This article is part three in a series on IT policy recommendations. A PDF of the full recommendations may be downloaded here.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Processing Automation (RPA)¹, and other related predictive algorithm technologies continue to gain attention. However, at the moment their promises are far greater than the reality, and instead of successes we continue to see the worst of ourselves reflected back. Vendors also continue to oversell the functionality of these tools, while glossing over major expenses and difficulties, such as acquiring and tagging training data.

The Trump Administration, rather than increasing scrutiny and…

This article is part two in a series on IT policy recommendations. A PDF of the full recommendations may be downloaded here.

The nature of business is change — we move, refine, and combine goods and services and data, which generates value — and this is true both in the public and the private sector. Technology is just one of the ways that we manage that change. Those organizations that do best at managing change are often the best equipped to deal with the relentless pace of transformation within the IT field itself. …

This article is part one in a series on IT policy recommendations. A PDF of the full recommendations may be downloaded here.

Executive Summary

The work improving technology in government through policy initiatives over the last twelve years has been very successful, however there will always be more work that needs to be done. Today, there are several key steps that the Biden Administration could immediately address and work on over the next four years to continue to build trust and drive maturity in technology across government to “Build Back Better” — not just at the Federal level, but state and local…

I don’t mean to call anyone out, but I want to talk about programming tests in hiring and contracting. Stop doing them.

This post originally appeared as a thread on my Twitter account. I’ve reposted it here for posterity with additional context.

I understand that people want to assess whether or not someone is capable of doing the job at hand. The problem is that every engineer, no matter how senior, is learning on the job, EVERY DAY. All of us lookup solutions on the internet, all the time.

Your assumption of what should be “baseline knowledge” for one person…

This post originally appeared as a thread on my Twitter account. I’ve reposted it here for posterity with additional context. This was originally a very short thread, but if you want to delve deeper into these topics, I highly recommend reading Cyd Harrell’s fantastic book, A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide.

I see many of my former technology-colleagues now suddenly eager to return to government – or join for the first time – and I’m very excited to work with you all again! …

Many lengthy books and articles have been written on how to be fulfilled at work, good management, and keeping your staff engaged and excited. However, I’ve found one simple equation that is the secret to all of these.

It takes time, money, and other resources to execute on any new information technology initiative. In theory, there should be a return on investment for any new IT development. However, in the current market landscape, a lot of effort is being wasted on reinventing the wheel or misapplying solutions, rather than driving towards proving greater value to citizens and customers. The relatively low cost of experimentation and implementation of processes result in a fetishization of abstraction, leading to further and further complexity even if a proportional benefit is not achieved.

Technology is a Bridge

Most businesses and government services aim to connect a person’s…

“Floor 1997–2000” by artist Do-Ho Suh

Over the last few years, an increasing number of technology companies and agencies have adopted a flat hierarchical structure. This organizational system promises to improve the efficiency of organizations by removing management structures, leaving as few management layers as possible. I believe that it is also almost entirely imaginary.

Since the popular game company Valve published its employee handbook online in 2012, companies have looked to the text for ways to improve their own processes. Growing companies stopped hiring middle level managers, project managers, and other critical roles in favor of letting engineers manage themselves. This was a very attractive…

From Sunlight Foundation’s lobby

A few months ago, I joined Sunlight Foundation as their Senior Technology Adviser. Kat Duffy, who was then the Sunlight Labs director, brought me on to help bolster their programming efforts and lend support across the organization. However, only a couple of weeks later we learned that Sunlight Labs was being shut down entirely. With the time we had until the official closure, we quickly shifted our focus to preserving the legacy of Labs’ work over the last decade.

A quick inventory of our technology assets revealed hundreds of repositories and over fifty servers in various states of decay. A…


1. This article contains broad generalizations, and is intended to get some new conversations started. There exists much anecdotal evidence contrary to many of the points below. I’ve also attempted to use “we” below frequently, as I have fallen into many of these same pitfalls as anyone else! Many of the ideas and suggestions below are not new, and are definitely not my own. I’m hoping this leads to more long-form pieces on many of these topics.

2. At the time of writing, I was an advisor at The Sunlight Foundation, previously was Lead Developer at The OpenGov Foundation…

Bill Hunt

Civic Technologist & Policy Enthusiast. Views are my own, not my employer’s. Move carefully and fix things.

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