JP Borda opens with an intro to LTG Caldwell's remarks. LTG Caldwell is speaking about the importance of blogging as it relates to the control of power in this "complex landscape". LTG Caldwell instituted a policy that all students at the Combined Arms College blog which I personally think is a wonderful idea.
JP is hilarious. And not only that but he brought his MOM with him and the image of her hanging out at the pre-party last night (at The Penthouse Club) was priceless. Way to go ChipperD! It's nice to have him here instead of overseas, getting shot at.
JP's covering some of the highlights of the past years of milblogging:
* the DoD's update of the OPSEC command, requiring military bloggers to register their blogs with their command
* milbloggers met with President Bush in 2007
* Andrew Olmestead's passing in January 2008
* March/April 2008 MattMattMattMattMatt
* Soldiers' Angels, ParentZone, SpouseBuzz, etc.
And now we're on to the first panel. Ward Carroll is moderating with Matt from Blackfive, Phil Carter from Intel Dump, CJ Grisham of A Soldier's Perspective, and Greyhawk from Mudville Gazette. The topic is "Are MilBlogs Still Relevant?"
Ward talked too long. Introductions from all panel members. I didn't realize that Greyhawk had been blogging since early 2003. He mentions that it's getting harder and harder to find bloggers that are actually blogging from IN theatre. There are a variety of reasons for the decline. Phil started in November 2002. He remarks on the gap that exists between the less than 1% of citizens of this country that serve in the military and the rest of society and how blogging, and milblogging in particular, needs to adapt and adjust as time goes on.
And on a side note, the internet connection in this room (not sure if it's expo-wide) SUCKS.
Matt was mobbed by a group of adoring fans as he arrived here at the expo. He's reviewing the reason (Matt Schram) that he started blogging and how the effects of blogging have had positive effects worldwide. He's now discussing the future of Blackfive - credentialing people, embedding them in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how Blackfive is morphing somewhat into something that resembles the MSM. And it scares him. It scares me too in a sense. It's a slippery slope and I'd hate to see something like Blackfive turn into something that it was designed to counter - the MSM.
So, does it matter? Are milblogs still relevant?
Phil: Yes. This election provides an opportunity for discourse between the 1% in the military and the rest of the society. Keep the war on the front pages.
Ward: Is there part of Obama's campaign that is trying to use the milbloggosphere to get Obama's message out there?
Phil: Yes. Both campaigns are. And both see the importance of it.
CJ: The relevancy issue is about as broad as the variety of blogs themselves. As long as blogging is relevant to the blogger, it doesn't matter whether anyone else sees it as relevant. "I'll never set foot in a psychologist's office. My psychologist is at WordPress."
Greyhawk: Is pressure from above a significant factor in the cause of the decline in frontline bloggers? Readership numbers are not the significant metric. It's not "how many" readers but WHO are the readers.
Ward: Matt, what are your concerns?
Matt: Besides the Penthouse Club...as long as we can still reach out to those within the military community and help them, it doesn't really matter if the rest of the world cares. That's as relevant as he cares to be.
QUESTION: Do you think the blogging community can use the need for support to push for support for those returning? And if so, do you think the blogworld community can move from simply talking about the issue to actually implementing support groups within the milblogging community?
Greyhawk: It's already been done - in a disorganized organized way: Military.com, Soldiers' Angels, Project Valour-IT, SpouseBuzz, etc.
CJ: His decision to become a 1SGT was made in order to be able to influence and support the troops. The emails from troops that he gets shows that he IS supporting troops, in addition to supporting himself.
Phil: We're seeing a new way of organizing. Groups like Wounded Warrior Project are relying on a new way of getting word out and accessing support that eliminates a great deal of overhead due to the personal and viral nature of how support is coming about.
John Donovan: His blog has allowed him to get with his CongressCritter and allowed him to influence his VA region, etc.
QUESTION: How do we organize all of these resources so that everyone has common access to them?
Phil: It's jazz, not symphony. The nature of these resources is resistant to top-down organizational structure.
(It all goes back to Matt's idea of Small Spheres of Influence.)
QUESTION: What was your target audience and how has it changed due to the unintended consequences of blogging?
Matt: It was a lot easier to get noticed back in the beginning. The biggest unintended audience was his mom. That's when he changed his "blogging voice".
Phil: We've been able to help the MSM get the story right or call them out on it when they get it wrong.
Greyhawk: When the numbers started coming in, he changed his blogging style. He began to self-edit more and increasingly put more thought into his posts. The realization came then that the "bad guys" started reading. He references the Rick Rescorla post and how one of the first commenters on that post was Rick's wife. People you write about will find you.
QUESTION: MilitaryOneSource is a perfect answer to the first question of the panel. They are looking to use the milblogging community and the social networking sites to spread the word.
QUESTION: Carren Ziegenfuss remarks about how, when Chuck was wounded, writing on his blog was therapeutic for HER. And had she not done that, she wouldn't be a part of SpouseBuzz. What kind of impact does the involvement of families have on you as a blogger?
CJ: "I wrote to be able to talk to 'someone' without talking to 'anyone'". Blogging is his way to be able to talk to those close to him without having to do so face to face.
Greyhawk: It's an interesting side effect to get emails from families seeking help. Or those who joined the service because of what they read at Mudville.
Phil: "It's a tough question about how much light you want to show." He didn't blog much from Iraq as he didn't want his family and friends to worry. It's an interesting that so many in the military are willing to share with EVERYONE.
Matt: The Army is one big, frickin' bureaucracy and you're not going to see it take those kind of risks.
Phil: Until you see the metrics for promotion and selection change, you will not see this become mainstream.
CJ: The higher-ups support blogging but there's still a reg out there that stands in the way. The support hasn't trickled down to the lower levels.
The discussion ensues about the conflict between the strategic level and the tactical level in terms of support for blogging.
And we're on break.