Your Organizationopedia – Make it Stop!!

October 1, 2008

Government 2.0

So yesterday, I came across this article on Federal Computer Week – “FBI Creates Knowledge Wiki” – and my first thought was, “wow, that’s great – more and more government agencies are getting into the social media game!”  However, after about five seconds, I had a more cynical thought – is this just the evolution of “cylinders of excellence?”  Corporate intranets are notorious for their stovepiped walled gardens where information is cordoned off depening on a user’s accesses (do I have edit privileges?  Oh, I only have contributor status? How much more do I have to do to make it into the “edit” club?).  The theory that everyone’s information had to be safeguarded from others’ nefarious schemes within their own organization dominated the traditional Intranet culture.  I hate to see this mindset continue, especially with social media applications behind the firewall.

Enter Intellipedia, the gold standard of wikis behind the firewall.  Intellipedia is the Intelligence Community’s wiki that is open and editable to anyone with the appropriate clearances within any of the 16 Intelligence Agencies (keep in mind that the FBI is included in this).  So, it was with a little curiosity and cynicism that after reading about Bureaupedia, I went over to eMarv’s unofficial Intellipedia blog to see what he had to say about the matter. As I suspected, he has many of the same concerns I do.

Intellipedia is available only to those individuals with the appropriate clearances in the U.S. Intelligence Community – not the general public.  Its users are those with whom the government trusts to keep secret information that could damage national security.  Intellipedia isn’t Wikipedia, yet sometimes I get the feeling government organizations believe that the chaotic nature of Wikipedia repeats itself on internal wikis like Intellipedia.  Maybe the -opedia at the end of every internal wiki fosters this feeling, but on pretty much every internal wiki that I’ve seen, vandalism hasn’t even been an issue – increasing and maintaining user adoption has been a much bigger concern.  And why is that, you ask?

Because building and maintaing a large enterprise-wide wiki like Intellipedia or the wiki available behind my company firewall, is a LOT of hard work.  You need gardeners to clean up formatting, coaches to help people get comfortable with collaboration, trainers to teach the actual tool, techie guys to manage bandwidth, and so on and so on.  You can’t just install a wiki, say this is what it’s going to do, and let people have at it – it won’t work.  That’s why things like Bureaupedia are so frustrating to see.  Intellipedia has already done the hardest part – they have a vibrant community (more than 37,000 users according to Wikipedia) with the infrastructure already in place.  Why recreate the wheel?

Now I understand that there really is some information that can’t or shouldn’t be shared beyond the FBI – that’s absolutely expected, and I’m not advocating that everything the has should be shared on Intellipedia.  However, what I am advocating is that instead of creating Bureaupedia, I would have rather seen the FBI first make the big splash into using Intellipedia, with a much smaller mention of how an internal wiki was created for those things that can’t be shared beyond the FBI.

Anyone have any other insight into the how Bureaupedia works?  I’d be interested in knowing their split of technical staff vs. change management staff and if they have a plan/strategy for how to teach users when and where to use Intellipedia or Bureaupedia.  Rolling any enterprise-wide social media application is a tough chore – a chore made much easier if you can tap into existing communities like Intellipedia.

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

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14 Responses to “Your Organizationopedia – Make it Stop!!”

  1. Ray S. Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the biggest problem is one of access for the many members of the FBI. I bet if we dug into this, the majority of FBI users don’t have access to the JWICS or SIPR networks and therefore don’t have easy access to Intellipedia. However, I bet ya they all have access to FBInet.

    This is similar to the State Department where only a relatively small number of people, mostly in INR, have have access to JWICS. Many more have access to SIPRNET but from my time there, it was a royal pain to get on SIPRNET.

  2. Ray S. Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the biggest problem is one of access for the many members of the FBI. I bet if we dug into this, the majority of FBI users don’t have access to the JWICS or SIPR networks and therefore don’t have easy access to Intellipedia. However, I bet ya they all have access to FBInet.

    This is similar to the State Department where only a relatively small number of people, mostly in INR, have have access to JWICS. Many more have access to SIPRNET but from my time there, it was a royal pain to get on SIPRNET.

  3. sradick Says:

    @Ray – this is a good point, and this issue of common access to networks is a separate problem altogether! That seems like these stovepiped organizations are the result of technology, when I think it’s much more of a “need to know” culture than simply an access issue.

    I understand that this can be a problem, but there’s still got to be a proactive plan for using Intellipedia, not just allowing linking to and from. Are there people who have access to Intellipedia specifically tasked with migrating data over? I’m sure they have some sort of goals for Bureaupedia – I’d like to see if they have goals for Intellipedia too.

  4. sradick Says:

    @Ray – this is a good point, and this issue of common access to networks is a separate problem altogether! That seems like these stovepiped organizations are the result of technology, when I think it’s much more of a “need to know” culture than simply an access issue.

    I understand that this can be a problem, but there’s still got to be a proactive plan for using Intellipedia, not just allowing linking to and from. Are there people who have access to Intellipedia specifically tasked with migrating data over? I’m sure they have some sort of goals for Bureaupedia – I’d like to see if they have goals for Intellipedia too.

  5. eMarv Says:

    Thanks for checking out my post Steve. As I mentioned in my post, I wonder how much Mr. Azmi will be contributing before he retires as that seems like that (retirees contributing to Bureaupedia) is one of the benefits touted.

    Anybody have FBI’s public affairs office email address? :)

  6. eMarv Says:

    Thanks for checking out my post Steve. As I mentioned in my post, I wonder how much Mr. Azmi will be contributing before he retires as that seems like that (retirees contributing to Bureaupedia) is one of the benefits touted.

    Anybody have FBI’s public affairs office email address? :)

  7. Adam R. Says:

    Thank you for calling attention to this issue, Steve. It irks me to see waste in our government, especially at critical economic seasons like the one we’re in. An article paired with the one you reference – “FBI CIO Azmi will retire in October” – leads me to conclude that Azmi wants a big technology push before he leaves his post – and one focused on a hot area like social media seems to fit nicely.

    Since Intellipedia is available on JWICS, SIPRNet, and the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU, or NIPRNet) networks, it seems to make more sense for the FBI to launch a much lower-cost initiative to push users into Intelink since it is free for them to use. However, organizations change MUCH more slowly than technology, so I’m sure we’ll see more examples of new technology being used for old processes and stovepipes for a while longer.

  8. Adam R. Says:

    Thank you for calling attention to this issue, Steve. It irks me to see waste in our government, especially at critical economic seasons like the one we’re in. An article paired with the one you reference – “FBI CIO Azmi will retire in October” – leads me to conclude that Azmi wants a big technology push before he leaves his post – and one focused on a hot area like social media seems to fit nicely.

    Since Intellipedia is available on JWICS, SIPRNet, and the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU, or NIPRNet) networks, it seems to make more sense for the FBI to launch a much lower-cost initiative to push users into Intelink since it is free for them to use. However, organizations change MUCH more slowly than technology, so I’m sure we’ll see more examples of new technology being used for old processes and stovepipes for a while longer.

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