10 things I can’t do from my desk

July 31, 2009

Not much changed since the last post. From my work desk in Iraq, I’m still restricted from engaging audiences on social media sites. Despite yet another article indicating that Social Media engagement is a priority for the Army.

Here’s a list of things I can’t do from my work desk that the DOD wants me to do–though not from my desk, I suppose:

1.) Download the Army’s official design templates for Web sites and Social Media

2.) Listen to the DOD Bloggers’ Roundtable–by the way you should listen to the BRT on August 4, 11:00 a.m. EST for an update on the Advisory and Assistance Brigade mission COMPLETE

3.) Post on my brigade’s blog

4.) Post tweets on my brigade’s Twitter feed @4_1AD

5.) Interact with the over 2,300 Fans who support the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division on Facebook

6.) Visit any of the Social Media sites run by my higher headquarters MNC-I, CENTCOM

Our goal at Multinational Corps-Iraq is to maximize our use of Social Media to inform you about our missions and the people who accomplish them. We’re striving to create a dialogue with you. We will do that by sharing news, information, insights and conversation with the people who support our organization and operations in Iraq. –MNC-I

7.) Conduct spot media assessment on a number of different Web sites. Cookies, schmookies

8.) Read any blogs that are not on a .mil domain

9.) Share videos, photos, and audio products with others because access to USB ports is blocked…I wonder how civilian news agencies operate? Do they require reporters to use personal equipment and run down to the local coffee shop to access the internet to file stories?

10.) Upload videos produced by Army broadcasters to DVIDS via FTP–blocked

As a Soldier we improvise and adapt where possible. However, all the 100mph tape and 550 cord can’t help me access Social Media.

*venting complete*

Oh, if I’ve missed your phone call at my desk, it’s because I’m at the MWR internet center down the street writing this blog post. Sorry.

Update: Looks like the debate over Web 2.0 access is at the highest levels of the DoD. The Pentagon’s top public affairs executive is an active participant and proponent for Social Networking.

Social Media blocked on the battlefield

July 1, 2009

Working public affairs in a combat zone brings new challenges daily.  I love my job because I get to tell the story of the American Soldier in Iraq.  Specifically, in 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

However, lately, I’ve been really flummoxed at my inability to access Social Media sites.  I feel like I can’t, know I can do a better job as a brigade public affairs officer if I had access to sites that the Secretary of Defense wants me to use.

Herein lies my professional frustration.  The Secretary of Defense has said on numerous occasions that public affairs officers need to reach audiences through social media.  You can read various statements here, here, and video here.

“Public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals.  It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaida is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America.” -SecDef Robert Gates, Nov. 2007

The newly appointed Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs recently said about social media, “It’s not just better one-way communication; it’s better two-way communication. It’s not just us reaching people; it is them reaching us, too.”

And he has a twitter feed on the official DOD Web site.

And almost a year ago Iwrote about the Secretary of the Army encouraging military blogging.

Before deploying my brigade established a presence on several social media sites.  Several are registered on the Army’s official social media directory.

After lengthy days at the office or covering events, I update the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division Facebook page on the SniperHill internet in my containerized housing unit…it connects at Slowsky-like 8kbps and I pay $88/month.  The money is not the issue, I consider it a personal expense for occassional professional use, however, I could do much more if I had access at my desk—just like the PAOs & other Soldiers in the states.  Access the senior leaders say I should have.  Access that keeps family members informed.

I feel bad when my brigade commander asks me “Hey, PAO, when are we going to start the brigade blog?”  I have to give him the penguin salute because I can’t effectively launch it without access to monitor the activites or have a truly interactive environment.

For those who think…“stop whining, back in WWII we didn’t have that internet stuff”…I dare you to look at our Facebook page and see what the moms, dads, and spouses say when they see a photo of their Soldier or images of where the special person works and lives.  Now, you will see the power of social media.  I’m happy to “whine” on their behalf.

Recently, the Army allowed access to these sites from bases in the states.  That’s nice, however, when a Soldier can go home to their family at night there is less of a need for social media—except the fan, follower, subscriber base that’s built in garrison can be exploited during a deployment.

Meanwhile, we deployed PAOs are blocked, blocked, blocked by the network managers.  (Except for General Odierno’s PAO who updates his Fan page daily).

For my signal friends, try explaining the classic “bandwidth” argument to the families of deployed Soldiers.  Really, how much bandwidth could about five public affairs Soldiers per brigade effect things—is our networking situation really hinging on five guys uploading photos to flickr and videos on YouTube?  Not to mention the enemy is still beating us to the punch on getting out the story.

