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The CIA Gets Social With Web 2.0 Collaboration Tools

Two CIA employees talk about how they created a Web 2.0 environment for the intelligence community.

Web 2.0

While you wouldn't think that the CIA has evangelists, that's how Sean Dennehy, chief of the CIA's Intellipedia Development and Don Burke from the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology, described themselves. Both talked about how they went about creating a secure Web 2.0 environment for the intelligence community.

In a video interview with new media consultant David Spark of N.Y.-based Spark Media Solutions, Dennehy described Intellipedia as a Wiki available on three networks -- a top secret network, a secret network and a sensitive but unclassified network available to the intelligence community.

"Something that's very important to make clear is that these are intelligence community tools and not necessarily CIA tools," Dennehy said. "We are encouraging the adoption of these tools but they are community-based and provided by what's known as the DNI or director of national intelligence."

Intellipedia was born out a discussion about a paper written by Dr. Calvin Andrus, "The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community, written in December 2004.

"He laid the philosophical groundwork for how the world is changing under our feet and what we need to do to adapt to that reality," said Dennehy. "We wanted to know how to improve communications within the CIA and disparate intelligence organizations."

Intellipedia uses the same software as Wikipedia. Its Web 2.0 suite of tools includes: aggregation; interlink blogs, Tag|Connect (similar to del.icio.us); Inteldocs (a document management system for file sharing community-wide); Gallery (similar to flickr); iVideo (similar to YouTube); Intelink Instant Messaging (IIM); and Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

Of course, there are differences between Wikipedia and Intellipedia. All edits are attributable and are not limited to being an encyclopedia. And also unlike Wikipedia, there are also many contributors from different agencies with attributable points of view.

The evangelists said Intellipedia is still in the nascent stage and initially met with resistance from a lot of naysayers in the intelligence community. Dennehy described these hesitant users as having "Wikipause."

"A person has to go through that process of taking the courage to hit "return," to submit their information to the platform and then see the benefit later," he said. "It's an act of faith actually to start publishing to the platform."

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