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Entries in About the blog (15)

10:31AM

Home from Prague, digging out from under

Unfortunately, my one piece of luggage is still touring Europe, thank you British Airways!

For all of you who've been asking:   Yes, Wikistrat ran a post-Kim Jong-Il simulation last spring.  I'm presently summarizing the results.

Going to go below the radar til the end of the year so I can concentrate on getting the house straight and working in preparation of a big simulation that Wikistrat is launching for a client the day after Christmas (a holiday not on everybody's radar in this world).

Will pop back up once thingds are settled here.  No column next week.  First one of year will be my semi-usual top-ten foreign policy wishes for the new year.

Enjoy the holidays!

7:02PM

From now on, regarding comments

I want real names - no more handles.

Been wanting to do this for a long time.

I understand all the usual rationales.

Handles in addition to real names fine, because I know some people want to build brand.  Just no more handles only.

If you have legitimate fears, then come up with something that sounds real.

11:44PM

Monday the blog moves to Wikistrat

It'll be transparent to you all, and the blog will continue in much the same way as it is now.  I'll just be devoting more and more of my irrepressible analytical efforts (as longtime readers know, I've tried to repress them on a regular basis!) to Wikistrat products, which I'm excited to help develop. As I'm currently working with my editor, Mark Warren, to go to market with "The Emily Updates" book, I don't have the outlet of working a new volume on globalization/US foreign policy/international relations and Wikistrat gives me a relationship where I can put those inescapable energies to some use.  That's also why I'm getting my security clearance re-established almost six years after I gave it up at the Naval War College.

Unless I pick this sort of focus for the blog, I just wouldn't know what to do with all the information I get from tracking the media and all the ideas that result, and I'm just not ready to retire that part of my brain.  It's simply too much of who I am.  But as my decision a while back to stop the heavy volume indicated, after six-and-a-half years of blogging (this is post 12,006), I needed either to decide and integrate these analytical efforts more formally into my work or to set it aside.  Fortunately for me, Wikistrat saw an opportunity in that decision-point and so we'll see how this collaboration evolves.

Again, it was time for me to find some larger home for the blog and my larger body of work versus doing this all by myself as the proverbial one-armed paperhanger.  Now that Enterra has matured to the point where we're no longer in the evangelical mode and I'm back to the level of effort I had in my first 2-3 years with the company, I need to reacquaint myself with a lot of subjects where I've maintained the minimum  of currency to write but not the maximum possible for deeper exploration as I see fit--or simply get excited enough to pursue.  

And I think moving the blog to Wikistrat will help me do that.

So see you there next Monday.

7:38PM

You make-a da blog . . . you make-a da too much!

Since I cut down on the blog flow, my monthly readership (unique visitors) went up by a third to north of 50,000.

The number used to stick at around 39-40,000.  Now it's at 53-54,000 and it keeps climbing.

Less is good.

10:58AM

The big-flow blog will return, as part of a larger offering

Right now negotiating with the Israeli start-up Wikistrat (click here to download their brochure) to have them host my blog as part of an exciting new offering we're collectively working on. For now, the outlines of the plan are such that I will continue to offer a free blog version (with a flow not too far off what I'm offering now) and a subscription-based big-flow blog (to include an additional periodic flow of meta-analyses on globalization's trends, turns, etc.).  The larger goal is to create an online offering for individuals and enterprises alike that leverages Wikistrat's platform, meaning the content flow is but one traditional aspect of what we are crafting in terms of online strategic planning tools.  You know my old bit about wanting to replicate my skills in the next generation?  Well, this will be the primary outreach tool: a place where you can come and gain access to a super-scenarioized model of how globalization works and evolves, where you can create your own scenarios and pathways and shocks-to-the-system and explore them to your heart's content, interacting with me and other analysts.  

What excites me about this venture?  This isn't the traditional black-box approach, where you turn over your particulars to a consultancy and they draw upon their expertise back at the shop and then crank you answers that you cannot trace in logic (beyond what is shared).  This will be a place where the very underlying technology will be shared with you, and where your intellectual forays will be pursued in collaboration with strategic thinkers, meaning, at the end of the day, a real transfer of both technology and intellect is obtained. 

