USAJobs launches to boos and hisses

To say the debut of the revamped USAJobs 3.0 site was a disaster might be charitable.

Users flooded the USAJobs Facebook page with complaints, and then, as Federal Computer Week and other media outlets began to cover the situation, users brought their complaints to the articles' comment pages.

Here's a sampling of the comments Federal Computer Week received.

“I agree the new USAJobs website is junk. I can’t even open the site. It has been giving me an error for the last two days. Whoever is in charge of the website should have used a pilot server first before launching it live.”
“I tried out the new site and was stunned to see many amateurish errors. Did anybody do any testing of this before it went live? I tried a simple search for any 2210 series job from GS-13 through GS-15. I received five pages of results. The first page looked OK, but clicking the 'Next' link just kept reloading the same first page.”

And at Federal Times, a reader reported, “Regular search doesn’t work and comes back with an 'application error.' Advanced search doesn’t work well and brings back many irrelevant jobs that are not truly in the city or radius. Plus, the system seems to give you an 'application error' at random times when you are in the middle of looking and applying and makes you start over.”

The Office of Personnel Management debuted the site with high expectations, touting its improvements and upgrades with press releases. A "Wired Workplace" blog entry on Nextgov by Brittany Ballenstedt, published just before the launch, reflects the high expectations OPM set.

“The website also includes a more robust search engine, allowing users to create a new search from the saved searches page,” Ballenstedt writes. "It also allows users to select filters to refine search results and set the frequency of e-mail notifications, OPM said."

The USAJobs experience could prove to be a blow for supporters of insourcing. OPM chose not to continue its relationship with job-search site Monster.com, which had run the earlier iteration of USAJobs, and instead brought the IT functions in-house.

Linda Brooks Rix, co-CEO of Avue Technologies, seized on that decision in a blog post for the Huffington Post. She said her company was one of three organizations involved in testing the site, and it documented an error rate that reached 96 percent.

“That's what you call a complete meltdown,” she writes. “It's also the scenario that many have predicted as OPM continued to bring in-house software and platform services that had been more efficiently and effectively performed by the private sector. The 2.0 version of USAJobs was operated and hosted by Monster. It's now all OPM on its own servers, and OPM can't get out of the way of its own largesse.”

Bryan Hochstein, founder of the QuickHire job-search service that previously competed with OPM's USA Staffing, an adjunct to USAJobs, wonders if OPM's decision to insource might also raise confidentiality issues.

Before choosing to develop the new site in-house, OPM issued a request for information from vendors and presumably received some responses, Hochstein writes on GovLoop. The subsequent decision to forgo hiring a prime contractor means that the software code and other intellectual property associated with the site is in the public domain. As a government agency, OPM can't patent, trademark or copyright the work.

“If OPM used any ideas in the design and development of USAJobs 3.0 that were gained from the RFI (under false pretense, some might argue), then OPM most likely violated its own confidentiality clause and became the competitor,” he writes. “This could prove to be very troublesome for OPM because a vendor may have legal standing if OPM stole (pretty harsh term, but necessary) [its] ideas.”

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