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.