Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Monday, September 01, 2008

Crowd Sourcing and a Request for Help

I have a request to ask of any and all readers of this meager web site. But first some background:

Kristan Wheaton is an assistant professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst college in Erie, PA. He and some students have a bit of a dilemma. I'll quote him for the sake of simplicity:

The ODNI's Open Source Innovation Challenge set off a brief wave of excitement here at Mercyhurst late last week. There were a lot of pumped up students ready to take on the two challenge questions (Really -- they live for this kind of thing). Then everyone realized that you had to have a registered conference attendee on the team to submit an entry and registration was already closed...

The students set up one team anyway (under the sponsorship of Bob Heibel, our only registered attendee) and have been hard at work on their submission since then. Realizing that there was a ton more good open source info out there than they could possibly get at in a week, and taking full advantage of the rule that sets no size for the teams, the students have adopted an "innovative" approach to the problem: crowdsourcing.

They have asked me to help them get the word out that they are looking for anyone with anything relevant to the Al Qaeda challenge question: "Using the best open sources to inform your answer, is Al Qaeda a cohesive organization with strong and centralized control, intent and direction?"

You can send any info you think might be relevant to, their group account, but they need the info ASAP as they have to submit their final report by 5 SEP 08.

Specifically, they are looking for reliable open source information from any source (academic studies, think tank reports, social network analyses, first hand observation, whatever...) that is relevant to the question of AQ and the level of centralization in its command and control. They have a few specific collection requests as well for anyone out there who might have something or know of something:

So that's the dilemma. Now here's the (predictable enough) request. Help the man and his students out either by posting your own analysis and answer to the posed question or suggesting sources for that analysis. Suggestions, analysis, etc. can be posted here in the commentary, at Kris's blog or sent direct to the e-mail address provided above. Or, best yet, put up a post on your own site. Just make sure to let me know if you do. Also, if you do, make it viral and invite others to do the same.
Thanks in advance!


Anonymous said...

In a book I'm currently reading, Crush the Cell by Michael A. Sheehan, the author (former Green Beret and Terrorism expert) spends the first half of the book making a very realistic analysis of AQ operations. I'm not finished with it yet, so I can't offer many specifics but he makes a really good case for the idea that beofre 9/11 we vastly underestimated AQ and since then we have vastly overestimated them.