Contracting

Getting back on the $3,500-or-less horse

18F is moving forward with plans to hack procurement. The General Services Administration's tech development shop will hold more micro-purchase reverse auctions while leaving much of the basic setup unchanged, according to a Jan. 7 blog post.

The results of 18F's first such auction, in November 2015, vexed some participants. Staying under the $3,500 government cap to dodge onerous procurement processes, 18F asked for bids on a discrete bit of code work. The winning bid was $1, which was great for 18F's wallet but other bidders decried it as evidence of flawed auction design.

The coder who did the project for $1 told FCW he wasn't motivated by money.

Whether altruism will play a role in future auctions or whether market forces will eventually guide the process remains to be seen, but 18F isn't shaking up its auction design just yet.

"We learned a great deal from the first auction and have numerous hypotheses around how future auctions could play out, but we want to first test the validity of our platform with the next batch of auctions," 18F Acquisition Management Director V. David Zvenyach and acquisitions consultant Alla Goldman Seiffert wrote in the blog post. "We intend to continue iterating on the auction process and plan on experimenting with different auction formats in the future."

The infrastructure supporting the auctions is changing, however. 18F is upgrading from a minimum viable product that blended Google Forms and GitHub Issues to a new platform that is integrated with GSA's System for Award Management and has its own GitHub repository and GitHub API integration.

The first round of micro-purchases, which have not yet been posted, will focus on fixes and features for Tock, 18F's in-house product for tracking how its developers spend their time.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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