Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Must-Use Site: ISN Gets A Makover (ISN)

Over the last week I have written about Jeff Carr's fascinating open source project and our own modest efforts with regard to the DNI's Open Source Innovation Challenege (Thanks to everyone who helped!), but the 800 pound gorilla in the open source world is the International Relations and Security Network (ISN). Established in 1994, with over 3 million hits a month and hundreds of top quality partners, ISN dwarfs most other efforts at open source.

ISN, housed at the Swiss Federal Insitute Of Technology in Zurich (the Swiss MIT and one of the top 50 universities in the world), channels more content in a day than most organizations create in a year. The ISN is part of the Center For Security Studies (CSS) at the ETH (the German abbreviation for "Federal Institute of Technology") and the CSS produces some very interesting and well-researched content of its own. Establishing organizations like the ISN is, of course, the kind of thing the Swiss do, but the Swiss government (which partially funds the site), the ETH and the CSS are to be applauded for supporting this extraordinary international resource.

The ISN's content used to be bound up in a hard to navigate website but no more. Last week ISN unveiled its new website and I find it to be a significant improvement. The interface is clean and simple and sorting the various products by type, subject or region is now a snap. The search feature is much improved and I was particularly impressed with how easily the RSS feeds integrated with Google Reader (my preferred RSS feed reader).

Note: I will continue to share some of the more interesting things I find in ISN's feeds and from other feeds I monitor in the SAM's Shared Items box on the right hand side of this page. Content there changes pretty quickly so if you see something of interest, be sure to bookmark it. It will probably be gone the next time you come back.

The site has a robust current affairs section and a massive digital library including a substantial link list and a comprehensive International Relations Directory. My only beef here (and it is minor) is that there is no separate subject heading for intelligence (hint, hint...). What is particularly good about these resources is that they come from partner institutions all over the world, helping ensure that whatever biases are inherent in one document are, at least, balanced by reports from the other side of the argument.

Dealing with the ISN as a partner is dead easy. ISN hosts our thesis series and occasionally publishes analysis by our students under the "Intel Brief" banner. Everyone from editor extraordinaire, Jen Alic, to our partnership manager, Linda Popova, is incredibly easy to work with. Having had an opportunity to visit the offices of the ISN, I can tell all of their partners that if it seems like an easy relationship to maintain it is because the ISN staff works their tails off to make it look that way.

Of particular note for OSINT specialists and intel studies programs is Chris Pallaris, the head of OSINT for the ISN. Chris is a good friend but is also one of the true OSINT visionaries. An excellent writer and speaker, Chris comes to this side of the pond periodically and is always worth listening to when he does.

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