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Q: What is the purpose of this wiki?

A: This wiki is the cornerstone of our Web and New Media strategy process. As the Process at-a-Glance says,
"The main intent of the workshops is to move relevant information to the wiki where it can be openly evaluated, sifted, weighed, and considered by all."
This approach was developed with the Web practitioners back in September, 2008, and was discussed i n a lively dialog on the Smithsonian's internal Web and New Media Strategy blog.

Q: Who can join and contribute to this wiki?

A: Smithsonian staff and members of the public. Anyone on the Internet can view this site, but only registered members can contribute. People requesting accounts will be required to accept a terms of service agreement. SI staff should check with their supervisors to make sure it's OK to participate.

Q: Why is the wiki open to the public?

A: A couple of reasons.
  • Eating one's own dog food
    In Information Technology circles, eating one's own dog food means to actually use the products one makes and believes in. (Wikipedia explains the expression fully.) We're clearly looking at how to become a more Web 2.0 kind of organization, and, if one believes in the power/potential of the Web 2.0 idioms, one should use such technologies to do one's work, yes? (Or, to think about it another way, how ironic would it be to develop a Web 2.0-ish strategy with a secretive, cloistered, back-room kind of process...)
  • Brain Trust
    At our Smithsonian 2.0 workshop in January, 2008, Wired editor Chris Anderson asserted that most of the experts in the areas the Smithsonian studies don't actually work for us, and we don't know who they are. (This is a riff on Bill Joy's comment that "no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.") This is true for the area of Web and New Media strategy: we have really smart people here, but, compared to the community of external experts we're a tiny, tiny group. Our investigation of areas like intellectual property policy, platform development, mobile devices, content commons, education, and science 2.0 will benefit greatly from the participation and good will of experts and stakeholders outside the institution.
  • External is the new internal
    With a distributed, talented, and opinionated workforce of over 6,000 individuals, the lines between the private intranet, the semi-private extranet, and the public Internet are thin indeed. We have a pressing need for crowdsourcing and distributed collaboration just within the walls of the institution. It's only a tiny extra step to execute this process in a public setting.
  • Not waiting until the last minute
    I've seen a number of strategy efforts go through the traditional committee-driven process with the full intent of soliciting public feedback and participation at the end, but by the time the committee has done its work and achieved concensus internally everyone is too exhausted to be very enthusiastic about seeking external input. By starting the process in full public view and keeping it there, we can short-circuit that problem.
  • Build support
    We have thousands and thousands of supporters out there
    • It's their institution
    • We need to think of the public as our co-developers
    • Transparency is the watchword

Q: What is a Web and New Media Strategy?

A: At its core, it’s a vision and a set of priorities that helps us make tactical decisions about where to put our resources and what kind of impact we want to have. Having this strategy in place allows everyone to understand what the goals are, how to participate in shared projects, and how to advance the big vision on their own.

Q: How does the Web and New Media Strategy process relate to the pan-Instutional strategy process?

A: The most important thing is that this project connects with, contributes to, and supports the pan-Institutional strategy process. We were told to "coordinate comprehensively with the pan-SI strategy steering committee and its relevant subcommittees, and that we work very very hard to minimize confusion about the relationship of this effort to other strategy and business-planning efforts."

Q: How is this strategy-process going to work?

A: It's a participatory proces that emphasizes speed and openness. See Process At-a-Glance for more detail.

Q: Why is the wiki on Wikispaces and not on the si.edu Web site?

A: To give us a little cover. This is an experiment, not without risk. Inevitable gaffes, missteps, and bone-headed mistakes will be confined to the neutral zone of the wikispaces domain, not enshrined under the www.si.edu banner.

Q: Will the strategy workshops be recorded or Webcast?

A: No. What we're going to do is "wiki-cast" the workshops. As the workshops are taking place we'll be typing notes, real time, into a public-facing wiki. Everyone in the workshops will be able to see what's being typed, and in many ways, the real purpose of the workshops is to move relevant information to the wiki where it can be filtered, added to, improved, and synthesized into an actionable strategy over time.
Because of how many people are potential stakeholders in the Web and New Media strategy at SI (and how limited our meeting venues are) I've been trying to de-emphasize the importance of the workshops as events in-and-of-themselves and, instead, I'm emphasizing the importance of the wiki. That being said, I expect that I will have a handful of people who will be following the wiki in real time and I wouldn't be surprised to have people submit questions or comments via email or twitter (using the twitter hashtag #si20) during the workshops.

Q: Does having a strategy make everything perfect?

A: Definitely not. We can enjoy great successes without a coherent strategy but they’ll be one-offs—more expensive, harder to achieve, harder to repeat, and less connected with the mission of the institution and emerging trends in what technology can do and what the public expects.

Q: What do you mean by New Media?

A: New Media is meant to encompass many different kinds of digital technology that we can use to communicate with and serve the public: Web 2.0, cell phones, portable computers, e-book devices, and exhibition kiosks to name a few. (See What is Web 2.0 by Tim O’Reilly for a definition and some thoughts about 2.0 stuff.)

Q: What are some of the good things that can happen with the right strategy?

A: We’ll make sure the Smithsonian enjoys the trust, respect and patronage of growing audiences worldwide. There have been fundamental shifts and there will continue to be fundamental shifts—upheavals really—in the way people expect to access and use information and a good strategy will make sure we’re in the vanguard, not left behind.

Q: Why do so many strategic planning efforts seem like a waste of time?

A: I think most strategies fail because of five classic mistakes, which, with your help, I intend to avoid:
  • Strategic planning is conceived as a static, once-every-five-years activity
  • The strategy is too ambitious for the skills and capacity of the organization
  • Nobody translates the strategy into actionable tactics
  • Insufficient data/metrics/analysis to guide decisions upstream or evaluate tactical success downstream
  • Ownership of the strategy is ambiguous and intermittent

Q: What about all the other stuff you didn’t put in this FAQ?

A: Tell uswhat you need!