I want information at NASA to be at my fingertips like using a Google or Wikipedia search. Jamesmontalvo3 and I introduced Semantic MediaWiki at NASA's Johnson Space Center to solve massive knowledge management problems within the EVA community. Now we're expanding that to other organizations within Mission Operations. This requires both technical implementation and a cultural movement, but it wouldn't be fun if it was easy.
While most of my focus has been on implementing a wiki network at NASA JSC to foster improved information sharing and integration, I have made time to develop some extensions for MediaWiki. Some of my extensions are not shared since they integrate our wiki with other NASA servers, but the following are available publicly:
Masonry Main Page
- Links: (on MediaWiki.org) (on github)
- Allows users to format the body of a wiki page using Masonry blocks.
- Links: (on GitHub)
- Create a graphic representation of a timeline. This is still very customized for use at NASA, but you could use it to generate overviews for things like a conference agenda or any other event spanning several hours.
I was also a co-creator and contributed heavily early on to the Meza platform, a MediaWiki administration program which enables the easy install and maintenance of MediaWiki and several powerful extensions.
As a co-founder of EnterpriseMediawiki.org, I hope to connect users and organizations who employ MediaWiki in "corporate" environments. While this does not exclude public and non-profit organizations, the focus of this group is on an environment much different than that of Wikipedia. In an organization where members or employees are expected to contribute, it takes a different approach to stimulate user contributions. EMW also hopes to foster collaboration between organizations on new extensions to improve the usefulness of MW as an open-source knowledge management system in an enterprise environment.
How NASA Started Using MediaWiki
During my initial training in the EVA group, I was appalled with how difficult it was to find documentation and training materials. When I did find relevant information, it was outdated and often-times presented in duplicate sources with conflicting statements. Coming from a prior job in software development and testing, I couldn't believe how little effort was put into search-ability and revision control of these documents. Anyone could easily modify or even delete critical information without any documentation. There had to be a better way. Why didn't they do it like the rest of us? When we want to learn something, we search on Google and Wikipedia.
After years of trying to find the right people who could envision the same system as I had in mind, Jamesmontalvo3 joined the cause and helped make it happen. Since 2012, we have been developing and using an in-house semantic wiki using MW and several extensions. Once we had a critical mass to demonstrate how powerful this tool can be, we gained approval and support. In 2013, the Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) EVA group officially declared the wiki as the core of its knowledge management. Now we have a wiki network of over 10 wikis integrating the knowledge store of all groups within FOD. There's even discussion of how we could make this tool available to astronauts aboard the ISS using some method of offline sync.
Media About NASA's Use of Mediawiki
- “It pays itself back in dividends”: NASA and MediaWiki, a natural pairing
- Wikipedia 15: NASA EVA Team
Interviews & Podcasts
- Here's to engineering (promo for WP blog article)
- History of the EVA Wiki (SMWCon Fall 2014)
- Meeting Minutes & Group Communication (SMWCon Fall 2014)
- Wiki Accountability and Culture Shift (2015 Houston MediaWiki Meetup)
- Semantic MediaWiki Demo and Closing Remarks (2015 Houston MediaWiki Meetup)
- The EVA Wiki - Accountable Knowledge Management (Explaining to another group at NASA how our wiki is more accountable than any other knowledge management system)
- The EVA Wiki (Presentation at SGT Technology Day 2015)
- NASA Wikis: Increasing the Awesome (EMWCon Spring 2018, with link to slides)
- 5 Year NASA Wikiversary - a page I originally created on the NASA wikis to celebrate 5 years of wiki use at NASA. Now I am able to share this with the wiki community as an example of how to motivate users by sharing analytics and testimonials.
Sometimes I spin music: