Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Social Bookmarking and Military Strategy

When browsing for research and commentary on military strategy I often end up in the cyber-mire of social bookmarking sites, that allows users to store, organize, search, and manage website bookmarking. As I was researching I found that a few social bookmarking sites came to mind that were particularly useful for historians and military theorists in general. While Digg, a popular social bookmarking site, can be quite colloquial and rather a frank depiction of nonacademic pastimes, it does offer a wide array of commentary and links to useful information and news reports. For a thought experiment I just performed a search on Digg for the title 'military strategy,' to which I received a host of informative articles from "The Art of War," to the number of U.S. military installations. A particular article, "US Military Global" was a geographic mapping of all 737 U.S. military bases of operation on Earth. Clearly, Digg offers opportunities for the browsing intellectual.

Delicious, another social bookmarking site, offers a variety of different medium including access to news articles, public forums and discussions, directories, and archives. Again, to perform a thought experiment I decided to search for 'military strategy' which received nearly 2500 hits, most of which contained general information on sites such as Wikipedia or news sources. However, what was quite remarkable is that once I sifted through the myriad of general sources I came upon a whole host of useful material including the Air War College military strategy home page, as well as a public forum, known as Defense Talk, entirely dedicated to the intellectual exchange of military strategy and tactics. Delicious' use of incorporating public fora to its search items was much more useful to the already affluent historian, bypassing most of the mainstream general information that could easily be accessed via Wikipedia or any other news source. Furthermore, the access to public fora provides opportunity for intellectual exchange that is not normally viable through the one-way medium of general information sites.

, a service for managing scholarly references, make seem like the obvious choice for members in the field; however, a closer inspection finds that problems with the user-interface and search options make this didactic candidate a simple exploratory source. When searching for 'military strategy' the following articles were brought to my attention: Depression in Entry-Level Military Personnel, Intersex Patients in Military Service, and Soldiers Experiences with Military Health Care. While each of these may be intellectually stimulating to the psychologists enterprise it has no unique relevance to the searched terms. Simply, CiteULike just reviewed my term 'military' and found all the tags related to the military, which evidently are focused in the health and psychological fields. Further down the page I received a few tags concerning the word 'strategy,' however, the search produced items such as Transforming Strategy, from the Business Review. What made it even more unmanageable is that when I found a few items that I may have wanted to access, most of them were private groups which produced the all too familiar, "Access Denied," slogan across my screen. Much like a lawyer may perceive, at first glance, that a claim is substanciated, CiteULike, prima facie, seemed like a reliable source for scholarly information. However, the substantial lack of accessing the correct information for search terms makes it less desirable, even then some of the more popular, colloquial social bookmarking tools.

In sum, Delicious, while rather informal, provides the best access to the most information. Additionally, the ability to access public fora is a notable advantage for intellectual discussion. In the words of William Pollard,
Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.

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