Around Government

The same tool that decodes Kanye West lyrics could help policymakers. The same tool that decodes Kanye West lyrics could help policymakers. Matt Sayles/AP

Decoding Rap and Regs

GSA considers site that analyzes hip-hop lyrics to cut through jargon.

What will be the next social media platform to make it big in government? The answer may be Rap Genius, a four-year-old tool to decode hip-hop lyrics that federal agencies could use to crowdsource explanations of policy memos and proposed regulations.

The General Services Administration is talking with Rap Genius about creating a federal friendly version of the website, which has racked up more than 68,000 annotations to Kanye West’s new album Yeezus.

“We want to stop chasing the social media tail and start getting in front of it,” GSA’s social media lead Justin Herman says.

If the deal goes through, agencies will likely have to maintain accounts on a segmented part of the site so their documents won’t be displayed next to links for hip-hop songs with profane titles, he says.

The U.S. Geological Survey has already set up an account on Rap Genius where several of the agency’s policy documents have been annotated by geology enthusiasts. 

Rap Genius edits range from translating slang terms into standard English to fleshing out how a rapper’s biography informed a particular lyric. The site has branched out from hip-hop, including Poetry Genius and News Genius, which annotates political speeches and quotes.

Government has mixed crowdsourcing and policy in the past, but usually for developing rather than explaining it. The Open Gov Foundation built a tool called Madison to crowdsource edits to legislation, and agencies have used IdeaScale to pool suggestions for improving programs.

- Joseph Marks

Playing to Strengths

With age comes wisdom. But that wisdom is not always applied on the job. 

In the federal workplace, young employees are more likely than their older colleagues to be in jobs that play to their strengths, according to a Gallup survey. Eighty-five percent of feds ages 18 to 29 said they “use their strengths to do what they do best every day,” compared with just 77 percent of workers who are 65 or older.

The opposite is true in the private sector, where 86 percent of those 65 or older said they work to their strengths, while only 82 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said the same. 

“The fact that younger federal employees are just as likely as those in the private sector to report using their strengths could be a selling point to attract top talent to the government,” the polling organization wrote. 

The survey also linked mismatched skills to employee disengagement. Only 1 percent are disengaged when supervisors focus on their strengths, while 22 percent are disengaged when forced to draw on their weaknesses, according to Gallup. 

The study was part of a larger Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which surveyed 115,000 people throughout 2012. 

- Eric Katz

A Payday Double Take

Salary gaps and the sexes get a closer look in government. 

News Flash: There’s still a pay gap between men and women. 

Full-time working women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. Still, statistics show that more women than men earn college degrees, and women are the sole or primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of households with children under age 18. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination based on gender. President Obama in May directed a review of pay and promotion policies at federal agencies to eliminate any gender pay gaps. Agencies have to report back to the Office of Personnel Management in August; OPM then will have 180 days to recommend changes to the General Schedule to address the issue.

So how does the government stack up in terms of gender pay equity? 

Women typically earn less than men “even when they are in the same occupation,” the Merit Systems Protection Board said in a 2011 analysis of federal salaries. Job classifications, experience and education only partially explain those salary differences, according to MSPB. Women also are less likely to be in senior government jobs that pay more, the study found, concluding that “the glass ceiling has been fractured, but it has not been shattered.”                    

Kellie Lunney

Feds Out of Favor

More Americans than ever view the federal government negatively, with fewer than three in 10 having a favorable opinion. Favorable ratings of the federal government are down from a high point of 82 percent in November 2001 and 42 percent in July 2009, shortly after President Obama took office. Views of state and local governments, however, remain positive, according to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center. Local governments continue to receive the most favorable reviews, while the gap between federal and nonfederal ratings has widened to unprecedented levels.

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