I believe that the great outsourcing of strategic planning that corporations pursued in the 1980s, creating the rise of mainline business/strategic consultancies since then, is over and in the process of being reversed (insourced).  I think the globalization landscape is just too complex and every-changing for companies, government agencies, etc., NOT to have that skill set within their organizations.

And I think my collaboration with Wikistrat (an experiment just beginning) will provide the human-capacity-building that a host of companies, educational facilities, public agencies will find compelling--far more so in the rising/emerging markets, where the need is greatest.

And so I am very excited to begin this adventure, putting the blog to more focused use.

2:52PM

Less absolutely, a deep reduction in flow/change in philosophy and a redirect to Twitter

Two triggers for yesterday's declaration:

1) interview with Canadian journalist (Globe and Mail; nice guy) where I found myself, as always, defending the SysAdmin concept from its usual caricatures (all military, all US or at best all West, and all public spending).  And you know, I just get tired of repeating myself after seven years, reminding everyone that I said from the start: more civil than mil, more USG than DOD, more rest-of-world than just US or West, and--duh!--overwhelming private-sector funded.  So what does Afghanistan tell us about Canada's future choices with its military?  It tells us that the West and the US in particular still myopically chooses to view the SysAdmin task as overwhelmingly military-centric, DoD-centric, NATO-centric, USG-centric, and official developmental aid-centric, and guess what? None of that, even piled on top of itself, constitutes a quorum for Afghanistan. The only package that works there will be heavy on Indians, Iranians, Turks, Russians and Chinese--in addition to the Pakistanis.  It will involve those countries building and defending networks and markets. Victory won't involve the creation of a democracy--at least not one we'd recognize any time soon. Instead, as usual, given our vast costs sunk thanks to our stubborn unilateralism and government-firstism, we'll view any such outcome along the lines of "We fought the war, but the X won!"  It's a stupid and petty mindset and eventually enough frustration with outcomes will drive it out of us, but such change tends to come generationally--go figure.  Anyway, I go on a long riff with this guy and I wonder why I'm still making these arguments in broadcast fashion to an audience that's apparently unready for it, when there are so many private-sector actors and non-US governments moving down this path with a vengeance--meaning better clients.  Why not run with them and pull back from this evangelical path here in the States, somewhat embodied in the time-intensive blog?

[As a side-rant, let me skewer the inane stupidity that says, "Barnett's SysAdmin concept was doomed from the start" by pointing you in the direction of Africa, where SysAdmin "forces" and "functions" are in evident display all over the place.  And guess what?  The vast majority of the work is being done by non-military, private-sector-funded non-Westerners, and IT WORKS JUST FINE DUMBASS!  But sure, if you want to reduce that force/function in all its complexity and breadth within globalization's advance to a small-unit operation in some remote Afghanistan valley and ask the question, What was Barnett thinking when he said a bunch of US Marines with guns could somehow "connect" Afghanistan to the world?  Then yes, all my vision was completely invalidated by that one apocryphal firefight!  Meanwhile, while you stare at your most American of belly-buttons, globalization continues to penetrate the Gap with stunning speed and integrating effect--and never the twain shall conceptually meet.  But understand this, I don't sell theory; I sell observed reality, which I name.  You can wallow in your caricatures and claim my defeat, and I will shake my head at your complete inability to read what I write and hear what I say--in every single brief I've ever delivered.

But I regress . . .]

2) As I move down this path, I run into days where I find the blogging requirement crowds out too much good personal and professional stuff.  Today I spent a long block of time thinking through cyber governance issues and it was great.  If I have the blog on the usual high-volume sked, that's impossible, as is a certain amount of parenting. Plus, after seven years of being in the evangelical mode, I simply want to move on.

Still, I like the site that I've built, and I like having a place to centralize certain things in terms of presentation and archiving.  I also want to put certain things out there regularly, like announcing latest columns and posts at Esquire and other stuff I write and publish.  Then there's always that simple desire to express myself and to record, diary-style, certain things I do (like a planned trip to China in October).

