I've been to were large in number of people and size of the prize. Nobody got to know each other, teams came pre-formed and things were so competitive even a 6'3 white male veteran programmer like myself felt intimidated by the competition, and the aggression.

I don't think these big event holders know the damage they are doing to their own events, let alone to the entire hackathon space. They are taught bigger is better, when in reality they are turning off newcomers to the space, and turning away people like myself who thoroughly enjoy hackathons but really do not enjoy spending their weekends battling with even a handful of cocky young dudes, let alone several hundred.

If you are committed to focusing on the end goal of your college education (the degree), startup (the exit) or a hackathon (prize), you are missing out on so much good stuff in the middle in the form of relationships, experience, knowledge, skills and so much more. If everything is about scale to you, you probably will be focusing on some pretty empty aspects of this world, because the most important things in life do not scale.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/3Iy_Sv55NPs/salesforce-hackathon-y-u-no-understand-bigger--better

Crowd-Sourced, Real-Time City Bus Location Network

We have anywhere from 1 to 25 people on a city bus at any time. Every one of these folks have a cell phone in their pocket. I think we can assume at least a handful of them possess smart phones.

With this technology, why don't we know where each bus is in real-time? We know that each bus has a tracking device on it, so knowing the location isn't the problem, it is getting the data. Even with the technology, getting municipalities to open up and share the data is proving to be a challenge.

Why can't we create a crowd-sourced, incentive based network of bus riders who are open to having their position tracked while on the city bus? Of course we could compensate them for this data, and not just exploit their involvement.

Having city bus riders voluntarily sharing their data, establishing trusted relationships and profiles, and cross referencing across multiple users would provide a real-time base of data we could use to identify where any bus is at any time--without complex technology or systems.

In some cities this isn't a problem that needs solving. In Los Angeles, the bus is NEVER on time and never predictable. There is no way of knowing what time you should walk up to the bus stop. There should be push notifications that let me know the bus is at a specific stop, that is nearby, and I should consider heading to my own bus stop.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/u8DwpK84y5s/crowdsourced-realtime-city-bus-location-network

Salesforce Hackathon: Y U No Understand, Bigger != Better

I'm reading through the some of the news about the Salesforce Hackathon, and while I'm disappointed in the outcome, with a bounty that big I'm not surprised. The event organizers are focused on the one thing in a hackthon you can scale, which will not actually scale any value of the hackathon.

I've attended, sponsored, mentored and thrown many hackathons and anyone who is a lover of the hackathon knows that value of these events is never the resulting prize.

Like so much else in this world (ie. startups, college education), when you focus on just the end goal, and scaling, you will lose so much value and meaning along the way. The increasingly big bounty in hackathons has occurred right alongside the demise of this very valuable event format.

The best hackathons I've been at, were small in attendance, and size of the prize. Teams formed organically around a topic or cause, and people shared ideas, skills, knowledge and genuinely got to know one another in an intimate environment over good food and drink. They are never about the finished project or prize--these are all things you cannot scale. Sorry. :-(

Some of the worst hackathons I've been to were large in number of people and size of the prize. Nobody got to know each other, teams came pre-formed and things were so competitive even a 6'3 white male veteran programmer like myself felt intimidated by the competition, and the aggression.

I don't think these big event holders know the damage they are doing to their own events, let alone to the entire hackathon space. They are taught bigger is better, when in reality they are turning off newcomers to the space, and turning away people like myself who thoroughly enjoy hackathons but really do not enjoy spending their weekends battling with even a handful of cocky young dudes, let alone several hundred.

If you are committed to focusing on the end goal of your college education (the degree), startup (the exit) or a hackathon (prize), you are missing out on so much good stuff in the middle in the form of relationships, experience, knowledge, skills and so much more. If everything is about scale to you, you probably will be focusing on some pretty empty aspects of this world, because the most important things in life do not scale.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/wfeukkBya14/salesforce_hackathon_y_u_no_understand_bigger__better

Walmart: The Market Will Work Itself Out

When I read stories like Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees, I can't help but think about the statement I've heard from numerous conservative friends, that "the market will work itself out". That somehow markets are this magical force that always will find balance, and work out for everyone.

I think Walmart represents the truth of this statement. The market will work itself out for the merchant class, the rest of us will have to really take care of each other, because markets are about business owners, shareholders and profits.

Unless we begin seeing the light, I think the future will look like Walmart. There will be lots of places to buy the cheap crap we think we need, we won't have healthcare, a living wage, and the environment will be trashed.

