Saturday, February 21, 2009

Intellipedia Suffers Midlife Crisis

Via GCN -

The U.S. intelligence agencies' internal wiki Intellipedia has gotten glowing press reports and accolades, as well as input from thousands of analysts. However, the wiki still struggles to make a permanent home in the spy agencies, according to one of its evangelists.

"We are struggling to take it to the next level," said Chris Rasmussen, a social-software knowledge manager and trainer at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, speaking by phone to the Semantic Community–Semantic Exchange Workshop held yesterday in Falls Church, Va. "Grass roots will only get you so far. [Intellipedia] is going well. But we're not replacing the big-agency systems," he added.

The problem? The growth of the collective intelligence site so far largely has been fueled by early adopters and enthusiasts, according to Rasmussen. About all those who would have joined and shared their knowledge on the social networking site have already done so. If the intelligence agencies want to get further gains from the site, they need to incorporate it into their own formal decision making process, he contended. Until that happens, the social networking aspect of Intellipedia is "just a marginal revolution," he said.

Established in 2005, Intellipedia, now managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has approximately 100,000 user accounts. Open to anyone with a government e-mail account, it has social bookmarking tool, a document repository, a home page for each user, and collaboration spaces.

Some agencies already have incorporated it into their official routines, Rasmussen said. The Defense Department's Joint Chiefs of Staff uses Intellipedia as the official conduit for vetting and publishing its weekly reports. State Department diplomats use it as the internal communication of record for some reports.

In each of those cases, the agency uses the site for its official records, rather than using it as a duplicate or shadow system. For true change to occur, other agencies must use Intellipedia as their official conduit, at least for some functions, Rasmussen said. Otherwise, it is just creating additional work for contributors.

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