Tuesday, 15 July 2014

What is Bellingcat

This week I've launched the Kickstarter for my new website, Bellingcat, which I hope will solve one issue I've come across again and again.  Often I've been invited to various events where people who have developed great tools and techniques for working with open source information have spoken in front of a crowd of eager journalists, activists, researchers, etc, who listen to the presentation, then go home and forget about it.  With Bellingcat I'm trying to do something that will keep those people engaged with those tools and techniques, and also show others how to use them.

Bellingcat has contributors writing for the site on a variety of subjects, but all using open source information for their work.  Over the last two years I've used open source information to investigate the conflict in Syria, but it's not just about conflict zones, with the OCCRP demonstrating the use of open source information to investigate cross-border crime and corruption.

I want to engage Bellingcat's contributors with the tools and techniques organisations like the OCCRP have developed, but also teach others how to use them.  Along with news and analysis, Bellingcat has guides and case studies so anyone can learn the same techniques we've used in our investigations, creating new investigators.

We also plan to have ongoing projects which Bellingcat readers can get involved in, learning about tools and techniques while contributing to the projects in a meaningful way.  In the coming weeks I hope to provide information about these projects, and how Bellingcat readers can get involved.

Bellingcat is as much about the readers as it is the contributors.  We only have to look at what's happening with Ukraine and Gaza to see why it's important to understand open source information and why verification is important.  If you agree, then please donate to the Bellingcat Kickstarter.

1 comment:

  1. I applaud you and all the hard work that has gone into a great resource for citizens journalists, academics, and really anyone who wants to be informed. I am sure you will get A LOT of suggestions about the site whether it’s what to add or questioning Wikipedia as a verification tool (ppl should get over it, it’s a legit starting point). My thought or suggestions is a little different. It is not lost on me HOW MUCH work you're already doing. Maybe in the future or as a side project you could add a "learn by doing" tab or something to that effect. In this tab you could post a youtube video or picture or story (really anything that has ALREADY been verified). You could then task your followers or readers to use the tools you've shared with them to verify some aspect of what you shared. Allowing them to practice what you’ve preached in a safe environment(one where wannabe BrownMosses don’t post nonsense online using half assed techniques) and having the ability to learn, gain feedback and results through peer collaboration in forums or from contributors. Essentially, putting the users of Bellingcat in the role you have undertaken as citizen investigator. I think this would drive participation and be a great way to truly learn your techniques. You would be gamifiying the Bellingcat experience. There could be a subscription service almost like your teaching a class or you can use it to just drive traffic. I teach economics and have gamified my class and there is a greater participation and understanding compared to when I was just a lecturer. This could be something that drives major traffic( although I hope you don't need to drive traffic I hope in the brilliance of what you've done it becomes a self-sufficient entity). Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.