User:Econterms/U.S. Federal Government MediaWikis

U.S. Federal Government MediaWikis
Some installations of MediaWiki in the U.S. government and an invitation for other federal gov employees to participate

Presenter     Peter B. Meyer
Event Enterprise MediaWiki Conference (EMWCon) Spring 2016
Date and time Wednesday 25 May 2016, 14:05 - 14:15
Reference (Videoa)

Many MediaWiki installations in U.S. federal government[edit]

  • Most are oriented to projects or office/department organizations.
  • There's no master list or overall organization of them. Many are de facto hidden. I'll mention a few.
  • Normal agenda: make useful information searchable or discoverable to the staff
  • Major examples: Intellipedia and Diplopedia, across agencies, starting ~2006, integrated with other cross-agency tools, as milSuite is
  • Powerpedia across Dept of Energy ; NREL has advanced Semantic MediaWikis, e.g. [[1]]
  • NASA's high tech examples:
  • Statipedia -- for any .gov or .mil person, oriented toward statistical subjects -- common calendar ; definitions ; data sources ; comparison of policies ; comparisons of software used ; procedures and methods ; description of the subunits of the organizations; occupations of staff; platforms used at the agencies; notes from conferences; hot topics. These things help innovation at least as far as imitation goes. Also evaluations and critiques of the agencies. (Critiques of unemployment statistics or inflation statistics). Much to gain with visibility / translucency across the agencies ; interpretations of executive orders and agency actions in response ; telling our own history. I look forward to more: MOUs, VPATs, requisitions, certifications, procedures, what software others are running, comparisons of agency procedures for travel and procurement and records management. responses by agencies to executive orders, and other administrative purposes. and calendar items.
  • There are many other MediaWikis
  • These are not for secret data (generally) ; and not for access by the public -- govt staff need freedom of speech for these to be useful in the organizations
It will be helpful to be in touch with one another
  • Federal MediaWiki Demonstration and Discussion Group: Since Nov 2014 we have monthly virtual demos, organized by Tom O'Neill of DOE/Powerpedia.
  • We want/need more participation -- contact me (econterms at
  • I try to record important installations on Statipedia
  • Evidence of "success" for the organization is sometimes missing
  • We'd be looking to support a MediaWiki organization somehow, for tech support and focused development

Jump to: Earlier presentation with the main issues

Issue of whether and when to scale up
  • Gcpedia reaches most of Canadian civil service in principle
  • That design could help U.S. civil service see one another's procedures broadly and standardize from below. (Recurring pattern: standardization from above, slowly and coercively)
  • Recurring choice: one big wiki or a farm of small wikis. Scale/efficiency versus focus and control.
  • Cost/complexity of many wikis, admins, namespaces
  • A key usability issue is: if I email a hyperlink, will it work quickly for the recipient? Or, does recipient have to log in, or worse, create an account, or worse, doesn't have access. These are related to "single-sign-on" and what services are on "extranets".
  • Perhaps Federal workers should have a "right" to access a cross-agency or cross-government wiki (in the long run), so as to lose less information and to enable workers seeing a problem to get the word out.


  • Wave of these 2008-2009, now maybe a new wave. Also in use: Confluence, SharePoint, also probably Twiki
  •  Not all US federal staff have a wiki available & allowed  If so, it’s not visible across most of government
  • Common gap in need and understanding: wikis vs document- management system.  Documents are self-contained, often finished binary files, e.g. official announcements and memos. Wikis aren't mainly for official pronouncements. Documents may be hard to search for; have clear authorship; are dated; formatted; may have intro, conclusion; may have focused audience; may be official ; updates require coordination or permission; common on SharePoint & Confluence
  • By contrast: wikitext is searchable and open; fragmentary; multi-authored; unlikely to be official or definitive; can be updated and link to latest sources; open format; can manipulate with extensions, import/export
  • Both wikis and document management systems are needed and useful ; there's some mismatch between what we have and the ideal tools
  • Reference works vs. Project/team-orientation  Reference works online are more open, descriptive, scientific, and written for an audience beyond a particular organization
  •  Groups/teams may require Fine-grained security Dashboard or project status summaries
Rhetorics for wikis in govt
  •  Openness, transparency (translucency)  Overcoming stovepipes/silos
  •  Reduce duplication of effort
  •  Clarify & unify procedures
  •  Ease training, turnover, emergency manager
Rhetorics against
  •  System’s insecure or uncertified
  •  Organizational culture doesn’t fit
  •  Wiki would encourage sloppy or undignified handling of information
  •  “Knowledge base” is not our job
Purposes & imagined futures
  • “Management visions often do not match the benefits delivered by successful wikis.” -- Grudin & Poole (2010)
  •  Citizens get their information from wikis
  •  And we in govt are in the information services business
  •  It’s relevant to know the science and practice
  •  Writing for Wikipedia meets our mission directly
  •  Empowerment of staff
  •  Benefit to our personnel – e.g. in enabling to publish good work
  •  Users find specialists, who then serve larger audience
  •  Together, agencies have vast, diverse resources, expertise, capability, and economies of scale and scope
Efficient scientific communities (knowledge management)
  •  Support references to evidence  cultural change
  •  Shared source material, reference points, mutual awareness, peer review (reduce fiefdoms)
  •  Support tools development by our own staff
  •  Info on platforms - “discoverable” not “disseminated”
  •  Could reduce email strain
  •  Support bottom-up and outside-in innovation  Compare practices between agencies
  •  Give workers broad opportunity/right to wikis
  • like IG’s office; like freedom of speech
  •  Emergent or open-source type innovation