Friday, November 22, 2013

Embrace GCPEDIA as a technological David

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Last week I applied the lens put forward in Gladwell's latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, to the GCPEDIA project and in so doing suggested that GCPEDIA's success to date is the result of it being a David among Goliaths (See: GCPEDIA: A David Among Goliaths). After publishing the piece I had a number of people reach out to me and suggest that I should take the narrative a little further.

The Real Value of GCPEDIA is as light layer

I used to be of the one-wiki to rule them all mindset; and while I have great disdain for the duplication of technological solutions to collaboration they are sadly inevitable, at least in the short term. Technological consolidation is always possible, but it seems to me that it's a long and convoluted road over which few can successfully travel at any given time.

Since then I've come to realize that GCPEDIA's true value is its fluidity and the fact that it is a light layer that can not only co-exist with departmental systems but can fill the gaps in them; offering safe spaces to learn about collaboration and otherwise disintermediate all of the restrictive structures in place inside, among, and between our organizations.

If we accept the idea of GCPEDIA as a light layer then the question of how to scale starts to look very different; it leads to an important question, a question I stopped just short of asking last week.

Should we focus on turning technological Davids into Goliaths?

Last week I wrote:
"The project's success to date is due in no small part to the fact that it (and its administrators, stewards and advocates) have chosen to pursue paths that the Goliath mindset would otherwise have ignored: it's open source, offers users no ability to lock out others from their content, is housed in a department that technically doesn't have the mandate to house it, is supported by a small and highly dedicated (mission driven) team, and remains the only universally accessible zero barrier to entry collaboration solution within the Government of Canada."
If the above is true, then moving GCPEDIA in the opposite direction by either deploying a proprietary alternative, paying licensing fees, allowing users to restrict access to content or throwing large administrative resources will ultimately undermine and/or jeopardize its continued success. In other words, the approach isn't how do we turn this David into a Goliath? But rather, how do we make this David the best possible David it can be?

How do we embrace GCPEDIA as a technological David?

When framed as such, the answer seems fairly obvious. Stay the course, and embrace GCPEDIA and the things that have made GCPEDIA successful. GCPEDIA has been many things to many people but to me it has always been a beacon of hope that government can in fact be agile, can embrace a more open ethos, and can meet its demands for collaboration at an incredibly low cost when it chooses to do so.

And I for one, sure hope it stays that way.

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