Engineering articles

Parking signs and possible futures for LLMs in government

February 27, 2024

Government agencies adopting generative AI tools seems inevitable at this point. But there is more than one possible future for how agencies use generative AI to simplify complex government information.

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Engineering smaller burdens

October 09, 2023

The current Administration has made improving the experience people have using government websites and digital services one of its signature initiatives.

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The Ad Hoc Incident Response Playbook: Helping you prepare for service emergencies

July 26, 2023

Imagine for a moment your team has built a digital service that thousands — or even millions — of people depend on. You’ve spent countless hours to ensure it runs smoothly and allows customers to seamlessly access the information they need. But one day the service unexpectedly shuts down, nobody can log in to their accounts, and help requests and frustrated messages come flooding in. What do you do?

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How AI and LLMs will change government websites

July 11, 2023

With the rise of AI and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, government websites will need to change again in response to these new technologies.

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What AI and Large Language Models can bring to government

July 05, 2023

As artificial intelligence (AI) tools begin to transform technology in general, they too are making their mark in government. At Ad Hoc, drawing on our practical experience with our federal customers and extensive prototyping and research, we believe AI tools present a valuable opportunity.

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Announcing the Platform Smells Playbook: Diagnose and fix common problems with your technology platform

June 13, 2023

At Ad Hoc, we believe that shared technology platforms are often a critical part of government digital modernization efforts.

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Introducing Ad Hoc’s Groundwork Delivery Platform

June 12, 2023

Government agencies are increasingly looking to innovate in ways that can help them quickly deliver high-quality, secure digital services to the public. But they often face challenges in building and deploying their user-facing applications efficiently.

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Using open-source LLMs to optimize government data

June 07, 2023

Companies have been developing and using artificial intelligence (AI) for decades. But we’ve seen exponential growth since OpenAI released their version of a large language model (LLM), ChatGPT, in 2022.

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Creating a platform for employee-internal apps with GCP

May 31, 2023

At Ad Hoc, we’re big fans of making the right thing the easy thing for developers. That applies to our internal apps as much as it applies to customer-facing projects.

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Using performance testing to build resilient, accessible systems for all

April 19, 2023

A well-maintained, 10-year-old car will work fine to get you from A to B. A well-maintained bike will probably last even longer than the car. A 45-year-old landline phone can still receive and place calls. But what happens if you try to access a web page using a 3-year-old smartphone? How about a 5 or even a 10-year-old one?

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Making your platform useful to developers

April 05, 2023

A technology platform can dramatically improve the delivery of government digital services — if developers will actually use it.

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Engineering chaos: a guide to building a game day

January 31, 2023

One of the critical aspects of supporting large scale infrastructure is the ability to respond to potentially harmful issues that can arise throughout a project’s lifecycle.

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A cloud migration is like a kitchen remodel

January 25, 2023

Organizations considering a migration to the cloud may not immediately think that television shows like “Help! I Wrecked My House,” or “Rescue my Renovation” are relevant to the work that they are doing. But it just so happens that things like renovating a kitchen or putting an addition on your house can hold valuable lessons for moving systems to the cloud.

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Pushup: a new tool for creating dynamic web apps

January 11, 2023

To build and maintain server-side web applications faster and easier, we’ve created a new tool: Pushup. We designed Pushup for the Go programming language as a page-oriented, server-side web framework, similar to applications developed in PHP, Ruby on Rails, and Django for Python.

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A look under the hood of the new student loan debt relief application

October 21, 2022

As we did with covidtests.gov, let’s take a quick look and see what we can learn about the implementation of this application from a systems design perspective.

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Building trust with users for long-term platform success

September 14, 2022

Building trusting relationships with your platform users is a powerful way to ensure your product remains strong and healthy and those using it have a positive experience. In this post, we outline ways that will put you on a path to achieving these goals.

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A quick study in the benefits of a cohesive cross-functional team

July 26, 2022

The benefits of working on a cross-functional team are many, and the experience is impactful for both the team and the customer. Let’s look at an example at how the flexibility of this kind of teaming helped us successfully produce under both time constraints and changing needs.

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Gaining reliable insights with incorrigible data

July 12, 2022

Data engineers in the public sector often face the challenge of large amounts of uncontrolled data from multiple sources. In this blog post, we look at solutions that help ensure reliability when resources are limited.

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The carrots and sticks of platform governance

June 30, 2022

Taking an iterative approach to governance implementation will help you find a balance between the levels of written, automated, and manual enforcement to meet business and user needs without introducing unnecessary restrictions. Here are some recommendations.

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Making the right thing the easiest thing: human-centered governance for platform adoption

June 27, 2022

The way you choose to implement governance processes can make or break your platform’s adoption and level of success.

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The building blocks of platforms

June 13, 2022

We talk about platforms in terms of reuse of services, separation of responsibility, and platform “building blocks.” Framing platforms this way helps teams articulate the design, prioritization, and strategy of their platform.

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Setting the right benchmarks for site speed in government

April 12, 2022

As we think about ways in which government sites meet the needs of their users, speed is an integral part of what makes a site inclusive and accessible to more people.

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Examining the covidtests.gov architecture

January 18, 2022

A day early, the Biden Administration has quietly launched the new website that allows households to order four COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

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Crafting our leadership teams for fast, effective information flow

January 04, 2022

As people within Engineering take on new responsibilities, and new people join our teams, they are entering an intentionally-structured way of operating.

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Embarrassingly automatable as the first step of legacy modernization

July 20, 2021

Perhaps it’s time for an equivalent of Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs, but for legacy modernization projects.

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The tech debt interest rate

June 02, 2021

Just as interest on financial debt adds to the amount of money that must be repaid, interest on technical debt adds to the amount of code that will need to be revised.

