In October 2015, 18F launched an experiment in micro-purchasing. We posted an opportunity to contribute code to our CALC project, and a number of bidders took us up on the challenge. It was a learning opportunity and a successful first run. Given both vendor and government interest in continuing this task, 18F is happy to announce the launch of a new platform for posting and bidding on micro-purchase tasks.

We’ll be posting batches of new tasks onto the micro-purchase platform in the coming weeks, and bidders will once again have an opportunity to contribute open source code to our projects for $3,500 or less.

The homepage of the new micro-purchase platform

Developing a posting and bidding platform

In keeping with lean methodologies, the first micro-purchase registration and bidding process was done through a minimum viable product (MVP). This was a combination of Google Forms and GitHub Issues that, though functional, left much to be desired. For the alpha iteration, we developed a platform that we hope will be intuitive for both bidders and government customers to use.

The new platform features API integration from both GitHub and We’re aiming to improve the bidding experience for potential vendors and provide an easy-to-navigate interface for viewing and bidding on auctions.

Auction types: Iterating on reverse auctions (for now!)

Our first attempt at the micropurchase experiment featured a reverse auction that was ultimately won for one dollar. We intend to continue iterating on the auction process, and plan on experimenting with different auction formats in the future.

The first batch of new auctions, though, will follow the previous format: a reverse auction starting at $3,500 and ending at $1. We learned a great deal from the first auction, and have numerous hypotheses around how future auctions could play out, but we want to first test the validity of our platform with the next batch of auctions. That said, we intend to experiment with auction styles, and we welcome your suggestions.

Next steps

We’ll be releasing new opportunities soon, so we encourage all potential bidders to register for our platform on ahead of auction postings. We’ll be alerting the community when new opportunities are posted via the platform, on GitHub, our 18F Acquisition email list, Twitter, and (where appropriate) this blog.

The first batch of opportunities will center on improving our in-house time-tracking software, Tock. This is a simple, open source app that 18F employees use to report their time on a weekly basis. We’ll be posting a batch of auctions to purchase various fixes and new features for this platform.

Want to stay up to date on micro-purchase and other 18F acquisition news? Join our email list to receive updates throughout the coming months.