04 January 2013

10 Talking Points Prior to a Mil-Blog Conference

NMX Featured BloggerI'm honored to have been invited to participate in Mil-blogging track at The New Media Expo 2013 in Las Vegas next week. (See Milblogging.com here for details; I'll post live-streaming details when I get them.)

Properly caffeinated and motivated, I'll be on a panel with fellow veterans and writers Paul Szoldra (founder of the satirical "The Duffel Blog"), and Mark Seavey ("This Ain't Hell" and The American Legion's "Burn Pit" blogs).

(The last time I was in Vegas? I had just come out of The Box at Fort Irwin, Calif. Spent a weekend decompressing with my kid brother. Rented an AK-47. Gave him the black rifle. Also visited The Pinball Hall of Fame, because that's how we roll.)

Moderator and fellow mil-writer Ward Carroll says we'll have 60 minutes to collectively solve all the world's problems. Of course, if we have to use MDMP, we won't even get past terrain analysis.

Given the participants, I'm sure it'll be idea-packed, free-wheeling, and even loose-cannoned. To help get my head in the game, I put together this patchwork of possible talking points. Some are old, some are new. I thought I'd share them as sort of a preview. Let me know what you think!

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Mil-blogging, like homecoming, is a journey. Not a destination.
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I started writing the Red Bull Rising blog in December 2009, when it looked like I was going to deploy to Afghanistan. My military job involved, among other duties, advising the commander on social media technology and techniques. I started writing under a pseudonym because, at the time, Army policy on social media was so fuzzy. There's nothing like learning by doing, even if you're doing it in secret.

I've met a lot a great people, seen some impressive things, learned some quirky skills. In addition to my freelance writing and editing, for example, I've recently taken on a day-job writing online military stuff for the military. Every day, I'm glad I know how to spell "HTML."
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Regular Red Bull Rising readers know that I've occasionally attempted to articulate some sort of Grand Unified Theory of Mil-blogging. Here are a few notable installments:
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Some Red Bull Rising sponsors have helped expand that discussion to "writing about military writing." A blog, after all, is an engine that can generate news, views, and fictions. You can use a blog to capture the spirit of your times. You can hone a thesis or body of work through a thousand daily mistakes. You can present a truth as you have come to know it. 
In short, it's journalism. Both the poetry and the prattle. "A first draft of history." 
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My newspaper and magazine buddies still make jokes about how all bloggers must write while wearing pajamas. I'm just glad they think I'm wearing pants.
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I knew I was training to be a dinosaur when I majored in newspaper journalism back in the late 1980s. I just didn't think I'd live long enough to see the asteroid hit.
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Being able write anything you want doesn't mean you should.
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From the Merriam-Webster's definition of "journalist:" 
  • "A person engaged in journalism; especially a writer or editor for a news medium"
  • "A writer who aims at a mass audience"
  • "A person who keeps a journal"
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Bloggers: First, do no harm
Then, be humble. Be grateful. Make sure it's not all about you. Make it about your words. And your work. And what your words and work can do in the world. 
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Pay it forward, but give thanks along the way. 
Remember Sherpatude No. 24.
Red Bull Rising wouldn't be where it is today without a thousand kindnesses from these and many others: Milblogging.com; Military Writers & Reporters Association; Garry Trudeau's/Doonesbury's "The Sandbox"; Tom Ricks' "The Best Defense"; Carl Prine's (now off-line) "Line of Departure"; Kanani Fong; Kentucky Woman; Jeff Courter; Ben Tupper; Travis Martin; Deb Marshall and Susan Swartout; Victor Ian LLC; The Red Earth MFA program at Oklahoma City University.
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Note: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name.

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