Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dax Norman Just Passed Away And That Is An Enormous Loss. Here's Why.

Dax Norman died on August 20, 2017.  My deepest sympathy goes out to his family.

I called Dax a friend but, as happens sometimes, we had not had a chance to speak for quite a few years.  

I do know, however, he was a good man.  Don't take my word for it; just check out the many comments that have already been added to his obituary.  All the things that people say about him - that he was a gentle man, that he was kind and generous, that he willingly gave his time, that he was an excellent teacher and mentor - are all true.

For those of us who teach and think about intelligence analysis, however, he was more.  He was one of the best thinkers I knew on how intelligence should work.  

I met Dax shortly after I got out of the Army in 2003.  He was looking for a University to do some unclassified research on technology trends and Mercyhurst wound up with the contract.  While not a huge contract, it was large for us back then.  It also started a multi-year relationship with the US government that helped many students test and hone their skills as junior analysts.  Any Mercyhurst grad who ever spent any time on one of the so-called "summer projects" owes that experience either directly or indirectly to Dax.

Dax made innumerable contributions to our national security in his decades working for the government.  One of these contributions that I always found most significant is the work he did on open source credibility back in 2001.  Facebook did not even exist back then and Dax was one of the few thinking about the problem that we call today "fake news".  More than just think about it, though, Dax came up with a rigorous system for evaluating the credibility of online sources long before anyone even thought that they needed such a thing.  His work is still online for anyone who is interested.  For Mercyhurst students, of course, it has been modified and enshrined as the much beloved (?) online source evaluation sheet that accompanies each and every online source used in our reports.

I have more stories, of course, and others will tell theirs as well.  The long and short of it all is that Dax was one of the good ones.  There aren't enough Daxes in the world and he will be missed.  

If you knew him, you can post your thoughts or memories on an online sympathy wall.  If you are in the DC area there will be a service on 6 SEP.


4 comments:

Valaree Dickerson said...

Thank you Kristan for your kind, detailed and very accurate assessments of one of the greatest people I've ever know. Partly because he is my brother and partly because he truly is the greatest, kindest, most giving soul I've ever known. His family thanks you for your thoughtfulness and for dedicating your time to his remembrance.

Valree Norman Dickerson

Valaree Dickerson said...

Thank you Kristan for your kind, detailed and very accurate assessments of one of the greatest people I've ever know. Partly because he is my brother and partly because he truly is the greatest, kindest, most giving soul I've ever known. His family thanks you for your thoughtfulness and for dedicating your time to his remembrance.

Valree Norman Dickerson

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Valaree,
Dax was a great guy. I am horribly sorry for your loss. It was a real loss for us all.
Kris

Kathleen Moore said...

I actually wrote a 26 page paper about his matrix on assessing the credibility websites and why it was horribly flawed. But that said, he was the first to talk about it, to open the conversation, and later, actual research on the topic, and for that he should be lauded. A pioneer.

So sorry for your loss.