Don't worry though! The market will work itself out!



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/VpmIOGWFHpQ/walmart_the_market_will_work_itself_out

On Losing My Storytelling Voice

photo credit

I'm totally thankful for the experiences I've had over the last 90 days in Washington D.C. as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, and even more thankful I'm able to keep doing much of the work I was doing during my fellowship. In reality, I'm actually doing more work now, than I was in DC.

While there were several challenges during my time as a PIF, the one that I regret the most, and is taking the longest to recover from, is losing my storytelling voice. This is my ability to capture everyday thoughts in real-time via my Evernote, sit down and form these thoughts into stories, and then share these stories publicly as the API Evangelist.

During my time in DC, I was steadily losing my voice. It wasn't some sort of government conspiracy. It is something that seems to happen to me in many institutional or corporate settings, amidst the busy schedule, back to back meetings and through a more hectic project schedule--eventually my voice begins to fade.

In July I wrote 61 blog posts, August 41 and September 21. A very scary trend for me. My blog is more than just just stories for my audience and page views generated. My blog(s) are about me working through ideas and preparing them for public consumption.

Without storytelling via my blog(s) I don't fully process ideas, think them through, flush them out and think about the API space with a critical eye. Without this lifecycle I don't evolve in my career, and maintain my perspective on the space.

In October I've written 28 posts and so far in November I've already written 27 posts, so I'm on the mend. In the future, I'm using my voice as a canary in the coal mine. If a project I'm working on is beginning to diminish my voice, I need to stop and take a look at things, and make sure I'm not heading in a negative direction.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/WUIFnE-4YUU/on_losing_my_storytelling_voice

Why I Exited My Presidential Innovation Fellowship

Since this blog acts as kind of a journal for my world, I figured I should make sure and add an entry regarding my exit of my Presidential Innovation Fellowship, affectionately called PIF program.

In June I was selected as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, where I went out to Washington D.C. and accepted a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I didn't actually start work until August 11th, but accepted I accepted the role along with the other 42 PIFs earlier that summer.

After 60 days, I decided to leave the program. The main reason is that Audrey and I couldn't make ends meet in DC, on what they paid, and after spending our savings to get out there, with no credit cards to operate on, and experiencing the shutdown, and facing another shutdown this winter--it just wasn't working for us.

The benefits gained by the title, and the G-14 employment position just didn't balance out the negative. In the end I'm thankful for the opportunity, but I couldn't ask Audrey or myself to make the trade-off. I knew things would be hard, but facing sleeping on friends couches and not being able to pay our AWS bills was not in the cards.

As is my style, I've spent zero time dwelling on my exit. I am determined to pick up all my projects, and continue moving them forward. In short I will still be doing all the work, just leave behind the title and official PIF status. I strongly believe that the best way to apply my skills is from the outside-in, and my exit will allow me to make a larger impact across government in the long run.

I hope everyone who I worked with at the VA, GSA, OSTP and beyond understands why I left by now, and knows I'm here to continue my support. I think the PIF program has a lot to offer future rounds, and I will continue to play an active role in the program and helping change how government operates using open data and APIs.

Thanks everyone!



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/LIgK3h-6cns/why_i_exited_my_presidential_innovation_fellowship

Being The Change I Want To See In The Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF) Program

I just wrote a post on why I left my Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF). Overall I think PIF program is a pretty amazing vehicle for bringing smart folks from the private sector and puting them to work changing how government operates. However, now that I've exited I wanted to share two thoughts on how the program could be more effective.

I think the responsibility of mking the PIF program better lies in the hands of each round of PIFs, which is essentially what I'm doing with my exit of the program. There are two main areas I would adjust the program:

  • Dedicated Roles Across Agencies - I was placed at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but because of my unique focus on APIs I found myself working across multiple agencies. For some of the PIFs I think dedicated roles could be filled including, but not limited to API, UI/UX, Programming, Event Organizer etc. Some individuals will be better suited to this type of specialization, and better applied across agencies--this will also significantly benefit other agency focused PIFs.
  • Internal and External Fellows - In my case, being a government employee was not beneficial. I don't aspire to establish a career in government, as I hope will be case with some future PIFs, and the role didn't really open up enough access, to make it worth my while. The PIF Program should have two distinct tracks that individuals can choose from, either tackling their fellowship from the inside-out or from the outside-in, without the shackles of being a government employee.

These are my two changes to the program that I feel strongly about. I know there are other areas that former and current PIFs would like to see changed, but these are the two I'm will to "be the change I want to see in the program". With this in mind, I'm willing to exit the program, make the change, and evolve the program into what I think it should be.

From the outside I will be able to apply my API skills across multiple agencies, and I will be able to bring external resources that my fellow PIFs can put to use.. Coupled with the efforts of other internal PIFs and government employees, I feel I can maximize my impact on how government operates in the coming years.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/fdJyd-GrU20/being_the_change_i_want_to_see_in_the_presidential_innovation_fellowship_pif_program

What If All Gov Programs Like Healthcare.gov Had A Private Sector Monitoring Group?

The Healthcare.gov launch has been a disaster. I cannot turn on CNN or NPR during the day, without hearing a story about what a failure the technology and implementation has been for the Affordable Care Act(ACA).

I have written and talked about how transparency was the biggest problem for the Healthcare.gov rollout. Sure there was numerous illnesses from procurement to politics, but ultimately if there had been more transparency, from start to finish, things could have been different.

Throughout this debacle I have been making my exit from federal government back to the private sector, and I can't help but think how things could have been different with Healthcare.gov if it there had been some sort of external watchdog group tracking on the process from start to finish. I mean, c'mon this project is way to big and way to important to just leave to government and its contractors.

What if there had been a group of people assigned to the project at its inception? External, non-partisan, independent individuals who had the skills and tracked on the procurement process, design, development and launch of Healthcare.gov? What if any federal, state or city government project had the potential to have a knowledgable group of outside individuals tracking on projects and made recommendations in real-time how to improve the process? Things could be different.

Of course there are lots of questions to ask: How to fund this? Who watches the watchers? On and on. Even with all the quesitons, we should be looking for new and innovative ways to bring the public and private sector together to solve the biggest problems.

It is just a thought. As I exit the Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF) program, and head back to the private sector, I can't help but think about ways that we can improve the oversight and involvement of the private sector in how government operates.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/fakGRodn8qs/what_if_all_gov_programs_like_healthcaregov_had_a_private_sector_monitoring_group

Monday, November 18, 2013

Walmart: The Market Will Work Itself Out

When I read stories like Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees, I can't help but think about the statement I've heard from numerous conservative friends, that "the market will work itself out". That somehow markets are this magical force that always will find balance, and work out for everyone.

I think Walmart represents the truth of this statement. The market will work itself out for the merchant class, the rest of us will have to really take care of each other, because markets are about business owners, shareholders and profits.

Unless we begin seeing the light, I think the future will look like Walmart. There will be lots of places to buy the cheap crap we think we need, we won't have healthcare, a living wage, and the environment will be trashed.

Don't worry though! The market will work itself out!



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/3Qrufco-eQg/walmart-the-market-will-work-itself-out

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Losing My Storytelling Voice

photo credit

I'm totally thankful for the experiences I've had over the last 90 days in Washington D.C. as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, and even more thankful I'm able to keep doing much of the work I was doing during my fellowship. In reality, I'm actually doing more work now, than I was in DC.

While there were several challenges during my time as a PIF, the one that I regret the most, and is taking the longest to recover from, is losing my storytelling voice. This is my ability to capture everyday thoughts in real-time via my Evernote, sit down and form these thoughts into stories, and then share these stories publicly as the API Evangelist.

During my time in DC, I was steadily losing my voice. It wasn't some sort of government conspiracy. It is something that seems to happen to me in many institutional or corporate settings, amidst the busy schedule, back to back meetings and through a more hectic project schedule--eventually my voice begins to fade.

In July I wrote 61 blog posts, August 41 and September 21. A very scary trend for me. My blog is more than just just stories for my audience and page views generated. My blog(s) are about me working through ideas and preparing them for public consumption.

Without storytelling via my blog(s) I don't fully process ideas, think them through, flush them out and think about the API space with a critical eye. Without this lifecycle I don't evolve in my career, and maintain my perspective on the space.

In October I've written 28 posts and so far in November I've already written 27 posts, so I'm on the mend. In the future, I'm using my voice as a canary in the coal mine. If a project I'm working on is beginning to diminish my voice, I need to stop and take a look at things, and make sure I'm not heading in a negative direction.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/8Ua7fJUFfqI/on-losing-my-storytelling-voice

Friday, November 15, 2013

Being The Change I Want To See In The Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF) Program

I just wrote a post on why I left my Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF). Overall I think PIF program is a pretty amazing vehicle for bringing smart folks from the private sector and puting them to work changing how government operates. However, now that I've exited I wanted to share two thoughts on how the program could be more effective.

