25 January 2009
And, as always, tell your friends/colleagues/complete strangers to stop by this blog and take the poll.
So, again, not a scientific poll, but I'll use it as a point for discussion. Half of the responses think milblogs currently have strategic effect. Another third say there's a possibility for strategic effect. In the comments from the post when I asked the question, membrain and Cannoneer No. 4 mentioned some examples where milbloggers did have an effect: in both cases, the situations involved someone who either lied or told a story that milbloggers believed misrepresented the military. Both are awesome examples of the impact that bloggers in general can have (and are having), but I'm curious about the impact Soldiers can have with their own stories.
As I've been perusing the blogosphere, I have yet to come across an example of a story by a milblogger that starts a chain of events with strategic effect. It is my opinion that several of the first milbloggers in OIF did ... but once the newness of milblogging wore off, has the impact/staying power of our Soldiers stories waned?
I want to believe that our Soldiers stories are having a great impact on more than just their family and friends. But, I'm having a difficult time finding compelling examples. I'm looking for mainstream pick-up of stories originating in the blogosphere. Or, stories that become extremely popular in the blogosphere - linked to by a large number of other blogs and therefore more widely read.
Do you have such examples that you've come across? Or, perhaps you've got some examples from your own blogging experience? Please share them here in the comments!
And, oh-yeah, if you're interested, here are the details from the poll:
Could Soldiers blogs have strategic effect?
- 3 (50%) Yes. Many already do.
- 2 (33%) They could, but most don't.
- 1 (17%) Maybe, but I think it's a stretch.
- 0 (0%) No.
22 January 2009
Members of the military operating within a closed network or the public operating in a more open online setting could help shape national security policy in much the same way, creating a product that results from a far more transparent process than exists now.
“I think we need ‘wiki’ security,” says Admiral Stavridis, head of US Southern Command, who’s an avid blogger
The Coast Guard commandant has this to say about new media:
“We need to understand that we are not living in the same social environment that we grew up in,” says Admiral Allen, who announced a new information “revolution” – not in a press release or an “all hands memo” but on YouTube, the popular online video site.
Allen is embracing the medium-is-the-message in hopes of connecting with the very people he hopes to influence as he sets a course to engage the rank and file and the public at large on his wide-ranging ideas.“This is a permanent feature of our environment, and we need to understand how to operate in it, communicate with our people, and put out policies and let them understand what the organizational intent of the Coast Guard is and what we expect of them,” he says.
So add these leaders to the growing list. At the rate that the list of very senior officers are embracing new media, I won't be surprise to find in the very near future some new forward-looking policies for the military to make more effective use of new media (as opposed to the reactive type we've seen so far).
21 January 2009
Soldiers who grew up in the information-sharing digital age suddenly faced very old traditions of operational secrecy. But today’s blog analysts say the idea of stifling online content, even in battle zones, may be futile. Milbogs, they say, are as enmeshed into the fabric of military life as any other facet of society.
In 2006, the Army’s Web Risk Assessment Cell, or AWRAC, which didn’t exist when Bush took office, scanned 1,200 military Web sites and blogs, or milblogs, for potential security leaks. Immediately, bloggers flagged it as a Soviet-style purge against digital freedom.So, it's time for our policies about new media catch up. We need to make better use of our Soldiers blogs to help us tell the Army story, to get more information about activities on the ground around the world into the public forum, and to better share with our public what life is like as a Soldier today. We need to acknowledge that what we've done so far is act in fear by disallowing certain engagement with new media rather than embracing it and figuring out how to maximize its value.
The audit’s results, obtained a year later by the Electronic Frontier Foundation via a Freedom of Information Act request, showed nearly 2,000 cases of operational security breaches on the military’s own Web sites, but "at most, 28," breaches on nearly 600 personal blogs reviewed.
There are several folks out there who are determining ways the military can do this more effectively, but generally, this is being done by rather low-ranking folks (the USAF new media office is headed by a Captain). Nothing against these people - in fact they're generating awesome ideas - but it certainly doesn't send a message that the military is truly embracing it when it's treated as a small aside.
