Wyatt Kash | Editor's Desk: Wiki revolution

Wyatt Kash

Given the freewheeling nature of blogs and wikis, it's hard to imagine either form of communication finding a welcome foothold inside the command-and-control realms of the federal workplace.

That's what makes their introduction at the CIA's Center of Mission Innovation both surprising and worth watching.

According to the center's chief technology officer, D. Calvin Andrus, nearly 1,500 internal blogs have been established in the past eight months, and one of its internal wiki sites has spawned more than 12,000 pages of reference information over the past year.

What's driving the innovation, in part, is the compression of policy cycle times. What took days to accomplish during World War II'assembling intelligence and making policy decisions'required just hours during Operation Desert Storm. And now, with reconnaissance available across the globe in real time, policy decisions are often needed within minutes.

That's why the CIA and others are learning to harness blogs and wikis as collaboration tools that respectively enable individuals to publish their views and ad hoc communities to assemble a multitude of ideas on the Web in real time.

That power became clearer to the CIA in the aftermath of last year's London bombings. Andrus, speaking at a forum on wiki collaboration last month, recalled the impact of watching a wiki reference document emerge on the Web within minutes after the blasts.

Wikis are also proving to be potent project platforms. That was clearly demonstrated last year when a diverse group of federal IT experts used a wiki document as the underlying collaboration tool as they hammered together an important new data reference model. More examples can be found at www.gsa.gov/collaborate.

Many federal officials remain uncomfortable with letting workers publish first, then edit. But they'd better get used to it. Blogs and wikis promise to revolutionize the workplace as much as word processing, spreadsheets and e-mail did in years past.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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