One Wiki to Rule them all

What I find really annoying about wikis in the government is that people think we need more than one. Having one wiki for everything in the government is the best way to get value out of this technology.

This principle is not unknown, yet time and time again people choose instead to create a wiki for a small group of 10 to 30 people. It is shortsited to limit the wiki contributers to a small group. The most value can be attained from a wiki when you have a crowd contributing. See Crowd Sourcing

If I were to do a statistical survey to find the size that this crowd would need to be with respect to your organization, I would espect to find that you need a 50 to 1 ratio between creators and consumers. So when I go to a page that I considered to be a quality wiki page, I would estimate that it has had around 50 people contribute to it for me then to be able to find value and become well informed. I would also expect that after about 50 contributers the quality will be improved but not as significantly.

If you want 50 people to actually get on there and make an edit, then you are likely going to need to market that request out to 1000 to 5000 people. Most Governments have those kind of numbers and could certainly make this happen but it needs to be marketed and sold just like anything else in life. And we can’t expect them that have to keep contributing to their small closed off group wikis.

To learn more about this a good article to review is Mass Collaboration on wikipedia

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Bowen Moran

Good point Matt. I suspect that many here can shed better light on the experiences with GCPedia, Intellipedia and others, but the critical mass required for crowd sourcing is pretty darn important. I wonder if part of the issue is that in the Public Service unexpected discovery is clothed in the unpleasant. As such, we forget that one of the great benefits of wikis is the unexpected and unknown expertise in the organization.


Totally agree…mass is needed and is really hard to get….although I would also say there is a real challenge that exists between centralization and decentralization. I’ve heard the phrase “try to be everything to all people – you will fail.”

Nina Adrianna

In that case, should we be aiming towards one wiki for all jurisdictions in Canada, or perhaps all of North America, or even all governments in the world? Some day, when open government is a reality, perhaps we’d all use Wikipedia to get info about everything, including things going on within government.


I suppose the purpose of the wiki needs to be made clear, no?

Matthew Hall

Thanks for your comments about finding a balance between “big enough to achieve critical mass” and not “trying to be everything to all people”. Careful consideration of these two principles is indeed key to success. Patricia, your point about differentiation is also important to consider. Here is some reading I’ve done recently on that: Porter’s Generic Strategies

This article on Wiki Marketing Strategies links together this blog post and something that I recently posted on Yammer entitled Social Media before SEO is Putting the Cart before the Horse

Kitty Wooley

Matthew, this is an intelligent post. It led me to some of your articles elsewhere on the web. It’s useful – keep writing!

Matthew Hall

QUESTION: When a Province or state decides that they want or need a corporate wiki solution, how to they go about determining whether they will have enough people (or the critical mass) to make the wiki successful? I believe this question is important to think about prior to deciding who will have access to the wiki and who will not.

Matthew Hall

QUESTION: How do you decide who will have access to your wiki, and who will not?

This question is not easy to answer and its just as difficult to figure out what information to use to help you make this decision. Often the reason why these project get initiated are tainted with contraints that are incongruent with achieving the best results. Is it about making it easy to manage? Does information need to be moderated and approved? Does it need to be risk free? Questions like these can put you back into 10 years into static web publishing if you are not careful.

Wikis have risks, but risks can be handled an accounted for. The greatest benefit that can be achieved by a wiki is to allow information to be gathered from people who you didn’t even know about.I believe that answers to these questions should be determine based on facts about the type of information that will be gathered in the wiki.