I think the responsibility of mking the PIF program better lies in the hands of each round of PIFs, which is essentially what I'm doing with my exit of the program. There are two main areas I would adjust the program:

  • Dedicated Roles Across Agencies - I was placed at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but because of my unique focus on APIs I found myself working across multiple agencies. For some of the PIFs I think dedicated roles could be filled including, but not limited to API, UI/UX, Programming, Event Organizer etc. Some individuals will be better suited to this type of specialization, and better applied across agencies--this will also significantly benefit other agency focused PIFs.
  • Internal and External Fellows - In my case, being a government employee was not beneficial. I don't aspire to establish a career in government, as I hope will be case with some future PIFs, and the role didn't really open up enough access, to make it worth my while. The PIF Program should have two distinct tracks that individuals can choose from, either tackling their fellowship from the inside-out or from the outside-in, without the shackles of being a government employee.

These are my two changes to the program that I feel strongly about. I know there are other areas that former and current PIFs would like to see changed, but these are the two I'm will to "be the change I want to see in the program". With this in mind, I'm willing to exit the program, make the change, and evolve the program into what I think it should be.

From the outside I will be able to apply my API skills across multiple agencies, and I will be able to bring external resources that my fellow PIFs can put to use.. Coupled with the efforts of other internal PIFs and government employees, I feel I can maximize my impact on how government operates in the coming years.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/3pRjrwM21EU/being-the-change-i-want-to-see-in-the-presidential-innovation-fellowship-pif-program

Why I Exited My Presidential Innovation Fellowship

Since this blog acts as kind of a journal for my world, I figured I should make sure and add an entry regarding my exit of my Presidential Innovation Fellowship, affectionately called PIF program.

In June I was selected as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, where I went out to Washington D.C. and accepted a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I didn't actually start work until August 11th, but accepted I accepted the role along with the other 42 PIFs earlier that summer.

After 60 days, I decided to leave the program. The main reason is that Audrey and I couldn't make ends meet in DC, on what they paid, and after spending our savings to get out there, with no credit cards to operate on, and experiencing the shutdown, and facing another shutdown this winter--it just wasn't working for us.

The benefits gained by the title, and the G-14 employment position just didn't balance out the negative. In the end I'm thankful for the opportunity, but I couldn't ask Audrey or myself to make the trade-off. I knew things would be hard, but facing sleeping on friends couches and not being able to pay our AWS bills was not in the cards.

As is my style, I've spent zero time dwelling on my exit. I am determined to pick up all my projects, and continue moving them forward. In short I will still be doing all the work, just leave behind the title and official PIF status. I strongly believe that the best way to apply my skills is from the outside-in, and my exit will allow me to make a larger impact across government in the long run.

I hope everyone who I worked with at the VA, GSA, OSTP and beyond understands why I left by now, and knows I'm here to continue my support. I think the PIF program has a lot to offer future rounds, and I will continue to play an active role in the program and helping change how government operates using open data and APIs.

Thanks everyone!



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/XHMHs5OO2Yo/why-i-exited-my-presidential-innovation-fellowship

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What If All Gov Programs Like Healthcare.gov Had A Private Sector Monitoring Group?

The Healthcare.gov launch has been a disaster. I cannot turn on CNN or NPR during the day, without hearing a story about what a failure the technology and implementation has been for the Affordable Care Act(ACA).

I have written and talked about how transparency was the biggest problem for the Healthcare.gov rollout. Sure there was numerous illnesses from procurement to politics, but ultimately if there had been more transparency, from start to finish, things could have been different.

Throughout this debacle I have been making my exit from federal government back to the private sector, and I can't help but think how things could have been different with Healthcare.gov if it there had been some sort of external watchdog group tracking on the process from start to finish. I mean, c'mon this project is way to big and way to important to just leave to government and its contractors.

What if there had been a group of people assigned to the project at its inception? External, non-partisan, independent individuals who had the skills and tracked on the procurement process, design, development and launch of Healthcare.gov? What if any federal, state or city government project had the potential to have a knowledgable group of outside individuals tracking on projects and made recommendations in real-time how to improve the process? Things could be different.

Of course there are lots of questions to ask: How to fund this? Who watches the watchers? On and on. Even with all the quesitons, we should be looking for new and innovative ways to bring the public and private sector together to solve the biggest problems.

