Gestalt Wikis at MITRE: Origins
This blog post is the first of four in a series about Gestalt Wikis at MITRE. MITRE began using wikis on the corporate intranet in 2005 with the volunteer grassroots creation of MITREpedia. MITREpedia uses open source MediaWiki as its underlying wiki software. The objective as stated in its Main Page was to capture information about MITRE “people, projects, organizations, customers, technology and more.” In a recent conversation with its founder, Harry Sleeper, the motivation behind MITREpedia was elaborated as to provide a collaborative environment where staff could author linked narratives of well-formed, detailed knowledge about their work.
With the popularity of social media in purely social contexts, I’ve been fascinated by the implications for using these tools for work-related purposes. In recent years, organizations of all types—whether they are industrial, academic, government, or non-profit—are increasingly turning to social media tools such as wikis, blogs, microblogs, and social networking for internal use. By doing so, they hope to enhance collaboration, streamline business processes, and improve relationships.
In 2009, “social” was still a buzzword, Facebook was years away from an IPO, and Instagram has not been invented. Yet a groundswell was beginning – people used to the ease of sharing in their online social networks came to their offices, only to find that exchanging information was difficult at best. Communications flowed from the top of the organizational hierarchy down, flooding the already overflowing email inboxes – while cross-organizational collaboration was severely impeded.