Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Web 2.0 Tools: Innovation, Awareness, & Knowledge-Sharing

Track D, Enterprise Trends and Practices
Christopher Thomas (DTIC), Anna Berkes (Jefferson Library at Monticello)

DODTechipedia
Tech is changing so fast, that multi-year long-term projects are far behind the curve by the time they're finished. Technology is a game changer, but for DoD they're stuck with scaled down Blackberries, so how can they innovate within limits of security? DoD is also huge organization, so communication between departments is a problem. It also requires a culture change w/in the department - official knowledge is not sacred.

What they want to do is combine official knowledge with experience to generate solutions and DODTechipedia is the method for doing this. The traditional problem with the web is that information can be wrong, with no way to fix errors. The wiki allows for rapid changes and functionality like the notes in the repair manuals, also engages new people. New process of telling manufacturers what DoD needs, not necessarily how to do it. Aristotle project combines official records with author updates. Want to integrate official and user information and search across all of it, getting into semantic search and additional analysis tools.

Coming from a culture of securing information, they also realize that not sharing can be equally bad. Identity management issues across the government need to be fixed but eventually you'll be able to work across all the wiki projects (Intellipedia, State, DoD, etc.) "People take a risk when they share things." We know that the next generation of people who work for us will use these technologies to get their jobs done; cultural issues will fade as generations change.

The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia http://wiki.monticello.org

The library receives and directs most of the public queries that come to the foundation, creates something of a bottleneck. Previously Asked Questions database was old solution, didn't work at all, eventually decided to move to a wiki.

Wiki Matrix outlines all available wiki tools and features.

The initial reaction from staff was less than enthusiastic. Interpreters/guides loved it, old guard not so much, with a middle ground of cautious interest. The biggest obstacle was the word wiki, because of negative association with Wikipedia. Quietly rebranded as the TJ Encyclopedia, because of authority and problem of having to explain what a wiki is. With changes, now very successful, particularly in comparison to Monticello's other digital projects.

It's working:
  • It's infinitely flexible
  • The ability to do footnotes is one of reasons to use Mediawiki
  • It's crowding out bad information on the web
  • Single-handedly eradicating the Fake Jefferson Quote questions
  • Discussion feature enabled allows outsiders to help provide information
  • Site is getting noticed by major media.  
  • Saw a dramatic drop-off in internal reference questions.
Now universally liked by staff, even more by public. Staff members don't enter their own articles, which wasn't the original plan but it's a model that works. Content added in bunches mostly, some on the fly.

Recommendations:
  • MediaWiki
  • A small committee to run project
  • Dedicated staff work
  • Pre-existing pool of material from which to generate content
  • The word wiki is problematic for some people
  • Trying to do user training in large groups didn't work, half a dozen or less is best
  • Can't assume that people will jump right into the wiki pool
  • Failing to brand and link the wiki to its institutional parent was a problem

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