Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blog Talk: Connections and Credibility

What is in a blog? A blog is an internet based journal or web log (blog). A blog can be personal or about an organization or a group of people. A blog can be funny, witty, sarcastic, ironic, studius or stoic. A blog can be about daily life, politics, social commentary, military, religion, hobbies or special interests such as charities like Soldiers' Angels.

The best thing about blogs is that it connects people.

A recent study showed that over 3 million blogs are created daily and that over 37% of internet users read blogs. That is millions of readers every day.

People find blogs to read because they know the person who is writing the blog or, more commonly, because they were reading something or searching for something that led them to a blog. In a recent discussion, Laurie from Soldiers' Angels in New York said, "My blog focuses mainly on Soldiers' Angels and troop support issues in general. There are many people who find the blog while searching for something on the web, many of whom never heard about Soldiers' Angels before."

Soldiers' Angel Lindsey Rice said she found blogs when she read an article in a magazine about bloggers being fired from their jobs for blogging about them. "Until then," she continued, "I'd never even heard of a blog".

Blogs link to each other. They read each other, find it interesting or compelling and then point their blog readers to these sites. Or, someone who reads that blog and makes comments, will point other readers to another blog. Laurie from New York continued, "Friends would sometimes refer me to something they read on blogs, especially milblogs like Blackfive. That is how I found Soldiers' Angels."

A blog might only have a few dedicated readers, but, through these connections, a single idea can reach hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. If it is particularly compelling, a "blog swarm" (many blogs linking the same story or idea) can send an idea around the world with lightening speed.

I found Soldiers' Angels through a blog. My brother, currently serving in the Air Force National Guard, was being vetted as an individual replacement to go to Iraq. I needed to know more about the place and the war. A news article about Iraq in my local paper refered to a blog written by three Iraqi brothers in Baghdad, Iraq the Model. From there, I was linked to a military blog (milblog) that linked to another and another.

One day, someone linked to Blackfive, a fairly popular milblog that linked to stories and other milblogs from Iraq and Afghanistan. These were stories right from the soldiers serving on the frontline. Along with knowledgable commentary on tactics, people and places these soldiers were referring to, it made very compelling reading. In fact, this process of connections to blogs was extremely educational. I learned that there was more to the story. I learned that I did not have to be a passive observer, but could actively support our troops.

Not long after I found Blackfive in 2004, he put up a link to Soldiers' Angels asking for donations to send Kevlar Blankets to our troops. Because I had been reading Blackfive for several months and because I found the site to be credible in its explanations, connections and I found the blog owner Maj. Matt Currier Burden (ret) to be knowledgable and passionate about the military. It lent credibility to the organization and request. His credibility and the organization's legitimacy were enhanced by the feedback from many commenters that indicated they had dealt with or were part of the Angel organization with very satisfying results.

That sealed the deal for me so I donated some funds. Shortly after that, Matt posted the results of our donation drive. In total, we had raised enough money to buy nine kevlar blankets. A few weeks later, Matt posted a message from a unit that had received the blankets. I was happily surprised to find that all of the money had been used to buy the blankets. That verifiable message from the unit and Blackfive's endorsement were all I needed.

I became a member of Soldiers' Angels.

- May no soldier go unloved