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Old 12-24-2010   #1
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Default Input on forum organization?

We are planning a major upgrade to the board software. As we do that, it is an appropriate time to review the organization of the board and consider whether any changes to the forums might better meet Council members' needs.

It is easy enough for us to see which forums are busy and which are dead, and we'll take that into consideration. It is far harder to intuit which ones make sense to you, which ones don't; what forums you feel might be lacking, are too broad, or too narrow; whether they all work as a whole; etc. Please make your observations and suggestions in this thread.

Note that the point of a forum is to allow grouping of like-minded folks and/or their topics together to increase signal-to-noise ratio for people that frequent that area, e.g. window shopping the list of threads, or subscribing to the forum. The point is distinctly NOT to taxonomize and bucketize every last topic into an inch-wide cul de sac. Forum structure is a foundation but it works with various board features (including search, new posts, related thread suggestions, etc.) for managing complexity. If anything, we want to come out of any re-look with fewer forums, not more.
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Old 12-24-2010   #2
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I think that The Coalition Speaks area is unnecessary and should be eliminated. First, it implies that that rest of the forum is US-Centric, which I do not believe has turned out to be the case. Second, every single thread there could logically be slotted elsewhere on the forum.

We should be doing our best to ensure that a spectrum of national views and perspectives are provided in all topic areas (which has already been occurring quite a bit, as we have several very active non-US members) and not keep an area singled out solely for non-US viewpoints.
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Old 12-24-2010   #3
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Agree with Jedburgh about "coalition speaks."

I use the "new posts" functionality pretty muche exclusively, so categorization of threads only matters to me when I want to create one. For example, if I want to highlight something in the news about intelligence in Afghanistan, I have at least three possible categories to choose from.

In that regard, I think the "participants and stakeholders" section probably could use some consolidation. Also, I don't think it makes much sense anymore for OIF to have 5 separate topics while Afghanistan still only has one. Each should probably have perhaps 3-4 broad categories in my opinion.

If you want to make the board less US-focused, you could move the GWOT/ Iraq sections to their respective geographical section, but to me that's not a huge deal.

Overall though, I think you've a pretty good job of organizing so if things stayed as they are I certainly wouldn't be upset about it.
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Old 12-24-2010   #4
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Quote:
Also, I don't think it makes much sense anymore for OIF to have 5 separate topics while Afghanistan still only has one. Each should probably have perhaps 3-4 broad categories in my opinion.

If you want to make the board less US-focused, you could move the GWOT/ Iraq sections to their respective geographical section, but to me that's not a huge deal.
Yup, it's almost amusing that the board was re-organized at the height of OIF, as we were headed into the surge, and Afghanistan was just that distant annoyance that no one really wanted to deal with quite yet. How things have changed.

I think the Afghanistan PTP forum should stay, because there are some tidbits there that can be an exceptional learning tool, and it could be populated with a lot more; more folks just need to know about it and get in there. I would be willing, if there was a standing announcement posted, to vet folks who would desire to gain access to that folder. I am a member of the Military/Law Enforcement forum of another large board, and the discussions are always fruitful and engaging. There is considerable self-policing, but the mods address any deviation from posting norms fairly fast.

My vettting consisted of providing a .mil address, as well as the phone number of my first supervisor. They never called him (Col Fitzpatrick) but through simple means, the numbers can be run to ground pretty easily. Other coalition forces would be a challenge that I'm not sure I know how to resolve, but Red Rat and some of his clan are already in there through personal contact with David, so maybe there are other tools to use for members from Commonwealth nations.

We could also simply steer clear of any sensitive material and simply narrow the focus down to PTP cycles, and the topics that should be relevant to deploying troops. I for one think our cultural awareness model has got it all wrong, and the forum could expand in interest to allow veterans to offer their two cents on what is important and what is just white noise in the training.
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Old 12-24-2010   #5
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Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
I for one think our cultural awareness model has got it all wrong, and the forum could expand in interest to allow veterans to offer their two cents on what is important and what is just white noise in the training.
Agree. We had a test trial and although several of us disagreed, the program went forward as it was. A shame as the point was to make it worth something for deploying troops in Africa.

You two have done an excellent job and this forum is a shinning example.
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Old 12-26-2010   #6
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A clarifying note -- the Afghanistan PTP is a private forum restricted to members of a publicly joinable, moderated custom usergroup (see UserCP>Group Memberships). It was set up to support a small group project. The group leaders are evaluating the future of that forum and what content we might move into more public areas.

Concur, the Coalition Speaks in on our short list for hospice care.

The operational culture topic is a good one. At the moment, I guess threads on the topic belong in either AO-specific forums or Training & Education. Like the coalition aspect, I see the topic as so pervasive that a forum of its own is probably not indicated.

Please keep the comments coming.
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Old 12-27-2010   #7
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One thing I'd like to see is some thought put into attracting more non-military input. We do have some, and much of it is of very high quality and caliber, but there are communities and information sources that we haven't really tapped into yet. Some of the changes mentioned by Jed and others would certainly help, but I am wary of a "soldier uber alles" type of groupthink that can crop up.

