Wikis

What Is a Wiki?

Do you have Web policies or procedures, organization charts, job descriptions, training materials, or presentations that you would like to share? A wiki is a type of collaborative work space, it's a collection of Web pages that encourages users to contribute or modify the content. A simple Web interface can help a community collaboratively develop a document or web page, from anywhere.

Wikis can be public facing, meaning that anyone can see the content, or only open to a defined community within or across organizations. Wikipedia is one of the most well-known public wikis.

Types of Wikis

A wiki can be either open or closed, depending on your preference. An open wiki allows anybody to make changes and view content. A closed wiki allows only community members to make changes and view its content. Some wikis allow anyone to view content, but only members can edit the content.

Why Wikis are Important in Government

Knowledge Sharing

Wikis take advantage of the wisdom of crowds. Through simple and open editing features, wikis encourage users to add and edit content, improving products as people add their knowledge. Wikis can be used to collectively identify issues, problems, and solutions, and develop products and outcomes.

Collaboration Across Boundaries

Wikis can foster collaboration both within government agencies and across agencies, including different levels of government. Wikis can break down barriers to collaboration, and bring cohesiveness to communities that are fragmented or within organizational silos. Just like teleconferences, email, and face-to-face meetings, wikis can help the government quickly build strong and productive Communities of Practice.

Engagement

The simplicity of a wiki makes it easy for people, both inside and outside government, to contribute their ideas to improve a product or develop a solution. Wikis are a great tool to gather public input.

Transparency

The shared knowledge of a community is available to all members in a wiki environment, which builds trust. Every change on a wiki page is recorded, so people can see who made a change, and when.

Efficient Use of Resources

A collaborative work space with advanced document and content management decreases the time, energy, and resources expended by each member.

  • It saves tremendous time and effort for all team members, since work is done online, when it's convenient for people to participate
  • All work products, resources and discussions of the community are fully archived. Everything is easy to find for all members
  • Rather than attaching documents in emails, include a link to the document in the community repository, making it easier to find all project documents, and saving space in your inbox

Store everything online in a coherent manner to increase efficiency. Documents are stored and organized once, for common access by all members. This avoids versioning problems, since the most current versions will always be posted in the wiki, available to any member who has access.

Wikipedia and Government Information

Wikipedia is a very popular example of a wiki. Review Wikipedia to see what has been posted about your agency or program. If there is nothing yet in Wikipedia, it may be appropriate to write something. If there is information about your program, review it for accuracy and correct it if necessary. See the USA.gov article on Wikipedia for more info.

To create or update information about your agency on Wikipedia, you must first get proper clearance before posting anything. Review Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest policy, which explains that people who work for an organization have an implicit bias, and Wikipedia is very serious about keeping information factual and unbiased. To avoid even an appearance of a conflict, many Wikipedia editors will revert (remove) changes if it looks like they were made by someone connected to the organization.

These rules ensure that people cannot promote themselves or remove criticism about their activities. If you are only updating broken links and fixing incorrect information, you should be fine, but be careful that your changes are strictly factual and impartial.

General guidelines are:

  • Make an account, and have only one person at your agency edit under it. Disclose on the user page that this person works for your agency.
  • Suggest changes on the Talk Pages of articles you want to update, and have other editors make the changes for you. (Every page has its own talk page, see the tab at the top labeled "Discussion.")
  • If there are no active editors on that page, or no one responds to your proposed additions, go ahead and add or change the information in the article, but note that you did so on the talk page.

If you are open and honest about your changes and don't try to use Wikipedia to skew information in your favor, everything should be fine. Wikipedia has its own guidelines for editors with conflicts of interest.

Examples of Wiki Use in Government

Resources

Wiki Tools for Government Use

  • OPM's Federal Training and Development Wiki—OPM developed this wiki for federal government training and development practitioners to learn, share relevant information, and collaborate. The wiki is open to everyone to view and search for content. Only federal government employees may post content tools, resources and best practices directly onto the wiki.
  • OMB MAX Federal Community—for U.S. Government Federal Executive Branch personnel
  • GSA's Collaborative Work Environment—Incubator space for intergovernmental communities exploring public-facing or closed collaborative work environments

 

Content Lead: Justin Herman
Page Reviewed/Updated: March 4, 2013

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