Things That I’ve Written

My Favorite Pieces

Recode logo

Farewell to Obama, Our First Digital President

Digital innovation in the White House has fostered political transparency and openness, helping reaffirm some of our oldest and most formative American values. Our team launched “We the People,” a government website that provides an open channel for any individual to petition for or against any issue they find unjust. My role was heading up the technology team responsible for building the platform, and with my engineering background, making sure we focused on a simple, clean, minimum-viable product. Together we created a platform that digitally enabled one of our basic, inalienable rights as U.S. citizens, enumerated in the First Amendment.

Read the whole piece at Recode.

Harvard Business Review logo

How I Led Change in the U.S. State Department Bureaucracy

Leading change in any large organization is hard, and the U.S. Department of State is a seriously big bureaucracy. Until early November, I helped lead a relatively small (400-person) bureau within it. My experience as a digital leader in the Obama administration confirmed my optimism that change can come to large bureaucracies.

Read the whole piece at Harvard Business Review.

Quartz logo

Why Government Websites Suck So Much, According to Obama’s White House Webmaster

Our interactions with government websites are often memorable for all the wrong reasons. Whether you’re trying to change your official address or applying for a local permit, you’re likely to see conflicting information, have to pinch-and-zoom a non-responsive design, or need a law degree to understand the five-paragraph disclaimer below a simple log-in form.

Read the whole piece at Quartz.

Digital Is Not IT

Do you understand the difference between IT and digital? If you don’t, your company is going to have a hard time competing in today’s fast-paced economy. Too many senior business leaders conflate the two on the narrow view that they both have the common foundation of technology.

Read the whole piece on LinkedIn.

Harvard Business Review logo

Email Is Not Free

To me, email is the most abused method of communication in every office environment. And the widespread perception that it has no incremental cost is chronically damaging workplace efficiency. The challenge we are facing isn’t an aversion to technology, but change. There is an entrenched level of comfort with email, making it habitual and a communications crutch. We have to take a holistic view and see email as one of many channels for collaboration. Adopt a breadth of tools to connect people, teach them the appropriate use of each and encourage smarter use of the right technology.

Read the whole piece at Harvard Business Review.

More Things I’ve Written

Personal Information Is the Currency of the 21st Century

The currency of the 21st century digital economy is your personal information. It has no transaction costs and does not decrease in value when the supply increases. Contrary to the laws of economics, it may even increase in value with greater supply. The more information you provide to companies, the more value they can extract from it.

Read the whole piece at All Things Digital. (archived on LinkedIn)

Quartz logo

The US Should Treat Its Citizens Like Amazon Treats Its Customers

You cannot seek government services from alternate providers, but we can collectively ensure that the leaders we put in charge are knowledgeable and tech-savvy. Bezos understands the power of technology and the importance of customer experience. Politicians need to adopt this is the mindset in city halls and state capitols across the country.

Read the whole piece at Quartz.

The Government Needs to Get Serious About Recruiting Tech Talent. Here’s How.

Let’s acknowledge that much of our government’s ability to provide quality public service rests on the shoulders of technology talent. Let’s demonstrate an employee value proposition equal to, or greater than, what entices developers to work in Silicon Valley. Our investment in educating the next generation of civil servants will pay dividends that are orders of magnitude greater than the cost outlay.

Read the whole piece at The Washington Post.

Harvard Business Review logo

Why I Phished My Own Company

The phishing experiment attained the crucial buy-in of employees; now that they personally understand the dangerous implications of not following the rules, they’re more willing to take data security seriously. People are more apt to learn from an experience than listen to a recommendation or policy. Just like a regular office fire drill, senior leadership should be running random phishing drills to give them that experience. And, the experiential learning doesn’t stop with these emails.

Read the whole piece at Harvard Business Review.

Flying used to be a special experience. Now we endure it like punishment.

Airlines, listen to your customers and have empathy. Treat them like humans and not numbers on a balance sheet. Remember when you provided customers with a special experience? Now we’re enduring your services like punishment.

Read the whole piece at LinkedIn.

The Smartest Cities Are Compassionate Cities

What might happen if compassion were a core operating tenet of local governments? It would be an unorthodox approach to think of citizens as customers, tenaciously working to ensure they do not lose them to a competitor (i.e., moving to another city). But with this mindset, city leaders would be required to truly understand and empathize with their customers. A customer-focused city would deliver solutions that make lives better.

Read the whole piece at CityLab.

Canada’s Heading For A Disaster of Its Own

Outside of project scale, a contributing factor to failure was a set of outdated IT procurement policies. These all but ensured that solutions using open source would be excluded, with Canada requiring bidders to license, warrant and indemnify the government for its use of open source application software. This is not how open source works and so, not surprisingly, the procurement process yielded but one “compliant” bid, and that was from the biggest and most expensive proprietary software vendor in the market.

Read the whole piece at HuffPost.

Dollars, Delays, and the Cost of Naïveté

Democratic governments are led by their elected officials but their operations are largely the responsibility of career civil servants. This collective is obligated to be good stewards of taxpayer funds, and they are bestowed with the authority to make investment decisions on behalf of a nation. If I were Canadian, I would be profoundly disappointed in my government. They are en route to an abysmal and expensive IT failure.

Read the whole piece at LinkedIn.

Entrepreneur logo

Developers Are in High Demand. How Do You Recruit the Best?

Developers want to know that their time is being invested in building something that matters. Not every company can have a business model predicated on social good. But you can recruit developers by demonstrating why their work matters to the company. Your product or service wouldn’t exist without their efforts, and with the success of your business, more people will be exposed to and using the product of their work.

Read the whole piece at Entrepreneur.

Digiday logo

Why Developers Need to Love Media

The simple answer is this: Developers and engineers want to solve problems. At Google, they have the opportunity to redefine how people interact with data. At Facebook, they have the chance to redefine how people interact with each other. These represent major paradigm shifts in how people live, literally changing the world. (Also, there are some sweet perks available at these companies.)

Read the whole piece at Digiday.