Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Media In 2014...From Predictions Made In 2004!

One of my favorite short films back in 2004 was one called "Epic 2014".  It was faux documentary that purported to report on the media scene in 2014.  It walks the viewer quickly through the history of the internet from Tim Berners-Lee up to 2004 (when the film was made) and then it begins to "report"/speculate about what the next ten years will hold.

If you haven't ever watched it or haven't watched it in awhile, take 8 minutes right now to take a look:

There is some silly stuff here (like Google-zon) and the video does not really hint at the rise of stuff like Facebook and Twitter (much less Instagram and Tinder...).

But the takeaway is an eerily prescient statement concerning the current state of the internet:

"At its best, edited for the savviest readers, [the internet] is a summary of the world - deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything available ever before.  But at its worst, and for too many,  [the internet] is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational. But [the current state of the internet ] is what we wanted.  It is what we chose."
I don't know of anything that is quite this well done (or this insightful) about the future of the internet over the next 10 years (leave a comment if you do!) but I suspect that much of what we will be looking backwards at will involve new technologies like the one demonstrated in the 2 minute video below from Microsoft:

In case you are curious, the hardware and software capable of doing all this is coming to you next year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's The Most Difficult Language For English Speakers To Learn?

Once you start looking for them, there are lots of places on the internet that talk about the relative difficulty of learning to speak different languages.  This infographic (courtesy of sums up what many of these sites are saying:

While I like the infographic, it is impossible to ignore some of the more robust efforts to categorize languages by difficulty. For example, anyone who has been to the Defense Language Institute or the Foreign Service Institute knows that the US government has its own scale that it uses to categorize languages by difficulty.

Even more interesting is the fact that the relative difficulty of the language may or may not correlate with how much extra pay you will receive for speaking a particular language.  For example, compare how difficult it is to learn French with how much extra the Army will pay you each month if you speak French on Page 20 of Army Regulation 11-6...

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Game Every Intel Professional Should Play Is Now For Sale!

CVTV, a new version of the ancient game of Hnefatafl
Hnefatafl is one of my favorite games.  Quick to play, easy to learn, created by Vikings - what's not to love?

I recommend it to intelligence professionals, however, because it is an asymmetric game that forces players to really think like their opponents to win.  That, in my estimation, is a skill worth learning.

Last year, I ran a successfully funded Kickstarter project to produce my variant of this game.  Well, I have finally managed to fulfill all of the rewards promised under that campaign (long story...don't ask...) and am now able to make the game available to the general public!

If you are just interested in learning the kinds of things I talked about in the interview below or in just owning a nicely made, portable variant of the game, then I recommend the basic set.  This is also the set I would recommend to educators and trainers who would like to use the game to foster a discussion on asymmetry of goals, forces or geography (Contact me directly for discounts on bulk orders).

If, on the other hand you are into Cthulhu or into Vikings or, better yet, into Cthulhu vs. The Vikings, I recommend you think about buying the deluxe set (and, what the heck, you might as well get the comic to go with it - so you'll know the story!).

Whichever set you get, I am certain that you will enjoy the game!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leksika - A New Site On Russia, Eurasia Worth Watching!

I just received a note from one of the sharper crayons that has emerged from the Mercyhurst Intel Studies box - Spencer Vuksic.  

Spencer, a truly gifted analyst and Russian linguist currently seeking his masters in International Studies from Johns Hopkins, has, along with a fellow Mercyhurst alum Graham Westbrook, started a new project - Leksika - to provide open source intelligence analysis on all things Russian and Eurasian.

According to Spencer, "Leksika’s value proposition is in the application of intelligence analysis to political, social, and economic shifts in the region in opposition to the largely polarized reporting from both the West and Russia."  

Just in the last month they have published short, easy to read but highly informative pieces covering such diverse topics as Russia's partnerships with Serbia and Latvia, the current situation in Crimea, Israeli and Russian relations and Poland's geopolitical positioning.  Earlier posts have reached even more broadly including a three part series on Russia's cyber strategy.

One of the most interesting and FREE features of the site is their "ReapReport".  Here they do a side by side comparison of the top news stories coming out of western and Russian media.  More importantly, they add a highly useful "What to Watch" blurb in order to highlight upcoming events of interest.

While clearly still in the start-up stage, Leksika is already quite good and has the potential to be a one-stop shop for unbiased analysis of Russia and Eurasia.  Recommend you check it out and take advantage of the free subscriptions!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Intelligence And Ethics: Now You Can Check The Codes!

Some would say that ethics in intelligence is an oxymoron.  
Certainly, the ethical challenges faced by today's intelligence professionals are more severe than any other time in human history.

It is interesting to note, in this regard, that all three of the major sub-disciplines of intelligence (national security, law enforcement and business) now have publicly available codes of ethics for their practitioners.

