Friday, March 7, 2008

Is Web 2.0 a threat? - Part 1: Second Life

Web 2.0 principles of openness and sharing is a great model for the intelligence community. When applied to various intelligence related functions, they can increase communication between analysts and make information gathering easier. However, the same Web 2.0 principles that are embraced by analysts can also be embraced by those on the other end of the spectrum: terrorists. In this way, can Web 2.0 actually be a threat?

Second Life is a virtual world, where users control an "avatar" to explore and communicate with others. Because of the freedom and lawlessness that this world offers, it is becoming a haven for illegal activities. Terrorist organizations are embracing these worlds, for basic training, planning, simulations, and transfer of funds. Here is an interesting article from the Washington Post, discussing how Second Life is becoming a cyber battlefield, for both the intelligence community and terrorists.

Mr. O'Harrow of the Washington Post presents many new concerns that these virtual worlds create. Can we monitor a virtual world? What rights does the government have regarding search and seizure in a virtual world. As businesses and organizations are moving meetings and transactions to the virtual realm, what laws, if any, apply to them?

These virtual worlds have many avenues to communicate secretly, hold private meetings, and transfer finances. The CIA even uses several islands in an internal virtual world to hold unclassified meetings and basic training scenarios. Terrorists can also embrace these ideas to communicate, recruit, and train - even transfer finances in an almost untraceable manner.


While the extent of the threat to national security that Second Life may present can be debated, it is safe to say that the government and the intelligence community needs to take a extensive look at the virtual realm.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Web 2.0 in the judicial system

While it is safe to say that Web 2.0 has infiltrated the intelligence field, here is an interesting article from about how judges are turning to Wikipedia to help them in forming their judicial opinions. According to the article, judges are turning to Wikipedia most for help in defining slang terms that creep up during litigation - usually terms that are not covered by traditional reference materials.

If you are so inclined, the post links to a 13 page report from the NEFA Foundation entitled "The Wikipediazation of the American Judiciary" It mainly raises and attempts to answer the question of whether or not this is a dangerous practice in our court system.

Uses for Twitter

Twitter, a tool I've covered before, can be extremely useful when used in the right ways. Here is a great read from that details 17 different ways to put Twitter to use for you.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Just a quick mention about a great website -

Meebo allows you to sign on to all of your instant message accounts from the same place, and every service runs through the website. Theres nothing to install, and it works with all the major features of the IM networks.

Meebo supports:

- Yahoo Messanger
- Google Talk
- Jabber


When I first came across Jott, I was skeptical of it's claim: "Never forget anything again!" Jott is essentially a phone number that you call from anywhere and leave yourself a message. Jott then transcribes the message, and emails you a reminder at a time you specify. Convenient? Definitely. But is it really that much easier than simply adding a new event in Outlook or Google Calendar. Before trying Jott, I would have answered no to that question. However, after using it for this past week I can say that it truly is an extremely useful tool.

When you call the phone number, it asks you who you want to "Jott". You can set up names and phone numbers on the Jott website, so you can easily send messages to any one. It then asks you what you want to Jott - the message that will be transcribed and sent. After you record the message, it asks if you want a reminder; and if so, when you would like it. This is the real saver feature of the application.

On Monday of last week, I called Jott to set a reminder for myself about a meeting I had later in the week. After that point, the date and time completely left me. Early Thursday morning I received a text message reminding me of the meeting at 15:00. It's great for those busy times when you have so much happening that its easy to forget some things. Last week was one of those times, and without the message from Jott its likely I would have missed the meeting.

You can access all of your transcribed Jotts, edit reminder times, and change how you are alert. It's very simple to use, and you can check off tasks and reminders.

While its not for everyone, I definitely recommend giving Jott a trial run. The price is right - it's free!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Time Management

Here's a neat application that could definitely prove useful for most people. RescueTime is a Web 2.0 program that analyzes how you spend your time. You can view reports about how much time you wasted reading your favorite blogs, and how much time you spend in applications on your computer. As a free tool, it is extremely comprehensive and quite possibly a very useful resource.

The Web 2.0 Intel Product - Collection

As this project is going to be based off of open source intelligence, our biggest resource will be an internet search engine. While most people would, and rightfully so, depend on google, there are many other search engines available for use. One very interesting tool is ChaCha Search. ChaCha Search will take your search term and gather appropriate and relevant results from all the major search engines. What makes it unique is that it offers you the opportunity to search with a human guide. The guide will go over the results and personally pick the ones that best answer your search. While it is not the fastest or most efficient way to search, it can be a helpful resource when you are having difficultly finding information on google.

As we search the internet, I decided to collect all the relevant information and save it as a wiki. The benefits of this method are two-fold: First, my research will be available on all computers with internet access. Second, a wiki will allow other users to view, edit, and add to my research - its collaboration features and ease of use can't currently be matched by any other tool out there. I created my at - it is accessible at

I have already added information about mining projects and companies to the wiki, and will be updating it as my research continues. The wiki is set up as public, meaning any person who accesses it can add and edit the pages - feel free to participate. Next up we will try to find some Web 2.0 tools to perform the analysis step. If you have encountered any tools that would be helpful with the analysis phrase, please leave a comment.