14 August 2009

Interactive Field Manuals: A Reality!!

Wow! The Army has made a giant leap into making use of new media. We had a discussion on this blog a while ago about the concept of interactive field manuals - electronic manuals in which Soldiers could leave comments, ideas, videos, etc. It's becoming a reality, according to a recent news report.

According to this story, the Army has opened a number of manuals up to wiki-style editing. And, any Soldier can do the editing. Interesting! The story also states that there are a number of manuals that will not be opened to editing - our capstone doctrine. That makes perfect sense. There are some foundational pieces of our doctrine that need to be developed in a more organized fashion. But for those more tactical level manuals having interaction with Soldiers is an incredible step for the Army.

There is a permanent team identified for each manual that is responsible to review all edit. Also, Soldiers must post edits under their own name, and since we have to log in with an ID card, there's not a way to be anonymous.

I haven't played around with the manuals yet since I just heard about it this morning. Once I experiment a bit and see what the use has been like so far, I'll put some more thoughts together and share them here.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Being executed well? Share your ideas.

**QUICK UPDATE, 4 Sep 09: seems like the Army's pilot project is getting a pretty decent response although there are still several significant concerns to work through. See this Stars and Stripes story for more details.


  1. I haven't had the opportunity myself, but as long as there is a good editing team in place, this can do nothing but improve the level competency, especially in the Technical areas and the field operational side. So long as they don't allow dumbing down or street language writing it should be a winner.
    Best regards,
    Albert A Rasch
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  2. I agree. I think the oversight is crucial, but the interaction/involvement of Soldiers should only make things better.

  3. Finally got some time to spend exploring the new milWiki as it's being called(https://wiki.kc.us.army.mil/wiki/Portal:Army_Doctrine - you'll need an AKO username and password to log in). It's very much like Wikipedia - the document is there for you to read and each section has a little [edit] button which, when clicked, gives you the opportunity to rewrite the manual. All changes are monitored by a team so I guess I couldn't go in there and write non-sense.

    This is a good start, but I really think there would be more value not in directly editing the manual, but in being able to leave comments about how you implemented the doctrine. As discussed in the entry about interactive manuals, being able to share those kinds of experiences, or videos, or presentations, would be very useful. There are some collaborative sites that are great for military leaders (i.e. CompanyCommand.com, NCONet, etc) that provide for some of this kind of sharing, but having such collaboration occur "within" a manual would be very useful (in my humble opinion, anyway.)

    If you're in the Army, I really do encourage you to go check this out and share your thoughts about it. As the articles state and is reiterated on milWiki, this is a test run for the Army. If folks don't participate and share their thoughts about it, you can guess where it will end up.