National Public Service Week

I had a fairly eventful National Public Service Week last week.

Kick-Off
To begin with, there was a ‘kick-off’ event here with a video in honour of public servants. It was interesting to watch, because although I realized that the government does a lot for the country, it helped me realize that literally all sectors of our country likely have a related government department or agency (beyond finance/taxes).

Appreciation Wiki
To celebrate NPSW, our communications branch (I believe) set up wiki pages (via yours truly and coworkers) for people to add comments thanking other people’s hard work. I am proud to say that I added a comment as well thanking everyone, particularly the team, in helping me get settled in. I also greatly appreciate my coworkers putting up with my newbie questions.

W2P Event
For some context:

w2p stands for Web 2.0 Practitioners of the Government of Canada, a “community [which] focuses on sharing, identifying, helping and providing best practices within the Government of Canada, and share those leading examples across the public service.” You can follow the discussion on twitter: #w2p

Wednesdays of last week was a #w2p event and it was great. My first meetup with the group (since I missed the last one at the War Museum). I didn’t know anyone there, but the hosts were really friendly and so were all the other people I met. It was nice putting faces to names. I found it funny that half the people there either work or worked at NRCan at some point. A lot of good discussions and finding out what other people are doing. In particular, the accessibility web work that’s happening is quite interesting. I was also introduced to the @UXWG which is a government working group coming up with web guidelines. See Laura Wesley’s blog post summarizes UXWG.

Young Professionals Network Mixer
YPN organized an interdepartment mixer to encourage people to meet with young professionals in other departments. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a little more structured. They basically provided a place and time, but that was it. No introductory remarks, no ice breaker games, nothing to encourage people to actually mix. I was happy that I met new people from another department, but they were essentially coworkers of acquaintances. Still, it was great fun meeting other co-op students I hadn’t met before.

So, that was my NPSW. I’m glad I took the opportunity to go out to as many events as I could manage. It makes me all the more thankful that I had the opportunity in the first place. Thanks GC!

Adjusting Management Styles and Organizational Cultures

I’m sure everyone has experienced it when they change jobs. Everyone has experienced the shift and the need to adjust to a new job, manager/supervisor, and organization. I think what’s really hit me is that I’ve gone from one end to the pendulum to the complete opposite (or so it seems).

Management

At my old job, I was basically given a one liner on what I should be doing, “go do x, and if you don’t know how, just read up on it and give it a go.” If I needed help though, my coworkers would be more than happy to. I used my time as I saw fit in working on projects, and attended workshops on campus.

Now, I get lots of detail on what is being asked of me. I also send everything to be vetted by my manager and sometimes other coworkers. I keep a list of everything I’m working on and completed as well. I ask permission to go to anything my manager hasn’t directly sent me to.

Organization

In general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

Now, things are not only divided, things sometimes frustrate me, because we get minimal to little support in some areas. I also find it difficult to get information, having to through unusual ways to get it frequently. Though I admit, I think a lot of it is having no control and being allowed to be given any. It’s irking especially to know that you could probably fix it yourself, but it’s not your job. Then again, it seems I’ve just been “lucky” to encounter a number of issues and it’s not that common for a lot of the little things to happen that have been bothering me. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things do go very well. I have found people very helpful and willing to help, and IT help desk is great!

Conclusion

There is no better, just different and what fits better with your work style.

 

general, yes, things were divided by units or departments, but we got good response time for the most part and had a fair amount of control over what we could do. It was fairly easy to contact people and find out what information you wanted or needed.

Traffic Curbing in a “Collaborative” Environment

So, it seems like lots of social media is used here and a lot of it is done in house. WordPressMU blogs, MediaWiki install, video/audio repository, RSS feeds, SharePoint… you get the idea. However, other social media wouldn’t really make sense to do in house, like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.

However, bandwidth is limited for Internet usage (i.e. outside of the Intranet), but perhaps because general Internet usage is needed by many, it’s only certain types of sites that are restricted. Chat/external e-mail is just blocked, but some sites are simply limited by bandwidth;¬†primarily social media sites (Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc.).¬† Facebook… okay, you got chat, games, apps, pics, vids… very bandwidth intensive stuff.¬† But why Twitter? It’s all just text. (Use of Google tools too is somewhat encouraged for the collaborative bits, and I have no problem with maps/reader/calendar, but google docs just stalls…)

The Solution? Third-party apps. As long as your supervisor approves of it, you can request to get it installed. So, I now have TweetDeck to post on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever other social media I’d like to, and keep track of friends too.

In the end, I can’t complain too much, because they’re already way ahead of others in promoting and encouraging use of collaborative tools and social media for work purposes compared to many other organizations, non-government included.

The Ever Changing Project and Timeline

The Original Project
Not many people know, but when I began my current project/job, I was hired to revamp the Instructional Resources pages of the library website. Essentially, it was two pages. That’s right, two.

The Growing Project
Of course, trying to compile a list of all the instructional resources at such a large university still took a long time. And since part of the goal was to centralize these tutorials into one place and also migrate them to wiki, a whole web portal came out of it, which of course involved various staff and committees. The idea was to get it all done by the end of summer, but of course, because the tutorials also needed updating, that didn’t happen. To date, we have not migrated even half of the Help portal (of the list you see under Finding, only Journal Articles comes from the wiki). Nevertheless, we launched the portal page itself.

