Intro to Product and open source

Guide for the Product Team and how we utilize open source software at TTS

Product team

As a product manager at 18F, you will create or steward the product vision and strategy, and drive a cross-functional team to deliver the right product to the right audience. You will also focus on sustainability: Anything we build should empower our partner agencies to better meet their mission, be relatively easy for them to adopt and support, and be easy for end users to use.

How we work and what we do

Check out the Product Guide for an in depth look at how we work and how we help our business partners.

How to get in touch with us

The Product Team hangs out in #product.

You can see who is on the Product Team on the org chart.

Open source

What is open source software?

Broadly speaking, open source software is software whose inner workings are made fully public and distributed freely to the community. As an open source team, the software 18F writes is made public (mostly at https://github.com/18f), and we welcome anyone to use that software, copy it, and change it.

Generally (and at 18F), people publishing open source software tend to be open to receiving public contributions. So, members of the public may copy our software, modify it, and then submit their modifications back to us for potential inclusion in the original.

What does it mean in our work?

The last 5-6 years have seen a slow but steady growth in the government in the open source community through:

  • Releasing something government built as an open source project
  • Using other open source projects
  • Contributing and being involved in open source communities

The White House committed to publishing a government-wide open source policy this year, and the CTO Megan Smith’s team is working on making that happen. We’ve been doing our part by bringing together in one place all of the resources that agencies find useful. Our team has also adopted a very strong open source policy.

Everything we as a team do should be public and available for collaboration. An open source project isn’t just code - think of it as many forms of contribution working together, including documentation, support, design, and code.

There are also several listservs and communities that facilitate working with others within the government.

Would any personally identifiable information (PII) live in open source software?

Open source software has no direct relationship to PII or the Privacy Act. PII is data. “Open source software” refers to the release of code. Data can be managed entirely separately from code, and generally is. Additionally, “open source” is an entirely separate concept from “open data”.

For example, whitehouse.gov is powered by an open source system named Drupal. Drupal publishes their software as open source for anyone to use, but this software doesn’t contain any of the content or data that users of Drupal might put into it when publishing a website. Another example is WordPress, an open source blogging platform that also powers digitalgov.gov.

GitHub usage at agencies

  1. Every agency is allowed to create a GitHub org, based on OMB 10-23 and the addendum to GitHub’s terms of service that GSA coordinated with them to add section 17 at GitHub’s terms of service.

  2. Many agencies already have - here’s a list of many of them.

  3. Any government employee can create an account for themselves. This was recently reinforced by OMB’s Office of the Federal CIO.


Still have questions?

Ask in Slack #product, #wg-opensource.