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15 May 2007

What’s this (virtual) life for…

We have recently been intently focused on the utility and applications of this weird medium of the blog. For reasons beyond our ken, we have apparently touched quite a nerve in many of our readers, and we have been most gratified by the response that our humble efforts have drawn.

We are equally as interested, however, in the higher order effects our work appears to be producing. We continually encounter our own words, used in radically different contexts than we might have expected, throughout the community and its academic circles. (Ironically, more often without attribution in the latter context than in the former, in the exact opposite of our expectations. After all, plagiarism is not a vice in the intelligence community, especially in agencies built around the routine acquisition of things others might not willingly part with if they were aware, but it should always have remained a cardinal sin in the academic world.)

All of this, coupled with our observations of the efforts of others, has led to us to question what is the best potential set of outcomes from these sorts of activities. This is a question for which do not yet believe there is an answer. We have seen others attempt (successfully or otherwise) to parley their online writing efforts into new positions, or book deals, or promotion of day job business opportunities. We have seen egos rise, and charlatans fall – all the while seeing those with the most to offer continue to quietly promulgate new ideas and energy into a system desperately in need of both.

This has not always been a risk free activity for those in the community. While we here at Kent’s Imperative are fortunate to be able to operate under a rather favourable set of permissions (as much as others might complain about certain features, such as policy disabling comments which others might hold us responsible for) – we are by comparison the lucky ones. Others have recounted quite prominently their difficulties with entering the new online literature – including some of the more influential thinkers of the day, such as Thomas Barnett. (His experiences recounted here under the umbrella of “the blog bit back”, as accurate an expression as we have ever heard. Our thanks to Zenpundit for surfacing the discussion.) Others have simply vanished after brief flirtations with the technology and the tools proved not to be worth the investment for them.

We firmly believe that this new medium, through both the technology and the changing social conventions associated with its use, offers the ability to radically change the literature of intelligence in ways that will greatly benefit the intelligence community. We are not sure how this evolution will take place, nor what eventual form will emerge.

As we have said, we do not do this for money or for fame. We are deliberately anonymous to preserve professional discretion and to ensure that it is our ideas which receive attention, not our positions or associations. But we are glad to be in the flow of this new thing, and we intend to see it out as best as we are able – and hopefully to contribute as we might to the larger forces that will shape the revolution in intelligence affairs.

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