Wiki at the UNDP

Wiki at the UNDP

We have developed and produced perhaps the first wiki in use at the United Nations Development Program. Editing is restricted to internal users, but the wider web is welcome to take a look at the WaterWiki.

This is a pretty new approach for the UNDP, but the signs at this early stage are already positive. The start is purposefully small, just people focused on Water Governance; if it’s successful, the hope is for organic growth into different working groups (rather than top-down dictations of appropriate technology). There’s been intranets and workspaces and complicated initiatives galore, yet the primary way collaboration occurs is within word documents attached to email! We’ll be watching to see how it develops over the next few months; at this point, what the wiki becomes depends on the organizational culture shift.

In devising this cultural virus, we primed the wiki with quality content collected from direct assessment of the users. So, immediately the wiki has a lot of value .. enough so that the community sees this as the place to direct their knowledge activities.

I can say one thing about Wikis — Wikitext sucks and Wikis are too complicated! It is the single biggest barrier to adoption, and it’s hubris to expect non-geeks to learn it or even just work around it without being freaked out. We need WYSIWYG on Wikis.

We started with MediaWiki; with the support of Wikipedia, future development and developers is assured. It’s still very Wikipedia specific, so a lot of my work was in simplifying the wiki interface and the wiki text; you should get a lot more formatting in WaterWiki, without complications. Sections are transcludable, giving the Wiki a lot more possible structure than when articles are the primary “nugget”. Uploading works more like an attachment.

Squeezed some mapping into this as well. The main page features a worldKit map of all the countries in the region, borders ala vmap0. The geoRSS feed is produced directly in wikipedia, a new xml output action; the content is transcluded from each “highlights” section on country pages.

I’m pretty happy to be involved in this. Distributed, bottom up intiatives have advantages, but so do organizations with resources and experience. The need is to engage with traditional organizations, to dissolve their legacy structures just enough to free up their incredible capacities. Thanks go to my wife and the team here for bringing me on board.

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