The most recent of these is from the newly minted National Intelligence Strategy:
As members of the intelligence profession, we conduct ourselves in accordance with certain basic principles. These principles are stated below, and reflect the standard of ethical conduct expected of all Intelligence Community personnel, regardless of individual role or agency affiliation. Many of these principles are also reflected in other documents that we look to for guidance, such as statements of core values, and the Code of Conduct: Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees; it is nonetheless important for the Intelligence Community to set forth in a single statement the fundamental ethical principles that unite us and distinguish us as intelligence professionals. 
MISSION. We serve the American people, and understand that our mission requires
selfless dedication to the security of our nation.
TRUTH. We seek the truth; speak truth to power; and obtain, analyze, and provide
intelligence objectively.
LAWFULNESS. We support and defend the Constitution, and comply with the laws of the United States, ensuring that we carry out our mission in a manner that respects privacy, civil liberties, and human rights obligations. 
INTEGRITY. We demonstrate integrity in our conduct, mindful that all our actions, whether public or not, should reflect positively on the Intelligence Community at large. 
STEWARDSHIP. We are responsible stewards of the public trust; we use intelligence
authorities and resources prudently, protect intelligence sources and methods diligently,
report wrongdoing through appropriate channels; and remain accountable to ourselves,
our oversight institutions, and through those institutions, ultimately to the American people.
EXCELLENCE. We seek to improve our performance and our craft continuously, share
information responsibly, collaborate with our colleagues, and demonstrate innovation and agility when meeting new challenges.
DIVERSITY. We embrace the diversity of our nation, promote diversity and inclusion in our workforce, and encourage diversity in our thinking.
The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals has long had a code:
To continually strive to increase the recognition and respect of the profession.
To comply with all applicable laws, domestic and international.
To accurately disclose all relevant information, including one's identity and organization, prior to all interviews.
To avoid conflicts of interest in fulfilling one's duties.
To provide honest and realistic recommendations and conclusions in the execution of one's duties.
To promote this code of ethics within one's company, with third-party contractors and within the entire profession.
To faithfully adhere to and abide by one's company policies, objectives and guidelines.
Finally, the International Association of Crime Analysts offers this as ethical guidelines to its members:
Theoretically today’s professional crime analyst is expected to know the details of every crime in his or her jurisdiction, and often to predict when the next will occur. In reality, the title of crime analyst can mean different things even in the same agency. Generally, a crime analyst is one who monitors crime trends and patterns, researches and analyzes similarities and differences in crime details, and reports those findings to the appropriate personnel that can address those crimes either through deterrence or prevention. Many skills and abilities are necessary to complete the crime analysis process. Necessary skills include logic and critical thinking, research skills, organizational skills to organize facts and findings, written and oral communication skills, and computer skills. Necessary personal traits include a desire to aid in the reduction of crime through the legal and ethical examination of crime facts and data.
The professional crime analyst assists law enforcement managers in decision making, supports street officers and detectives with information helpful to their jobs, and provides service to other crime analysts and to the general public. As professional crime analysts, we commit ourselves to the following principles:
Personal Integrity
    Maintain an attitude of professionalism and integrity by striving to perform at the highest level of one’s proficiency and competency, in order to achieve the highest level of quality.
    Remain honest and never knowingly misrepresent facts.
    Accurately represent one’s own professional qualifications and abilities, and ensure that others receive due credit for their work and contributions.
    Seek and accept honest criticism for one’s work, and take personal responsibility for one’s errors.
    Treat all persons fairly regardless of age, race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or nation of origin.
    Practice integrity and do not be unduly swayed by the demands of others.
Loyalty to One’s Agency
    Safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of restricted information or documents.
    Thoroughly research, analyze, prepare, and disseminate quality work products to the best of one’s ability, ensuring that all reports and documents are accurate, clear, and concise.
    Faithfully adhere to and abide by one’s departmental policies, objectives, and guidelines. Support colleagues in the execution of their lawful duties, and oppose any improper behavior, reporting it where appropriate.
Commitment to the Crime Analysis Profession
    Continually strive to increase the recognition of and respect for the profession by participating in professional crime analysis associations, contributing time and effort toward their goals and missions.
    Advocate professional, research-based crime analysis functions within the law enforcement environment.
    Seek training and education throughout one’s career; remain current with trends and practices in crime analysis.
    Contribute to the professional education, training, and development of other crime analysts. Share information and the results of research and development by responding to information requests, submitting information to individuals and organizations, participating in meetings, or publishing articles.
    Present methodologies, results and recommendations through fair, honest, conscientious, independent and impartial judgment.
    Exercise objectivity, impartiality, accuracy, validity and consistency in all research conducted. 
If you are looking for an interesting exercise, have your students or colleagues try to apply all three codes of ethics to this situation.