Choosing and documenting scan sources
Our focus in choosing scanning sources is to select those that identify possible, probable and preferable fundamental changes in:
We believe that most world information is readily available through open sources and that which is hidden behind subscription sites can mostly be deduced. However, we track useful subscription sites for the benefit of our members and use these in client specific assignments where open sources are insufficient for proper analysis.
For the mainstream we look for sources that the interest communities themselves use to announce news. For changes on the social and cultural fringe, we look for voices that express values and ideas bubbling among artists and youth for example. For all scan hits we seek to ‘get close to the sources of change’.
Here’s where we look:
‘newspapers, websites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, news sites, newsletters; magazines, books, book reviews, presentations, reports, surveys, interviews, seminars, chat rooms, trend observers, advertisers, philosophers, sociologists, management gurus, consultants, researchers, experts, universities’
'Unfortunately, intuitive recognition of a source as useful is not a transferable decision rule. So, in the best tradition of expert systems analyzes, we ask ourselves what we are actually doing when we choose sources. To which the shortest possible answer is probably, "identifying opinion leaders." Because our current social construction grants credibility to intellectual adventuring within formal structures, such as science, we label those opinion leaders "experts." As innovative social and cultural ideas and behaviors challenge the status quo with the potential for transformation, they are generally marginalized – hence the usual scanning label of "fringe" for sources on emerging issues among youth, artists, social movements, the underclass, etc.
[Our source categorization acknowledges this by asking scanners to assess the credibility of sources as "expert," "professional," or "pundit, ‘amateur’ and ‘fringe’. This is NOT meant to be pejorative, only descriptive. It does, to some extent, conflate a judgment of location of emergence of insight (scientific / rational genius vs. artistic / intuitive genius) with the timeframe of emergence (e.g. expert and fringe vs. punditry: the assumption being that something spotted in the popular press is further away from the origin point on the emergence growth curve).
Our researchers concentrate on identifying anomalies and patterns from their daily scans with a detailed knowledge of where information resides using proprietary and utility technology to find the best material versus our source categorization.
We look for material that expresses:
New, novel, advance, innovation, renovation, fashion, latest, renew, innovate, newness, fresh,
First, inception, conception, initiative, beginning, debut, onset, birth, infancy, start, dawn, commencement
Idea, notion, belief, apprehension, thought, impression, ideation, point of view, standpoint, theory, prediction
Change, alteration, mutation, permutation, variation, modification, inflection, mood, deviation, turn, inversion, subversion, forecast
Surprise, marvel, astonish, amaze, wonder, stupefy, fascinate, dazzle, startle, take aback, electrify, stun, bewilder, boggle, wildcard
Opportunity: chance, opening, crisis, juncture, conjuncture, favorable, high time
Threat: future, prospect, anticipation, perspective, expectation, horizon, outlook, look-out, coming, forthcoming, imminent, approaching, fear, uncertainty
A robust scanning strategy will monitor change all along the above curve, and discriminate between the uses and usefulness of data emerging from different points of the curve. When a change is just emerging, and only a few data points exist with which to characterize it, we can only analyze it via a case study approach; changes indicated by limited data points and observations are referred to as “weak signals” of change. As a change matures, more and more data points are available with which to analyze it: we can speak of the change as a variable which is displaying a trend in some direction. The more mature the trend, the more likely it has entered the public arena, and thus attracted issue adherents voicing demands on government.
Therefore, while we may initially tag a trend as having been sourced from an amateur, or the fringe, our task is to strengthen and broaden hits in order to improve source attributes towards professional and expert. If we cannot our system reduces the priority rating we would give to the issue.
What would be measurable or documentable attributes that would help us distinguish among sources, and that would establish sources’ credibility as opinion leaders for their communities of interest?
We ask our researchers to weight these variables for each trend which in turn increases, or decreases, the prioritization of one issue versus another. These ranking systems in turn provide a useful sight check of whether our thinking has been sufficiently robust.]
Text in parens above by kind permission of Infinite Futures:
Our framework for determining what should be uploaded is as follows:
Good links have the following attributes:
And our analysis of the links:
Retiring “old” trends
Any update cycle must consider how to retire or delete trends, in order to ensure the accumulating wealth of data does not render the database unwieldy and unworkable. In our experience, trends are slow to dissipate. What is more common is either a change in direction (such as with the obesity issue in the middle of 2003) or a change in emphasis (the value of the outdoors in health promotion has evolved to include mental health or “wellbeing” as well as physical health) or a transformation due to collision with an emerging issue from another sector (twenty years ago an “aging society” implied communities of infirm, debilitated OAPs; with advances in gerontology, an “aging society” may now mean communities of active seniors with vigorous lifestyles).
As cases and observations of the trend accumulate, it becomes more widely known. The uncertainty level drops, and it is more likely to be addressed by plans, strategies, and policies: it becomes a condition of daily life, rather than a perturber of daily life.
Those trends that lack any sign of alteration are retired (retired through our rating system or deleted where the link is broken), or where appropriate, added to other existing trends as secondary or tertiary evidence.
We conduct this check annually.