How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other
Intelink is No Google
Intelink is different. As I mentioned earlier, intelligence products are presented for customers rather than for analysts conducting research. While pages on the public Web lead you from one resource to the next via links to related content, Intelink products do not. You will not find a CIA assessment that links to source documents from NSA, even though the assessment makes multiple references, implicit or explicit, to those sources. Instead, most links simply move up or down within a hierarchy. For example, a product links to the page of the office that produced it, which in turn links to the directorate it lies under, which links to other directorate offices and the parent agency. The lack of cross-Community links makes Intelink look much like our individual agencies’ organizational charts. There is nothing inherent in Intelink that makes it this way. The Intelink Management Office (IMO) does not dictate content. This is just the way things are done.
The lack of substantive linkages has obvious human implications. If we question a product's assessment, we cannot delve into the sources that it is based upon. We are forced to take the author’s word for it. If there is any industry that should make its sources readily available to readers, it is ours. Instances where such information would have averted disaster are numerous—the most recent and embarrassing case coming two years ago, when the claims of multiple sources regarding Iraq’s weapons programs turned out to be those of a single person.
But while poor linking practices make Web browsing hard for humans, they pose an even bigger problem for search engines. Remember how Google associated an aforementioned page with basketball simply based on links from other pages? Cross-Community links would allow our search engines to find relationships between documents and to understand the content and quality of those documents. But we have very few of these links. Instead, Intelink is more of a tree than a web: Similar pages lie at opposite edges of the tree, separated by a thicket of trunk and limbs. Search engines read this as a lack of similarity between the pages. Without more direct links between similar pages, Intelink’s search engines will continue to deliver poor results.