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September 1, 2005
The Long TailBy Greyhawk
This isn't a self-congratulatory post, but please spare me a moment - I'm going to introduce some numbers to make a point.
August was Mudville's most visited month ever, with a quarter million page views by readers from over 140 countries. Some of this was due to links from Foxnews, The NY Times, Washington Post, Wired magazine, and on-air mentions from CNN, MSNBC, The Daily Show. To give you an idea of the strength of the blogosphere, Powerline's decison to include Mudville on their news page resulted in thousands of visits - more than any of the sources listed above. Our top referrer's list for August reads like any list of the top blogs; The Corner, Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, Iraq the Model, Captain's Quarters, Winds of Change, Chrenkoff, Scrappleface, Protein Wisdom, fellow MilBloggers Blackfive, Smash, Froggy Ruminations, Stryker Brigade News... but our top single referrer was Instapundit - Glenn Reynolds sent over 20,000 visitors this way in August.
My thanks to them all.
But here's the fact I find most compelling about the whole thing. One of our site meters lists our top 50 referrers, then categorizes those who didn't make the list as "the rest". "The rest" sent 26,374 visitors here in August. "The rest" actually make the largest contribution to visits here, over any one of those fine bloggers, newspapers, and television programs above.
This is an illustration of the importance of "the long tail" - the mass of individual components of any system that are far more significant combined than any individual component of that system. And now we arrive at the real point of this discussion.
You may be one of those folks who hesitate to contribute to a cause because the donation you're capable of providing is small compared to the larger input from those who can do much more, and do so quite easily. You may think that your contribution is insignificant, lost in the noise. It is demonstrably not - the long tail theory does not just apply to blogs. It includes any number of systems - and charities are a perfect example.
Today many in the blogosphere are putting that "long tail" concept to work in an effort to raise funds for hurricane relief efforts. If you can spare a dollar, please give to one of the many charities you'll see endorsed throughout the blogosphere (here's a good place to look, the start of that long tail. UPDATE: or here, the headquarters of the long tail.).
I lived several years on the Gulf Coast, and I've been involved in hurricane recovery efforts. I've seen a couple of the groups in action. The Salvation Army does incredible work supporting victims and the volunteers who support them. They had set up facilities to feed and shade the "first responders", recovery teams working in the scorching sun in the wake of the storms - something I'll never forget. And as I sat eating a free meal in the shade during one such effort just hours after landfall I promised myself I'd never pass one of those Christmas bell ringers without dropping something in. It's not Christmas, but now is probably be an even better time to toss a few coins their way. They are on-scene, experienced, and dedicated - and from my personal experience, this is the place where your money will do the most immediate good. Donate here.
If you're looking for a military-related charity, Soldier's Angels and Operation AC are already preparing to respond to the potential problems awaiting if any Gulf Coast state National Guard members returning from the rebuilding of Iraq find their home lives devastated by Hurricane Katrina. (See here and here.)
It takes a lot of drops of water to make a flood. It's time for a flood of a different sort on America's southern shore.
UPDATE: Also see this post. The Air Force Aid Society will also be a great choice for those wishing to help out. These guys will be doing incredible work over the next few weeks. Donations will go to assist those military members in the Keesler area who've obviously lost a lot. Here's their home page. There's a link for hurricane relief contributions on their front page, you can donate online with a credit card.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 1, 2005 1:55 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com