Panel: Age doesn't dictate Web 2.0 fluency

A panel of experts that included the founders of the intelligence community's Intellipedia wiki has challenged some perceptions about how people view next-generation Web applications.

The panel disputed the notion that younger people adopt Web 2.0 tools more easily than older people do. In some cases, the speakers said, the reverse is true.

“The No. 1 contributor [to Intellipedia] is 69 years old,” said Don Burke, co-creator of the intelligence wiki at the CIA. The panel met today at the FOSE 2008 conference sponsored by 1105 Media Group, which owns Federal Computer Week.

Burke said the recently retired employee posted his career’s worth of data and documents to the intelligence wiki.

On the other hand, John Thompson, an associate professor at Buffalo State College, said that much to his surprise, most of the graduate students he teaches barely use Web 2.0 technologies.

“They have no clue,” Thompson said. “Most of my students have never seen a blog or used a blog, let along a podcast or anything else.”

The panel also challenged the belief that allowing many people to edit and add information to a wiki would promote inaccuracy.

“When someone puts information out there, they’re tying their name, their identity to that information,” said Sean Dennehy, Burke's colleague at the CIA and co-creator of Intellipedia. “If [the information] is wrong, we want to know who the idiots are.”

Dennehy said the barriers that prevent organizations from adopting new Web technologies are 90 percent cultural. He added that many subject-matter experts were reluctant to put their information on Intellipedia because they wanted to remain the sole source of expertise in their fields.

“The next generation of subject-matter experts will be ones who have their information out there,” Dennehy said.

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