DIY Intelligence Agency

This is how to built yourself a very robust personal Intelligence Agency. Every intelligence agency in the world tracks key words, information patterns, and news events from a central aggregated location.

  1. Create a Google account while being discrete with the information you put in the profile.
  2. Log on to your Google account and in the top left of the screen go to more then down to even more and select Alerts, which appears as the first link on the More Google Products page. Set up a number of these alerts for “news” and “blogs” based on your search terms. Set each of these to “as-it-happens” to e-mail you with a link to the article.
  3. Set up your smart phone to receive these alerts, and code the incoming messages with a special sound. You’ll then get a specific sound on your smart phone with each Google Alert.
  4. Establish a  Google Reader account. Subscribe to all the blogs you can find on your topics of interest. Google Reader includes a search bar to help search through the dross to find the good stuff. You now have an online central location from which you can manage your information intake.
  5. Over time, add more and more RSS feeds.  Intelligence agencies have them, and so should you.  You will be surprised Google Reader and the Google Alerts you will consistently outperform major news organizations in bring actionable intelligence to your attention. The may give you a competitive edge.
  6. Check your favorite blogs and and those that they are linking to consistently. Add these RSS feeds to your reader. Check the blog rolls of the blogs to which you subscribe  and add all of their RSS feeds to your reader. To vet these new sources, use the reader’s search facility.

The RICE Method of Analysis

Use the RICE method to decide how to respond to information or intelligence:

R for reliability. The basic truthfulness or accuracy of the information you are evaluating.

I  for the importance of the data based upon its releveance

C  for the cost of your possible reactions or actions relating to the information

E  for the effectiveness of your  actions based upon this information. Would actions based upon this information solve the problems you face?

This format is useful for summarizing collected data and for analyzing how you might apply the data in a broad range of situations.


Just remember, as the old pessimist philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer stated, “The truth will set you free . . . but first it will make you miserable.”


TweetMeme is a service which aggregates links on Twitter to determine which links are most popular. TweetMeme categorises these links into Categories, Subcategories and Channels, making it easy to filter out the noise to find what you’re interested in.

We make it easy for you to subscribe to each category and the most popular through  their RSS feeds and Twitter accounts.

The thing that interests me most is the search facility that works quite well, especially for finding Tweets that include company names.

Intelligence Analysts in Industry

If you have ever wondered why private industry doesn’t improve its use of the intelligence function, then I suggest you read Part 4 — Even Better News!! (How To Get A Job In Intelligence)  over at Sources and Methods, a blog by Kristan J. Wheaton, an assistant professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College.  Mr. Wheaton’s experience mirrors mine, but he has managed to express it better than I could.

Intelligence Positions in Industry

Even if you can get past the spook factor, though, there is still a perception by many businesses that they do not need intelligence. My technique in these cases is to ask the managers and executives I deal with, “Who in your company has it as a fundamental part of their job — as part of their job description — to systematically examine all the factors relevant to your company’s success but outside your company’s control, integrate those factors as necessary and provide estimates of how those factors will change over time in order to support your planning processes?”

The answers vary, of course. Some companies have market analysts but they are not tasked to look at the competition. Others have competitive intelligence and market analysts but clearly have other intelligence needs that aren’t being met (like the company with a global presence that needs to understand if its employees are likely to get kidnapped or the company who transports critical raw materials in ships that travel off the coast of Somalia…).

Even if all the various needs are covered, no one is integrating the reports, coordinating the activities or providing meaningful estimates about how conditions are likely to change. Some places have even told me that performing this function is “everyone’s job” but I just laugh (I can do that because I am a professor and not a consultant).

No matter what the answer, the discussion leads to the follow-on question: “Don’t you think it would be useful to have someone who does all this for you?” The answer is always, “Yes” but it still translates only slowly, if at all, into intelligence jobs.

Research & Goals

There are two types of research.

Strategic Research

This is to determine the best course of action. For example, in which direction to drive.

Tactical Research

This is how to achieve the best course of action. This is deciding which road to take. This is also about the essential details to reaching your strategic goal.

This might seem obvious, but I’m forever being reminded that it isn’t.

Tweeple at Work

These searches will help you to find people associated with a company or find  a subject’s co-workers.

Start with Twitter’s Find People. Search for the company name. A long list of followers of the company Tweets might be very enlightening.

Search the Twitter Profiles using Twellow by searching for the firm name, web site URL or other relevant search terms.Sometimes former employees appear in the results and may prove to be useful interview subjects.

LinkedIn is one of the most used social networking sites. Use Google to search LinkedIn for Twitter references with a search term such as company name. twitter to the search string to find twitter feeds. Do the same search using Bing and Yahoo.Then redo all the searches for FaceBook and MySpace and any other social network site that might be useful.

Use TweepSearch to search the Twitter name of someone and then index the bios of all the users they are following or are following them. Once you have them indexed, you can do a keyword search using relevant search terms.  The results may lead you to the bios of additional members of the firm for which the subject works.