Redesigned Help Portal
Current Help Portal

The New (Related) Project
Out of my work on the one portal grew the plan for another portal, the purpose of which was to list the services the library provide. Our library has apparently never had such a page, which seemed odd to me, but true (I had never known of a page like that in all my time here).

Interestingly, this portal had much more user testing than consultation with others, because it was putting together a new portal and would not affect any existing parts of the website. We also rethought the design so that we minimize the amount of screen space we’d be using and in our testing, we found people had no problems with the navigation and those who tended to skim through pages found this design better/more useful than the older Help portal design, because they were forced to read the headings to move further on, and thus were more likely to read them than to skim.

Services Portal screenshot
Current Services Portal

Although some pages have yet to be migrated into WordPress/wiki, most of it is done even if it’s not all public. We prefer not to change things so close to the end of term (especially since some of them are really popular pages) and there’s a bug or two that need to be fixed with the WordPress pages. Soon though, I hope.

Two More Projects
So with Services launched, the plan for this term was basically the rest of the main site minus the home page (and Branches since that only really needs a migration). One is the Find Portal to replace the current navigation of Catalogues/Journals/E-Resources, and the other is About Portal to replace the current About Us section.

Ever Changing Timeline
It became fairly clear a few weeks ago that due to the need to prioritize other projects, my co-worker was not going to be available to do usability testing for the two new portals. After discussions with my supervisor, we decided that we’d have to push the timeline back for testing and we could really only go as far as preparing for it. Nevertheless, we’ll be pushing forward with About since that’s an area that is not used quite so much by our users and most of the decisions would come from other divisions. Find will go as far as a prototype site with preparation for usability testing.

Find Portal prototype screenshot
Find Portal prototype

Unfortunately, I struggled with the organization of the Find Portal, so another look will be needed before and after usability testing.

Here’s hoping that the new timeline goes through.

Ever Continuing Projects
So, beyond launching the actual portal pages, a lot of work has continued with migrating everything to WordPress and encourage staff to help update existing pages or provide us with new content. As I mentioned, much of Help is still simply linking to old pages (some were so out of date, we had to take them down), but Services is moving along and I hope to get it all done by the end of next month. Nevertheless, as all websites, it’ll be continual project that will be taken up by the rest of the team (and perhaps a new co-op student in the summer).

The Politics of Gardening a Wiki

Disclaimer: The purpose of this is not a criticism of anyone, but simply a reflection on the reality of things. Opinions written here are also my own and do not necessarily reflect the organization I work for, nor is it necessarily a reflection of what goes on in my organization as I have experience participating and managing numerous wikis. (This more or less applies to anything on my blog really…)

Normally, when you have a wiki, the idea is that the community collaborates to create and manage content. Others will not only suggest changes, but make them. There is little in terms of crossing lines or boundaries or stepping on someone’s toes beyond general netiquette, because what you begin, change, and read is created by a community of users whether that be a partner, team, organization, or the whole world (as is the case with large wiki sites such as wikipedia).

Nevertheless, because the wiki is a very open space, organization and managing content can become very unwieldy. Thus, in order to keep everything working and useful (i.e. not just a hodgepodge of pages), there is one or more wiki administrator and moderators.

So, what happens when a wiki is created within an organization? Hopefully people are educated about the purposes and the workings of a wiki. Then hopefully, as a result, if people start suggesting or changing things (especially moderators and admins), people do not ignore them or complain. However, in an organization where a set of content was traditionally created and managed by a single person who had complete control over what they do and how they do it without that really affecting anyone else, the idea of the wiki itself is hard to grasp for a lot of people, let alone the fact that it’s for community use and other people may come in and change things.

Many people also have a hard time grasping categories as it’s a different kind of organization and many people treat it like tags using their own personal organization without realizing that other people might change the hierarchy and/or use of the category as the wiki evolves. Most of all, because they use it as a personal tagging system, they don’t think about the larger use or organization of the wiki.

Because it’s obvious that some things are related to a specific unit’s or person’s project (but which will be used for greater use and public viewing), as one of the wiki moderators (and the one tasked with a specific area of it), I generally try to make suggestions instead of simply changing things in the hopes of not stepping on anyone’s toes. In some cases though, I simply get ignored or essentially get told “I/we don’t need your help, leave me/us alone”. Sometimes it’s all the harder because not only am I on a part-time contract, I’m also a student (which in some people’s view means I’m not fully qualified to do my job and/or make decisions for the organization without approval).

Perhaps the fact that I’m a student is an easy excuse or out, but whatever the reason, I think the real problem here is that our organization is changing the way we create and disseminate information. People will have much less control than they used to. This can mean more time for them to do other things, but as one who likes to have control over things, I can fully understand that people might not want to let go.

Getting people to understand the new system is one thing. Getting them to accept it is something altogether different. (And please don’t misunderstand, some people have been great about accepting and working with the changes that have been going on. I might even say the majority, but I don’t really know.)

What might be most interesting is that I will soon be passing this work onto someone else. Who that is, I don’t know, but I suspect it will be the next student to come along. It’ll be interesting to see how our wiki develops.