Memorable tweet from @krusk:
krusk Secret confession: I don’t like Wikis. I like the *idea* of them, I just don’t like using them at all.
I can identify with this sensation. And I gather I’m not alone. The GoC has recently seen the launch of a government-wide wiki — GCpedia (sorry if you are reading this from home, it’s hidden away behind the government firewall) — and I’ve heard from a few people that they’re having some growing pains – such as a lack of gnomes to keep things neat and tidy, and frustrations at the learning curve from a user base that’s unfamiliar with actually *using* the platform. I wondered about the choice of MediaWiki to power GCpedia, what with it’s lack of WYSIWYG editing capability, and I’ve heard folks complain about that angle also. (Great that MediaWiki is open source though.)
These issues I see as symptoms resulting from a deeper underlying cause: to fully integrate wikis into our work processes, we’ll have to change them. Wikis are about spontaneous group collaboration, and the bureaucratic culture of the GoC is not.
While unstructured, informal collaboration might be ingrained at the team level (think: calling to your colleagues over the cubicle divider), getting collaboration between teams is much harder, and tends to require formal structure. The habits for this are well-ingrained — one person “holds the pen” on meeting agendas and minutes, everything (not just key decisions) needs approval by executives, and edits and changes are often still made on paper(!). Not exactly conducive to wiki collaboration.
Still, it’s early days, and there are some key wiki champions in senior positions in government, which helps to push things forward. For example, there’s Jeff Braybrook, Deputy CTO at TBS (trust me it’s senior) and a driving force behind the development of GCpedia. Jeff spoke at the most recent Third Tuesday Ottawa event (which I missed due to a blazing, blinding headache. bummer).
Anyhow, I was able to pick up @thornley’s live tweets for the event, and here’s my faves. Looks like Jeff is aware of the challenges and has a good sense of which direction to head with GCpedia.
thornley Jeff Braybrook: Gov’t of Canada began GCPedia as a platform to explore web2 behind thefirewall & sort out the issues thru experience #TTO
thornley Jeff Braybrook With the GCPedia Wiki. “Everybody can see what everybody is thinking.” You can watch the ideas of the group evolve #TTO
thornley Jeff Braybrook says the adoption of social media by government of Canada will require the transformation of the gov’ts work processes #TTO
thornley Jeff Braybrook The next step is for gov’t to figure out new processes to collaborate using social media #TTO
thornley Jeff Braybrook : The technical barriers to using social software are low. We must help people know how to use it for different purposes #TTO
thornley Jeff Braybrook In 5 years, GCPedia & social media in gov’t will be invisible – totally integrated in a natural way #TTO