This story was orginally published on Greensboro Is Talking by Policlicks CEO Dan Romuald.
I’ve run across a number of folks recently who’ve asked how “that VFW thing” is going so I thought I would give a bit of an update as to how it’s going right now and what’s still to come. But when I started writing the update, I quickly realized that it would be too long for an ordinary blog post, so what follows is Part 1 with later installments to follow soon.
World’s Largest Organizational Blog Network
“That VFW thing” has blossomed into what is believed to be the worlds largest organizational blog network, lacking any evidence to the contrary.
Based right here in Greensboro, the VFW WebCOM Network project actually began over four years ago, with a vision of every VFW Post and member in the organization having a Networked web presence. The Policlicks.com team began construction of the network in it’s present form in January of 2005 and it has since grown to encompass a network of over 10,500 weblogs. Through nearly a dozen software upgrades and some heavy customization work on the blogging software, the bulk of the weblogs were constructed and linked into the network in late June 2006. About 1,000 blogs were added by request and as needed over the last few months to bring the tally to it’s current total. Each of the 8,500+ VFW posts in the country and overseas has a weblog. Each of the 54 state and overseas Departments of the VFW has a weblog as well as the national level of the organization and other supporting levels of the organization.
With a built-in audience of nearly 2.3 million Veterans of Foreign Wars members and auxiliary members, this network approach gives each level of the organization a community voice while maintaining it’s own autonomy for it’s local community. This approach also gives the network a hyperlocal advertising outlet in nearly every small, medium and large community in the country.
Is it done? The simple answer is no…it may never be. The network will always be an evolutionary work in progress. But it is a functional weblog network. All of the sites are live and are or will soon be linked into the network. In it’s present form, visitors to the network can surf from anywhere in the network to anywhere else in the network in generally 5 clicks or less making the network fairly simple to navigate. But we’re always looking at new ways to make navigation even easier.
On the management side, administrators of the network have the ability monitor activity on the network at a glance. Custom modifications to the software and custom scripting allow administrators to post blog entries on single blogs or broadcast a message to over 9500 of the sites in just minutes. While this does lead to some redundancy in content across the system, it provides a means to continuously provide fresh content to those sites which have yet to be “claimed” by the respective VFW entity. (more on this in a moment) In this way, the network is always moving with new information for the membership and general public at large.
The VFW Partnership
The VFW WebCOM project has grown out through the efforts of the (state) Departments of the VFW. Policlicks has formed development partnerships with several Departments including North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Delaware and others with several more state departments due to become active in the network in the near future. When a Department activates it’s membership in the network and claims their departmental weblog, each of the individual VFW posts in that state also become eligible to “claim” their weblog and start publishing. Activation and usage rates among the active states varies by department, and, we’ve found, depends greatly on our own ability to visit each state and provide hands-on training to the membership base as well as the aggressiveness of the leadership in each department in rolling out the network.
With the Network development moving from build-out to roll-out, we are deploying a hands-on, one-on-one training methodology, to jump start the blogging process, and demonstrate to the designated blogger for a post or Department, that often creating and publishing a blog entry can be as easy as sending an email. To assist in this process, we’ve developed a “Quick Start” manual and are in the process of writing a full user’s guide to the network as well as developing Flash-based video tutorials to walk users through the system.
Efforts are also under way to try to attract current “milbloggers” to the system. Today’s active military bloggers will eventually become tomorrow’s veteran bloggers and the caretakers of the Networks. To that end, our Military WebCOM project is also being developed concurrently with the VFW project but I won’t delve too much into that at this point. Visit the site and see for yourself.
In my next installment, I’ll answer the question “Why WebCOM?”.
Update:Â See Part 2 here.