I just came back from a quick trip to Northwestern University. I was presenting a very rough draft of a chapter of the book in progress (tentative title: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone: NATO in Afghanistan) with David Auerswald. The audience was relatively small--about ten profs, graduate students and undergrads. But there was a very good critical mass there, and they provided heaps of good suggestions for how to revise the paper and, as a result, improve the book.
I have participated in a couple of book workshops where folks read someone's manuscript and together they leap upon the author, providing constructive criticism. My role in those occasions was as outside critic brought in to provide comments. I always envied the authors even as they were being subjecting to body-blows to their egos, as the comments would make their work that much better.
It was very helpful to get a small dose of that experience. And it reminds me that I need to finish a piece that addresses vetting--but in the policy community. These encounters energize my work almost as well as a good deadline.