Thursday, August 27, 2009

Collaborative Wiki Manuals in the Army

Posted by Amanda

I recently blogged about the news of the United States Marine Corps banning social media sites from their network. In sharp contrast from this decree, the Army has been successfully embracing social media networks. Recently on the Web site for the New York Times newspaper, I read an article that I wanted to share with The PR Lawyer audience.

In the article, “Care to Write Army Doctrine? With ID, Log On,” Noam Cohen writes about another interesting initiative by the Army – Wiki-edited military instruction manuals.

If you’re not familiar with the term, Wiki or the Web site, Wikipedia, check out the link here. In short, a Wiki is a collaborative Web site where viewers can edit, remove or add information they see.

Through the pilot program, Cohen writes that, “The Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life.” Basically, the Army is making an effort to update field manuals and training doctrines through the use of Wikis.

Cohen describes, “Not surprisingly, top-down, centralized institutions have resisted such tools,” like Wikis and other collaborative Internet efforts. Within an institution based around authority and command, there is a feeling of loss of control through the use of these collaborative tools. Sadly, within the first six weeks of the pilot program, it is noted that very little editing was done by soldiers.

Wow, what a concept though! I think the Army has made leaps and bounds to harness social media for all soldiers and their organization. It will certainly be interesting see how the Army tackles this social media challenge. If successful, this collaborative effort will enable Army leaders and soldiers of all ranks, jobs, specialties and corners of the United States to connect through the eyes and ears of those on the ground and the analysts behind desks in Washington, D.C.

I understand that change comes slowly, but I definitely think this is a step in the right direction in keeping everyone in the military effectively up-to-date with the ever-changing playing field and happenings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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