Friday, June 5, 2009

Producing Intelligence Analysis From Patents (Original Research)

Jack Sandeen's exploration of patent analysis was a very interesting project to come out of my Advanced Analytic Techniques class this last term. Jack's case study focused on patents surrounding hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) but the really interesting stuff he discovered had to do with the process of patent analysis itself.

His report, built using Google Sites, provides a concise, useful overview of patents and patent analysis. He also provides a good strengths, weaknesses and how-to section and some very valuable resource pages (here and here). Some of the more interesting aspects of his case-study are the different ways he was able to visualize and analyze the data he collected (See one image below).

Patent Analysis clearly has its strengths and weaknesses and it certainly isn't appropriate for all types of intelligence problems. Where it is applicable, however, it seems to me that it is very powerful and can provide deep insights into technology trends and corporate capabilities. There is a pretty steep learning curve associated with its many tricks and traps, however, but I am glad Jack decided to tackle it. He has provided us all with a useful overview.

Related Post:
Using Search Engine Optimization Tools To Do Intel Analysis
Introduction To Pivot Tables in Intelligence Analysis
Visual Analysis Everywhere!

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Visualizing YouTube User Networks (

I recently ran across a very nice little tool for visualizing the connections between a YouTube user, his or her subscribers and his or her "friends". The tool, called YT Visualizer, is in beta but has worked very well since I started using it yesterday.

A trial version of the software is available for download from Loco Citato, the website of XMT Partners, a UK software design firm. (Note: I scanned the software for viruses and spyware/malware with two separate programs and found nothing but, as with all software you download, you do so at your own risk).

To get it to work (after you have downloaded and installed the software), all you have to do is enter the user name of someone who has uploaded a video to YouTube. For demonstration purposes, I used "almasri002".

Almasri002 has uploaded 323 videos to YouTube, many of which are videos that appear to support Islamic extremism. According to his "channel" on YouTube, he also has 488 subscribers and 567 "friends". Understanding more about this social network could conceivably be valuable in understanding the who, what, when, where, why and how of Islamic extremism on the internet but trying to do so manually, given the size of the network, would seem impossible.

YT Visualizer solves the problem by capturing and graphing all of this data into an easy to understand chart. Talking about it makes less sense that showing how it works so I built a little screencast of the tool in action (using one of my other favorite web-based tools, Screencast-o-matic) below:

I only let YT Visualizer run for a minute or so in this demo and, as a result, only managed to import 30 some odd people into the graph (YouTube gets fussy when you send too many requests too rapidly to their servers).

The full version of the software allows as many as 1000 entities to be imported into the graph (the demo version I have allows only 200). As the graph gets larger though, the software cleverly starts to fade out the less important nodes making the graph readable regardless of the number of nodes.

As you can also see in the demo, YT Visualizer pulls in some of the other data available from YouTube so that, when you mouse over the nodes you can see who they belong to, etc.

For the real social networking geeks, the best feature probably is the ability to download the data behind the visualization into a CSV file so that you can then upload it into other, more powerful programs like ORA, UCINET or Analyst's Notebook. This feature is disabled in the trial version so I was unable to test it out.

XMT has a number of other applications for visualizing data on the net but none of them are quite as polished or as powerful as YT Visualizer.

As cool as this is, I am pretty sure that it would be more useful for business professionals than national security types. I can see it providing some sort of contextual information for the national security intel analyst (though that context is pretty limited when you think about the constraints on the data set). I can also see it providing useful leads of the "I gotta start somewhere, so I might as well start here" variety.

Business/competitive intel analysts, however, might really be able to use this tool to identify influence hubs (at least on YouTube) of supporters and detractors of their products.

The potential is also there, of course, for speculative leaps far beyond the scope of the data but the possibilities inherent in the technology far outweigh the risks (for a careful researcher) in my mind.
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SCIP Webinar On Evaluating Intelligence (Self-promotion)

I will be conducting a webinar for the Society Of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) on evaluating intelligence on 10 JUN 09 at 1200 EST. I will be going over some of the material in the "evaluating intelligence" series of posts I did earlier this year as well as adding some new stuff that has come along since then.

My goal is to make the material and ideas concerning the evaluation of intelligence a bit more accessible (One of the particular advantages of this format is that it allows for questions during and after the presentation).

I have not done a webinar before so it should be interesting. You can find out more info here: Webinar -- Evaluating Intelligence

(Note: The webinar is not, unfortunately, free. SCIP is a non-profit organization but needs to -- I am assuming -- cover its costs for setting up and running the webinar. I am not charging anything for my time and am getting no compensation for this event.)

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Top 100 Tools For Learning, Top 15 Visualization Tools And A Heckuva Video Search Engine Disguised As A File Converter (Link List)

Here is a quick link list of some interesting tools for use in the classroom and on projects:

Top 100 Tools For Learning -- I am a big fan of Jane Hart and her blog, Jane's E-learning Pick of The Day. At the link above, she has aggregated a list of 100 very interesting online tools to support a variety of learning activities. Definitely worth the look.

15 Effective Tools For Visual Knowledge Management -- Eric Blue's Blog has done a very nice job of compiling a number of tools (some free, some not; some online, some for download) to help you organize and visualize knowledge. I picked this up by way of the always insightful Outil Froids (Cold Tools) -- another blog worth adding to your RSS feed.

Excellent Video Search Engine Disguised As A File Converter -- Free FLV Converter describes itself as a way to easily convert online video (FLV) files to AVI, MPEG4, etc. files. This little free download does way more than that, though. You can actualy search through YouTube, DailyMotion, Google Videos, Metacafe, Spike, iFilm, Veoh, Yahoo, Crackle, Broadcaster, ZippyVideos, MySpace, Revver, LiveLeak, EyeSpot, CollegeHumor, SevenLoad, Break, CrunchyRoll,,,, TinyPic, EbaumsWorld, Uncut AOL, Guba, Youku, Tudou, Reuters, BBC News and vh1 for online videos of interest. Enormously useful.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Funnies: The Latest -- And Perhaps, Largest -- Threat to Our Information (

With all the recent talk of cyberwar, it may well be that we have missed the most dangerous threat of all! Check out the slide presentation below: