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Interviews from an Open Source Intelligence Conference

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I attended a conference on Open Source Intelligence and collected over 3 hours of interviews from the 10 of the presenters. My citizen journalism coverage was looking through the following two lenses:

* What types of insights could intelligence analysis provide to journalism?
* How can information and communications technologies be used to help avoid and prevent armed conflict?

UPDATE:Here is a 90-second video introduction to these interviews

Music: On The Moon (Trip Hop mix) by disharmonic

FYI:You can use this feed to download all of the interview audio.

More information below...

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Interview Audio: Stephen E. Arnold, Technology Consultant and Author of "The Google Legacy"

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(30:57 / 7.5 MB / Subscribe to Interview Audio)

Listen to an interview with Stephen E. Arnold.

More information on the Open Source Intelligence conference here.

Transcript Coming Soon.
January 18th, 2006

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Fractals & Folksonomies: A New Map for Participatory Journalism

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The press is supposed to provide us maps that help us understand our complex and chaotic world, but the media's maps have failed to keep pace with the exponential growth of technological innovation and changes in our society.

Below I propose that folksonomies and playlisted sound bites could be used to map out the links and associations between the Long Tail of factual nuggets that are usually lost on the cutting room floors of news stories or documentaries -- as well as how "fractal geometry" can provide a powerful metaphor for helping visualize and comprehend this complexity. This type of approch could be extended to journalism and other knowledge management contexts.

Participatory journalism is the key to mapping out this fractal-like map of interconnections, and this post describes what "news as a conversation" might look when it is scaled up beyond the linear limitations of blog dialogues.

Continue Reading...

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Migrating Open Source Intelligence Insights Into Participatory Journalism

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I have argued before that the field of Intelligence Analysis can provide many insights for how journalism could do a better job at discovering, discriminating, distilling, and disseminating knowledge.

It seems as though Open Source Intelligence advocate and founder of Robert Davis Steele has also been suggesting that there be a migration of these analytical insights into the public domain:

Because the policymaker is inundated with contradictory information lacking methodical evaluation, a critical priority must be the transfer of the proven methods of classified intelligence analysis, to the world of unclassified information.

Steele calls it a "critical priority" to transfer these advanced analytical techniques and methodologies into the hands of ordinary citizens. This is part of Steele's larger vision for creating an open source network of NGOs, academic institutions, international organizations and potentially individual citizens that could tap into the wisdom of the electorate and create the "possibility of revolutionizing governance by revolutionizing what government can know, how it knows it, how it decides, and how it communicates both its decision and supporting information."

Steele suggests creating a public intelligence "skunk works" that would "focus on creating public intelligence sources, softwares, and services that elevate the utility of all information to all citizens all the time."

There are many unanswered questions for how Steele's vision will be implemented by the coalition of private corporations that he's building, and how much government support and cooperation he will eventually receive. But I would argue that the press should have some role to play in this type of coalition because it sounds very similar to the public interest mandate that the field of journalism aspires to fulfill.

The press is facing an economic and credibility crisis as they attempt to reinvent how they create and deliver their information products. Wall Street pressures are moving the newspaper industry towards implosion by forcing cutbacks and diminishing the amount of available resources for journalists to gather the news -- let alone introduce even more complexity to how they analyze and make sense of the endless stream of facts. But the industry is at a cross roads, and they must change or die.

There happens to be many similar dot-connecting challenges facing the US Intelligence agencies where reform has been hindered by an obsession with secrecy as well as the business models of vested interests that are more focused on "esoteric collection systems" than figuring out how to make sense of the hoards of collected data.

This post is intended to explore the parallels to these challenges and how solutions to all of these challenges can be found through the converging trajectories of Open Source Intelligence and Participatory Journalism. As Steele says,

It is essential that operational, logistics, acquisition, and other information be managed as a coherent whole, not in isolation from classified intelligence. Sharing and sense-making, not hoarding and secrecy, are the watchwords today.

The opposite of information hoarding is collaborative participation, and the opposite of secrecy is transparency. Blogging is pushing journalism to be more participatory and transparent while Steele's Open Source Intelligence initiatives are doing the same in the national security domain. In both cases, the cooperative principles of Open Source holds the keys to unlocking these potentials of the wisdom of the crowd and the trust of the electorate.

The post looks at the following issues...


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Blogosphere Reporting on Forged Niger Docs: Will this be the Left's Rathergate?

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The liberal blogosphere has been way out in front of investigating the origin of the forged Niger documents that may have been deliberately used to help sell the war in Iraq. I've come across a lot of insights from investigative bloggers who have been connecting the dots using information from the public record -- as well as doing some original reporting.

These forged Niger documents were publicly discredited as being "not authentic" by Mohamed ElBaradei on March 7th, 2003 before the war began 12 days later, but it has always been a bit of a mystery as to who forged them -- as well as how they ended up being used by the Bush Administration to help create the impression that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program.

