Two alternative approaches
Card catalog, water cooler hope to connect the right people with the right information
The card catalog
Like a library’s card catalog, information indexes list metadata-based pointers to available information that might reside within and across several agencies.
Example: The Information Sharing Environment–Suspicious Activities Reporting system
- Indexes provide a comprehensive overview of available information, even if some of it resides at different organizations.
- Indexes protect security and privacy by only showing high-level information, not personal or classified details.
- Organizations continue to store their information in local databases instead of uploading it to large data warehouses managed by another group.
- Metadata tagging is time-consuming and prone to subjective descriptions by whoever creates the labels.
- Any information that’s not indexed remains difficult to discover.
- Indexes are used primarily for finished intelligence and text rather than evolving intelligence or information depicted graphically or spatially.
The water cooler
Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogs and other social-networking tools can allow ad hoc, real-time information sharing, just like those conversations around the office water cooler.
Examples: Intellipedia and A-Space
- Such technologies connect diverse groups and potentially large numbers of participants who might not otherwise work together.
- They are relatively quick and easy to launch and require minimal training for participants.
- They excel at presenting new, quickly unfolding information.
- Web 2.0 tools raise concerns about the completeness and timeliness of constantly changing information.
- Unfinished intelligence might lack thorough evaluation by senior analysts.
- Participation might include only a subset of possible contributors and might wane over time.
Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.