2013 was a big year for Mobility Labs. We grew significantly and took on much bigger and more challenging projects. There were also several major technology stories last year; some of them have permanently changed the technology landscape, others merely predict major changes to come. Here are our picks for the top four Mobility Labs and top four technology stories of the year just passed.
General Technology Story #1: The Healthcare.gov Website Launch
The launch of the Healthcare.gov website was an embarrassment, and gave a lot of fuel to opponents of the program itself. After an intense 30 day re-tooling, much of the functionality was repaired and many of the problems resolved. The debacle reinforced a number of lessons about good web development. Worth noting are the importance of having final specifications in place during the last stage of development and that websites serving huge numbers of users require significant beta testing and should be scaled up instead of launched all at once to a huge number of users.
Mobility Labs Story #1: Re-launch of the Mobility Labs Website
The growth of Mobility Labs necessitated a new website and more robust web content strategy that reflected the focus and capabilities of the growing company. The new website was built to be responsive, dynamic, and shareable. The site was launched in July. Along with the site launch, the web content strategy included a social media component, as well as offline activities.
The response has been very strong, and the major goals for the website have all been achieved, greatly contributing to the growth and strength of the program.
General Technology Story #2: Edward Snowden and the NSA
In June, the Guardian and Washington Post began publishing a series of reports based on documents leaked from the National Security Agency. The reports revealed a scope of tracking and spying on the public that was far beyond what most people generally assumed. The leaks turned out to have come from a former contractor, Edward Snowden, who has since fled to Russia and sought asylum there.
Though reactions to Snowden and the leaks vary widely—from traitor to hero—the debates about privacy, surveillance and safety from terrorism that have resulted are overdue.
Mobility Labs Story #2: Women Veteran Data Challenge
Also in June, Mobility Labs joined a team to tackle a challenge created by the Department of Labor for the Civic Hackathon. We created a strategy and a tool-set that was very well received. As a result of this effort, we were invited to several DOL sessions, contacted by the DOL Chief Innovation Officer, and presented to several key DOL personnel.
General Technology Story #3: The Emergence of 3-D Printing
One of the most important trends emerging this year is 3-D printing. 3-D printers allow plans and technologies to be easily passed around online, then produced on-demand at specific locations. Many devices can be printed this way, and the next frontier appears to be 3-d printing of human organs.
While initially this appeared to be a limited, specialized technology outside the range of most consumers, 3-D printers have been located in co-working environments and libraries.
Mobility Labs #3: Redesign and Re-Launch of the Daily Banter Website
Another major website re-launch was for the hugely popular Daily Banter website. The Daily Banter is a growing news/commentary website that needed a more visually appealing, more robust and secure website.
The new website was launched in October.
General Technology Story #4: Google Hummingbird Algorithm
Though Google algorithm updates are fairly common, the Hummingbird update was significant in several major ways. Most Google updates are of interest to SEOs and website owners. But Hummingbird has an impact on the way people search, providing answers to queries in an ongoing conversation. Thus, if you’ve asked a question about a certain person or object, and ask another question using a vague pronoun, Google will figure out who or what you are likely talking about. The trend is that people will be getting a greater range of relevant information prior to searching for it.
Mobility Labs Story #4: LDC Core Tools
Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) is a national community of professional educators working together to prepare students for college in the 21st century workplace. Mobility Labs developed a jurying tool to improve review process for LDC lesson modules (lesson plans). The jurying tool was very popular with the educators using it—LDC came back and asked for an authoring tool that would work with the jurying tool and allow educators to create modules.