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Intellipedia takes collective intelligence to the intelligence community

Part four of the Tap the Collective profiles...

The open and collaborative information analysis platform that debuted to a wall of skepticism in 2006 may now, in 2009, be demonstrating a legitimate alternative way to think about analysis in the intelligence community. Intellipedia now boats an average of more than 15,000 edits per day with 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts, a remarkable level of adoption in only a few years in an environment known for being resistance to big change.

Yet Don Burke, Intellipedia Doyen, finds that Intellipedia is still largely used by early adopters rather than institutionalized across the community. It seems, though, that its proponents are strategizing well to make this social software eventually a central part of analysts activities rather than an afterthought.

One important factor is that all posts are attributed through official accounts, meaning that quality control is high since people cannot hide behind anonymity, and also perhaps more importantly, analysts can actually build a reputation on the site. This additional incentive is important to adoption and active participation -- as we have seen with prediction markets and the leaderboard system. If young analysts can become known for publishing high quality content perhaps this effort could gain the attention of senior officials, much like Inkling Markets has rewarded successful traders with the opportunity to meet company executives. The wiki format seems to create a flatter mechanism for generating high quality content regardless of the level or organization of the contributor, unlike for example, National Intelligence Estimates which follow a strict formal process from originator through commenters. Chris Rasmussen, knowledge manager at NGA and one of the original proponents of Intellipedia believes that they can go one step further and make social software contributions part an employee's performance and compensation plan.

Another important decision in the roll out of the site is that the developers chose to use nearly the exact same interface and functionality of Wikipedia. A problem seem all too often in government is a customized technology solution introduced to allegedly make life easier for analysts that is so unintuitive as to make it not worth the hassle. I have technology-savvy friends in the Department of Defense who groan when a new application is announced simply because their expectations are so low. The result is that they go out of their way to avoid using it. Wikipedia's developers and proponents were very wise to stick to an interface that works and that the community's analysts are already using at home and would be comfortable interacting with immediately.

We look forward to hearing Don Burke, Intellipedia doyen, share his first hand account of implementing this collaborative information analysis platform on Wednesday at Tap the Collective. Mr. Burke is a finalist for the 2009 Service to America Medals, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, for his work in this area.

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