Online Overseas and War 2.0

We’re going to cover a lot of ground Wednesday, our penultimate meeting of the semester (already!? hard to believe!). Our main subject this week is going to be the war in Iraq and the unique stories that have come out of it—the first war fought since Web 2.0. Remember how we’ve been saying how these tools are open to everyone? Here’s a story from the Washington Post about the Taliban’s website—that was hosted on a server in Houston!

The depth and breadth of this war’s coverage is unlike anything we’ve ever seen—particularly because of who is covering it. Feeling the traditional media wasn’t covering Iraq went and using VOIP technology, Swarthmore college students started putting together a regular news show interviewing Iraqis. Here’s an NPR story on it and then go listen to some of the podcasts.

The newest aspects of Web 2.0 in the war is how it allows us on the home front to hear from soldiers and civilians in the war zone in real time. Salem Pax was one of the first Iraqi bloggers in Baghdad, and the Baghdad Burningblog actually ended up being turned into a book. Its author, Riverbend, is still unknown.

One of you, Cathy, actually wrote her community snapshot on milblogging, so I’m going allow her to be your guide to this world:

  • Site: Blackfive :: :: Blackfive is widely considered to be the leading milblog.  It started in 2004 when the original blogger realized the mainstream media wasn’t going to cover the valorous death of his friend in Iraq.  The site is now a group-authored blog, with 12 active authors representing primarily Army backgrounds, with a sprinkling of Navy and Air Force vets.  The site is usually updated several times a day and most posts result in anywhere from 5 to 30 comments.  The original Blackfive author, Matthew Burden, is a respected figure in the Milblogging community and is often a featured speaker at blogging events.  He is also active in several military and veteran’s organizations/charities.
  • Site: You Served :: (blog) :: (podcast) :: You Served is a group blog sponsored by the VA Mortgage Center.  The primary authors (CJ Grisham and Troy Steward) also have other blogs and are respected leaders in the milblogging community.  The site also feature guest bloggers and now allows any US veteran to submit something to the blog for publication.   The blog is usually updated daily or every other day and doesn’t garner a lot of comments.  You Served is also the leading milblog podcast and often hosts live video streams of blogging conferences on its website.
  • Site: Mudville Gazette (also home of the Milblog Ring) :: :: Mudville Gazette is written by Greyhawk and his wife, Mrs. Greyhawk.  Both are active in the milblogging community and are often cited in other milblogs.  The site also serves as the original organizing ring for Milblogs.  The site is updated every few days, sometime multiple times a day.  The site doesn’t garner as many comments per post as Blackfive does.
  • Milblogging: World’s largest Index of Military Blogs :: :: Milblogging is hosted by  It was started by Jean-Paul Borda during a 2005 deployment to Afghanistan as a blog and index of other milblogs. bought the site in 2006 and retained the founder as editor and webmaster.  There are currently 2,849 milblogs from 45 countries with 12,875 registered members active on Milblogging according to the site.  Milblogging allows searching by multiple attributes and claims to link you with a milblog that meets your interests in less than 5 clicks.  In addition to the searchable database of blogs, they also post multiple interesting items on a daily basis in a blog format.  Milblogging hosts the annual Milbloggies award.
  • Site: Bouhammer’s Afghanistan and Military Blog :: :: Bouhammer is primarily focused on Afghanistan and other military information.  It is written by Troy Steward, a retired First Sergeant, who is also a blogger and podcaster for You Served.  His co-blogger is The Dude, a National Guard captain.
  • Site: From my Position…On the Way! (FMPOTW) :: :: FMPOTW is one of the few top milblogs written by an active-duty soldier (Chuck Ziegenfuss).  Ziegenfuss is an Iraq vet who was wounded during a 2005 deployment to Iraq (where he was an active blogger).  He was featured in a recent issue of People Magazine for his work with Soldier’s Angels and Project Valor-IT, a charity that donates adapted laptops to wounded/recovering vets.
  • Michael Yon Online Magazine :: :: Michael Yon is a citizen journalist/blogger who has spent a large part of the past 6 years accompanying US troops on embeds in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has published a few books about his experiences there.  He is currently only updating his blog a few times a month (his Facebook gets updated much more frequently but is not about the military right now).  Yon has a reputation for being hard to work with and likes to refer to US military public affairs officials and senior ranking officers in disparaging tones. He was asked to dis-embed from Afghanistan in April 2010 and set off a flurry of negative comments about the milblogging community on his Facebook page  ( and  Several milbloggers have “Banned by Mike Yon” banners on their websites, while others have spoken up in his defense.
  • Site: This Ain’t Hell But You Can See it from Here :: :: Thisainthell is a group blog written by Jonn Lilyea, COB6 and TSO, who also blog on other websites.  The site, like most of the milblogs right now, is focused on the upcoming election, the Wikileaks data dump of secret reports from Iraq and NPR’s firing of Juan Williams.  There isn’t a lot about current soldiers on it.
  • Site: A Soldier’s Perspective (ASP) :: :: CJ Grisham, an active-duty Soldier, started ASP in 2004.  Grisham also blogs at You Served.  He gave up ownership of the site in December 2009 due to controversy over his blog posts about the local school board that were brought to the Army’s attention.  His case was used as an example of how the military doesn’t support its member’s blogging.  He but continues to blog on ASP, along with three other bloggers.  The site is updated daily (M-F).
  • Site: Castle Argghhh! :: :: Military, Gun, Politics blog.  Group blog, 4 contributors (John Donovan is the main contributor).  Updated daily, sometimes multiple times per day.  Usually garners several comments per post.  Blog has been online since September 2003.

Colby Buzzell‘s blog ended up launching a successful book (it won the Lulu Blooker Prize, for best blog to become a book) and he’s continuing to write for GQ. I recommend picking up the book if you want a good soldier’s memoir.

One of the biggest controversies to break out online is over Kevin Sites, who was an independent journalist in Iraq and videotaped what appeared to be a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi. He now has a book/documentary out about his career. You can also see his Flickr feed. Here’s an interview that discusses his offbeat path.

Of course Sites isn’t the only one in Iraq with a video camera—the troops have them too and seem to spend a lot of time mixing patriotic videos (WARNING: some of this is graphic war footage). Dig around on YouTube and see what good videos you find. Controversial videos have also surfaced of private contractors shooting at civilian cars. This week, post to Twitter at least one YouTube video of the war.

And, of course, remember games and the internet are how the military is signing up its new recruits.

This week, dig around, read a few blogs, and see what surprises you. I want your blog post for the week, though, to focus on the second topic we’re going to be covering in class: How the internet is developing differently in other countries around the world. For your blog post, I want you all to go to Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world, and pick a country that begins with the same letter as your name (to get the country listing click on countries in the upper right-hand corner). Explore that country’s blogosphere and write your blog post of the week about your findings.

Remember to be plugging away on your final project and finishing up your extra blog posts. Oh, by the way, remember that quiz? If I were you, I’d brush up on my core course concepts before Wednesday’s class.

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One Response to Online Overseas and War 2.0

  1. Pingback: Weekly #11 Where in the world is Wallis and Futuna | Cbtwilkinson's Blog

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