Creating a Fake News Story

The antics of Glen Jenvey clearly illustrates that really interesting data are also very often untrue.

Jenvey created some bogus posts to a web forum that were very interesting. He then “leaked” the existence of these bogus posts to the South West News agency which was used by a major newspaper which in turn published an article about the phony data.

This type of thing is commonplace in my work. Here’s how it works. A person or company wants to get something misleading into the news so that a competitor or client sees it, and more importantly, acts on it.

They get somebody to get it into a little-known backwater paper that sends its interesting stories to a large news wire service.  The wire story is then picked-up by a much larger news outlet and the story spreads.

This type of mischief can only be eliminated by ruthless fact-checking.

An Expensive War That Hasn’t Happened

Fifth generation warfare hasn’t yet occurred, but our economy is being reshaped by it nonetheless. The insurance and re-insurance loses from 9/11 were between 30 and 60 billion US Dollars. The so-called war on terrorism is an attempt to prevent the formation of operational networks of 5GW actors. It strives to limit the conditions and circumstances that would foster an outbreak of 5GW attacks. I am not confident that the “war on terrorism” will succeed any more than the “war on drugs”. On the other hand, what choice do we have. The loses from a 1 megaton nuclear bomb in New York City that kills 1.9 million defies calculation.

9/11 was carried out by a network of religious zealots from one known terrorist organisation, yet they were not noticed until it was too late. Now stop and think about how hard it would be to detect and thwart a network of people from several disparate groups.

Insurgencies (4GW) and 5GW warfare are often described as “low-intensity  warfare”. This is a misnomer in the economic sense — just look at the cost of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. One must accept at the outset that there will not be a clear winner in such a conflict, and that the participants involved will not value victory in the same way and that the fighting may end before total victory by one side. Unfortunately, many people have a hard time understanding this and in trying to win, spend far too much on the military effort. This lack of understanding of the so-called low-intensity conflict by both politicians and the public creates some opportunities while at the same time creates great economic risk.

My research identified 5 good news/bad news issues surrounding 5GW that are starting to shape policy.

  1. Who will do the fighting and how will this effect the economy? The US consumer represents about 20% of the world economy and between 60% and 70% of the US economy. Consumers in their peak buying period usually do the war-fighting.
  2. The Department of Homeland Security, and similar ministries in other countries, may become”ministries of everything” where every decision is considered for security ramifications. This bottleneck will strangle the economy, except for companies that have an “inside track”.
  3. Adding security costs to the deficit will further devalue the US currency. This is a retrograde tax on American citizens; even worse, to maintain trade with the US, other countries will have to follow suit.  This will really damage the economies of many allied countries. Retired people living on retirement benefits will suffer. This will force governments to raise taxes to pay supplementary benefits. This has the potential to become a destructive self-reinforcing trend.
  4. Power breeds a thirst for more power. The security apparatus of some countries may become overbearing and dangerous to civil liberties and democracy itself.
  5. Two lower cost solutions exist — developing a culture of preparedness and service at home, and extensive use of public diplomacy abroad. The development of a true militia to supply emergency manpower and a more active foreign policy based upon public diplomacy,  particularly by the allied countries such as Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU will lower the costs created by fear and uncertainty.

Each of these five issues present strategic opportunities, and risks, for service companies and manufacturers alike.

Previous articles on this topic:

Competitive Intelligence and the Economics of Warfare

Fifth Generation Warfare

Fifth Generation Warfare

While 4GW is primarily counterinsurgency warfare describe as “armed social work”, 5GW is an entirely different beast in many respects.

The nature of the 5GW is supposed to be a group of fighters who form a network. Their only common character is that they want to destroy the same thing, but their different reasons for doing so don’t affect the operation at hand. They use modern communication technologies to plan and direct their actions, then they disperse. The 5G beast doesn’t field armies or espouse a central ideal or idea. Worse still, by not losing, the enemy wins. The 5G war is about winning through political stalemate, instability, and economic stagnation or decline. This is warfare against economic success. With nothing to shoot at, how do you win? Without a rational idea to prove wrong, how do win hearts and minds?

5GW is the disaffected turning their hatred towards what they want, but don’t have. These fighters will use the lessons of 4GW and modern technology. The battlefield may become universal. Everything from  a Toronto water treatment plant, my bank’s computer system, and the Strait of Hormuz become the battlefield, and all at the same time. 5GW may originate with the current crop of Muslim terrorists and to some extent, narco-terrorists, but I doubt it will remain their province. This type of warfare just offers too many opportunities for a host of perverse sub-cultures — if they can make it work.

Responding with 3G type warfare won’t solve this problem. Genocide won’t eliminate this problem.  4GW techniques won’t make much of a dent in this problem. Current thinking indicates that until we find a global solution to this, risks of an outbreak of 5GW we will have to factor those risks into our planning and look for opportunities to become part of the solution, or to profit from the lack of a solution.

I see 5GW as the worst-case situation from an economic standpoint, even if we change our attitudes towards military service, security operations,  and international security.  Fear of 5GW is already reshaping our world and perhaps this fear will produce the dominant cost factor we face from this threat.

