Story at a glance

  • The Biden administration began making updates to the White House website on Inauguration Day.
  • Hidden in the code of the website is also a call for applicants to the United States Digital Service.
  • The United States Digital Service was founded by the Obama administration and is recruiting applicants from diverse backgrounds.

The not-so-secret-anymore Easter egg hidden in the White House website’s code is actually a cry for help. Not that anyone’s in danger, as far as we know. 

"<!-- If you're reading this, we need your help building back better. https://usds.gov/apply →" reads the message, one of several new additions to the website made by the Biden administration on their first day in office. 

The symbol “<!” is often used by coders to include notes in the programming that aren’t intended to actually appear on the website. Only those who were curious enough to go digging would see the message, just one qualification for the job posting linked in the code. The position is with the United States Digital Service (USDS), which was founded by President Obama in 2014 after the Obamacare rollout went less than smoothly to manage digital operations for the government. 


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Unlike many job postings, however, this one doesn't list the responsibilities or even the title of the position, simply the base requirements (United States citizenship, a background check and drug test) and how to apply. Current employees come from diverse backgrounds, including former anthropologists, entrepreneurs, consultants and statisticians, with salaries of up to $170,800 (and of course, health care and other benefits).  

Their strategy, as outlined on the website, comes in three steps: “Recruit top designers, engineers, product managers, and digital policy experts. Pair these digital experts with our nation’s leading civil servants. Deploy these teams to untangle the most important government services, together.” 

The agency deploys groups of technology experts to work with civil servants all over the country on what it calls "tours of service." During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, their support has been essential to maintaining public access to vital information in addition to providing support for social security benefit administration and Medicare patients. Nearly 80 percent of the more than 500 people who have served joined during the Trump administration and the department is growing rapidly. 

"Ultimately I joined USDS because I believe in Lincoln’s vision for a 'government of the people, by the people and for the people," said Aryeh Jacobsohn, a product manager at USDS. "The government is just people! We can all take a turn."


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Published on Jan 21, 2021