Thursday, June 19, 2008

Military Bloggers

Checks with Chart pointed out an article about a 4-star encouraging military members to write blogs. The Navy Times article isn't very in-depth or mind-boggling, but the concept of an admiral encouraging us to blog surprised me at first. I've had a friend or two look at me with a raised eyebrow when they found out I wrote a blog and questioned if that was such a good idea. Like those skeptical friends, I was mainly surprised about the admiral encouraging military bloggers from the security aspect of it. Active duty bloggers pose almost if not just as much risk to security as cell phones with cameras.

Most of what I write here is about family life, raising two great little boys, and doing cool things around Hawaii. It sort of started out as emails out to all our wardroom telling them each time we found something new and cool to do. Then I figured if I posted it to a blog, then it wouldn't be pushing it on the people who don't care or don't want to read it, and it would make it available to anybody else doing a Google seach looking for first person accounts or "local" knowledge of things to see and do.

I intentionally stay away from many military topics so as not to raise any more eyebrows or invite unwanted attention about me inappropriately posting insider-info or opinions contrary to the top brass on my blog.

But then I said to myself, "Self, what's to say the admiral didn't mean for us to start blogging on the siprnet?" THAT would be a great idea. Aside: I realize in the article he talks about getting "published" - be it in journals or the Naval Institute Proceedings or blogs, so that implies the "open source" type of publishing, but I'm going to continue pinging on this secure blog idea.

You see, I'm all about
not reinventing the wheel. Whenever I go into a new mission or experience, if someone else has already "been there, done that," then I want to find out how it went for them and learn from their experience. I want to learn from others' experiences and mistakes. Likewise, I generally try to go "open kimono" and push info to other boats that I know are going to do the same things I've done recently. Back during my DH tour, we had what we called the "Nav Net" where we had a large email distro list of all the SSN Navigators for sharing lessons learned and gouge. For example, I pushed a lot of info on the under ice transit of the Bering Strait to the Navs on Oklahoma City and Alexandria in preparation for their first WESTPAC deployments. In my current tour, I've both sought and pushed lessons learned for our Panama Canal transit, change of command, and having senior riders on board. I've also pushed a lot of decommissioning lessons learned over to the Augusta.
Tangential Rant: EVERY time each of the boats I have been on has gone into drydock, I have found myself making wise-cracks about, "Did you know that this was the FIRST time a 688-Class submarine has EVER gone into drydock?" The point being no, it WASN'T the first time for a 688 to go into drydock by a LONG shot, but it never ceases to amaze me the things that go wrong during drydocking because people didn't anticipate a problem before it happened. End of Tangent / Rant.
In hindsight, just as I shifted my local adventures stories from email distro to my blog, I think a siprnet blog would be a great avenue for sharing those lessons learned emails and putting them in a place in cyberspace where someone can do a search and find lessons learned about the next mission you've been assigned. For example, the one-on-one / point-to-point comms I've shared with the Augusta on decom lessons learned could have been posted to a blog. In that format, guys on future boats in decom could find and read these insights and lessons learned even after I'm long gone and the boat is being sliced up in Bremerton.

Okay, so there's some sort of Navy and Lessons Learned Database out there. The current lessons learned messages out there (like port visit lessons learned) are sterilized and formal, record message traffic type of stuff approved by the CO, and it'll have the ship's name on it. If it's fairly recent, then you could contact that boat and ask any questions that come to mind, but after a year or so when the key players have PCS'ed elsewhere, that ship will have lost that corporate knowledge of that event. The blog offers the advantages of offering frank, candid observations (be careful, I realize that can go to the other extreme, too), and more importantly, the blog would continue to be linked to me personally even after I transfer to other commands. A few years from now if someone reads my blog about decom and has a question about it, after reading my blog posts on the topic, they could email me directly for follow-up questions later on down the road.

I suspect nothing I'm saying here is new or unique. From what little I know about the academic discipline of "knowledge management" (KM), these are exactly the big picture objectives of KM.

In any case, maybe DoD should hire Google or some other big name company to start a Blogger-like site on the siprnet.

Oh wait... then again... someone thought hiring a big company to manage all the Navy and Marine Corps' computer systems was a good idea, and look what that got us.

1 comment:

Chap said...

Yeah, BTDT. First was GEN Cartwright and STRATCOM, where they talked about 'blogs' all the time on something called SKIWeb--but it was an old guy getting fed stuff from a government contractor and they didn't even understand the meaning of the word 'blog' when they bandied it about. Painful.

If you look at Intelliweb, blogs have been up for a while. They aren't *good* software--again, made by a military contractor rather than ganking WordPress or whatever--but they are not too hard for a total n00b to use. Lots of junior enlisted on the midwatch doing entries that will likely get them a chewing once anybody notices them--meaning I learned a lot about what their job is about. Sturgeon's Law applies here--there are some really good ones on there.

Biggest problem I had with the blogs on SIPR, besides the creaky software, was the lack of portability. I'm now in one of those jobs where there's one vault on base with a SIPR hard drive if I ever had the time to figure out how to access such a blog now that my old email account from the previous command is gone--and I'll have to restart any of that from scratch if I get to a command that has it on the desk like most sub commands.

Oh, and the drydock thing? Substitute "war" for "drydock" and you'd still be right...