So I know I'm going to finally cave into my wife on the time-lost-to-the-blog complaint (there's the two new kids impact), especially since my career evolution (different role at Enterra as it matures and thus wider network of activities, which was my norm until a couple of years ago) demands both more focus and concentrated efforts and involves a lot of partners who are, as I stated yesterday, not much interested in this broadcast mode but desire more exclusive content more exclusively delivered.  And when I realize that my most circulated stuff on the Web is what I write for WPR and Esquire, then why maintain the blog at such a high level?  Simply put, it strikes me an outdated model:  I started it as pure analytical diary and it became too much the formal presentation as the field was quickly crowded by mainstream venues re-establishing their natural hierarchy (so every mag now has a blog and most bloggers of note operate within organized structures).

[Second side rant:  Why did I talk myself or let myself get talked into this pathway of formalizing the blog? Too many people complaining that I didn't take myself or my legacy seriously enough, which I think I do in my formal writings.  I just don't think I should have to adhere to that level of formality here.  I didn't in the beginning, and I'd like to go back to that and screw all the references and some of the visuals and instead go back to the analytic diary and pure self-therapy of writing for release.  Too many times in recent months I've found myself staring at the blog entry screen, saying to myself, "Type something profound, damn it!"  And you know what?  As soon as you say that you're doomed to be boring and trite and predictable. Plus it takes so long.]

So the question becomes, why not drop out from the old model and go to something more relaxed--as in, write what I want when I want, and shift the quick-and-dirty recording of semi-interesting articles via Twitter, where the lack of visual requirements and the restrictions on text length guarantees a modicum of effort and no more?

And so that is what I will do, and I'll see how that goes.  What I know is this: I don't want to fill this space like I used to.  I find myself needing to retreat mentally from that level of broadcasting/sharing.  I've spent 7 years doing the evangelic thing and it's been fun, but having done it, I will admit to a certain level of boredom with it--the usual seven-year-itch that seems to regularly relocate me in a geographic sense (from Wisconsin to New England to mid-Atlantic to New England back to the Midwest and now plotting a return to the mid-Atlantic).  I'm about seven years having left my job at the Naval War College (I really left in 2001 when I went to OSD, then again in 2003 when I left OSD, and finally--truly--in 2005, so let's split the difference) and I can feel the reinvention coming, which corresponds nicely to Enterra's nifty maturation and settlement into three core areas of exploitation (healthcare, supply-chain management of consumer products, and supplier-chain management of complex sustainment efforts in the defense sector).  So as things are simultaneously settling down and expanding and blowing up, I find that natural itch to reinvent and recast and rebalance.

And so that is the way it will be:  irregular posts here on stuff I really, truly, absolutely want to archive, with the rest going via Twitter, where I will limit myself--poetically--to as few syllables as possible (I thought I did pretty well today).  I will continue the archiving of formal pubs, along with their announcements here, and I will likely archive travel and other special stuff.

But I will abandon the volume standard that I settled into (totally self-imposed) and let the rest migrate to Twitter (the pointing dog stuff).  That just doesn't interest me like it used to; been there, done that--done. Plus, when I compare my original posts from the spring of 2004 to now, I realize that, back then, I mostly riffed and made scant reference to MSM materials (just using them as launching points), and now the bulk of my text are excerpts, which feels like I'm playing fact checker. [Another triggering realization: I had a lot of fun riffing on that Andy Krepinevich piece recently, but I hardly go long like that any more in the blog; instead, I spend too much time cataloguing--and reminding--and watching what I say.  But again, what gets reposted mostly is the more careful, edited stuff I write on WPR and Esquire, so why not go back to the casual standard here--as in, I write-for-myself-so-f@3k-off!  Because that stuff I can write very fast when I choose to, meaning no real burden.

Anyway, I had long feared/hoped this would happen when I finished the Great Trilogy, and that day has finally arrived.

So I kill the formal blog and reclaim the diary, my debt to society and history fulfilled in the dead-tree Trilogy.

But yeah, I will still rant mostly about globalization, because it's the most interesting thing I know.

8:42AM

Hiatus for now, decisions to follow

I'm going to shut down this blog for the foreseeable future.

My career and workload have evolved significantly since the recession hit, and I just find that I can't justify the time and effort required to keep the blog running.  Other opportunities/responsibilities beckon, and that array doesn't value/support this endeavor, so while I've enjoyed it, this is simply an adjustment I need to make.

