Friday, March 25, 2011

Why Am I So Excited About A Game Called "Resistance: Road To Liberation"? (

Three reasons, actually.

First, Resistance: Road To Liberation is a tabletop role playing game.  Yes, yes, like Dungeons and Dragons and Traveler and a whole bunch of other games.  

The difference here is that the game intends to be historically accurate and based, initially, on the various resistance movements of WWII.  

I have had a chance to speak with the designer, however, and he indicated that his intent is to move beyond WWII and to develop rules and scenarios appropriate to the current spate of revolutionary and resistance movements going on in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Role playing has a long history as an intelligence analysis technique.  Dick Heuer and Randy Pherson devote a chapter to it in their recent book, Structured Analytic Techniques For Intelligence Analysis, where they indicate that "role playing is particularly useful for understanding the outcomes of a conflict situation."  Research by Kesten Green at the Victoria University of Wellington  indicates that analysts who role play are over twice as accurate in their estimates as those who use unaided judgment. 

Analytic role playing is typically very unstructured and informal, however.  To get more realistic results, it would seem necessary to realistically constrain the "players".  Taken to its extreme (See, for example, The Marine Corps' Infantry Immersion Simulator which is, in some sense, just role playing on steroids),  it is highly effective but also extremely expensive and time consuming.

It seems to me then that a lightweight role playing game that captured many of the essential constraints without overly burdening the players in either time or money would be a useful tool for exploring resistance movements.  It might also be a lot more engaging than listening to another briefing or reading another report.

The second reason I am excited about Resistance is that it is using as a way to fund the game.  Kickstarter has only been around for a very short time but it has already become a major way to fund creative projects.  While most of the projects are small (Resistance is looking for only $4000 in funding to get up and running, for example), some Kickstarter projects have raised over a million dollars. 

On the other hand, Kickstarter also has a fairly brutal kill switch.  If a project doesn't meet the minimum funding level, Kickstarter cancels the donations (which don't get distributed until the minimum is met) and the creator gets nothing at all.

Microfinancing isn't new (Kiva is my personal favorite example) but microfinancing has been traditionally associated only with developing countries.  As an intelligence analyst, anytime I see a new financing model gaining acceptance outside its traditional sphere, I sit up and take notice.  

Don't get me wrong, both Kiva and Kickstarter are excellent organizations and completely above board.  However, any business model that can be used for good can also be used for ill (can anyone say "JihadStarter"?).  Donating $15 or $20 to a worthwhile project on Kiva or Kickstarter is not only a good thing, it is also a cheap education in how these kind of internet based microfinancing sites work.

And the third reason?  The designer is my son, Charlie Wheaton.

OK, OK.  I hear you.  In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I am damn proud of him.  How many of us have wanted to make a living doing something we are passionate about?  How many of us had a plan for turning that dream into reality at age 20?  Yep, "damn proud" about sums it up...

More than that, though, is my interest in what he is doing with the role playing game genre and its possibilities for intelligence analysis.  I have played Resistance and it is a good game that is very different than most role playing games and not just in terms of subject matter.  

He has deliberately kept the rule set streamlined to give the maximum leeway to the players.  He has created a system where groups advance in skills and abilities as well as individuals.  He intends to publish the final version on Kindle as well as in hardback.  The list goes on...

Charlie has been actively designing games for the last three years and, while he has not had any commercial success, he has learned a good bit about design by both studying it and actually getting his hands dirty.  If he can get the money and successfully implement all of his ideas (and, in particular the ones revolving around more modern conflicts), I think we may all have a new tool for analysis and training.

Charlie distributed free copies of the beta version of Resistance at the Origins Game Fair (one of the world's largest) two years ago.  He made a point of giving copies to soldiers that were there.  The feedback he received was universally positive but everyone indicated that it needed more work on the details -- more scenarios, more options for weaponry and tactics and more possibilities in terms of resistance movements.  With the money he gets from Kickstarter (assuming he makes his minimum), he hopes to do all that.

So, if you want to throw a few bucks his way, you can do that here.  He has some neat "premiums" for various levels of contribution but Kickstarter also gives you the option to just donate some money to the cause.  

Likewise, if you know anyone who might be interested don't hesitate to forward them this link or the link to the Kickstarter page.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Write An Awesome Resume, How to Organize Your Internship Search, How To Make Money While You Are Waiting And Other Advice For The Job Hunter (Link List)

It has been some time since I talked about the unspeakable horrors of the entry level intelligence analyst job search and it will probably be some time before I re-visit that particular issue.  Here are some useful sites to tide you over while you wait:

Top 10 Ways To Rock Your Resume.   Lifehacker has put together a good list of their advice to resume writers.  It is an excellent place to start.

