The High School Student Who Maps ISIS’s Lightning-Quick Advance -Newsweek

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“Thomas van Linge’s colorful, detailed maps showing which parties control which parts of Iraq, Libya and Syria are a hit whenever he posts them on Twitter. They have been cited on news stories in the Huffington Post, Lebanon’s Daily Star and Vox, as well as on the University of Texas at Austin’s website. But van Linge isn’t a policy expert and he’s never been to the region: In fact, he’s just a Dutch high school student who tracks the war on social media.”
http://www.newsweek.com/dutch-high-school-student-maps-isiss-terrifying-advance-syria-and-iraq-342604

This is an interesting article for two reasons:

The first and most obvious reason is that it identifies an excellent source for maps of the civil war in Syria. You can find the maps and more analysis of the situation in Syria at Pieter Van Ostaeyen’s blog, “pietervanostaeyen: Musings on Arabism, Islamicism, History and current affairs” https://pietervanostaeyen.wordpress.com/

Secondly, this is another example of an amateur blogger providing first rate information and analysis that is used by researchers and policy-makers. Another example is the Brown Moses Blog (http://brown-moses.blogspot.ca/) run by Eliot Higgins. The blog covers the military hardware being used by the various parties in the fighting. Although that may sound like a somewhat narrow, perhaps even geeky thing to analyze, it tells us a lot about the politics of the conflict, like who is supplying which groups with which weapons systems. Higgins has no formal training and started the blog while at home minding his child. Nevertheless, his work is widely respected and frequently cited.