Providing a digital umbrella (2009)
There are two military sites out there that in my opinion are missing the mark, and both for the same reason.
TroopTube and ArmyStrongStories are both good ideas that are somewhat flawed in their execution because they don’t capitalize on the tools and capabilities that are already out there and being used by Soldiers everyday.
Trooptube.tv was a site that is used to ‘help military families connect and keep in touch while miles apart.” It also says, “The site is designed for easy use, so you can quickly upload videos and share the simple joys of each day with each other.”
I understand the intent, the only trouble is that most Soldiers keep in touch with family when they’re miles apart through sites like Skype or Facebook. As far as ‘easy to use’, I already have an ‘easy to use’ website called YouTube.
The content is not really ‘keeping in touch’ videos either because it contains Public Service Announcements, AFN spots, etc.
So TroopTube it is essentially trying to be a competitor to YouTube which is the 4th most popular website in the world according to Alexa.com.
ArmyStrongStories is another initiative by U.S. Army Accessions Command that encourages Soldiers to blog, allowing others that are considering joining the military to see what ‘real’ Soldiers are like.
Again, a nice idea and I was excited when I initially heard about it. I enquired about it and would be happy to contribute, only there is no way to link my current blog with an ArmyStrongStories blog via something like a cross-post.
If I’m going to blog for ArmyStrongStories, it has to be my main blogging platform as opposed to something like Blogger (Alexa-ranked #7) or WordPress (Alexa-ranked #19) which many Soldiers are probably already on.
So in my opinion, these two platforms are both missing an opportunity by not taking advantage of tools that are already being utilized by Soldiers.
So what is my recommendation?
In the case of Trooptube, perhaps a model more like Vodpod might be better.
Vodpod lets you aggregate videos from any video-sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo or Veoh. It could provide the umbrella for highlighting videos that are created by Soldiers and are already being posted daily on other video sites.
If I already have a YouTube channel, why not register with Trooptube and let my content be automatically streamed into that site?
In the case of ArmyStrongStories, enabling a person to cross-post their current blog into an ArmyStrongStories blog might improve usability, or something similar to the above where they provide the umbrella for content that is already out there and is already being created and uploaded.
What the ‘umbrella’ format also does is help eliminate the perception that the content has been run through a PR machine.
Let’s face it, if you are someone on the outside looking at these sites, you might think that these are people are forced not this, as opposed to something that is more personal.
It’s not that I don’t like the content that is being uploaded to both these sites, some of it is really good stuff, it’s just that I think we can do it better.
We’re having great success with Facebook pages and YouTube channels, which are sites that everyone already uses, so we just need to continue the embracing the trend instead instead of trying to create our own version of it.