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Blogs play a role in homeland security

By Dan Verton
May 12, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Weblogs, the Internet technology that allows anyone with a browser to publish a personalized online journal, are increasingly being used to support the intelligence-sharing requirements of homeland security efforts.

Providence, R.I.-based Traction Software Inc. today will announce that the Western States Information Network (WSIN) has deployed Traction's TeamPage enterprise weblog software to support law-enforcement task forces that are working on terrorism and drug investigations.

Karen Aumond, assistant director of the WSIN, said a new project called the Advanced Terrorism Information Exchange, which is being expanded to local water departments, fire departments and other critical-infrastructure organizations, will be one of the first initiatives to benefit directly from enterprise weblogs.

"What typically happens is that there is a flurry of e-mails, and everybody is copied on the e-mail," Aumond said. "And they are automatically purged after 60 days if you don't archive them. By doing this [posting e-mails to a weblog], we can forward these e-mails to a central place, and then we can access them from the road. And what's even better, we can search them."

Criminal-intelligence analysts are using TeamPage to create access-controlled weblogs, or blogs, as repositories for research data collected for further analysis. The WSIN watch center in Sacramento, Calif., uses them to share user tips, training schedules and articles that are of interest to law-enforcement task forces.

The enterprise weblog "has all the hallmarks of a disruptive technology," said Greg Lloyd, Traction's co-founder and president. "Unlike ERP hell or groupware hell, where it may take six months just to deploy infrastructure, weblogs that use the standard Web infrastructure can be deployed in 15 minutes."

Many Benefits

Peter Brockmann, vice president of marketing at Irving, Texas-based bTrade Inc., is using a weblog as a marketing tool for the company's business-to-business software. Low cost is only one advantage that blogs have over more traditional and complex collaboration products, he said. "The other tools allow you to do more, but what's nice about a blog is it's real easy. It's highly tuned to allow for rapid publishing," he said.

Blogging is "no-brainer Web technology," Brockmann added. By deploying it, "you save yourself a lot of headaches, heartburn and pain."

Weblogs can also benefit corporate cultures, analysts said. "Knowledge management systems are often so formal and top-down-driven that the normal worker sees no benefit in using them or contributing," said James Gaskin, an IT consultant in Dallas. "Blogs, like e-mail, flatten the hierarchy and let everyone contribute without having to stare down a suit at a meeting or contradict a manager in person."

Sundar Kadayam, chief technology officer at Intelliseek Inc., a Cincinnati firm that develops Web-based intelligent-agent and knowledge-discovery technologies, said blogging applications can add to the problem of information overload if they don't incorporate personalized searching and alert mechanisms—capabilities that Intelliseek is developing. "When those types of capabilities are layered on top of blogging tools, you're going to see the mainstream adoption of weblogs in the enterprise setting," he said.

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