Create A Master Resume For Easy, Targeted Applications.  If you are a college student you should be reading Hack College.  If you know one, forward them this link.  It is one of the best blogs for useful advice about how to get the most out of the college experience and this post is a good example.  Resumes, they are a changin'!  Meg McCollum, one of our recent grads, is on the job market again and took a very different approach this time to the traditional resume for analysts.  It is worth a look if only for some ideas (of course, if you are looking to hire an extraordinary young analyst, you should take a look in order to offer Meg a job...).

RezScore.  This site allows you to upload your resume and get feedback on how good or bad it is.  It actually gives your resume a letter grade!   Even if you are hesitant to upload your resume to the site, you still want to take a look at the "A", "B" and "C" resumes available on RezScore's home page.

The Idealist Guide To Non-Profit Careers For First Time Job Seekers.  While not written with intelligence analysts in mind, this online guide provides a wealth of useful guidance for all entry-level job seekers.  In addition, I find that many people who are interested in intelligence jobs are also interested in serving their country or their communities in other ways.  This guide is even more useful for those students.

Organize Your Internship Applications With A Spreadsheet.  Internships not only help secure a job, they are also one of the best ways to help you figure out if intelligence analysis is right for you.  These internships are typically pretty difficult to find and to get, so multiple applications are a necessity.  This useful tip from Hack College (again) is worth exploring if you find yourself submitting multiple internship applications.

8 Websites To Get Tips On Job Interview Questions And Answers.  After the applications and the resume comes the interview.  These sites offer some helpful tips for managing that part of the job hiring ordeal with equanimity.

5 Salary Comparison Tools For Your Next Job Search.  Another handy list from

A Mind Map Of 100+ Tips For Using LinkedIn More Effectively.  Most students are familiar (too familiar?) with Facebook.  In my experience, though, the social networking site that might actually help you get a job is LinkedIn.  Becoming actively involved in LinkedIn's various groups and taking advantage of its tools for building a professional network are things most students simply do not know how to do.  The mind map, available for download from this site, does a good job of organizing and outlining many of the tasks you can accomplish with LinkedIn.

The Monster List Of Freelance Job Sites.  One of the big problems with a career as an intelligence analyst is waiting for the clearance process to be completed.  While the wait time for this has gone down over the last several years, it is still an unfortunate fact of life.  Rather than working at Wendy's, recent grads often have skills they can use in the freelance world.  This list of sites is essential for these kinds of short term job searches.

Make Money In Your Spare Time Doing Simple Online Tasks.  Another way to help fill some empty months with a little bit of cash flow.

Any other sites I have missed?  Leave them in the comments!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Make Better Presentations, Use Language More Effectively, Pronounce Foreign Words Perfectly And Generally Become A Better Analyst (Link List)

I am determined to play catch up for months of ignoring some really good websites and some really useful tools that have come across my desk:

50 Tips For Better Presentations.  I have always liked Clive On Learning and this list of 50 tips is a pretty good example why.  Some are a little obvious ("Keep off the booze") and some I disagree with ("Spare the thanks"  -- though I do agree that a lengthy introductory "thank you" is unnecessary) and some are clearly from hard-earned experience ("Use humor with caution").  Whatever your level of experience, however, you will find something of use or, at least, interest here.

50 Rhetorical Devices For Rational Writing.  After years in the business of both intelligence and teaching intelligence analysis to students, I have come to think that the art of rhetoric needs more emphasis.  Understanding these tools can really improve your own writing but can also let you better understand the tricks that others are pulling on you.  My favorite?  Litotes.

8 Online Pronunciation Guides That Help You Speak Words Correctly.  Nothing destroys your reputation as an analyst faster than mispronouncing foreign words.  It sends an immediate signal that you are not an expert in the area you are discussing.  While some of these sites are designed to help you pronounce English words better, several of them also offer good foreign language pronunciation guides.

Copy, Paste, Map --  This new tool from, of all places, the Federal Communications Commission and FortiusOne, allows users to relatively painlessly move data from a spreadsheet to a map.  It looks both pretty cool and pretty easy to work with.

The 6 Best Free Online Meeting Tools To Collaborate With Your Team.  While probably not very useful for analysts trapped inside various "bubbles" around the world, these tools might be very helpful for business professionals (particularly entrepreneurs) or student teams working on various projects.

A final tip of the hat to which provided two of today's links -- it is a site worth subscribing to!