I never thought I’d say this… but I want to go work for the Pentagon!

Lewis Shepherd sent me this Computer World article about some of the cool things they are doing in the intelligence community with wikis, RSS, AJAX and Mashups. In particular, they mention the Intellipedia which was launched in 2004 and seeks to create a knowledgebase from all of the U.S. government intelligence agencies. It sounds rather amazing; I only wish I could see it! 🙂

I know it can be difficult to effectively share information in my library of fewer than twenty employees. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to try to build collaboration among thousands of people from over a dozen different agencies who are in many cases geographically distant from one another. Add to that government bureaucracy and classified info and you have a pretty herculean task in building collaboration. However, the stakes are much higher in the intelligence community, where quickly and effectively shared intelligence can mean stopping a terrorist attack. Wikis are so easy to implement, flexible to use and are such a powerful collaboration tool. What a great choice for sharing intelligence.

From the Wikipedia article, it sounds like they encountered many of the same roadblocks to implementing the Intellipedia that we encounter in libraries when trying to implement wikis:

The project was greeted initially with “a lot of resistance,” said Wertheimer, because it runs counter to past practice that sought to limit the pooling of information. He said there are risks in everything that everyone does, “the key is risk management, not risk avoidance.” Some encouragement has been necessary to spur contributions from the traditional intelligence community. However, he said the system appeals to the new generation of intelligence analysts because “this is how they like to work” and “it’s a new way of thinking.”

I wish I knew better how they defeated institutional inertia and got people on-board with it, because it would be very instructive to anyone trying to implement a wiki for knowledge sharing.

If you’re interested in the idea of wikis and blogs being used in the intelligence community, you may want to read this paper: The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community. And you may remember that last August I reported on the Wikimania talk by Chris Bronk, a career diplomat in the Foreign Service who presented on the Diplopedia: Application of the Wiki Model for Collaborative Drafting in Foreign Affairs (you’ll have to scroll down to get to his talk). It’s really exciting to me to see the government making innovative use of wikis to share information in these areas where knowledge-sharing is so critical.

If the Pentagon thinks wikis are a good solution for collaboration and are secure enough, why not your library?