CIO Briefing

Do we need a governmentwide wiki?

Government wikis such as the State Department’s Diplopedia and the intelligence community’s Intellipedia aim to be go-to resources for federal employees to get information about internal or external matters, such as how to organize a particular report or where colleagues in a reorganized bureau landed.
 
One of the greatest benefits of government wikis, though, may come if and when they’re opened up beyond the agency level so that employees can investigate how other offices handle similar processes and programs, Peter Meyer, who helped develop Statipedia for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said Friday.
 
Meyer was speaking at the State Department’s tech@state conference on government wikis.
 
“I had always thought that a broad cross-government wiki would be better and that we’d get there by one of these expanding to be available to everyone,” he said. “It isn’t happening yet . . . The path the U.S. structure is on leads to more and more wikis, which means more and more administrators, more and more domain spaces, and more and more battles over what software should be brought in and how.”
 
When Meyer was working on a social media team at BLS, he solicited information from other agencies about their policies for updating Wikipedia pages that dealt with areas of agency expertise.
 
“I discovered after posting a page inviting comment on this issue that [the Environmental Protection Agency] has a good set of rules and [the National Institutes of Health] has a good set of rules,” he said. “These are good examples for us. For an agency that doesn’t wish to lead on a particular subject it helps a lot to have a library of what other agencies are doing.”
 
A governmentwide wiki could offer precisely that sort of information, he said.
 
Ryan Androsoff runs GCPedia, the Canadian government’s governmentwide wiki, which launched in 2008. He said employees frequently seek out their counterparts or people with particular expertise in another agency.
 
Wikis
are defined by online content that’s updated and edited by a group of people rather than a single administrator. Their content can be broad, as the model Wikipedia, or narrow as Diplopedia. 
 
Most government wikis exist at the agency level and are closed off to other agencies and the public.
 
Diplopedia, which is among the most long-standing government wikis, focuses on “persistent, evolving knowledge,” said Tiffany Smith. She works in State’s eDiplomacy office, which manages the site.
 
For instance, the department used to publish post reports, which were extensive descriptions of life in particular countries that diplomats could browse through as they considered their next assignment.
 
The reports could become quickly outdated in physical form, Smith said. When transferred to Diplopedia, they’re not only current, but they can be updated on the fly by diplomats on the ground when something changes.
 
 
 

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