Wiki Qs and As

So our wiki is getting a bit of profile with the GTEC awards and getting some local television coverage too. My sisters are thrilled.  Anyway, we are doing a session at the GTEC conference this week in Ottawa and I have been asked a couple of questions so I thought I would share them because they do get at some of the core issues with getting wikis going in govt and in large orgs.

Q1  How was the wiki implemented?

We just did it. Wikis are simple tech we were up and running within a couple of weeks. Interestingly enough we couldn’t set up the wiki on our core infra right away but when we looked around the dept there were many many installs of wiki and other social tech.  So our first install of nrcan wiki was in our Quebec city office that had been running one for two years.    

We then started a small pathfinder or pilot called the wiki 101 to see how well the wiki would fly (101 users over 101 days.)   It exceeded expectations with 270 users and a fair bit of buzz.

Throughout wiki101 and into production we left the wiki an open space, open to everyone with only minimal guardrails to guide behaviour.

While we left the wiki open to anyone we did target those that we felt were predisposed or comfortable with social tech and we supported their good ideas through barnraisings.  This lead to a lot of novel ideas and innovative uses that we could not have anticipated or planned for.

Are you looking at other social tech?

Absolutely, wiki is the first of many.  We actually launched a business case last year looking at range of technologies – everything from blogs to facebook to our version of YouTube we are notionly calling nrtube.

We were a little concerned about doing so many at once and it has turned out to be an issue ie.  We got a lot of questions and concerns about what goes where?  do your write to the wiki, blog, sharepoint etc. We have tried to address this with a framework that identifies what goes where.  On the other hand doing so many at once has created some very interesting synergies.  for instance our project to provide wireless across the department has allowed users anywhere to gather in a board room or at a wireless hotspot, log on to the wiki and co-author documents, policies etc. 

What kept you up at night when you were implementing the wiki?

Not much.  We were like a kids with a chemistry set, some things mixed together to create interesting new compounds others kind of blew up, but all were facinating and instructive.  there were challenges of course and  work to do to clarify official languages, and really trying to foster a culture of openness has been a slow burn,  and getting tools in to the hands of users quickly enough to build interest and momentum has been an effort, but ultimately this has been a very interesting and useful approach for us.

Has the wiki been a success?

Absolutely but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Certainly we have seen well over a third of the organization contribute and there is clearly an emergent culture and some very innovative uses but at the same time there are strong feelings on the other side, some “hate” the wiki and in particular it’s openess.  I think many feel like they have been dropped into the middle of the Serengeti and been asked to live there.  What is important is that this has sparked an active debate and there aren’t many people that are indifferent. What a great thing for culture of collaboration even if we don’t end up going with a wiki

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