Following on from my post yesterday about the incoming Obama administration's challenges in maintaining momentum in the face of legal restraints and obligations, here's an intriguing big media use of collaborative publishing.
To some extent the transparency announced by the new administration will be influenced by external sources: the Washington Post today launches WhoRunsGov.com in beta mode, which aims to provide a unique look at the world of Washington through its key players and personalities and tell you who runs government. The site features concise profiles of influential political officials who shape government policy, including members of the new presidential administration, Pentagon officials, lawmakers, senior congressional aides and committee staff.
The first several hundred profiles are being crafted by a newly created editorial team at the Washington Post Company, as well as a group of experienced outside contributors.
As the inaugural blog post by editor Rachel Van Dongen states:
...Simply put: it will be an ever-growing database of government power-brokers containing key information on new administration officials, lawmakers, senior Hill aides and ultimately interest group and think tank experts. We aim to be a single-stop shop for all those interested in the people and personalities who run the government. But that’s not all. Beginning in the spring, we’ll be opening up our site to you, our readers, for your input and participation. You’ll be invited to suggest additions, changes and edits to the site and its profiles. In order to maintain order and ensure accuracy, we’ll vet those suggestions before they go live. This new kind of media enterprise is called a “moderated wiki.” It’s a collaborative approach to reporting that we hope yields richer and more nuanced profiles on those in power from the people who observe and know them. We think you’ll find it a unique and valuable reference source.
The site is built on the MindTouch Deki framework, the highly extensible and flexible community platform which is in essence a powerful enterprise web services engine. MindTouch is designed from the ground up on the premise that its RESTful interconnectivity with other services and data sources makes it the ideal epicenter for a site like this.
The whorunsgov.com site will be a unified content experience made possible through contextually-placed content aggregation from external news sites, blogs and Web services such as Google News and the Washington Post. Given the adaptiveness of DREAM, the MindTouch rich api it would be great to see that opened up on this site in the future to allow connectivity with for example the Sunlight Foundation, a parallel community watchdog site. Allowing linked information to flow out to other sites would enhance the transparency factor and create a consistent 'main' source of data.
The Washington Post will be relying on a flow of information into their 'moderated wiki' from users and interested parties to build momentum. This approach will be familiar to corporate community managers who are used to ensuring the veracity of information for accuracy and legal reasons. These will be nothing like as draconian as the limitations imposed by the The 1978 Presidential Records Act I discussed yesterday.