Intellipedia said to be growing rapidly

The Intellipedia online wiki for federal intelligence information sharing is growing rapidly, but not necessarily on straightforward paths or without mistakes, Chris Rasmussen, an Intellipedia contributor, told a conference today.

The question is not how to avoid mistakes, but “how quickly and transparently you correct them,” Rasmussen, knowledge manager for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said at a knowledge management seminar sponsored by the Digital Government Institute.

Founded in 2006 and now with 90,000 users in the global intelligence community, Intellipedia operates on three networks, including an unclassified network, Intelink-U.

Many participants identify themselves by their first and last names only, not their organizations, and that helps break down barriers and put the focus on the information and ideas, Rasmussen believes.

“We work topically, not organizationally,” Rasmussen said. “We don’t bring the organizational baggage with us.”

The wiki is a freewheeling format that produces often unexpected, counterintuitive results in the flow and dissemination of information, he said. To help identify those patterns the wikis must be “gardened” to allow the most compelling collaborations to flourish without being overcome by a huge overflow of generic data, Rasmussen said. Wiki gardeners do things such as fix obvious errors, reorganize pages to aid discussions, and help direct traffic in the wiki.

“I believe in using lightweight social networking tools to make a structure upfront,” Rasmussen said. “Too many rules upfront is what happened in the 1990s — it choked out ideas.”

The patterns of entering data and ideas, editing and collaboration on the Intellipedia wiki are unpredictable, Rasmussen said. For example, one of the most prolific editors on Intellipedia is 68 years old, which does not fit an assumption that the wiki might be most attractive to youthful managers. “It is a mind-set, not an age,” he said.

Rasmussen encouraged federal employees to participate in the wiki by signing up for free access to its unclassified open source network.

Also at the seminar, Bob Neilson, knowledge management advisor to the Army’s chief information officer, offered an overview of the 12 knowledge management principles being applied at the Army. Top Army officials signed off on the principles in July, and rules are to be developed and distributed by commanders on how they will be implemented.

The core goal is to create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing that allows information to flow on a need-to-know basis, he said.

“Good ideas come from anywhere. There should be no barriers,” Neilson said.

Neilson said the Army is developing training and education for knowledge managers and assisting the Army War College and others in updating a knowledge management maturity model that can measure progress on goals. He also is working on developing rewards for those managers who excel in sharing information where it is needed.

“What gets rewarded, gets done,” he said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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