Software Development

18F pushes for an even more open 'open source' rule

The government startup that develops all of its code in the open wants the rest of government to follow suit.

Following the March 10 publication of a new draft Federal Source Code policy, the General Services Administration's 18F penned a response to one of federal CIO Tony Scott's questions.

Would "open source by default" be the way to go for federal code?

Absolutely, 18F Developer Eric Mill responded.

"Good software practices, such as writing appropriate documentation and separating passwords from the software which uses them, are good for all software and not unique to open source software," Mill wrote. "However, working in the open makes following these practices more consistent and more likely, even for the most competent staff — and when mistakes are made, working in public makes it more likely that they will be spotted and corrected early."

The draft federal policy, however, requires 100 percent open sourcing only for code developed in-house. When custom code is developed by third parties, agencies would have to release only 20 percent to the public.

There shouldn't be a distinction between internal and external development, Mill argued.

"This would eliminate entire classes of metrics that the White House would otherwise need to measure, and greatly reduce the overhead of implementing and overseeing this policy for OMB and agencies alike," he wrote.

If agencies need to keep vendor-developed code proprietary, they ought to go through a written justification process, Mill's response suggested.

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.


Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.