Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Get Ready to Wiki-collaborate

"Collaboration-by-wiki" is coming to open-government ... soon.

If you're interested in government transparency, but have been putting off learning how to use all these new "Web 2.0" tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.), then NOW is the time to start learning how to use a "wiki" to collaborate.

Because, in the very near future, it looks like you may have the opportunity to make edits to the draft federal report of recommendations for "Transparency and Open Government" that Pres. Obama wants delivered to the White House within 120 days (i.e., by May 21st), which will then be the basis for creating the "Open Government Directive" (OGoD).

According to the most recent issue of DotGovBuzz (a federal newsletter from the General Services Administration):

"The White House is using OMB's MAX wiki to solicit innovative ideas, proposals and brainstorming about how government can tackle the topics of transparency, public participation and collaboration, until March 6. Currently MAX is only open those with a dot gov email address, but plans are to create another website open to the public." [my emphasis added]

Of course, all of this is being developed on the fly, so whatever "plans" the White House have right now are still evolving. But, at this point in time, it looks like there will be some type of online opportunity for the public to review the draft recommendations and provide feedback.

And that feedback platform may be nothing more than the "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" option offered for issues on during the Presidential transition. BUT, they might set up a "public-facing wiki" similar to the one being used now for federal employees to brainstorm and collaborate on recommendations for the report.

And, if it's true that those federal employees only have until March 6 to contribute via the "MAX-wiki", then many of them may spend most of the next 8 days on a learning-curve of how to "collaborate-by-wiki". So, we should not be surprised if the timeframe for the public's feedback is similarly short.

And that is why it is important for you to start getting up to speed on how a wiki works. But I'm no expert myself, so I'm inviting your suggestions on the best web-tutorials, etc. for learning how to "collaborate-by-wiki".

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wiki-collaboration on Obama's "Open Government Directive"

Okay, I've been thinking about this for awhile, and so here's my idea.

As you may already know, President Obama, on his first full day in office (1/21/09) issued a "Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government" in which he says this:

"I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum."

So that means that, between now and May 21st, some type of task force will be drafting up a list of suggestions about how the federal agencies of the U.S. government can be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative with the public.

And (this is not a wild guess) one thing that it will probably say is that "a great tool for collaborating with the public would be to use wikis".

So, if I'm a federal "wiki-evangelist" and I'm drafting a policy document (i.e., the Open Government Directive) that talks about how great it would be to use wikis for collaborating with the public, then shouldn't I put my final draft out on a wiki so that it can be improved by others, before I send it to the White House for signature?

Keep in mind that I'm not advocating some kind of absolute transparency where we put web-cams on the heads of the task force that drafts the Directive, but how about a 30-day public review and suggestion period (e.g., using a wiki) prior to its finalization for signature by the President?

THAT, more than anything else, would show citizens, including those that are federal employees, that the new leadership is willing to "walk the talk" or, in other words, "BE the Change!"

If you are interested in my updates on "wiki-collaboration" news with respect to development of the Open Government Directive, then please note that you can also stay abreast of this blog when you "subscribe-by-email" (see box, right-hand column).

P.S. This "walk the talk" suggestion is also made the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA) in its recent white-paper "Enabling Collaboration: Three Priorities for the New Administration" (see page 20 of 40: "Implementing a culture of collaboration will be a task primarily of leadership by example.").


UPDATE (2/20/09): I submitted this suggestion at the Sunlight Foundation's new "Our Open Government List" where you can vote for the best ideas for the "Open Gov't. Directive" (OGoD). You can vote for mine at

P.S. As a former fed, I still like acronyms. So ... What do federal executives say when they're told to use social-media and wikis to achieve "open-government"? ---> "OGoD!" (My invention, thank you.)