In line with that, some streamlining in the current operations section might be in order, as was mentioned earlier. Also, I think we could possibly combine or eliminate a few of the "Participants & Stakeholders" sub-forums. Personally, I could live with the current ops stuff actually shifting into the Regions forums. That would give us the flexibility to adjust to new conflict regions (possibly even those without a significant US presence) and not appear as though we limit discussion to OIF-type events.
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Old 12-27-2010   #8
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To add to what Steve is trying to say, I think it may be time to recommend a change to the construct at large. The quoted text below is from the "About" section of the SWJ homepage:

Quote:
Small Wars Journal facilitates the exchange of information among practitioners, thought leaders, and students of Small Wars, in order to advance knowledge and capabilities in the field. We hope this, in turn, advances the practice and effectiveness of those forces prosecuting Small Wars in the interest of self-determination, freedom, and prosperity for the population in the area of operations.
May I recommend an addition:

"More importantly, we hope to advance understanding about conflict and conflict resolution to prevent small wars before the become conflagrations in the first place."

The old hands here know we do this through our discussions, but it may not be readily apparent to the non .mil passers-by who have so much to add to the discussion.

For that matter, do we have a Conflict Resolution sub-forum?
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Old 12-27-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
For that matter, do we have a Conflict Resolution sub-forum?
I don't think so, and that would be a very valid addition.
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Old 12-27-2010   #10
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No issue with removing the Coalition speaks.

I really think it is time we deeply reorganize the site versus removing and adding a line here and there.

I think less big categories would be better. Some thoughts:

SWJ internal largely focused on admin issues.

Irregular Warfare broken into:

Stability Operations
Unconventional Warfare
Counterterrorism
Counter insurgency
Foreign Internal Defense

Somewhere we need to add a forum on the global commons (sea ways, cyber, space, etc.) because irregulars can challenge some of these areas now, and may even be able to challenge space in future.

Change GWOT other to just GWOT.

OEF-A
OEF-P
OEF-TS
Other

Transnational Crime

History

Strategy (hopefully we'll stop seeing sites focused on tactics being hijacked by those who keep blaming everything on strategy)

I agree we need a forum that welcomes non-military members to offer solutions to the problems associated with Small Wars, this includes law enforcement (local and federal and international), NGOs of all stripes, individual citizens (global), USAID members, Dept of Agriculture, etc. Normally they're not as thick skinned as Soldiers, so somehow they need to be allowed to post without getting swarmed on.

Based on recent posts, maybe we should offer a truth to power forum under OEF-A. Several posts from guys and gals on the front challenge the assumptions that we're doing COIN well. The recent UN report clearly points out that many of us our confusing our own propaganda with fact, and we sure as heck don't want decision makers confusing the facts with the narrative. Just wait, someone will jump out of the woodwork and explain we don't do propaganda.....

What's the difference between Small Wars Community of Interest and Small Wars Participants,....? Looks like two broad categories we can merge.
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Old 12-27-2010   #11
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Default Coalition Speaks note

I agree that many foreign people post elsewhere, so it makes sense for the name to be changed, but I personally like a section dedicated to news about coalition/ally activities and news.

So perhaps change Coalition Speaks to: News & Notes about Coalition Efforts or something like that?
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Old 12-27-2010   #12
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From Rachel:
Quote:
So perhaps change Coalition Speaks to: News & Notes about Coalition Efforts or something like that?
Perhaps given SWC is US-dominated 'We are not alone: Coalition Efforts'.
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Old 12-27-2010   #13
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Or in line with this idea: "International Efforts" or "International Perspectives"?

Just tossing it out there since a "coalition" is a rather vague thing that can shift over time and may actually exclude some perspectives if they aren't in the current framework.
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Old 12-27-2010   #14
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I think the therm "coalition" tends to have a militaristic cant to it as well. If that's the angle we aim for, then fine, but if not, I think we could use a different one.
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Old 12-28-2010   #15
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Add a section where we can discuss tactics from the insurgent and terrorist point of view. You can call it red cell if you like, but whether they're red or blue depends on the group and who they're fighting. Remember our friends in Afghanistan that were fighting the Soviets?

In all seriousness I think we have excessive discussion of our approach with minimal discussion on Taliban, AQ, anarchists in Italy, etc. approaches.
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Old 12-28-2010   #16
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Default When does the Club open?

The revised forum should have an Officers and NCOs Club with a menu something like this!
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Old 12-28-2010   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Add a section where we can discuss tactics from the insurgent and terrorist point of view. You can call it red cell if you like, but whether they're red or blue depends on the group and who they're fighting. Remember our friends in Afghanistan that were fighting the Soviets?

In all seriousness I think we have excessive discussion of our approach with minimal discussion on Taliban, AQ, anarchists in Italy, etc. approaches.
There are actual threads orienting on this in the Adversary/Threat forum. They aren't always the busiest topics.
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Old 12-28-2010   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Add a section where we can discuss tactics from the insurgent and terrorist point of view. You can call it red cell if you like, but whether they're red or blue depends on the group and who they're fighting. Remember our friends in Afghanistan that were fighting the Soviets?

In all seriousness I think we have excessive discussion of our approach with minimal discussion on Taliban, AQ, anarchists in Italy, etc. approaches.
I agree, but those threads tend to get hijacked pretty quickly.
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Old 12-28-2010   #19
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Posted by Steve Blair,

Quote:
I agree, but those threads tend to get hijacked pretty quickly.
You got me, but hijacking has a long been a terrorist tactic (now practiced on blogs) worth exploring in more detail.
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Old 12-28-2010   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Posted by Steve Blair,



You got me, but hijacking has a long been a terrorist tactic (now practiced on blogs) worth exploring in more detail.
Good point...

Levity aside, I do think it's a good idea to keep (possibly under a different name) some special area for "red cell"-type discussions.
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