I just want do my job as a tell the story of the American Soldier and fight enemy propaganda with truth.  I post on the brigade’s page for the Soldier on guard duty who lives in a tent and seldom has internet access and may not want it–but, his family & friends still want to know how he’s doing.  Without social media access I feel like I have the proverbial a knife in an information gunfight.

DISCLAIMER:  I have submitted a waiver for access that is going through approval channels.  And, of course, views expressed here are my own.  Not the DOD, Army, or my unit.  Hope I don’t get in trouble for this posting. *fingers crossed*

If you’ve read this far, thanks for your interest. Please help us reach our goal of 4,000 Fans on Facebook to represent each Soldiers from the Highlander Brigade deployed to Iraq


December 3, 2008

My blog hit 10,000 total views!  (I started blogging this summer) Thanks to everybody who’s stopped by.  I’ll have to post more frequently.

Tips for new bloggers:

1.)   Target your tags…think of how people might search for a subject

2.)  Post at least once a week (I need to follow my own advice here)

3.)  Comment on other peoples blogs who write about similar subjects

4.)  Cross-post a link to your blog on your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking accounts

5.)  Make your blog informative and support your thoughts/assertions with links to other blogs and news articles

6.)  Register your blog with technorati

More blogging tips here, here, and here

Blogging while brown

July 29, 2008

While visiting the Jack & Jill Politics blog I read about the Blogging While Brown (BWB) conference that was held in Atlanta this weekend.

The following paragraph describes the origin and purpose of the BWB conference.  From BWB official website:

Whether it’s fighting injustice , debating racism in the media, serving as a new technology underground railroad of information or celebrating our best and brightest, bloggers of color are a vital and viable part of the blogosphere who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions on a number of subjects. Their readers are willing to mobilize for change. Bloggers of color are at an inflection point in the continued development of the blogosphere.
To that end, the Blogging While Brown Conference was born. Blogging While Brown is the first international conference for bloggers of color. For the first time this new generation of activists, entrepreneurs and new media content creators will step out from behind their keyboards and meet in person.

Needless to say I wasn’t invited nor aware of the BWB conference, before today.  Perhaps because I’m not among the “best and brightest” of bloggers of color?  I find it interesting that the BWB conference occurred the same weekend as the UNITY ’08.  In the future it would be nice to see BWB gain more clout and work with larger groups of journalists like NABJ or NAHJ.  Though it’s possible the BWB doesn’t see itself as affiliated with the standard world of old media?

The founder of BWB has several videos from the conference posted on her blog. I recommend the one from the bloggers who run Black Web 2.0.  Interestingly enough, Web 2.0 works the same way for black people as it does for others…shhhhh…don’t tell anyone.

I did find it interesting that many of the BWB participants were heavy users of Twitter (if you’re wondering “what the heck is Twitter?” click here).  I enjoy Twitter too, though my feeds are closed to the public.

Well next year there will be another Blogging While Brown conference.  If there’s not a scheduling conflict maybe I’ll attend.  I see myself as a blogger who happens to be brown.  Part of the concept of Naked Conversations is that a person can blog anonymously and say whatever they want because “no one wrote the official blogging rule book” it seems that BWB caters to potential weblebrities like those listed here, here, or here.  The fact none of the web celebrities are brown is a good reason to continue the BWB conference.

Me, I’m just a regular guy blogging for bloggings sake.  What about you?

Factcheck: The military embraces blogging

July 20, 2008

RUMOR:  The military does not allow servicemembers to blog.

FACT:  The military embraces blogging and even runs a few blogs on the .mil domain (See examples of official blogs, here, here, here, here)

Military bloggers provide the Naked Conversations that much of the general public can benefit from.

I found it really interesting that my Social Media classroom blog run by Professor Garrett Graff is linked to a large Military blog.

I agree with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, IV that the military should embrace blogging (and other Social Media).  Caldwell was previously Senior Spokesperson for Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I).  His current duties include serving as Commandant of the Command & General Staff College.  He has published a policy letter that encourages blogging on .mil and commercial websites.

Caldwell’s views on the importance of internet/social media (as outlined in the policy letter):

Interactive internet activities are an essential part of our responsibilities to provide information to the public, usher in a culture of change within our Army’s officer Leadership, Development, and Education and support military operations.  Leaders within the Army need to understand the power of the internet and leverage as many communications means as possible to communicate what the CAC is doing and more importantly to “Share the Story” of those serving in uniform and highlight the incredible sacrifices they and their families are making.

