Collaboration Tools for the Federal Government

By Christy Crimmins - Published, March 10, 2010

During the past few months, collaborative media has become a topic of interest and debate in both the Department of Defense and Federal Government. As a result of this interest, collaborative sites restricted to myriad combinations of defense, intelligence and Federal Government communities have begun to see a rise in participation. Some of them, such as Intelink, are sponsored by government agencies and limited to a select subset of the Federal Government, while others, like GovLoop, aim to connect employees at the federal, state and local levels. Below is a selected overview of a few of these tools.

GovLoop was launched in 2008 and now has 20,000 members across federal, state and local government. GovLoop, called "Facebook for feds" by some pundits, does at first appear to be a straightforward social networking site; however, the site,, also hosts blogs, a wiki and a listing of job openings. The site is open to all members of the government community, including contractors and students, and individuals interested in government service.

Intelink was developed by the Intelligence Community Enterprise Services (ICES), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and is home to Intellipedia, the U.S. government's unclassified wiki. To be eligible for an account, users must belong to or provide direct support to the intelligence, defense, homeland security, law enforcement or diplomatic communities. In addition to Intellipedia, other services offered by ICES through Intelink are a blogging capability, video, instant messaging, and a web-based document management system called Inteldocs. An outline of these services, as well as information on ICES, can be found on Intellipedia at

Chirp is a microblogging pilot that is part of the Intelink suite of tools described above. The site, modeled after microblogging sites like Twitter, is intended to provide situational awareness and information on breaking news. Chirp promotes collaboration through informal messaging. Like other microblogging tools, Chirp allows users to post messages of up to 140 characters. At (@) tags are used to bring chirps to the attention of a specific user. These are usually used when replying to a previous chirp posted by that user. Hash (#) tags are used to tag a chirp with metadata and allow users to search on particular key terms. More information about Chirp can be found at

milSuite is a group of collaborative tools launched by the Army in October 2009. These tools focus on three main objectives: locating information, sharing knowledge and connecting people. These tools are available to military, civilian and contractor personnel across the DoD who have Defense Knowledge Online (DKO) accounts. The suite of tools includes three separate capabilities:

milWiki is a knowledge management tool made up of a collection of web pages that are editable by anyone who can access them. This allows for a living knowledge bank where experts are encouraged to contribute their experience and knowledge and update information in real time. The tool also allows users to integrate and interlink knowledge into topical-based articles and collaborate on issues up to and including unclassified/"For Official Use Only" documentation. milWiki's goal is to capture the intellectual capital of the DoD community and allow users to easily locate and expand upon that knowledge through community updates.

milBlog is a place to find and share the latest news, insider articles, comments and posts from the community. It is designed to invite collaboration through discussion and comments. milBlog provides quick, easy access, and a secure awareness for mission-related knowledge and information. milBook is an initiative to connect people across the DoD community.

milBook acts as a central hub for networking DoD professionals with others who have similar interests and work responsibilities, much like the popular commercial sites Facebook and LinkedIn. Users have the ability to share information through group blogs, discussions and private wiki documents allowing secure communities of interest to grow and connect with others across the greater military community.

To access the milSuite community, visit You can either log on via your Common Access Card or with your DKO username and password.

The Pulse is a collaborative site for members of the Department of the Navy's information management/information technology (IM/IT) community. Launched this past February by the DON CIO, the Pulse is a secure extension of the DON CIO web site that provides users with a DoD-issued CAC card and a .mil email address the opportunity to shape the direction of IM/IT in the DON. Registered users have the ability to start or join discussions by posting blogs or adding their comments to other blogs. Users may also indicate they like a given topic of discussion. Look for additional details in the Web 2.0 column in the next issue of CHIPS magazine.

As interest in collaboration and transparency in government increases, the Federal Government will continue to explore and make use of collaborative tools.

Christy Crimmins provides support to the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer communications and emerging technology teams.

TAGS: InfoSharing, Social Media

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