I’m not sure this type of warfare is really on the horizon, but certain elements of it have made an appearance. If 5GW comes to be, then the costs of trying to protect everything at once would be astronomical. In the an upcoming article I will explain the 5GW issues that are starting to shape policy today and their potential effect on the economies of the industrialised world.

Competitive Intelligence and the Economics of Warfare

Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a window looking out onto  the landscape that affects strategy and future prospects. Therefore, economic issues play a large part in how we view the competitive landscape. However, I never thought CI work would take me in the direction that it has recently.

Two or three years ago the economic issues were the effects of the asset inflation credit bubble and the effects of the resultant growth of the money supply. Now the strategic issue is the causes and effects of huge government deficits.

In this new strategic concern, there exist two subjects of importance for understanding the competitive environment. The first is the effect of stimulus spending and the second is the ongoing cost of warfare. Military spending has brought down governments and impoverished nations throughout history. Today, companies that produce products and supply services need to understand the markets that modern military spending have created and they must understand the effects such spending has on both the national and the world economy. To understand this topic, one must begin by understanding the evolution of modern warfare from the Napoleonic wars and onward.

Beginning with Napoleon, we have seen four generations of war fighting. The first generation of warfare (1GW) was the beginning of modern technological warfare involving conscription, industrial scale production of weapons, and financial systems designed to fund warfare. This also heralded the end of the Mercenary due to the formation of large standing national armies.

Next came the economic organisation of the nation state to put the full resource potential of the nation at the disposal of the war effort for financial gain. These were the wars of empire.

The third generation of warfare (3GW) was industrialized war fought for land and resources using established abilities from 1GW and 2GW. This evolved into the war of maneuver that we saw in WWII.

Fourth generation  warfare is a moral conflict often using ad hoc fighters with an ideal for command and control, not a unified command structure. This was Vietnam and it is Iraq today. Winning this is a matter of getting  people to reject an existing  ideal for something more productive, while maintaining military superiority that can overcome the actions of small flexible groups of enemy combatants. This type of counterinsurgency, to borrow David Kilcullen’s shorthand, is described as “armed social work.”

The industrialized world knows how to fight 3G type of war. The experiences of Vietnam and Iraq taught us what it takes to fight the fourth generation war (4GW). While the 4GW is expensive, a cost can be assigned to the war with some accuracy based upon experience. This reduces uncertainty which is the most hated thing in both business and military planning. It also creates business opportunities. For example, the mercenary has become important to the success of this type of warfare after a 200 years of absence from the battlefield. Secure computer networks for command and control are essential in this environment. New types of vehicles are required to move personnel around. All the housing and equipment must be serviced. All these areas, and more, offer agile companies an opportunity to make profit.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t downplay the economic damage a 4G war can do to the combatant nations. For example, the cost of the Vietnam war forced Nixon to abolish the gold standard to stop the redemption of US Dollar holdings by foreign governments which would have wiped out the US gold reserve. A devalued dollar, stagflation, and recessions followed — and so did the lack of monetary discipline that created the most recent economic crises.

The potential emergence of 5GW consumes much of my current research time. The costs of this are truly frightening. The next article will explain why this is so.

Corporate blogging passed off as independent newsgathering

Masquerading as an independent blogger might seem like an easy way to gather some intel, at least until you are exposed as this guy was.

Corporate Blogger, or Corporate Espionage?

Doug Cantwell, a Boeing spokesman who attended a recent industry symposium as an “independent blogger.” By passing himself off as a blogger — and not as a Boeing employee — Cantwell stirred up a controversy that could have serious implications for both companies that want to experiment with social media — and for reporters who work in the new medium.

your job will be much harder when you have to persuade someone that, yes, your blog  is a legitimate, independent news outlet and no, you’re not masquerading as a reporter for the purposes of collecting intel, corporate or otherwise.

when traditional journalism jobs — particularly in newspapers — are rapidly disappearing. A venture like, it seems, opens the door to more cynical operators who are willing to blur the lines between journalism and other lines of business.

Competitive Intelligence for the Small Guy

The following is an excellent article about Competitive Intelligence that appeared in yetserday’s Globe and Mail.

Keeping an eye on your rivals

Even the smallest of operations can scout out the competition, and the results can be vital

This is competitive intelligence, and Jonathan Calof, a professor at University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management and a leading CI expert, says it’s widely misunderstood.

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that competitive intelligence is too complex and expensive for small businesses to undertake. In fact, most CI techniques cost nothing but time, and the findings are vital to small business success, especially in tough times.


The Minority Opinion

Jon Lowder at CI Marketplace writes that Lenny Fuld highlights the value of the contrarians in our midst when he explains why he’d like to meet a character in the Madoff mess:

No matter how certain, how comfortable you may be with an answer, a popular answer, an answer that comforts or confirms, you need to pay attention to … the minority and taking them seriously.

If you don’t like the content of a minority opinion, then find out if it is right through independent and impartial research!