I will keep the site up for now.

I will continue to keep writing at places that can pay.  I just realize that I've come to the end of a career model that says I can play LoneWolf@eponymous.com and make that work.  A bit sad, as it's been fun, but as someone who hates to repeat himself and loves to always move onto the next experience/model, I likewise enjoy the pressure to reinvent myself.  I just can't move down that path while simultaneously maintaining the old one--not enough hours in the day. And while I will always do the reading and thinking, the market I'm encountering wants my content tailored and exclusive, and I simply have to respect and match that trend, as there are family responsibilities to be met.

12:02AM

The regular blog returns tomorrow

9:54PM

Taking a break from blogging

Got too many things going on right now, work-wise and family-wise, and feel frustrated about my inability to find time to get old pages recreated.

As such, I am going to resist blogging stories for a while, and instead use my non-working hours to chill a bit, get ready to send off my daughter to college, try to attend every possible cross country practice with my sons (one student coaching, one competing), get the house ready for the girls, and try to get the old site's pages rebuilt by the end of August.

I just feel the need to spend as much time as possible outside the workday with my family.

12:03AM

Reader-requested new glossary entry: Zero-sum versus nonzero-sum

Zero-sum versus Nonzero-sum

Zero-sum refers to situations/transactions/environments where the resource in question is actually or just perceived to be fixed in size and therefore cannot be enlarged.  As a result, competition is more intense:  If I get 80% of the resource, you can only have 20%, or everything that I "win," you must "lose."  Humans tended to view economics exclusively in this manner until the Industrial--and "industrious"--Revolution began at the start of the 19th Century.  A good example is the concept of mercantilism--as in, the only "good" trade is that which generates a surplus of a precious commodity (throughout history, the focus here was on accumulating gold, a perceived fixed-sum resource because the world's supply grew irregularly).  Until the Industrial Revolution alerted humanity to the possibilities of escaping the limits of organic growth by creating new resources (i.e., the 19th century is considered the century of chemistry, resulting in all sorts of new chemicals and compounds, as well as substances and production processes made possible by them), Malthusian logic held (the notion posited by scientist and philosopher Thomas Malthus that wealth and demographic growth were inversely related--meaning, the more people a society accumulated, the poorer it became in aggregate, because there was only so much wealth to go around).  But with the Industrial Revolution, the causal relationship between population and economic wealth was broken: portions of humanity (primarily the West) got very rich and populous (exporting immigrants globally).  Now, as globalization spreads to those parts of the world previously denied deep economic connectivity, new Malthusian fears arise, creating suspicions of future zero-sum contests over resources.  But, as in the past, such fears will prove groundless:  when certain resources become "exhausted" in the sense that the cost of accessing them becomes too high (like oil), humanity will move on to new technologies that exploit resources in different and more efficient (and less pollutive) ways.  As a final note, when it comes to matters of threat, consider defense to be more zero-sum in perception (i.e., the more defense I have, the less you perceive yourself to have), while the interdependency of globalization shifts the matter from individual (or even collective) defense to that of shared security, which is truly nonzero-sum (i.e., the more security I build into my system, or into yours, the safer we both are). 

2:48PM

Feel like look-and-feel finally set

The tale goes as follows:

I start with the "empire" template (don't even comment on that . . .) and first thing I do is create the banner in PPT, using the map, the two globes figure and my fave portrait of me.  Going back to layout design, I decide for wide main column sided by two nav bars where I'll put all widgets (search, archives, Twitter, etc), and top nav bar under the header.  I saved original banner as tiff file (mistake) and eventually shifted to PNG with help of Bradd Hayes.  Over time I cut the pixel width down to 800, which is max size suggested by Squarespace for any web image.  Original one was 1248, and I think the size was mucking up some presentations for people (hoping that's fixed).  I made everything originally to fit my big iMac screen, but now have it shrunk down to point where it comes up on my 13" MacBook with about 1 inch grey margins on each side.  Looks good also on my smart phone (BB Storm).

