Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Make A Map, Build An Early Warning System, Buy A Laptop, Analyze Insurgencies... (Link List)

I am going to try to do a little bit of spring cleaning today. Most of the time I post interesting sites that I don't have time to write about in the "SAM's Shared Items" box in the right hand column of this blog. Some sites, though, I tag for writing about later as full posts ... and then promptly forget about them.


Today, I am cleaning out the vault of "interesting or useful sites I have not written about but should have". Without further ado (and in no particular order):

Research and Documentation Online (via Lisa Gold: Research Maven). What an excellent collection of authoritative research sites this is! Diana Hacker has done an outstanding job collecting all sorts of good sites into a single database (along with some helpful tips on researching and validating sources in general).

Customizable Map Of the World. This site allows you to easily create maps of the world with custom colors. Boyond the customizable map, the Aneki.com main site contains a number of useful indices and ranking systems for global issues.

The World Value Survey. Want the low-down on what a particular culture values most? The World Values Survey is the right place to start. Featuring such useful items as the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World (See image to the left), the WVS is a good place to know about if you are interested in how values are changing worldwide.

Ushahidi. Ushahidi apparently means "testimony" in Swahili and it is an effort to build a platform that crowdsources crisis information. According to the site, it "allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response." Worth exploring.

Net-Map. Billed as a tool to construct an influence map of a social network, this is another non-profit attempt to get modern analytic methods off the computer and into the hands of people with limited technical skills or equipment. I could easily see this as a classroom exercise that would introduce the basics of social networks and influence mapping to students as well.

CIA's Guide To The Analysis Of Insurgency. The Federation of American Scientists have acquired and are making available a 1980's CIA Manual on how to analyze an insurgency.

23 Sources of User and Expert User Reviews and Laptop Buying Guide 2009. The always helpful MakeUseOf.com has done it again with two great sites. The first is a list of places to go to see what someone else thinks about the gadget you are thinking about buying and the second is an informative laptop buying guide in case you are in the market.

How To Write A Resume That Will Land An Interview. Very solid article with numerous good links to additional resources.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Open Source Communicable Disease Surveillance Tool (Biocaster)

Developed by a Japanesse based team of international scientists, BioCaster is an attempt to text mine a number of open source data streams for breaking information about communicable diseases worldwide and then plot them in an easy-to-access/manipulate format on a Google map.

The applet is not embeddable (of course!) so, if you want to see the tool in action, you will have to go to the website or click on the map below:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Intel Related Articles On Wikipedia (Wikipedia)

One of the assignments I give the grad students in my Intelligence Communications class is to write a Wikipedia article on something that is both "intelligence related" and that has not been covered before on Wikipedia. Last year's class generated a good crop of articles and this year's class -- while extending the definition of "intelligence-related" somewhat -- is no different. The articles recently posted include:

There are several learning objectives I try to address with this assignment. First, I want the students to learn how to evaluate tertiary source articles. I think the best way to learn what goes into such an article and what stays out of it is to actually write one themseleves. I think it gives a greater appreciation for the uses and limits of tertiary sources.

Second, I want them to experience a "critical audience". Students rarely have to attempt to please anyone other than a professor and they soon learn to game the prof (no tut-tutting from the cheap seats; we have all been there...). Wikipedia, in my experience, actually has an intelligent and varied group of editors who often critically review (in the discussion tab) articles.

Some of the criticism is warranted and some is downright wrong. Learning how to distinguish the two is an important skill in my estimation. Even when these editors don't engage a particular article, the mere possibility that they might tends to raise the bar in ways that provide for a unique learning experience.

Third, I have often thought that the quantity of intelligence related material on Wikipedia is fairly low. What is there is often good but there seems (to me) to be big holes where you would expect someone to have written at least something on the topic.

Filling some of these holes (remember, I only allow students to cover topics about which nothing has been written), seems to be a good way for graduate students to add something useful (even if it is only an outline) to their discipline and to the resource which Wikipedia has become.

Finally, most of our students go on to work inside the US national security community somewhere and I am well-aware that Intellipedia uses the same platform (MediaWiki) as Wikipedia. It seems to make sense, from an educational standpoint, that our students learn how to use that software before they get into the community.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bin Laden Found! (MIT International Review)


...according to two UCLA geography professors in the MIT International Review. Using what sounds a lot like IPB, they figured out where Bin Laden couldn't go, probably wouldn't go and narrowed down their estimate to one of three building complexes in Parachinar, Pakistan.

The image of the buildings is taken from the report (which is free to download) but they are just Google Earth pictures. All of the analysis is based on open sources and some reasonable assumptions and is getting some massive play on a variety of sites right now.


It reminds me a bit of what Jeff Carr did with the Grey Goose Project...

How To: Pick The Right Chart (Extreme Presentation via Lifehacker)

Andrew Abela, author of the Extreme Presentation Method, has a very interesting graphic that offers some ideas about the best kind of chart to use when displaying a particular kind of data or relationship.

You can get a feel for what the full graphic looks like in the image below. To get the full picture just click on the link above or the picture itself and you can get the full download.


The Lifehacker article (where I learned about the chart of charts...) also points to a MS Excel 2007 plug-in that does much the same thing but works automatically and within Excel.