Many long-time Internet veterans know that one of the most effective ways for pooling and sharing information online is a wiki. Starting with Wikipedia, then branching off into dozens or hundreds of wikis devoted to niche topics or fandoms, the wiki has pretty much conquered the “encyclopedia-in-the-cloud” idea space.
A few years ago, the government found this out, too. Ars Technica is running an interesting piece on the creation of Diplopedia, a State Department internal wiki that is used to collect and share the kind of diplomatic knowledge that could in the past be easily lost when a career diplomat was reassigned to a different part of the world.
There were some obstacles to its creation—the government doesn’t have a lot of experience using open-source software, so they had to convert it to run on Windows Server and IIS rather than Linux and Apache—but the service came on-line in late 2006, and now has over 10,000 articles and is visited more than 2,000 times per day.
More information can be found in a paper (PDF) written by a former Diplopedia project lead and a Rice University professor. And as it happens, Diplopedia is not the only governmental wiki, or even the oldest—it was preceded by a few months by the creation of Intellipedia, an intelligence-sharing wiki used by government intelligence agencies.