Guest-Lecture at Johns Hopkins

Air Force,Analysis,Geolocation by on February 13, 2008 at 11:44 am

I guest-lectured at Johns Hopkins last Saturday in the Analysis, Data Mining & Discovery Informatics Class in the Intelligence Analysis Master’s Degree program. The students were largely early-career intelligence analysts that are accustomed to conducting one-off analysis, but rarely think about building analytic systems.

I gave an overview of IP geolocation, had the students test their skills at mapping IP addresses (thanks for the IPs Bob!), and then we discussed how we might build an analytic system to map IP addresses.

My takeaway from the class was that the government doesn’t train its people how to build systems. The analysts that I worked with had all been in their roles for a number of years, but this course seemed to be the first time that most of them had ever thought about improving the analytic system, not just improving their personal analytic capabilities

I’ve found the culture of the intelligence departments to be very analyst driven. The analyst is at the top of the food chain. Tools are built and data is collected to improve the analyst’s job.

However, analysts frequently do things that can be automated. Even worse, the agencies reinforce this by building tools that make their automatable work easier to do manually.

The key is to realize that the analysts are components of a larger system, and not the purpose of the system. We found a great balance at Quova where our analysts and algorithms worked closely together, creating a system much stronger than any one component.

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