Welcome to Blogs of War. My name is John W. Little and this is essentially my personal blog. Almost all of my projects over the last fifteen years have been developed with the goal of understanding and addressing the critical national security, technology, and intelligence challenges facing the United States and its allies.
Blogs of War, created in 2002, is one of those projects. It gained international attention when CNN acknowledged that I, along with a few other war bloggers, were at times beating traditional sources to the story during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“Blogs of War” and other sites sometimes beat traditional sources with the latest war news. – CNN
That coverage, which was mostly comprised of rapid-fire, short, around the clock updates (think tweets - but well before Twitter) was later archived by the Library of Congress.
With Blogs of War I have tried to leverage decades of internet experience (pre-dating the web - think 300 baud modems and bulletin board systems) and a global network of contacts to mine, analyze, aggregate, and surface open source information with an eye towards identifying important trends at their origin. I also try to directly connect Blogs of War readers to smart, respected, non-partisan subject matter experts at every opportunity.
I am a 2017 Future for Good Fellow at The Institute for the Future. I spend a lot of time thinking about how technology, from social media to AI, is driving profound changes and creating significant tension in existing systems. We are witnessing the emergence of robotics, AI, incredibly powerful algorithms, and other transformational technologies that, while impactful now, stand to be significantly more disruptive in the very near future. Navigating this change, avoiding catastrophic conflict, building adaptive and resilient systems (all while preserving democratic ideals) is going to be tremendously challenging.
My projects and analysis have received global coverage from news organizations including CNN, BBC, CBS News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fast Company, Time Magazine, and PBS Newshour. That's pretty cool but I'm more interested in the connections that I can make with smart people and the projects that I'm able to contribute to. I don't go looking for media coverage - quite the opposite in fact.
In late 2014 I launched the Covert Contact podcast. My goal is to produce a program that showcases complex and meaningful national security topics in a manner that resonates across the entire spectrum. I have many diplomats, journalists, technical experts, intelligence and military professionals in the audience (which I am thankful for) but I want the casual observer of international affairs to find the program accessible, thought-provoking, and engaging as well. On Covert Contact we ditch partisan politics and complaints to go off in unexpected directions, wrestle with big problems, and struggle to gain an accurate understanding of what is happening in the world around us. Guests have included diplomats, technologists, spies, journalists, art historians, hackers, and authors.
Before Covert Contact was a podcast it was a commercial national security focused Twitter aggregation tool:
I built Covert Contact after my livestreaming Twitter aggregators aimed at mining Tweets during the Egyptian Revolution gained widespread attention.
“Blogsofwar’s Egypt Twitter aggregator is also a must-read, especially for those who can understand Arabic.” – Fast Company
Unfortunately, Twitter later removed the streaming capability from their API and Covert Contact had to be retired - only to be reborn a few years later as a national security podcast.
That one disappointment aside, Twitter has been a real asset and significant focus for me since 2008. My primary account, @blogsofwar, was named one of Time Magazine's top 140 Twitter accounts of 2014 but what I collect via the service is as important as what I share. I'm always mining. Always mapping networks. Always making new contacts. Always looking for additional insight into critical problems.
Blogs of War “…pulls from hundreds of political, security and intelligence sources to find and tweet the nuggets its followers don’t necessarily know they need to know.” – TIME
I have undertaken all of these projects without expectations about outcomes but occasionally my work gets picked up and referenced in ways that are unexpected. Finding my analysis of Tor, and its limitations (Tor and the Illusion of Anonymity), cited in United States v. Matish was one such surprise. Blogs of War has led me into many strange surprises over the years but it has never been boring.
Thanks for reading & listening,
* Selfie taken at the summit of Mt. Belford (14,197ft) in 2010. My first 14er.