Source assurance

Choosing and documenting scan sources 
Our focus in choosing scanning sources is to select those that identify possible, probable, potential and preferable fundamental changes in:

  • Business: the nature of commerce
  • Economics: the value chain
  • Environment: scarce natural resources & sustainability
  • Health: our well-being
  • Industries: key markets and services
  • Lifestyles: the way we live and work
  • Politics: major country and ideological political shifts
  • Society: our global communities
  • Technology: advances in, and the uses of, science

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 the 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 analyses, 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 robot, Athena, concentrate on identifying anomalies and patterns from daily scans with a detailed knowledge of where the information resides using proprietary and utility technology to find the best material versus our source categorization.

Athena follows these rules as follows:

She is programmed only to find statements of the future from professional sources. She is self-learning too in many respects and we continue to develop that.
o However, every forecast is curated by our part-time editor and any issues fed back to the developers. Our professional futurist editor is apolitical in that regard.
o The robot has her own unique fake news algorithm built-in. She will not accept fake or hate news. She will accept rumor and controversy but warns the reader. 
o She now has the ability for our members and clients to restrict biased sources from PR firms, those accused of cheating and biased reporting, etc.
o She only accepts forecasts that meet our strict relevancy algorithm rules
o She can assess source credibility (TRUST) and members and clients can again refine their search on higher or lower rankled credibility as they wish
o She is also now measuring author intent (this is is a new discovery of ours and unique to us). By counting how many of the provided methods (CLA, SWOT, etc) that the forecasts contain we have mathematically proved that the more methods covered the greater the relevance. Similarly forecasts with no counted intent can be auto rejected. We are working towards that.
o She highlights possible duplicates for removal by the editor

She looks 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, a 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?

  • High numbers of citations by members of the community: for science documents, literally the extent to which they are cited; for popular media, their distribution; for "fringe" literature, the "buzz," measurable also by popularity within their target audience and, in the case of blogs, their ranking by links and hits. Is the source therefore credible as an opinion leader for that community?
  • Market niche: to whom is the source targetedThe Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine are targeted to professionals in medical research; New Scientist is targeted to scientific professionals and decision-makers, as well as interested laypeople; Discovery is targeted entirely to interested laypeople and students. Is that documentable, e.g., by reference to mission statements or self-descriptions?
  • Distribution: does distribution data, or access data (in the case of web sources / info-feeds), demonstrate widespread use by members of the source’s target audience/community of interest? This would to some extent duplicate, and therefore corroborate, the citations variable, above.
  • Media: the medium of information distribution itself might help distinguish among expert, fringe, and punditry, in terms of a print journal, professional association newsletter, tabloid, etc.

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:

  • Does the link aim to identify and assess possible future threats and opportunities, including radical alternatives?
  • Does the link explore socioeconomic trends and their potential impacts?
  • Does the link challenge existing political, economic, social, technological, environmental assumptions and evidence?
  • Does the link question assumptions underlying current policies?
  • Does the link pioneer or employ methodologies appropriate to best practice horizon scanning, strategic planning or change management?

Good links have the following attributes:

  • Credible and eclectic sources from the full range of disciplines
  • Easy to read/plain language
  • Thought-provoking
  • Future-focused (except where history or today give context and
    understanding of the future)
  • Helpful to creating future plans and actions

And our analysis of the links:

  • Is at deep-link site-level wherever available
  • Is comprehensively described through our content classification
  • Correctly describes an interesting title and properly ascribed
  • Contains a description that eliminates a site’s over-claims to
  • Includes key tags: document type, timeframe, country of origin, URL, language
  • Only reference pre-payment sites at front-page level and are
    clearly marked as 'subscription' sites

Sources and information are deemed to be true and reliable, but Shaping Tomorrow makes no representations to same.

Content management

  • Broken links are checked and removed automatically each week. Those that can be repaired are restored, those that cannot are removed
  • We never remove live content from the site.
  • We rely on sight checks and member notifications of changed links where the URL is the same but the content changed
  • We spell check all content but do not change the text from the links except where an obvious error has been made
  • We regularly use system utilities to check for missing field information (description, URL type, criteria, country of origin, etc.) and correct as necessary
  • We encourage our members to report broken links

Fake News
We don't add content from sources identified as 'Fake News'. 

We filter each internet domain through a continuously updated and professionally curated list, the aim of which is to preserve the integrity and transparency of information on the internet.

Each is analyzed, looking for extreme biases, lack of transparency and other kinds of misinformation.

The following classification is used:

  • Fake News: entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports
  • Satire: use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.
  • Extremely biased: a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.
  • Conspiracy: well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.
  • Rumor: traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.
  • Propaganda: Domains in repressive states operating under government sanction.
  • Junk Science: promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.
  • Hatred: actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
  • Unreliable: may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

Here is the list of classified domains.

We believe that anything reliable found in these sources will be quoted elsewhere and that Athena, our robot, will pick these up in the course of her daily work from reputable sources.