Saturday, May 30, 2009

SAM Soundtrack: "Baby, Please Don't Go" (YouTube)

I am a sucker for good Mississippi Delta Blues...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Introduction To Pivot Tables In Intelligence Analysis (Original Research)

Pivot tables are a handy but under-utilized feature of Microsoft Excel's program. Crime analyst's, in particular, make good use of these in their work but they are largely unknown to the wider community of intel analysts.

One of my students, Brent Pearson, explored this particular tool as part of my Advanced Analytic Techniques class last term. As part of his final assignment, he put together a couple of useful videos to introduce the novice to this particular tool:

A couple of caveats: First, Brent used law enforcement data in his examples but you can create pivot tables from virtually any structured data set. Second, Brent was starting at the very beginning with pivot tables. There are many more tricks and tips to pivot tables than he was able to discuss. If you use pivot tables in your work or know of some good resources about how to get more out of them, leave a comment!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Visual Analysis Everywhere! (Original Research And

I have finally gotten over enough of my jet lag to get back to work and it seems like everywhere I turn there is something interesting cropping up on visual analysis.

Two projects, in particular, recently crossed my desk, one by a student in my Advanced Analytic Techniques class, Andrew Canfield, and the other from the US's premier resource on visual analysis, the National Visualization and Analytics Center at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

Visual analysis allows people to more easily identify patterns in the massive data flows that are pervasive today. There are a wide variety of tools available for this purpose but Andrew focused on one, Starlight, to conduct his preliminary analysis (which he conveniently documented in the YouTube video below) of Turkish foreign policy with respect to the Caucasus.

While subject matter experts on Turkey might disagree with Andrew's conclusions, the real intent of his efforts was to experiment with the method. I think his video gives a fine introduction to some of the benefits of visual analysis.

In addition to Andrew's work, the NVAC also recently published their quarterly magazine on visual analytics, called VAC Views. Under the heading of full disclosure, I suppose I have to mention that Mercyhurst gets a nice write-up (on page 19 for those of you keeping score at home...). Beyond the shameless self-promotion, however, there are a number of articles that are quite interesting, not the least of which is NVAC's taxonomy of visual analytics. Previous issues of VAC Views contain other, similar, gems.

The rest of the NVAC site is also worth checking out. It contains a wide variety of videos and other resources including the invaluable Illuminating The Path e-book. Much more than the research agenda it describes itself as, Illuminating The Path is an essential background reference for anyone interested in visual analysis.

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