Home Intellipedia: Intelligence Agencies’ Wiki Suffers Midlife Crisis

Intellipedia: Intelligence Agencies’ Wiki Suffers Midlife Crisis

Did you know that the U.S. intelligence agencies use a wiki to share information? The Intellipedia project was launched in April 2006. Sixteen agencies of the U.S. intelligence community have access to it and use it to share information. According to a new report, however, the Intellipedia project is going through a bit of a midlife crisis right now. Until now, the wiki has mostly been curated by early adopters and enthusiasts, but a lot of the agencies have not been able to make it a part of their regular workflow, as many potential users are not comfortable with contributing to it yet.

Some agencies, like the Joint Chiefs of Staff, use the wiki on a regular basis to vet and publish weekly report according to the Government Computer News (GCN), but other agencies still prefer to use their own systems instead of or in addition to the Intellipedia.

Midlife Crisis

During a talk at the Semantic Community-Semantic Exchange Workshop, Chris Rasmussen, a social-software knowledge manager and trainer at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, outlined some of the reasons for this reluctance to adopt the Intellipedia.

One of these reasons cited by Rasmussen is a fear of the unknown. Instead of solely relying on Intellipedia, users often use additional, unconnected systems to save their information as well. Rasmussen also notes that some users are simply not comfortable with contributing information to a social-networking tool.

Rasmussen also points out some problems with the grass-roots approach that is at the core of the Intellipedia, which, by the way, is built on top of MediaWiki, the same software that powers the popular Wikipedia. As there is no standard for tagging articles, for example, users often use very ‘agency-centric’ terms to tag their posts, or use the wrong tags altogether.

Solution: Force People to Use It (?)

The solution to this? Rasmussen tells the GCN that the grass-roots approach has gotten them this far, but that a top-down approach might be necessary to push the project further: “This is work. We force people to do stuff [they don’t want to do] all the time — we make people come in sober and wear clothes. In certain cases top-down may not work, but in certain cases it does.”

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