Open Sourcing Intelligence Analysis
January 10, 2011 11:53 AM   Subscribe

In an age of information wealth, how do we decide what's true & what's not? Allow me to introduce the world of discussion mapping. First up we have zest (demo here), a simple tool for threading mailing lists for easier navigation. It lacks the advanced features of the others but it's an easy starting point for structuring your discussions.

Next we have DebateGraph, a free public site dedicated to graphically mapping discussions on subjects of interest to its users. With everything from legalizing drugs to peace in the Middle East to Flash vs Ajax, there's something for everyone.

For those who wish to analyze their own questions, either individually or as a group, there's an open source version of the CIA's venerable Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (also available from Xerox PARC as a Java applet or Windows executable), along with an entire book written by the CIA on theory of intelligence analysis, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis (chapter 8 is on ACH).

And finally, for the truly dedicated/obsessed, I give you the the mothership of discussion mapping, Compendium. More bells, whistles and knobby things than you can shake a stick at.

posted by scalefree (6 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, thank you, whatever mod fixed this. Do we have a word for meta-content-ysterical? The idea of a page-breaking post about awesome ways to map discussions made me laugh.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2011

Ah, I rarely look at the front page so that hadn't occurred to me. Apologies.
posted by scalefree at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2011

I was rereading the first edition of Information Anxiety (published in 1989) yesterday and this very conundrum was presented in the book. We have so much information that the real problem isn't access, it's filtering the BS out of the legit info ā€“ and then wading through that info to correctly process it. Google, et al have made it possible to search data (limited to online data, obviously) but my opinion is that they are reaching their limit in managing how different parties game the system. Perhaps the next great technology behemoth won't arise from the search/advertising model but from one that is focused on filtering/relevance. I could see paying directly for a service like that for some nominal monthly fee. Great post. Looking forward to reading up on the CIA ACH approach.
posted by quadog at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2011

I watched the intro video for Compendium, and it seems a lot like a different method for mind mapping software. I know I can use FreeMind to do almost everything shown in the video, I'd just never thought of using it like that. Interesting post.
posted by KGMoney at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2011

I didn't mean to scold, scalefree; I just thought the accident was ironic. Thanks for this informative post!
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:37 PM on January 10, 2011

Sigh; having written an application or two that used this kind of negative-gravity-graph-thing, I've got to say - these inhabit that space of visualizations that look cool but really just don't present information in a very usable way or even work with normal ways of interacting with computers.

And these graphs illustrate some of the problems with making pretty data without reasoning about information - what a edge between nodes means isn't standardized, and neither is the meaning of a node. Is it a topic? An article? A question? Apparently all of the above.
posted by tmcw at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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