The cultural right has their takedown of Dan Rather under their belts, and if it turns out that the forged documents originated from the United States and can be tied to the Bush Administration, then that would certainly not bode well for Republicans in the next election cycle and could ultimately result in impeachment hearings with a Democrat majority in Congress.

The liberal blogosphere would certainly take this as an unprecedented victory if this plays out to how Steve Soto describes it:

Get some more popcorn folks. Once you tie Chalabi and people like Ledeen into the forgeries, you tie Cheney’s office into this crap as well. And if that connection is made, it is game, set, and match.

The Patrick Fitzgerald investigation, the FBI investigation into the forgeries, Congressional action, and the mainstream media would inevitably put the final nails into the coffin, but there has been a lot of work by liberal and anti-war bloggers in aggregating what has been already reported on this story overseas -- as well as pushing the story forward.

For example, it looks as though blogger Josh Marshall may have had a role in shining a spotlight to the fact that the FBI may have never even interviewed one of the couriers of the forged documents.

At least until late in 2004 the FBI had never interviewed the man who tried to sell the documents, Rocco Martino -- despite the fact that he came to the United States twice in the summer of 2004.

The FBI now says it concluded its investigation in July of this year. So did the FBI interview Martino before making its determination?

This may have caused the Senate Intelligence Committee to ask the FBI to reopen it's case.

Those findings concerned some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee after published reports that the FBI had not interviewed a former Italian spy named Rocco Martino, who was identified as the original source of the documents. The committee had requested the initial investigation.

It appears as if the FBI tried to whitewash the investigation, but they were called out by Marshall -- and potentially others in the media -- to give the Senate the ammunition they needed in order to call their bluff. So it's good news that the press can still play a watchdog function, and this LA Times report could help open up the floodgates for other news organizations to start digging into material that some liberal bloggers have already been exploring:

After talking with committee members, FBI officials decided to pursue "additional work" on the case, likely exploring the origins of the forgeries and whether the documents had been created specifically to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein...

Federal officials familiar with the case say investigators could examine whether the forgeries were instigated by U.S. citizens who advocated an invasion of Iraq or by members of the Iraqi National Congress -- the group led by Ahmad Chalabi that worked closely with Bush administration officials in the buildup to the war.

There is quite a bit of detailed information on this already from the blogosphere, and I'd thought I'd do a quick brain dump of what's passed through my radar screen in the following sections below:

Investigative Blogging from Marshall and eriposte on Niger Docs
State withheld forged Niger Doc from IAEA
John Bolton involved in withholding documents from IAEA?
La Repubblica: Niger forgeries -- New Revelations by top French Spymaster
Clarridge, Wolf & Ledeen implicated by Italian Parliament for Forged Documents

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Playlists are to Music as Edit Decision Lists are to Film

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When the timelines of edited film sequences are exported, then they are flattened into an "Edit Decision List" that is somewhat analogous to a musical playlist and an academic syllabus or H20 playlist.

UPDATE: I explore the how this playlist concept can be applied to filmmaking in conversations with Lucas Gonze, Colin Brumelle and Farsheed

JD Lasica just posted a video interview with Molly Krause of Harvard's H20 playlist project.

You can think of H20 as a way to share a college class syllabus. It's an ordered reading list that can be used to aggregate knowledge from experts. They describe it as an "open source, educational platform that explores powerful ways to connect professors, students, and researchers online."

Here's an example of a H20 reading list that should give you an introduction to "Social Bookmarking with" written by Brian Del Vecchio.

H20 tracks derivatives made from playlists as a way to track the relative authority, expertise and reputation of a given author -- much in the same way that academic citations in peer review journals are a way to measure these same metrics. But the H20 playlist format decentralizes this process from the normal gatekeepers and allows for a much more grassroots and bottom-up approach to this concept.

So as Krause says in the interview, you can think of these playlists as a way to provide guided maps to particular fields of study.

My understanding is that playlists have gained a lot of popularity because it is a way for people to create sequences of songs to play on their computer or mobile devices. Because more and more individual songs are being digitally distributed and separated by the order in which they usually play on an entire music album, then playlists have been able to recreate these musical experiences much in the same way that DJs have done.

So Harvard has expanded this playlist concept from music to academic information, and I would like to expand it even further to a journalistic and filmmaking context.

Netflix is already using the playlist concept for distribution of DVDs with their "Netflix Queue." You select videos that you want to see, and then you determine the order in which you receive them.

This can be extended to the actual generation of films because filmmakers are essentially doing the same thing except with multiple video and audio dimensions synchronized by timelines and smaller nuggets of information (i.e. a sound bite vs. an entire DVD).

When the timelines of edited film sequences are exported, then they are flattened into an "Edit Decision List" that is analogous to a musical playlist and an academic syllabus or H20 playlist.

Edit Decision Lists can be generated with a web browser interface, and then dynamically translated into online edits by using the SMIL open standards -- or into offline edits by using Final Cut Pro XML interface that I've described before. I've been able to successfully accopmlish both of these in the tests that I've done.

