API Coordination And Communication Across Federal Government Agencies
29 May 2018
Most of this API stuff isn’t technical. For APIs to work at scale within a single company, a wider industry, or across government agencies, you need people who are committed to evangelism, coaching, and communication around everything that is occurring across API ecosystems. We often times get caught up in our work, and operating within our silos and forget to email, call, and just walk next door sometimes to share stories of what is going on. If you are a regular reader of my work you know how I feel about storytelling, and just how important it is to all of this working or not. Which is why I like to make sure that I showcase the storyelling of other evangelists who are working their magic, and spreading API knowledge within their domains.
I’m a big fan of what the GSA is up to with APIs across the federal government, and specifically what my hero Gray Brooks does to support API efforts acorss multiple federal agencies. He does a lot of legwork, but one thing that has stood out for me is his work to establish an API community of practice, and share relevant API stories on the US Government APIs Google Group. To help highlight what he is up to, and hep amplify the knowledge he puts out there, I wanted to share his latest post from the Google Group in it’s entirety because it is, well, beautiful.
I hope your week has wrapped up well so far. As I mentioned back in April, this and other efforts have been formalized as the API Community of Practice, part of Digital.gov's communities of practice program. I hope you all will put this forum to use, sharing your thoughts, questions, and ideas about federal APIs you're working on or thinking about. In the meantime, here's some odds and ends that you all may find interesting.
- One of the API programs here at GSA put out a call for developer input ahead of some further work on the sam.gov API. It's not surprise that the wonderful API Evangelist took note and offered both praise and some wise counsel. It's well worth a read and offers good advice to us all, if we'll take it.
- FOIA.gov launched its developer hub, which has a lot to it, including the ability to submit a FOIA request via API.
- If you want to see a really neat set of examples of developer engagement from an agency, check out the pair of A+ listserves set up by CMS for the Blue Button and Quality Payment Program APIs. This is a great example for us all to follow.
- Here are some APIs that are either new (or at least are new to me!) - NASA's Mission Design API, CPSC's Violations & NEISS API, and USDA's MARS API.
- A digital services team in the New Zealand government is keeping a public list of NZ government APIs as they find them.
- Also, it's just worth noting the success of CFPB's open source API documentation project, DOCter. That good work not only was used for their API documentation, but has been re-used by GSA for its API documentation template and is now employed by many of the agency's APIs. Regulations.gov and Interior are two more agencies putting it to good use. A good . reminder for us too all just reuse each other's stuff! (Interested in more examples you can quickly and easily fork and re-use? Here's a bunch more.)
- NIST including API requirements and specs in some its efforts.
Last but not least, there's a bunch to see from VA and HHS/CMS that's a pretty big deal. This is the first time that I've been seeing agency principles actively talking and giving speeches about APIs and API strategies. This is 100% what needs to be happening across government and I def. recommend diving into these efforts and trying to drive the same at your agencies. VA is the largest civilian agency in the federal government. If they can be doing this, so can any of us! VA
- Back in March, the VA secretary gave a speech driving an open API pledge among healthcare providers. More coverage here.
- VA has launched a new developer hub around the effort, called Lighthouse.
- One cool sub-project is a set of micropurchases they are trying in this area.
- The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS is writing blogposts like "APIs: A Path to Putting Patients at the Center" and a senior advisor to him is writing to announce a Secure API Server challenge that gave out $50,000 in prizes.
- Meanwhile, the CMS administrator gave a big speech about APIs at the same event as the VA secretary, also worth checking out.
- As part of those efforts, the US Digital Service team at CMS helped roll out v2 of the Blue Botton API.
- More on this rollout here and here. The first link has a great interview I strongly recommend.
Anyhoo, I'm sure there's much more going on that this. Definitely share anything you all are finding or working on as it comes up. In the meantime, take care can have a good holiday weekend.
"name": "api.data.gov - API analytics for federal agencies",
"name": "US Government API listserve",
It is tough to directly measure the ROI from the work Gray Brooks does in a purely business sense, but this type of outreach and storytelling is ESSENTIAL to APIs working across federal agencies. Gray is paying attention to what is happening across federal agencies and doing the hard work to share relevant stories across teams, agencies, and with the general public. While it would be valuable for each federal agency to do this themselves, it isn’t something that is always in the DNA of each agency, and many teams just don’t have the time or resources to publish stories on a regular basis–making Gray’s work all the more important to the overall health of APIs at the federal level.
We need more Gray Brooks. We tried to clone him at a super top secret agency and failed. He is just too special. His work reflects what needs to exist at every single federal government agency, as well as at the state and municipal levels. We also need this kind of dedicated evangelism and storytelling to exist within industries with healthcare, education, energy, and other specialized API evangelist uncovering the meaningful stories, and working to make them more public. If you aren’t tuned into the Government API Google Group I recommend tuning in. If you don’t know Gray Brooks I recommend going to one of the DC Web API User Group which Gray operates–you’ll likely get a chance to meet him in person, and hear stories of the API change he is making first hand.