When I get banner down to 800px today, it was aligned left on page and looked off-center.  After a support ticket query, I was able to center by maxing the internal pad on the left, and then maxing the border and making both the same color, which I approximated to match the bulk of the landforms in the map on the right.  The border approximated the blue ocean on the globes.

Once I got the basic look and feel of the front page set, I imported the old blog.  By doing so, I automatically created a "journal" (blog) inside the site.  When I started making up new posts within the site, I unthinkingly created a second journal.  I have since merged them so the archives would be whole--and singular.  I did this by reclassifying the 50 or so posts as belonging to the larger, archived blog journal, and then I renamed that "globlogization" (it was originally called "imported-20100505########/"--a truly charming URL).  I have since created two additional "hidden" journals (not appearing on the top navigation bar):  one for my Blueprint for Action htm-pages-turned-now-into-simple-posts and one for my Naval War College project pages-now-being-turned-into-posts.  I will likely create one for media, the New Map book, and ultimately for Vonne's poetry (which I made into a series of hidden pages).  Ultimately, I want as few pages as possible and to put as much as possible in hidden journals.  Size doesn't matter much here (except in pricing) because it's all cloud computing (for example, all of my old images are now stored in this manner).

Style-wise, I did make almost everything too big at first (some complaints), which--again--was superb on my big-screen iMac at home but bad on my small laptop.  Scrunching things down a bunch, I've now decided on 16pt text for the body, 14pt for all links (a compromise, because I'm simultaneously sizing the ones in the navigation bars and the posts' body), 28pt for post titles and most everything else (small stuff on margins) 12 pt.  Only two fonts used:  Times New Roman for titles and section headers and Lucida for everything else.  Putting the banner aside, only five colors are used (besides the background white):  

 

  1. True black for top nav bar background, Twitter background, day banner background and basic post text
  2. A dark, navy-ish blue for post titles
  3. A slightly purplish blue for all links, date-stamp on posts and sundry post details at bottom, plus all borders and underlines and dark backgrounds
  4. A dark grey (matching for side background panels) for all highlighted (and backgrounded) text.
  5. An off-white for all text that's highlighted by dark backgrounds and for all light backgrounds.

 

So, basically black, white, grey and blue--sticking with the empire template but altering the colors slightly and then making them uniform throughout (amazing how many little formats you have to alter for true consistency throughout).   So if you forget the extra color in the banner and stipulate that you'll have black and white as basics, the site is really blue and grey, my two favorites colors.

Actually, come to think of it, my entire dress wardrobe (setting aside ties) basically equates to the site's color scheme, right down to the rare use of the tannish brown.

Once I figured out how to do backgrounds for the quoted text, I ditched the terrible idea of italicizing them instead.  I really prefer a light color background, especially when you excerpt at length.

So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it--unless my Aunt Mary still has problems reading the blog on her WebTV, but I'm hoping that's fixed now that I got the banner down to max suggested width.

12:10AM

Welcome to the new site!

 

Thought I'd welcome you with the classic glassy-eyed, grizzled and casually-dressed blogger pose. 

Boy, looking at the shot, you can really that my right eye's significantly higher than my left.  All my life I wondered why binoculars never worked for me!

The process of moving the blog and site was a lot smoother than I had hoped.

Last weekend I got all my posts teed up on the old site through yesterday.  Then I the first part of the week's spare moments getting my account set up at Squarespace.com and going through all the tutorials.  Then I designed the blog page and all the linking architecture that will appear throughout the site (top nav bar, and side bars).  Spent a bit of time designing the banner on PowerPoint and then having my colleague Bradd Hayes clean up and size it correctly in Photoshop.  By very late Tuesday night I was ready to transform my trial account into a real one.  I then exported my entire blog from the old site into a TXT file (37GB) in a matter of seconds, and then uploaded that to Squarespace in a matter of minutes.  Then the site took over the job of importing everything into the new site--entries, comments, pix and all links.  I woke up Wednesday morning to find it all in place and working fine.

So Wednesday, during breaks, I teed up the first posts for today.  I took my time because I was just getting used to the system here, and I'm categorizing all posts for the first time (basically, citation posts versus What Tom is up to posts versus WPR columns versus Esquire Politics Blog posts, etc.) and using tags for the very first time (trying not to accumulate too many or use more than three per).

