Blogs: Not just for breakfast anymore, part II

A couple weeks ago I added a short post to the Jive Software corporate blog entitled ‘Blogs: Not just for breakfast anymore‘, In the post, I hoped to squash the notion that blogs are all about opinions and are useless within a corporation, which was the ‘opinion’ of quite a number of people that took part in our user acceptance tests. I’m not sure that my four bullet points did the topic justice, but I found a post a couple days later written by Steve Yegge called “You Should Write Blogs“, which was a whole lot longer and not surprisingly a whole lot better than my post. And then today I read an article in the NY Times by Clive Thompson (whose blog I’m subscribed too) called Open-Source Spying, which I think is one of the most exciting articles I’ve read about blogging (and also wikis) ever. See it turns out that no less than the CIA, FBI and NSA are all embracing blogs and wikis as fantastic tools for collaboration and information dissemination, which (while admittedly knowing nothing about the spy business) sounds like a no brainer to me. Give everyone a blog, every team a wiki, throw a couple Google Enterprise Search boxes at’em and see what happens. Even if it does eventually ‘fail’, it’ll sure cost a lot less than the $170 million dollar FBI project that never even launched. But of course, it won’t fail:

… While the C.I.A. and Fingar’s office set up their wiki, Meyerrose’s office was dabbling in the other half of Andrus’s equation. In July, his staff decided to create a test blog to collect intelligence. It would focus on spotting and predicting possible avian-flu outbreaks and function as part of a larger portal on the subject to collect information from hundreds of sources around the world, inside and outside of the intelligence agencies. Avian flu, Meyerrose reasoned, is a national-security problem uniquely suited to an online-community effort, because information about the danger is found all over the world. An agent in Southeast Asia might be the first to hear news of dangerous farming practices; a medical expert in Chicago could write a crucial paper on transmission that was never noticed by analysts.

In August, one of Meyerrose’s assistants sat me down to show me a very brief glimpse of the results. In the months that it has been operational, the portal has amassed 38,000 “active” participants, though not everyone posts information. In one corner was the active-discussion area — the group blog where the participants could post their latest thoughts about avian flu and others could reply and debate. I noticed a posting, written by a university academic, on whether the H5N1 virus could actually be transmitted to humans, which had provoked a dozen comments. “See, these people would never have been talking before, and we certainly wouldn’t have heard about it if they did,” the assistant said. By September, the site had become so loaded with information and discussion that Rear Adm. Arthur Lawrence, a top official in the health department, told Meyerrose it had become the government’s most crucial resource on avian flu (emphasis mine).

Also, I haven’t read the entire paper yet, but the NY Times article mentions an essay entitled ‘The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community’ written by a guy from the CIA, a quick google search turns it up over on the Social Science Research Network, you can download it or get it emailed to you for free here.

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