Seems my post about Jeff Braybrook’s GCPEDIA talk was quite popular, reflected quantitatively in my stats and qualitatively in informal circles. I think I know why – there just isn’t enough information out there about GCPEDIA.
So, here’s another post about it – the background story to GCPEDIA, where it stands now, and my ideas for it going forward.
What is GCPEDIA?
GCPEDIA is the wiki for the Government of Canada. Launched Oct. 28, 2008 at the annual GTEC conference by then CIO of Canada Ken Cochrane (who I’ve cited myself in my academic papers), GCPEDIA has blossomed throughout its on-going pilot stage. GCPEDIA is only accessible via the Government of Canada network and you need to be on a computer with connection to be able to access it.
GCPEDIA distinguishes itself from Wikipedia as logically being exclusively for and about the Government of Canada (of course), exemplified with its slogan “People & Knowledge“. I refer to this often, pointing out that apart from the wikipedia-like facet of sharing knowledge on common topics across the GC, the people element is about using the wiki tool to create communities.
The knowledge part here is what you’re already familiar with from Wikipedia – it’s that general information that on GCPEDIA is common across the Government. This doesn’t take people actively engaged on agreement to develop – it can be static and iterative. The collaboration is when the wiki is used for collaboration, developing knowledge for mutual benefit. I illustrate this and the role from GCPEDIA to facilitate it here:
Without any accurate econometrics here, I’m pointing out here the overlap of People and Knowledge through Collaboration, and I add volume to each from the metric of registered users and articles. I know, it’s not exactly accurate, but I’m highlighting here that the Collaboration happens between people exchanging knowledge, and grows with each.
But, as I said in my first post about GCPEDIA, “there’s still much to do, much more ‘to get’, but this is a great start.”
What GCPEDIA is now
GCPEDIA has a mentor in the form of Intellipedia, the wiki built to bring the intelligence of 16 Intelligence agencies and other national-security related organizations of the United States together. Intellipedia continues to break new ground in addressing (and breaking and beating) bureaucratic restrictions and limitations, providing us with lots of Best Practices and precedent – two things the Government of Canada loves.
GCPEDIA is still in development, as a pilot. If you’re familiar with wikis (particularly mediawiki), you’d be interested to know that templates (even basic ones) continue to be built, extensions continue to be considered and installed, and the policies and bureaucracy continue to be addressed and formed.
What you should also know, especially if you’re among the many consultants curious about GCPEDIA, is what I wrote above – it is still in development, as a pilot. With only 1,912 articles, it’s not exactly the Library of Alexandria some wonder it to be, with an article on every contract, every research area and every event of interest to the public service. There’s also very little to no customisations done either (I believe only on the log-in screens), so there’s no super-nifty public-service-developed tools being kept from the open-source community. There also isn’t a slew of staff working on it to support the almost 3,000 users (by comparison, Intellipedia has 35,000 articles and 37,000 users). . Ideally those working on GCPEDIA are displacing staff who would otherwise be managing and organising information that takes shape in other forms; on paper, in filing cabinets, in emails, in memos, on bulletin boards.
I hope that answers some questions that has been lingering by the public and consultants. I’m not trying to lower expectations – I am trying to address there’s no missed boat of opportunity here or missed role. When the government has work, input or outreach necessary, they will as it’s required, but the government is still carving out the role for GCPEDIA, and much of it is in the culture-change that is necessary; getting public servants to collaborate more across departments and to exchange information more freely – on top of getting more public servants aware of the wiki and trained of its use. That’s the focus (as far as I can tell) right now, and that’s the priority.
But answering these questions does point to a public criticism people that people have, that there just isn’t enough information available about it. Although GCPEDIA is still in development and a pilot, I do so the value in this criticism. With all the interest being developed internally and externally to the government about GCPEDIA (such as that developed by the CPSrenewal.ca blog), and I think it’s important that GCPEDIA communicate that it’s not for the public, but for the public service to improve its service to Canadians. Resources being limited, certainly the focus is on building GCPEDIA internally, but for now, I think it would be important to have some presence externally to explain what it is.*
*Update: I believe this is coming soon.
What GCPEDIA will be
Hopefully GCPEDIA will be as successful as Intellipedia, or even NRCan’s wiki, in terms of roll-out, use and community. It’s still too early to tell, and much remains to be learned about wikis, the government infrastructure, and the policies that govern and lead the public service.
Interesting questions come up about the use of GCPEDIA in the GC, such as possibilities for hiding pages (no), protecting the pages (only the front page), and this and that wild customisation (maybe), which usually point to considering the possibilities of departmental wikis. Some are already up, such as the NRCan wiki, which leads to another question: “which wiki? Departmental wiki or GCPEDIA?” and “can our department have their own wiki?”. There are many forks in the road that are coming up, each pointing to a different route GCPEDIA can take, each where GCPEDIA may be able to take the express route to success in one way, or need to back up on and take another route with. I continue to provide my input constructively in my involvement with GCPEDIA, and that’s where I’m working it.
The most important part right now is that public servants know about GCPEDIA, get on board, provide their knowledge, and get collaborating.