Blogging New Territory
As the Internet continues to serve as a vital platform to instantly and publicly disseminate information and opinions, blogging has increasingly become more mainstream, and even, a pertinent resource for the Navy and other government agencies. Since emerging in the late 1990s, Web Logs, or blogs, have come a long way. In fact, the Navy, well known for its effective public outreach, has encouraged use of the web as an informational tool within guidelines. "The WWW is an extremely powerful public information tool, and its use, within these guidelines, is encouraged." As the popularity of blogs within the ranks grew, in 2005, the Navy issued a regulation (SECNAVINST 5720.47B) and said, "There is also no prohibition on blogs operated by individual members as private citizens. The DON recognizes the value of this communication channel in posting current information and supporting the morale of personnel, their family and friends. As long as personnel adhere to specific restrictions on content, the DON encourages the use of blogs and recognizes this free flow of information contributes to legitimate transparency of the DON to the American public whom we serve." As technologies evolve, including the way information is shared, security remains a high priority, blog or not. With security in mind, in 2006, DoD acknowledged the popularity of blogs among military personnel and said that any site not sponsored by DoD could not be created or maintained during duty hours, nor contain information on military activities that is not available to the general public.
Acknowledging the importance of tapping the resources of Web 2.0 technology, namely one of its most prevalent user group, Net Generation-the generation born between the late 70s to the early 90s-the Navy's Chief Information Officer, Robert J. Carey, didn't send a memo; he blogged. "In addition to being raised on computers, this generation thinks differently from the generations that have preceded them. This Age of Mass Collaboration requires parallel rather than linear thinking, which the Net Gen has mastered as a result of their seemingly innate knack for multitasking," Carey said on his blog. According to the IT world, Web 2.0 has a myriad of meanings. But if one were to Google "Web 2.0," one of the first definitions of the term comes up as: "Web 2.0 encapsulates the idea of the proliferation of interconnectivity and social interactions on the Web." Each military arm's CIO has their own website, but Carey is said to be the first CIO to harness 2.0 technology with his blog.
The CIO blog, described as a forum for the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer to discuss matters related to information management and information technology and how they impact the Department, was launched in January 2008.
So why does the CIO blog? "In short, our Nation's security depends on it," Carey said. By embracing and recruiting this generation, the CIO sees it as a way for them to chart new and innovative paths. Carey, who blogs a few times a month, stated the intention of his blog early on: "to open up a straightforward and public dialogue with DON personnel, and specifically the brave Sailors and Marines who are out on the front lines protecting this country, so that I can fully understand what their IT needs are."
Beyond the CIO's blog, the IT Resource is multi-faceted with its presentation of information, further justifying the Navy's embrace of Web 2.0 technology. Described as an ongoing conversation about initiatives in the Navy, personnel issues and current events, the CIO's website also offers several Podcasts. As with his blog, Carey views Podcasts as another important communication tool for the Navy. "What I hope to accomplish by the use of podcasts is to get information out to those who need it anywhere and anytime. It is a wonderful technology that allows us to deliver messages to Internet users that affect them in the Department of the Navy," Carey said in his July 27 Podcast. The Navy's official website also features a variety of podcasts, videos (vodcasts) and RSS feeds, which can be accessed here: http://www.navy.mil/podcast/podcast.asp
In terms of propagating information in the military sector, Carey is a pioneer of sorts. According to a recent article in Federal Times, Carey took a new approach when he needed a new policy on enterprise interoperability. He went the 2.0 route: he wrote a draft, posted it as a wiki, and told colleagues who needed to review it, to do so online. Wiki, Hawaiian for "fast," is yet another web technology that has reached the military ranks. Wikis are known as collaborative websites set up to allow user editing and adding of content-or in this case a Navy policy-and is more proof that web technology is changing the informational landscape.
In his June blog post, Carey asks, "Blogs and wikis are now becoming mainstream communication tools, but who in the DON is actually using them?"
Quite a few people, actually. Throughout the blogosphere, there is a host of blogs dedicated to first person accounts ranging from topics such as deployment to commentary and musings on the industry. According to Milblogging.com, a site that catalogs military-related blogs, as of press time, indicated that there are 2,093 military blogs in 39 countries. Though there isn't an official count of Navy-related blogs, their presence is well represented.
Below is a list of only a few Navy and military blogs.
Destroyermen documents the real-life accounts of sailors aboard the USS Russell. According to their mission statement, Destroyermen, aims "to deliver an authentic, unvarnished, informative and entertaining account of life aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer, report on USS RUSSELL's contribution to the Global War on Terror and execution of 's Maritime Strategy, and provide insight into the character of the American Sailor."
War is Boring: http://warisboring.com/
David Axe offers an unparalleled view of the military. He has reported from the , , , , East Timor, Afghanistan, , and . He blogs alongside at Wired's Danger Room.
(Reprinted from the September 2008 edition of MarineNews)