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20 November 2007

The changing of the intelligence studies (public) blogsphere

It is against the backdrop of our continuing discussions of intelligence studies and the impact of blogging that we note the passing of two blogs which we have had occasion to enjoy over the past while. The World is Grey and Fast Squirrel have recently chosen to close up shop. We respect their decisions, and understand entirely – as much as we will miss their contributions to the public literature. They join the now defunct JMJ Blog, Intelligence Analysis & OSINT, and Robot Economist among those recent intel, and intel related blogs which have gone dark.

Blogging – especially the personal, hobbyist kind – has always been a dynamic enterprise, with a constantly shifting menagerie of new faces. Even among our own humble skunkworks here at KI, we have seen contributors come and go. The public side of intelligence studies blogging is perhaps more prone to this than other aspects of the distributed conversation, if only due to certain unique features of the constrained information environment. After all, some may find it difficult to accept that the interests which drive the majority of their day and professional energies must be totally ignored in public discourse, and that the focus of online writing must remain academic, historical, and high level. Doing so in a manner that maintains both relevance to the reader, and the satisfies the intellectual interests of the authors, can certainly be a challenge for some bloggers. (We are fortunate here at KI that our interests span such a diverse range that we find no difficulty exploring areas of the field in which there can be no conflict of interest.)

At the same time as our old (virtual) companions have closed up shop, a few other blogs have come to our attention that appear to be fellow travelers in the revolution in intelligence affairs. These include the Intel Fusion blog, and the AFCEA’s MAZZ-INT commentaries. It is not surprising that several others hail from overseas (allies), or the private sector’s competitive intelligence / business intelligence spaces, such as the Singaporean National Security Intelligence, the Italian Intelligence & Security Analysis, the Competitive Intelligence Marketplace, or Jens Theime’s weblog. This does not make these potential contributions any less valid, of course – but such material does perhaps fall into the nebulous category of comparative intelligence studies.

Given the difficulties of public blogging for many intelligence professionals, we do expect to see the expansion of the activity on other networks rather than public pieces by a number of those authors seeking to enter the conversation. But that is a discussion for another time and place entirely, we should think. Our only hope is that many of those choosing to blog in more rarefied atmospheres recall the original admonition in Sherman Kent’s call for the literature, in which he urges those with an inclination to write not merely on their target or issue, but on the nature of their shared profession and its tradecraft. It is all too tempting in an environment where the details of one’s accounts may be shared more fully to explore those details and their implications, rather than the higher level abstractions of process, patterns, and transformation. However, it is the latter concerns that will truly respond to the Imperative laid upon us all, and help to chart the unknowns of the profession’s continuing evolution.

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