Multistate network adds blogging app

'This is like a newspaper with sections, departments and topics.'

'WISN Assistant Director Karen Aumond

Web logging technology has gained a foothold of respectability in the government sector.

Blogging lets users publish their own work, clipped text and objects from other sites and even excerpts from other blogging sites in a continuous stream similar to an extended letter to the editor. It requires almost no technical aptitude to master and has spawned thousands of Web sites.

The Western States Information Network in Sacramento, an agency of the Justice Department-funded Regional Information Sharing System, has adopted an upgraded Web logging system from Traction Software Inc. of Providence, R.I., as a knowledge management tool to promote information sharing.

Karen Aumond, WISN's assistant director, said her agency is using Traction's Teampage internally and plans to expand it to share information with law enforcement agencies in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

WISN has analysts and researchers assigned to crimes such as drug running, illegal gang activities and terrorism.

'Right now the Teampage system is deployed in WISN headquarters in Sacramento, with probably about 60 users,' Aumond said. WISN managers plan to provide access to parts of their Teampage system via Riss.net, a national law enforcement network that handles sensitive information.

Fountain of information

WISN staff members use Teampage to distribute various types of information, such as law enforcement data, news items, messages and reports.

'This is like a newspaper with sections, departments and topics,' Aumond said. 'It does a nice job of formatting it. It doesn't look raw; it looks finished.'

Teampage has replaced forwarding e-mail messages among WISN users as the preferred method of sharing information.

'Now, we simply go to Teampage, and it forwards the information to the right project' members, Aumond said. Users can specify the members of particular groups to receive the information they post.

'It is becoming more and more useful as we populate it more,' she said. When Aumond arrives at the office each day, Teampage alerts her to new posts from WISN staff members.

'Because it is centralized on a server, it makes information sharing easier and more manageable,' Aumond said. 'If you need a particular e-mail, it is right there.' The system keeps an audit trail as information is added or deleted.

Teampage runs under Microsoft Windows 2000; it stores information in Extensible Markup Language and presents it in HTML.

Greg Lloyd, chief executive officer of Traction, said the alternative to Teampage is e-mail and intranets. 'A Web site is good at the top level,' but manually maintaining the page and an archive of discussion and commentary over six months to a year is difficult, he said.

Lloyd said the core of the system is a hypertext journaling system, a specialized database that records each article entered in the system and captures the comments, updates and cross-references users add. Users can attach flags to individual paragraphs to refer to a particular topic or level of importance, he said.

The system relies on metadata tags to characterize data for each project. Each project can have its own schema of metadata tags, or use the default schema that the system provides.

'The really unique value of the system is to have all this working with multiple projects and permissions,' Lloyd said.

He said his company has also sold a version of the system to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.

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