Army uses a wiki to let personnel rewrite field manuals

Relying on the wisdom of the rank and file could catch on

The military continues to debate what — and what not — to do with social media. But that isn’t keeping the services from trying to put Web 2.0 applications to use. One of the latest forays is a 90-day test by the Army to allow any or all of its personnel rewrite one of seven field manuals, wiki-style.

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The test began last month, using wiki software to let any of the Army’s personnel with a Common Access Card, from private on up, add to one of the manuals, some of which deal with instructions on aspects of serving in Iraq and other war zones. The idea is to gain input from those in the field rather than the traditional top-down method of writing manuals. If successful, as many as 200 manuals could be rewritten this way, Army officials say.

A potential snag in the process could be that the entries would not be anonymous, as they can be in other wiki projects. A writer for the Web site, for example, questioned whether requiring contributors to create a profile — identifying themselves to commanding officers and everyone else — would hinder input.

Nevertheless, it seems worth a shot. If you’re going to do things by the book in a fast-changing world, the book has to keep up.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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