It is just a thought. As I exit the Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF) program, and head back to the private sector, I can't help but think about ways that we can improve the oversight and involvement of the private sector in how government operates.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/WNQQwcC-Lvk/what-if-all-gov-programs-like-healthcaregov-had-a-private-sector-monitoring-group

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knowing Your HTTP Status Codes In Federal Government

Photo Credit: Runscope

I've been working on open data and APIs pretty heavily since Barack Obama directed all federal agencies to go machine readable by default, back in May of 2012. The White House directive told agencies to publish a copy their digital strategy at their website in the following location: [agency].gov/digitalstrategy. There was also supposed to be an HTML, XML and JSON representation of their digital strategy.

Pretty cool request. I immediately got busy writing a script that I could run each night and let me know which federal agency had published their digital strategy. To be fair, the White House mandate was for top level agencies, not really all 246 as I showcase. However, I think it is a process that all agencies can learn from, so I leave it up.

Back to pulling the digital strategy for each agency. First I needed all the agencies website addresses, which I pulled from the federal agency directory API. I then appended /digitalstrategy.html, and /digitalstrategy.xml, and /digitalstrategy.json to each agency URL. Now remember, I am a script or piece of code trying to determine if one of 246 x 3 pages exist. I'm not a human looking at each page load with my eyeballs. The only think I have to tell me what is happening is the HTTP status code(s):

  • 200 - Ok, The request has succeeded. 
  • 301 - Moved Permanently 
  • 404 - Not Found

What the government agency sends to me as a status code triggers one of three responses in my code:

  • 200 - They have published their digital strategy 
  • 301 - They have published their strategy but it is located somewhere else 
  • 404 - They have NOT published their digital strategy

After you run the script you see most of the agencies return a 404--not published. Ok, but then I started seeing 301 without an actual URL that redirected me to existing location. I saw published digital strategies return 404 and unpublished strategies return 200. While most agencies adhered to basic HTTP principles, some I just had to hard code. I had to manually code a section saying IF agency = XX then assume this response code. This is a pretty basic problem, something you won't see unless you actually write some code against the situation (which I assume agencies aren't doing).

Fast-forward two years you have the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directing that government agencies post .data.json files in a similiar way to the earlier digital strategy. I hope someday they will also require /api.son files, /roadmap.json and other machine readable goodies, but that is another story. This story is about proper HTTP status codes.

Each government agencies should be publishing their /digitalstrategy and /data.json files at their website, and they should be properly returning 200 OK or a 301 with proper URI of where you put your digitalstrategy.json or data.json (or other resource). It is acceptable to have these files in an alternate location, but you must provide a complete 301 status code so that my code or script can properly make a decision and properly locate your digitalstrategy.json or data.json files.

I thought I wrote this story last year, but apparently the story in my head didn't match what I actually published to my blog. So I wanted to make sure there was a fresh copy to help government agencies understand this simple, but very important aspect of their digital strategy.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/PA9b_3sXBWA/knowing-your-http-status-codes-in-federal-government

Private Web Application Running on Github

I wanted to launch a small web application in stealth mode. I also wanted it to run completely on Github, using Github Pages. I was able to setup a Github repository, as a private repo, then was able to launch a Github Page for the same repository and make this branch public.

This approach gives me two branches to work with. The master which is private and the gh-pages which is public. Using Jekyll I was able to quickly setup a basic website in the gh-pages brand of my repository. Once I had the basic site outline and index page setup, I needed a way to make content show on each page, but only for people who had access.

To secure my website I did two things. First I setup a JSON file that was stored in the private, master branch of my site repository. Then I setup my site to pull the navigation of the site and the content for each page from this JSON file. My site would load the home page, about page and other pages from this private JSON file.

Next I needed to provide a key to my private website, one that would allow the public gh-pages branch to pull the JSON file from the private master branch. I opted to use oAuth as the authentication layer. I went to my Github settings and generated an oAuth key for a specific application I set-up for my project. Using this key I can control who has access to my site.

When you visit the website URL, then append the oAuth token as a variable, all the content shows on the website. Using Github.js I pass the oAuth token and authenticate with the master repository, pull the contents of the JSON file and publish to the page.

My JSON file located in the private master repository acts as a sort of backend database to my public gh-pages repository which is actually viewed publicly at the website URL. Using JavaScript, the Github API and oAuth for security I'm easily able to control access to the web application.

A more advanced approach to this would be to require oAuth authentication using Github, allowing each user to be managed through Github team or collaborators settings. Then I could control each user who has access, but the approach applies to both scenarios, and is a pretty quick and dirty way to launch a private web site or application, that completely runs on Github.



from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KinLane/~3/oLl0KDi_bZ8/private-web-application-running-on-github