What I love about the site?  The WYSIWYG post-entry window, where the pics go right into the body without you having to make all the code happen somewhere else and then copy it over.  The uploading function is very neat and easy to use.  I can also embed video (although I will have to learn how), something I will consider off the phone on trips, or maybe--under the right special conditions, right out of my office.  I can also set up to blog off my phone, which is making the Droid look more attractive by the day for its physical keyboard.

Something also new and different (meaning an adjustment), but which I think we'll both enjoy:  the post entry format comes with a reference field that allows me to type in the URL, title, author, date and pub very quickly.  It appears at the bottom of the post now, meaning you'll have to click on it to look it up.  That means I need to offer some scant reference in the body so you know what I'm working off, but it presents a cleaner look and it's an easier entry process, much like the graphics now (which I will provide a link on if they don't come from the referenced piece--as before).

Three other new things:  1) recent comments will be listed in the left sidebar; 2) since my quotes won't be highlighted with background but just indented, I'll italicize those; and 3) most important to me, I can actually sked posts into the future on this site, which is essential for my traveling (old site didn't allow).

As before, all comments will be moderated.

Anyway, so that was Wednesday night mostly, and then I spent time getting the left and right sidebars populated--into Thursday.  Then Thursday and Friday were non-stop page recreating as I could find time.  Watch the top navigation as new pages come online.  I'll be at this for weeks before everything's done.

Anyway, here we are and here we'll stay for now.

Feedback appreciated.  Just understand that a shake-out cruise is inevitable.

Oh, and note that I did not import any comments made between 5 May and 10 May inclusive.  Those are lost to the wind.

12:09AM

About Twittering . . . 

First BB Storm I had came with it on the main menu.  So I tweeted a lot and liked it.  Then I had to ditch the phone and next one didn't have it, so I got out of the habit.

Now that I'm in the new digs and playing blogmaster to myself, I found myself wanting to go back to the micro-blogging for stories I felt some desire to comment or quip on, but not enough desire to log in and make the posting effort.  So I get it on my latest BB Storm, which I don't love and will soon turn in for a Droid, methinks, because I want the mechanical keys back, plus I add the Twittering widget at the top left on the new site, displaying the last five tweets.

My promise:  Once the site fully up and I get all caught up on my regular sources, I will work hard to tweet more, using it, often, to clear my in-box faster.  This way, you have the main blog in the middle, where I won't try to stay that terribly current, and the micro-blog on the left, where I can sound off more in real time.

Best of both worlds, I'm hoping.  Especially as Steve and I gear up to do more consulting as Enterra's technology continues to mature and thus allows us a bit more scheduling freedom, it'll be helpful to have both cylinders firing in terms of mental output.

Your choice:  follow the widget's postings as you come to the blog on your sked, or follow me on twitter directly (see the link above at the base of the Twitter widget).

8:55AM

Okay, domain switched, now waiting on remapping to work its way through Internet  

 

Used the Nettica presents to create Host A record for thomaspmbarnett.com and an alias CNAME for www.thomaspmbarnett.com, linking both to the appropriate 
Squarespace addresses.

When I check the set-ups at Squarespace, I get an incorrect mapping response for now, but I only made the change around 0830 and it can take up to 24 hours to work its way through the Web.

My assumption right now is, I don't have to do anything more to make this happen. It will just occur sometime in the next 23.5 hours.

So cross your fingers!

8:50AM

No switch to the new site today, but probably tomorrow

Domain re-registration in the works, and guaranteed by midnight tonight. Tried to expedite, but it's a machine's timetable.

So I stay here one more day, pushing back my debut posts a day on the new site and satisficing here with this pathetic entry, the long interview below (really, one of my best ever, so I'm more than happy to share here today), and the usual Monday morn link to the WPR column (above at 0900).

Sorry for the delay. But it gives me 24 more hours to get as many pages recreated as possible. Good news: I like the new host a lot and I think you'll like the layout much better there, to include an on-page Twittering widget that I promise to exploit, as I just got Twitter back on my BB after a long absence.

Note now that comments from 5/4 to 5/10 now will be lost on the new site. I've altered too many blog posts to re-import the last few days. Apologies to any who are offended.