Diplopedia or how to share information in an organization

When American diplomats can share information in Diplopedia, why can’t Norwegian bureaucrates do the same? Or let information flow through the intrapedia (I don’t know if the word exists, but the idea is to combine an intranet with the wiki concept).

Diplopedia is the U.S. State Department’s internal wiki (not open for the public), and it consists of useful topics, such as biographies, reading lists and ordering lunch (and how to get the food into the State Department’s building…) According to Wikipedia, since the start in September 2006, “the Diplopedia project hosted more than 4,400 substantive articles, is edited by 1000 registered users, and has had 650,000 page views.” That is pretty impressive! Here is more about the wiki culture in the State Departement, and some of my ideas on wiki foreign policy.

Intellipedia is another information sharing system used within the United States Intelligence Community.

I think the Diplopedia is a really good idea, even though it’s not available for the public. The next step would of course be to open up sections that are open for the public. And this kind of internal (and external) wiki system should be used by many more organizations. Pål Hivand has written about it here and here (in Norwegian), and I like his ideas about how his next intranet will look like a combination of Facebook, Twitter, CentralDesktop, and Prologue.

Clay Shirky is explaining Wikipedia’s success in his book, Here Comes Everybody (which I have written about here). Despite that relative few people contribute to Wikipedia (fewer than 2 percent of Wikipedia users), it is enough to create incredible value for the users. But why would anyone bother writing an encyclopedia entry for example about asphalt or salt back in 2001? Because no one had and it was so easy to contribute and it could be short or long, it was up to you.

Another point is that “many more people are willing to make a bad article better than are willing to start a good article from scratch”, in other words, worse is better (and worse will get better, as Wikipedia clearly has proven). Shirky says “the early successes of a simple model created exactly the incentives (attention, the desire to see your work spread) needed to create serious improvements”.

An internal wiki can do more than spreading information efficiently in an organization, it can also break down heavy bureacratic barriers. As Eric Johnson from the Office of eDiplomacy says, “if wikis can work at the State Department, with its fabled bureaucracy and need to pay attention to protocol and word choice, they can work anywhere.”

9 thoughts on “Diplopedia or how to share information in an organization

  1. The French Parti Socialiste is trying something similar with its Socialopedia – it’s for (broadly) internal use but the public can browse it. I’m intrigued to see how it goes.

    On the institutional uses of such a system – imagine what you could do within the EU institutions! Would make all the arcane procedures for the fonctionnaires much easier to deal with…

  2. You have a point there, Jon. I’m sure wikis as reference- and information collecting tools could have made the job easier within the EU institutions. Open Europe (yes, I do know they have a clear agenda) has started a debate on the actual number of people working in the EU, arguing it is 170 000, not 32 000 people (according to EU officials) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/2535295/EU-bureaucrats-outnumber-British-army-two-to-one-say-campaigners.html

    I’m not sure we can trust Open Europe’s number, but they do absolutely have a point when it comes to lack of transparency on this topic and influence from interest groups.

  3. Oh yes, the EU could do with one or more internal -pedias, but also external ones. The EU on the web is still a nightmare. But is something like this really realistic? We have heard so much about the lack of openness in the EU. Are there forces inside the apparatus who would support such initiatives?

  4. Whether it’s realistic or not, that’s the trick question. But after learning about the Diplopedia, I’ve started to think it is possible to introduces wikis in lots of very bureacratic place. But I think it depends on the right people – in order to introduce such tools in an organization, you need someone who is dedicated, who really understands what social media is about, and is able to explain to everyone else why this is necessary – and fun!
    I don’t believe EU’s Transparency Project is the right place to start: http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/eti/index_en.htm
    But maybe Commissioner Viviane Reding could be the right person to kick some wikis off the ground http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/reding/index_en.htm

  5. I just read about this site, politicopia http://politicopia.com/
    It’s supposed to be an open wiki were people can influence the legislature in Utah, but as I was looking around on the site, it was a bit hard to make sense of the site. Hopefully, it will improve as more people join the project.

  6. Thanks for your link, J.Calton, but the site is quite empty at this point, except from some ambassador pictures.

  7. The diplopedia.com site is not/not connected to the Office of eDiplomacy at the U.S. Department of State or the eDiplomacy sponsored wiki “Diplopedia.” This should be obvious because the link offered by J.Calton lacks the dot gov suffix in the URL.

  8. Diplopedia’s top level domains are now FOR SALE (diplopedia.com, .net, .org, .mobi, .tv). Interested parties willing to obtain ownership rights over these domains can visit any of them for details.

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