20 January 2009
Just a quick glance through the posts (really, questions asked by MG Oates) shows that a good number of folks are responding to this new form of communication. Some of the discussions already have over 100 comments posted! Responding to concerns that such a forum can negate the chain of command in an interview with Danger Room, MG Oates said "It is not in fact going around the chain of command; it allows us to connect to the chain of command in ways we have not been able to experience before."
Similar concerns were raised by faculty at USMA when the Dean and Commandant both began an internal forum for cadets to post concerns and questions. For the most part, posts remained professional and respectful, and both the Dean and Comm showed they valued the cadets participation in the dialogue by personally responding and posting follow-ups to actions that were taken if something needed to be fixed. In time, these forums were accepted and frequented by faculty - and it's arguable that it improved internal dialogue among all. The main difference between these USMA forums and the Task Force Mountain one is firewalls: the USMA forums were accessible only within the USMA network, the TF Mountain one is accessible by anyone!
Another interesting piece of MG Oates' foray into Web 2.0 stuff is the Lima Charlie Chat Room - a scheduled time when MG Oates chats online with Soldiers and they can ask whatever they want. You can read a transcript of the first chat on 4 Jan and judge for yourself if Soldiers are asking honest questions and the CG providing honest answers. I think most will be pleasantly surprised. But, you can also judge if there are potential "security violations" in there ... this is still the most challenging piece of all this new media for the Army.
One thing that I think would make this TF Mountain web page even better would be to provide links to blogs from its Soldiers. This could lead to much more traffic for the Soldiers blogs, therefore more of the "daily life" stories could make it out into circulation, and the blogs could have more positive effect. Some think that by doing so, however, would lead the Soldiers to edit themselves and not post as honestly. A fair concern, I think, but in this case, perhaps worth the risk to increase the audience!
So, what do you think? Is this TF Mountian blog a good idea? An open blog for dialogue about internal and external issues? What about the chat room (and posting the transcripts of "internal communications")? In the military, does this sort of thing usurp the chain of command? Or, as MG Oates contends, is it just one more way to communicate with your subordinates? Curious to hear what you think.
19 January 2009
I bring this up only as to reiterate what we've discussed here before. One of the first rules of blogging (and, specifically, milblogging) is to do so with complete integrity. Milblogs have the potential for tremendous impact on public opinion - as long as they are viewed as credible, trustworthy, sources. One foul move and that credibility is destroyed. Unfortunately, I expect that credibility is not just destroyed for that single source. It is likely that other milblogs will be seen with similar skepticism.
13 January 2009
09 January 2009
08 January 2009
- Global Nerdy
- Web Ink Now one of the comments on this post from Matt Scherer reads: "The problem with the Air Force is that while they have an ongoing social media strategy, they don't have the authorization to get fulltime access to Twitter and other blogs. Their communication types don't want to allow them outside the firewall. A few proactive PA types are now getting a laptop that allows them to see what the world is blogging about, but until this happens, the Air Force is woefully way behind." This is also a problem for the Army and one that needs to be addressed - we need to know what's being written, so we can know what to (or not to) respond to. It's not ever good to be the "last to know"
- Transparency - tell folks who you are
- Sourcing - write based on your experience or observations; else clearly cite your sources
- Timeliness - too slow on the draw and your comments will be missed
- Tone - got to remain professional
- Influence - spend your time on "high payoff targets"
05 January 2009
The Department of Defense has slowly evolved its opinion of blogs. A few years ago, they were seen as a serious threat and were discouraged, and their authors sometimes faced serious consequences for disclosing potentially harmful or embarrassing information. Over the years, reasoned minds discovered and communicated to leadership that it was nearly impossible to muzzle soldiers — and that doing so not only stopped that small amount of possibly harmful communication, but also the overwhelming amount of information flow that added layers of understanding about the lives of soldiers, their families and our institutions.It is my hope that the experiences of the 314th and many others will continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of Soldiers blogging. Best wishes to the 314th and the many other Soldiers currently serving around the world.
