25 April 2012

Mil-blogging Tips and Tactics, Part I

As mentioned in a previous Red Bull Rising blog-post, a couple of readers asked for Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (T.T.P.) on "How to Write a Mil-blog."

With the usual "lessons-learned"-style caveats about my being both an Army of One and a Sample of One, what follows is a quick run toward some helpful hints. More caveats: Your results may vary. Void where prohibited. Take what you need, leave the rest.

Here goes, in no particular order:

Choose your own adventurous identity."On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." As a journalist, I've been trained to avoid citing anonymous sources and to view the use of pseudonyms suspiciously. That said, I realize that loved ones—especially kids—don't always like to appear in print. There's also the question of your co-workers and fellow soldiers: Regardless of whether you live in on a FOB or in a foxhole, you also have to train, fight, win, sleep, and eat with the guys and gals next to you.

Because of all that, for purposes of safety and sanity, you may wish to mask people's identities. You may also wish to mask your own, because Uncle Sam is occasionally a little bi-polar when it comes to blogging. The same guy who made you a lean, mean killing machine is also the one who issued you a Reflective Safety Belt.

Personally, I started writing under a pseudonym because, while preparing to deploy in 2009, I was confused and confounded by Army rules and regulations regarding use of social media. Keep in mind, IT WAS PART OF MY ARMY JOB to advise my command and fellow staffers regarding uses/risks of social media. I was an internal communicator (and blogger) by day, and a mil-blogger by night. Although that sounds a little like a mission brief that starts off with "Assault Team Fox will secure Objective Henhouse,"creating the "Sherpa" allowed me to established a bright line between on-duty and after-duty.

With all my various identities and log-ins, by the way, my buddy Archer started calling me a "4th Level Sock Puppet."

So, I'm a fan of pseudonyms. Years after the fact, the "Sherpa" persona continues to be useful. Sherpa is neither a commissioned nor warrant nor enlisted soldier. Who he is depends on where he is and who you are. Sherpa is neither trigger-puller, Fobbit, nor stay-at-home Jody. Sherpa can play stupid when necessary, and be a smart@$$ when he wants to. The real guy wearing the mask can't always do that.

Besides, Sherpa and I know different people. We tend to lead separate lives.

State the mission. Before you even write your first blog-post, write an approximately 25-word statement describing the purpose and scope of your blog. Complete this sentence: "The purpose of this blog is to ..." Don't worry: Nothing is written in stone on the Internet, and you can always change it later. Don't know where to start? Read on ...

Triangulate your position. Name three of your life's passions. Write them on piece of paper. You can even draw circles around them, like a Venn diagram. Look where they intersect. That's your target. Start your writing there. (Example: When I started Red Bull Rising, I knew I was passionate about my family, citizen-soldiers, and the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.)

As long as any given post connects to some or all of your three passions, you'll keep a tight topical shot-group.

Never write anything you wouldn't say to someone face-to-face. I learned a variation of this in journalism school: "Never write anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The New York Times." Either way, it distills to this: Never write anything you wouldn't want to explain or defend. That goes for e-mail messages, news articles, love letters, Facebook hacks, and blog posts.

Pick your fights wisely. The old summer-camp-and-dorm-room rule applies: Never talk religion or politics, they just stand in the way of a good time or mutual understanding. You have your opinions. Let other people have theirs. Let's talk about what matters, mil-bloggers. Let's talk about the troops.

Be open to all. Blogging is a journey, not a destination. You meet a lot of people along the way. Take wisdom and advice, wherever you find it. That grandmother in Kentucky knows more than you do about bloggers and blogging, as well as what's happening overseas. So does that Army doctor's wife, who turns out to be a freelance writer who shares an interest in educating youth about writing. So does that mischievous Medieval Sheila who sends pink musk-sticks in care packages to our troops downrange.

Personal note: I would not be the blogger I am today without a lot of help from Kentucky Woman, Kanani Fong, Mari Paxford, Jeff Courter, Ben Tupper, David Stanford at Doonesbury's "The Sandbox," Tom RicksCarl Prine, and Doctrine Man!!

Remember Sherpatude No. 24.


One of my next pointers is to keep blog-posts short. And, when you can't do that, to cut them into parts. That leads me to this statement:

To be continued in the next Red Bull Rising blog-post ...


  1. http://iowatrooppantry.blogspot.com/2012/04/waiting-game.html

  2. You've done well, grasshopper.

    Thank you for the kind comments. I'm glad that any of my little tips were helpful in your rise in the mil-blog community. You're passing it along, too... very nice!


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