Friday, February 27, 2015

Combatting the Mid-Campaign Slump

(I have been writing about what I call "Entrepreneurial Intelligence" (or ENTINT for those who like acronyms...) on and off for a couple of years now.  Part of what I am coming to realize is that everything I do in support of entrepreneurial crowdfunding efforts through Mercyhurst's Quickstarter Project is really just intel.  The "best practices" report below, put together by my Research Assistant, McKenzie Rowland, and focused on dealing with the dreaded mid-campaign slump, is a good example)

When running a crowdfunding campaign, it is common to notice a dip in the activity in the middle of the campaign.  It is so common, in fact, that it has  a name - 'the mid-campaign slump".  

Fortunately, there are a number of tactics that you can apply to overcome this slump and keep your campaign running at a more even pace.  The table below is a ranking of what techniques the majority of crowdfunding advice-givers have found to be the most instrumental in campaign success (It's a big table so be sure to scroll right to see all the columns!).

Overall, the most common approaches are ones designed to make backers feel valued throughout the campaign.  By sending personal messages or emails and keeping them frequently updated with photos and posts, you’re showing them that you value their contribution and that their donation matters.  

Incentives also appear to be a common way to bring in more contributors and funds, and can boost donations when campaign activity is low.  This may encourage current backers to bring in others to the campaign, so it is likely important to tailor your incentives to the core value proposition of the project in order to bring in the most donors possible.  

These efforts can be time-consuming, however, and may result in greater costs to the campaign so it is important to make some estimate, in advance, of the cost (in terms of both time and money) to benefit ratio before pursuing any of them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Collectors! What Three Things Do You Wish Policymakers/Commanders/Analysts Knew About Your Job? (RFI)

Back in the early 90's I was looking at the Balkans.  I had a bunch of info that made me think there was a small, unidentified weapons cache that needed to be confirmed.

I was very proud of myself.  I had narrowed the search area down to about 10 square kilometers.  At the time, I just so happen to be collocated with the imagery collectors so I went down and asked them, "Hey, can you find this cache for me?" I suspected we had the images and I thought it would be a relatively straightforward task.

I already know what all the IMINT collectors out there are thinking.

"What a dumbass!"

And you are right.  I was a dumbass.  But what happened next changed my attitude about intelligence collection activities forever.

The senior photographic interpreter took me over to a light table (yeah, it was that long ago...) and handed me a huge photo and what amounted to a jeweler's loupe.  "Knock yourself out," he said.

It took me only minutes to realize the enormity of the task that I had casually tried to pawn off on the IMINT guys.  Trying to find something so small in an area so large was an incredibly difficult and time consuming affair.

Over my career as an analyst, I was lucky enough to have similar experiences with professionals in other collection disciplines.  Understanding the challenges and capabilities of collectors made me, I think, a better, more efficient analyst.

I am teaching a class this term where I am trying to get my student-analysts to come to many of the same realizations.  Called Collection Operations for Analysts, the goal of the class is to make them more aware of the challenges and capabilities of HUMINT/Primary Source, IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT and even OSINT collectors.

SO...I need your help!  I would really like to give my students the perspective of working collectors.  I am NOT looking for anything classified (of course) or overly technical.  I am looking for the top three things collectors in each of these disciplines really wish that analysts, primarily, but also policymakers, decisionmakers at other levels, commanders with limited intel background and maybe even the general public understood better about their collection discipline.

For example, if I were a SIGINT collector, I think I would want the people I support to have a better feel for just how much stuff there is out there.  The volumes of traffic are huge in this collection discipline and even the largest organizations' ability to collect, process, translate and interpret are incredibly small.  I think if more people had an appreciation for this fact of 21st century communications, some of the stupider things said about SIGINT ... well ... wouldn't get said.

But don't let me put words in your mouth!  This is your chance, collectors!  And I am not just interested in national security collection, either.  I would love to hear from law enforcement and business professionals and even from SAM's international audience!

You can drop a comment below or, if you are uncomfortable with that, drop me an email at kwheaton at mercyhurst dot edu.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Media In 2014...From Predictions Made In 2004!

One of my favorite short films back in 2004 was one called "Epic 2014".  It was faux documentary that purported to report on the media scene in 2014.  It walks the viewer quickly through the history of the internet from Tim Berners-Lee up to 2004 (when the film was made) and then it begins to "report"/speculate about what the next ten years will hold.

If you haven't ever watched it or haven't watched it in awhile, take 8 minutes right now to take a look:

There is some silly stuff here (like Google-zon) and the video does not really hint at the rise of stuff like Facebook and Twitter (much less Instagram and Tinder...).

But the takeaway is an eerily prescient statement concerning the current state of the internet:

"At its best, edited for the savviest readers, [the internet] is a summary of the world - deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything available ever before.  But at its worst, and for too many,  [the internet] is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational. But [the current state of the internet ] is what we wanted.  It is what we chose."
I don't know of anything that is quite this well done (or this insightful) about the future of the internet over the next 10 years (leave a comment if you do!) but I suspect that much of what we will be looking backwards at will involve new technologies like the one demonstrated in the 2 minute video below from Microsoft:

In case you are curious, the hardware and software capable of doing all this is coming to you next year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's The Most Difficult Language For English Speakers To Learn?

Once you start looking for them, there are lots of places on the internet that talk about the relative difficulty of learning to speak different languages.  This infographic (courtesy of sums up what many of these sites are saying:

While I like the infographic, it is impossible to ignore some of the more robust efforts to categorize languages by difficulty. For example, anyone who has been to the Defense Language Institute or the Foreign Service Institute knows that the US government has its own scale that it uses to categorize languages by difficulty.

Even more interesting is the fact that the relative difficulty of the language may or may not correlate with how much extra pay you will receive for speaking a particular language.  For example, compare how difficult it is to learn French with how much extra the Army will pay you each month if you speak French on Page 20 of Army Regulation 11-6...

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Game Every Intel Professional Should Play Is Now For Sale!

CVTV, a new version of the ancient game of Hnefatafl
Hnefatafl is one of my favorite games.  Quick to play, easy to learn, created by Vikings - what's not to love?

I recommend it to intelligence professionals, however, because it is an asymmetric game that forces players to really think like their opponents to win.  That, in my estimation, is a skill worth learning.

Last year, I ran a successfully funded Kickstarter project to produce my variant of this game.  Well, I have finally managed to fulfill all of the rewards promised under that campaign (long story...don't ask...) and am now able to make the game available to the general public!

If you are just interested in learning the kinds of things I talked about in the interview below or in just owning a nicely made, portable variant of the game, then I recommend the basic set.  This is also the set I would recommend to educators and trainers who would like to use the game to foster a discussion on asymmetry of goals, forces or geography (Contact me directly for discounts on bulk orders).

If, on the other hand you are into Cthulhu or into Vikings or, better yet, into Cthulhu vs. The Vikings, I recommend you think about buying the deluxe set (and, what the heck, you might as well get the comic to go with it - so you'll know the story!).

Whichever set you get, I am certain that you will enjoy the game!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all!