It’s hard not to take the opportunity to discuss the recent AP Exclusive: CIA Tracks Revolt by Tweet, Facebook. Librarians have hooked this live fish and held it up as the prize winner. And I agree this is a great example of the power of librarians.

I want to take a step back and talk about why the work that this particular team is important.

1) Open Source Content Through Social Media

Focusing on the wealth of information made available through Twitter and Facebook truly takes an expert because they have to be able to sift out the garbage effectively.  And while software can help it takes the human analyst to make a proper and accurate interpretation.

2) It’s not just th information skills that matter.

The article focused on the necessity to be proficient in foreign languages too.  Again geotagging could be helpful but its unreliable. In addition, it takes the human element to discern connotations in language.

3) It’s the complete picture analysis that matters.

Without context gathered from additional open source items such as news stories, the lone tweet is not useful.

From Arabic to Mandarin, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in a native tongue. They cross-reference it with a local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House. There might be a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.

It is encouraging to note that the director, Doug Naquin of the center is confident that the team ” will find a way to adapt, as the enemy does.”

Constance Ard November 15, 2011