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What engineering teams can gain by prioritizing learning

May 10, 2021

The collective knowledge of a team’s individual members is one of its most valuable assets. Today, I’m here to make the case for putting in extra effort to cultivate this collective knowledge.

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Introducing the ATO Field Guide

April 28, 2021

Ad Hoc is releasing an ATO Field Guide to inform the public, our customers, and our partners about how federal web applications are authorized to operate on behalf of the American people.

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How I create small Go apps quickly

March 29, 2021

I often want to create a small web application to test out an idea or demonstrate some thing, and I’ve developed a small toolbox that helps me do so in Go.

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The Ad Hoc COVID Report prototype is now open source

March 24, 2021

Today, we’re happy to announce that we have open-sourced the code that powers the COVID Report prototype.

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Prototyping a COVID-19 vaccination verification app

January 28, 2021

Ad Hoc has created a prototype that would allow Medicare beneficiaries to check their vaccination status in an easy-to-use web app.

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Getting ready for launch

January 08, 2021

Launches can be unpredictable. Having a plan for launch can help you focus on that which you can control and set you up to recover more quickly should things go wrong.

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Automating Terraform modules

August 25, 2020

On a recent project, my team identified the need to transition from a directory in our main DevOps repository that contains all of our Terraform modules to a discrete repository for each module.

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The new Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook

August 18, 2020

The 2020 version is now a standalone playbook that any federal agency can use to replace enterprise software with proven techniques from the world of commercial software.

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The problem might not be COBOL

July 10, 2020

The government’s problem isn’t using old code or older programming languages. The problem is often that they’re using code that wasn’t designed to meet the needs of people who use it.

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Accessibility Camp 2020

April 20, 2020

This January, 33 Ad Hoc team members came together in sunny Orlando, Florida for the first Ad Hoc Accessibility Camp, a three-day gathering to learn and practice making our services more accessible.

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Dependency audits on JavaScript projects

December 17, 2019

To help improve the security of our projects, we integrated a way to audit our application dependencies into our agile development process.

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Launching a government MVP in less than a month

October 01, 2019

On behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, we recently launched a site for insurance issuers. We went from zero lines of code to a production MVP serving pilot users in under a month.

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Using feature flags and dynamic blocks in Terraform 0.12.x

September 24, 2019

With the advent of the new HCL 2 language in Terraform, I’ve been using the newly available methods to make the internal Terraform modules that my team has written more functional and less inter-dependent.

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What makes an API simple?

August 23, 2019

Whenever you’re trying to make something simple, it’s important to think of the people who are using your tool.

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Measuring a process’ memory in OS X/Linux

May 01, 2019

I recently found myself needing to measure the memory usage of a program throughout its run time, and was surprised that I didn’t find a tool out there already that did what I wanted.

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My view of OpsCamp

November 30, 2018

Internal company training events are often associated with boredom, long monologues, and Powerpoint presentations. My first Ad Hoc training event was exactly the opposite.

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Saying goodbye to middleware, or retiring homework for fun and freshness

October 25, 2018

Today is a bittersweet day for Ad Hoc Engineering, as we fully retire middleware, one of our Engineering homework assignments. Middleware was replaced in our homework pools for engineering positions by noclist.

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Ops Camp 1.0

October 17, 2018

Ad Hoc recently held a two-day OpsCamp in Chicago, IL, focused on helping team members learn through sessions, activities, and simulations.

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Validating business rules and building confidence through tests

July 20, 2018

Digital transformation or legacy modernization efforts, while motivated by concerns such as finances, new technology, or shifting priorities, can be risky endeavors from a logistical perspective, and are often dominated by the needs of operations.

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Why we use homework to recruit engineers

February 26, 2018

One challenge is finding a way to evaluate technical ability without an in-person technical interview. We do this by issuing homework assignments to candidates to be completed on their own time.

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Developer-driven focus management for single-page applications

February 20, 2018

This post will outline some best practices for focus management, and how it relates to accessibility.

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Video: Details on our recruiting process for engineers

February 19, 2018

We recently conducted a session over video with potential candidates, and we recorded it so that others can get a feel for how things work.

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Stop your (business rules) engines!

October 10, 2017

One of the many surprising artifacts of the initial failed HealthCare.gov launch was a “business rules engine.” This was a new concept for most of the team that helped rescue the site.

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Soapbox: DevOps with the Ad Hoc Infrastructure team

August 23, 2017

Soapbox is an open source software platform for building and deploying web applications using cloud providers like AWS. It represents our take on DevOps-done-right.

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R&D: BEAM clustering with AWS Auto Scaling

August 22, 2017

Something we pride ourselves on at Ad Hoc is our preference to own the operations and maintenance for the things we build.

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Needed: Full stack software developer for short-term, high-impact project in Sacramento

July 03, 2017

Ad Hoc is looking for two Frontend Web Developers for a project in Sacramento, CA to help the California Department of Motor Vehicles create a new driver license / ID card program.

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How to run a gameday exercise in complex, multi-product environments

June 21, 2017

In my role as Senior Software Developer here at Ad Hoc, I recently led a gameday exercise for a number of systems we support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Ad Hoc and the State of California

June 19, 2017

Ad Hoc is actively seeking partners and team members in California, especially in the capital, Sacramento. We’re looking to hiring software engineers, designers, and product management professionals for all sorts of positions.

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Getting help, fast

June 09, 2017

HealthCare.gov has a service called Find Local Help that allows people to search for one-on-one help. This vital search had problems sustaining more than a small set of searches at a time.

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CPU profiling with Qcachegrind

May 18, 2017

Presentation by Ad Hoc Software Engineer Mike Auclair on CPU profiling with qcachegrind.

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