Here is one of the blogs from a classroom of Army Majors.

In fact the Army has accounts at twitter, youtube, and flickr.  Though they don’t have many followers, subscribers, contacts, respectively; consider these sites a sign that Senior Leaders are embracing social media.

UPDATE 1:  I just found this link where Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army says:

Senior Army leaders have fallen behind the breakneck development of cheap digital communications including cell phones, digital cameras and Web 2.0 Internet sites such as blogs and Facebook, Army Secretary Pete Geren said at a trade conference on July 10. That helps explain how “just one man in a cave that’s hooked up to the Internet has been able to out-communicate the greatest communications society in the history of the world — the United States”.

Blogging in Mozambique

July 14, 2008

Quick Trivia:  What’s the name of currency in Mozambique?  Read on for answer…

Flag of Mozambique

Flag of Mozambique

Mozambique is the 35th largest country in the world and is located in Southeastern Africa.  Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique and is primarily used by bloggers there.

There are several English language blogs related to Mozambique:

  • Fresh Prince of Mozambique is a new blog maintained by an employee of the Peace Corps who is spending a few years in Mozambique.  He provides excellent descriptions of life in a village from an American perspective.

Speaking of goats, the other day I was forced to hold my pee because a goat had found iots way into our outdoor bathroom. I didnºt want to be rude to I waited for him to finish.  -Fresh Prince

  • Bloggers Alex and Kory are former Peace Corps workers who have posted several photos of their experiences in Mozambique in 2006-2007.
  • Another Peace Corps veteran, Alex, blogs about her experiences teaching in Mozambique.  One of her most engaging post is a compilation of essays written by 8th Graders about their losses in Cyclone Jokwe.
  • More interesting Peace Corps bloggers are here, here, here, and aggregated here (disregard the dates listed at link).

There are also a few blogs from Mozambicans that have been translated from Portugese to English:

a bit of everything: sociology (specially rapid-intervention sociology), philosophy, day-to-day, profundity, superficiality, irony, poetry, fragility, strength, myth, exposure of myths, emotion and reason -Carlos Serra

Final thought:  Every source I could find, cites internet usage in Africa at less than 4% of the world’s internet usage vs. 14.3% of the world’s population.  However, it is growing by over 1,000% each year.  Therefore, I expect more indigenous blogs in the future.  Oh and about that Mozambique money, it’s called the New Metical. Oh yeah, did you notice their national flag has an AK-47 on it?!

Should the media cover military funerals

July 10, 2008
Fired ANC Public Affairs office

Fired Arlington National Cemetery Public Affairs officer

Hopefully my 18 month academic lobotomy at Georgetown will ensure that I make sound decisions when I graduate and embrace the media.

Recently the Public Affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery was fired for honoring a fallen Soldier’s family’s request to allow media at their loved ones funeral.  In April, one funeral was reported on by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post.  Today he has a full article about Gina Gray getting the “boot”.

In small towns across America there are monuments to honor our fallen Soldiers.  Remembering those killed in action is a necessary to keep the civilian citizenry engaged in the sacrifice Service members make while they “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic.”

Attending the funeral for Second Lieutenant Lisa N. Bryant at Arlington National Cemetery is an event I will never, ever forget.  I saw a similar event depicted on Army Wives and was touching but not quite the same.  The Soldiers of the Old Guard caissons platoon are among our Army’s finest ambassadors.  Their story and the story of the heroes who make the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields should be told.

I won’t speculate on any families reason to have media at a funeral.  What I do know is we celebrate our fallen heroes all the time.  Just a few weeks ago there many hours of live coverage of Tim Russert’s funeral and; Metro (Washington’s mass transit system) had it’s highest number of passengers during President Reagan’s state funeral.

This is all interesting to me.  There’s a balance between policy and free press.  Here’s an example of conflict between the two.  Most often the military has a hamonius and mutually beneficial relationship with the media.

What’s your opinion?  Have you ever been to a military funeral?

This is my first post

May 19, 2008

Here I sit in Social Media class (MPPR-850).  Fortunately, I was able to access the HOYAS network today.  In previous semesters I’ve only been able to connect intermittently.  Over the next ten weeks I will write between 10-15 posts.  Follow me on my journey; your feedback is welcome and strongly encouraged.