Things that keep me up at night — wikis and databases

I’m faced with two projects that are both fun and a bit frustrating at the same time.

The first is looking for any guidelines agencies may have concerning guidelines for editing wiki entries about their agencies on non-governmental wikis such as Wikipedia. I regularly review our entry on Wikipedia, make minor corrections, and also work with our public information officer to make any other corrections. What are others doing?

The other project is trying to create a database that can be mounted on our website. We have one option here – InMagic DB Textworks. The design that our IT folks came up with for public access is really not all that user friendly. I’d like to be able to allow members of the public to be able to tag entries. I thought about creating a wiki, but I’m not sure if that is the way to go. The database is for all the bills that passed into legislation in 2008. And I have already started collecting for 2009. Both currently live on spreadsheets. Not optimal to say the least!

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Allen Sheaprd


Hi. You wrote “The design that our IT folks came up with for public access is really not all that user friendly” Here the database is seperate from the GUI – much like the steering wheel and dashboard are seperate from the engine that does the work.

The app is a living thing. They often get designed to fix a problem that then changes because of new tools, like your app, that come out.

How ever the business logic and purpose do not change as much. On this some time and effort must be spent. How do people look for bills? Title, number, date, sponsor? Do you want to create a bill version? What about links between bills that share similar sponsor or goal like IT, health, roads, etc ?

Here indexes are a database’ best friend.

Good luck.

Kris Klein

Thanks for your comments Allen. Unfortunately, the program we use for databases is clunky and it is pretty much wysiwyg. You can see an example of one of our databases here: http://dbs.library.ca.gov/dbtext_html/QueryCalinfo.htm. The database I am working on would look and work just like this one.

Great questions! Most of which we have already talked about except for the link between bills, which sounds wonderful and something we may be able to incorporate later. We have a feel for how folks (both the general public and state employees) search for the information, so our we have our indexes.

I am considering using a wiki to serve as a way to build this app. I’ll have to do a bit of experimentation to see if it is feasible.
Thanks again!

Allen Sheaprd


Hi. I tried the weblink but got 404 – page not found from IIS.

A wiki might be best as it allows for lots of connecting information and is filled in by those using the systems.

There may bave to be a few “disambuiguation” pages as some words are used in multiple ways with different meanings.

Also peoples last names repeate.

I’m glad you are doing this work. I’m waiting for Law 2.0 where laws are not only explained in English but they start to trim them back and remove old laws.

Good luck!

Kris Klein

Hmmm, that’s odd. Here is it’s lead in page: http://www.library.ca.gov/calhist/calinfofileII.html. That might work better. I don’t see anything that says that it is limited to onsite use – I’ll check that out.

Oh your idea about the laws is wonderful! I would hesitate to remove the laws, however. Maybe archive them by year or something. People research how a law was developed to try to understand the intent behind the law. It’s usually lawyers or paralegals who are trying to find something to bolster their case!

Thanks for the good wishes.