Bob Mander, the founder of www.Govlish.com, spent much of his career dealing with mind-bending government acronyms like OSDBU, LORACS, and SME. A technical writer of government documents for 15 years, he began in 2003 at the Law Library of Congress, and included assignments at more than 25 government agencies, primarily in the federal government, but also state and local jurisdictions. Mander also had a ‘big idea’ about how to demystify this kind of insider jargon. James Madison once said, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.” Govlish, the ultimate guide to government abbreviations, is dedicated to preventing farce and tragedy.
Mander has been a successful entrepreneur since 1986, and Govlish has potential far beyond that experience. Mander was a member of 1776, a renowned Washington, D.C., incubator, where he learned the ropes for how to seek equity funding.
Over the years, he’s assembled a resource library where government workers, contractors, NGOs, elected officials, media, and befuddled citizens alike can, among other things, quickly unravel the meaning of obscure government acronyms. Govlish.com has a database that now encompasses more than 223,000 Federal terms. From these databases, Mander has constructed the most complete taxonomy of the federal government anywhere, as well as countless folxonomies (a classification from user-generated tags), among other things. When the user searches for a term, the website includes an MP3 audio file that sounds it out as the word, so users can actually hear it. If the technology is up to it, the user can also say it into a mic, and the entry will appear. Bringing this idea to life has been his passion for the last ten years.
Mander admits to his wonkyness. “What is a wonk? you may ask. A wonk is someone who can tell you if ‘anal’ and ‘retentive’ are hyphenated,” he explains. “Others say that the devil is in the details. A wonk will tell you that god inhabits the details. Wonks are not born, they’re made. Govlish, a demanding mistress, made me a wonk.”