04 January 2009
Thanks to the 16 of you who voted - a new Soldiers in the Blogosphere polling record!
- 18% (3) Absolutely! Most are pro-military and/or pro-war
- 62% (10) Yes, they are somewhat pro-military and/or pro-war
- 12% (2)No. Most are quite neutral.
- 6% (1) Yes, most are somewhat negative about the military or war
- 0% (0) Absolutely! Most are very negative about the military or war
I personally don't find this to be troubling as long as the positive outlook is based on facts. The idea of truthful information is paramount to creating and maintaining credibility. Interesting stories can be told, compelling drama can be generated, and readers will keep coming back for the next installment if the Soldier is credible.
ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH: NON-NEGOTIABLE. In the comments, New Orleans Ladder said "it is never a good idea for the Army to lie to the American people on American soil with American Tax-paid computers." I couldn't agree more! In my opinion, this is a must - no discussion! Also in the comments, Ms. Rosenthall (posting as WateryHill) wrote in response to a comment by Adam S., "I am just an American citizen, but I do not understand why you say for the Army to fabricate information and call it facts, that the Army is telling 'its side of the story.'" If what was being posted was, in fact, fabricated information, then the person posting it is wrong and is doing more harm than good for their cause and for the Army. Since the idea of defensive blogging is to correct or complete a story then the information a Soldier leaves on anothers blog must be completely accurate. I've written a little about this in the past when discussing credibility and how Soldier's blogging fits in the fundamentals of information.
BE HONEST ABOUT WHO YOU ARE. Also in the comments, Ms. Rosenthall wrote "The commenter 'stevonawlins' is on record saying he does not work for the Corps, meanwhile his comment originated from Corps Headquarters in New Orleans." There appears to be a disconnect in this case - either his claim or the IP address is false. I won't hypothesize here about which it is, because the more important point is that if you are a government employee - Soldier or civilian - and you are posting information about something your organization is involved in, then you owe it to the people to be honest about who you are. This is one of the rules that are followed in CENTCOM's defensive blogging exploits - and it is appreciated and respected by the authors of the blogs being commented on by CENTCOM's team. This is also what I've done when leaving comments on others blogs, and what Ms. Rosenthall did when leaving comments on this blog. Of course, there may be some security risks that are being taken by exposing your identity on-line, but, as Mike's 25 axioms for blogging points out, there are ways to protect yourself by carefully choosing what you write about.
ENGAGE THE ISSUES, NOT THE PEOPLE. Some people may like the personal bashing that is not uncommon in the blogosphere, but for professional discussions it should remain professional. And one very common rule for professional debate is to engage the issues, not the people. For example, New Orleans Ladder wrote in the comments, "blog etiquette dictates a civil response to a civil question from a post's subject." He's right; he asked me to address the issue raised by Ms. Rosenthall without attacking me. When one side decides to begin bashing the other, the discussion can quickly degenerate into something that is completely useless. By engaging the issues real discussion occurs and, hopefully, solutions are found. As Soldiers in the blogosphere, much like when we're visiting with friends or family or walking around town, we leave perceptions about us as individuals and people often generalize about all Soldiers from those perceptions that we create. We must take advantage of the opportunity for people to see that we are professionals - just as they can see in the accomplishment of the missions we are assigned. This may be a bit of a challenge, especially if you choose to leave comments on a website that is clearly anti-military or has engaged in hateful rhetoric, but we must always remain professional, even when we disagree with someone's ideas or opinions.
These three TTPs should be simple for us to follow. I'm interested to hear from those of you that may have engaged in a defensive blogging mission. Share your experiences in the comments to this post. Thanks!
P.S. for a great example of effective defensive blogging, take the time to read the comments to my original post on this subject. Ms. Rosenthall and others were effective at ensuring I had the complete and correct story, they were primarily professional in tone, and they were clearly passionate about the subject. It's just one more example of the power of back-and-forth that can occur in this new media.