Most people get completely lost by this point, but I'm basically exploring the idea of using playlists for the collaborative generation of media much in the same way that Harvard is exploring playlists for the collaborative distribution of knowledge.

I was very happy to discover that H20 backend has been open sourced, however the code was a bit too complex for me to parse.

But I'd love to catalyze an effort to port some of these concepts from H20, and into Drupal.

I've been in contact with the two Drupal developers of the playlist module, and I hope to talk to them more about it soon.

I also happened to meet "playlist maven" Lucas Gonze of at the Open Media Developers Summit, and may pick his brain about the function and culture around playlists -- as well as best practices for tracking related and derivative playlists.

So with that, I'll share the e-mail and comment below that I just sent off to's JD Lasica (whom I also had the chance to meet at the summit)...

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Using Citizen Journalism to Open Source Political Campaigns

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I sent the following proposal to Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej to open source the national aspects of their campaign for New York City Public Advocate by remixing citizen videojournalism reports into their communications strategy.

This could provide a viable model for how traditionally top-down driven political campaigns could release some control by collaborating with issue-based advocates on more detailed, Long-Tail messages that go beyond the least common denominator audience.

I heard from David Weinberger that Rasiej was having a conference call last Wednesday for political bloggers, and some other surprise guests.

I joined this conference call where Rasiej said that they needed help spreading the word to New York citizens to vote for him on September the 13th.

Rasiej talked about the national implications of his campaign for how Wi-Fi in NYC would be a cultural and political trendsetter for other cities to do the same -- as well as how he intended to use technology to facilitate grassroots activism and bottom-up democracy.

The only problem was that Rasiej campaign hasn't had time to craft this message on their own, and so they asked bloggers to make the case for him.

It just so happened that I had just completed my second video blog episode where I had already made the connection for how technology is changing media, politics and leadership.

So I suggested that they remix my second vlog episode by cutting out my message out and inserting their own. Using the Creative Common-Attribution license encourages people to do this type of remixes as long as they provide a link to and an attribution in their video.

This would encourage both of us to promote our respective vlog entries to our network of contacts.

And it also allows us to experiment with how citizen journalism and activism could be used to collaborate with political campaigns.

Below is the more detailed pitch that I sent to the Rasiej campaign laying out my vision for how this type of collaboration between citizen journalists and political campaigns could work. They gave it the green light, and the remix will start being produced next week by vlogger Ryanne Hodson.

Hey Micah and Andrew,
During the conference call yesterday, I noted some pressing desires for your campaign, and I think that I have some innovative solutions to some of them.

I talked with vlogger Ryanne Hodson, and she is willing to remix the following five-minute video on how technology is changing media & politics into a shorter vlog entry that communicates how your campaign can catalyze a larger movement of grassroots, participatory democracy.

This would require gathering a few sound bites with Ryanne, and then having her edit these juxtaposed with the sound bites that I've already gathered from experts at the Personal Democracy Forum.

Here is link to the 5-minute video

Below are more details on how these SOLUTIONS can fill your DESIRES and accomplish your BOTTOM LINE.

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Echo Chamber Project Vlog Episode 2: Media & Politics

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Here is the second Echo Chamber Project video blog entry

Description: Technology is transforming media & politics, and large-scale collaborative media can provide some insights into grassroots leadership and bottom-up democracy.

Featuring: Chris Nolan, Jeff Jarvis, Doc Searls, Scott Heiferman, Markos Moulitsas, Mindy Finn & Kent Bye.

(5:08 minutes / 12.6 MB)

Download Quicktime

Subscribe: Vlog RSS / Blog RSS

Listed below is a full transcript of this video with additional links...

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Echo Chamber Project Vlog Episode 1: Introduction

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Introducing the first Echo Chamber Project video blog entry & vlog!

Description: First vlog episode about an open source, investigative documentary on how the television news became an uncritical echo chamber to the countdown towards war in Iraq -- and proposed tools for collaborative journalism that can provide some solutions.

Featuring: Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor, Doc Searls, Jonathan Landay, Pamela Hess, Bill Plante, Halley Suitt, Marilyn Schlitz, Kent Bye and 60 others.

To Watch the Video click here -- or on the picture below -- or try here if that link doesn't work. Check back in 10-15 minutes if neither work, the Internet Archive has been a bit spotty.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!


(6:15 minutes / 15 MB)
Download QuickTime

Listed below is

* A full transcript of this video with additional links
* How to keep informed with the project (Vlog RSS / Blog RSS)
* How to get more involved
* Click here & scroll to the bottom to leave feedback or other comments.

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Rosen's BloggerCon III Comment on Blogs & Journalism

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I didn't attend the BloggerCon III conference back on November 6, 2004, but I was able to listen to the Journalism session because IT Conversations recorded the entire conference and made it available online for anyone in the world to hear.

Rosen's comment at the end of the session jumped out at me because I think he has an important insight for how blogs may be a more natural way for how people consume information. Blog readers start from the opinions of the bloggers they trust, and then they read the factual details if there's some type of conflict or argument -- or if they're interested in learning more.

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