Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Decade of the Salamander

How fast time flies … and how much changes with it: CDRSalamander just turned ten.

I’m not all that big on ceremony, and I’ve been pondering what to do, if anything, to mark the 10th Anniversary of my little vanity project. I thought about a Midrats special, or a best of hit-list post, or just nothing.

I’m still not sure what to do, so instead I thought I would just sit down and type a bit. I'm going to freeform over a drink, so stick with me as I wander.

The first thing that comes to mind is this – thanks.

I have a lot of people to thank for making what is truly a pleasure for your humble blogg’r. I had no idea where this would go and never really had a game plan for it, still don't. For good reason, in 2004, this whole milblog thing was a boutique operation at best. We talked to ourselves and each other, not really expecting traction beyond that little universe - but in our own way, we caught lightening in a bottle.

2004 was a different environment for online information than it is now, and we were all trying to figure it out at the time. A very ruthless environment, there was a high mortality rate for blogs, and a lot of people who got in to it thinking of what it was, but failing when they just didn't understand the medium. 

There were also people on the downside who poo-poo'd milblogs, and still do, who even less than we did, failed to understand what can happen when you get traction in the marketplace of ideas.

Prior to CDRSalamander, I had been an online presence for awhile, under a different nom du blog. Sent some items to a few people over at NRO's TheCorner that they used, and enjoyed playing around in comments at Argghhh!!!!, MudvilleGazette and other places Navy types may be familiar with.

After another round of, "You can't publish that ..." I decided that, OK, I won't publish on those things I was professionally focused on, but I will just skip the other blog comment sections, message boards, etc too - and one afternoon set up CDRSalamander.

I was a junior Commander at the time, but knew that I could not be "out" as the minute I was, my boss would shut me down regardless of what I wrote about. I could have started a catblog, and after sending me for a psych-eval, would have shut me down after crushing me. Yea, I had that kind of command climate.

So, 22JUL04, LOC1-SER1 came out like this;
I have been thinking about getting this started for awhile after bothering a man greater than myself, CDR Bluebeard, to start a blog. If for no other reason than to post his rantings (if he will let me), err insights, I decided to give this a start and see what happens.

As for me, well I'm a Navy Commander. That is about all you are getting out of me. Going public with your opinions as an active duty officer is in a way just dumb if you want to get recommended for promotion and don't want someone's "pinky finger" spiking you at a selection board. The Naval Institute's Proceedings ( is a great institution, but you publish at your own peril. Sad really. You can publish technical and tactical pieces with them, I have. But opinion? Not so smart. We will cover boards and command influence later, but let’s just say that blogging is a better institution until you get outed. Lets see how long this takes..............if I get edgy. I don't know how edgy I will get. Maybe my random thoughts and postings will just float around in obscurity and be ignored. Hey, if nothing else, it is cheap therapy.
See, I've had poor grammar from the start. Still don't have an editor, still click "publish" after hammering something out over b-fast, while in a conf call I'm ignoring, or before going to bed. I still hit the topics I am interested in - not the ones I know the most about, just the ones I am most interested in. Still good therapy. I wander off the maritime reservation now and then, something some of you don't like, but I have from the start. If I didn't, CDRSalamander wouldn't be what it is.

No, I never got "CDR Bluebeard" to publish anything. He soon found himself in an IG from h311, something that educated me in detail what a heartless and cowardly system can be used to destroy a good man. He just no longer cares. Sad.

As things clicked on, I soon found myself in a little corner of the blogosphere - the Navy milblog phylum. Within a year, I found myself getting to know Lex, EagleOne, Joel, SJS, good 'ole Chap, and eventually Skippy the next year. Combined with some ground element bloggers - that first year, that was about it. I remember laughing when I started to get 30 unique visitors a day. Now I have thousands and sometimes tens of thousands.

In time, more great blogs came online, I joined USNIblog as a resident poster (thank you very much for the opportunity Mary) and the comments here section started to get some great regulars. I think of many who are still with us from the start Byron, Sid, Mr. T's Haircut, AW1, URR, LT Black, and others. (you guys and gals have no idea how much I truly value visiting with you each and every day) Even more came to be regular visitors during the years, making a real enjoyable Front-Porch. Sharp elbows, snark, but also some just plain good people and as I have come to know some of them IRL, some superb professionals.

Something happened fairly soon - and of all places it started with Salon, stuff I was putting out started to get a reading well beyond what I expected. CDRSalamander started to have an impact in policy discussions and other areas. That is when the underground started.

There are people who never show up in comments that communicate with me by email, and now FB and twitter. A lot of the stuff is not for publication or comment - just on background. They are, in a word, "interesting" people. There is a place online for places like CDRSalamander and others. I hear from YNSN to Admirals off the record about their concerns, ideas, and observations - happily taking the invitation to make their ideas mine and getting them out in the open.

Some don't like that - but that kind has always been with us - those who cannot stand any voice but their own.

Early on, some of the places we started to make a difference was in the re-birth of Riverine, and building the foundation of the anti-transformationalist movement. Shining light of some of the worst socio-political experiments being pushed on our Sailors - shaming some of their leaders who were going to far in to backing off. In substantive areas adding, where I could, a little of the creative friction that, with or without conflict, I think brings the discussion to a better, more clarified place.

The first half-decade of the blog, I was on active duty. I know for many the anonoblogger status was an issue. The Mark Twain to Samuel Clemens and Federalist Papers etc argument has been around a long time - but it has its place. It still does. I have no problem with it.

The second half decade of the blog, I have been USN (Ret) and am no longer in deep cover. I am out in the open if you know where to look, but I am quite happy with Sal - a lot of people know my Samuel Clemens - it really does not matter. I did enjoy being able to break bread with people I have known in my little underground for years, who I also served with - and when the time was right, was able to come out to them.

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to finally meet in person many of the people I came to know in half a decade online only as very good people, and seeing them in person, found them to be that and more. Real true friends in a social way, and in a constructive criticism way in their observations, commentary, and suggestions on how I try to communicate my thoughts. True friends who are not just hail fellow well met, but want you to be better. I was about to name a bunch of you, but you know who you are.

Also when retired, with the encouragement of some good folks, we started with EagleOne our weekly talk show, Midrats. That has been a great joy as well - a fun, groundbreaking, IMAO, concept.

One reason I enjoy it is that over the years, CDRSalamander developed its own "voice" and niche in the milblog ecosystem. Make no mistake, CDRSalamander is very much me - but everything has a certain brand and job to do - but as for "me-actual" it only reflects one side of my personality. The more complete "me" is the Sal you find on Midrats. A little duller, a little less of a bomb thrower, a little more pensive ... still long winded and arrogant, but I'm a little more comfortable in that skin.

Would I change anything about blogg'n? In hindsight, sure - a few things. If I were a YG99 type starting a blog, I would unquestionably do things differently - but time travel is a drag. In any event - everything is very different now than it was in 2004.

Stand-alone blogs used to be the standard; not they are an exception. Commentary and observational blogs done on the fly have slightly fallen out of favor for group-blogs that are organized and edited almost like an online magazine in some cases. Not better or worse, just different.

Thanks to the support and contributions of the Front Porch and underground, we've done some good things - and though I don't have as much time to blog as I used to - serious civilian jobs and houses full of teenagers will do that to a man - I don't plan on going anywhere.

Where it this blog trending, where I am going? No changes, same course and speed. It was a quick decade, I'm not done yet - though I wish I had more time.

Would I call this a success? I wasn't really looking for that mark. Others may say, "no" - or think that I have not fully realized the potential - but that is fine from their point of view. For me? Look at LOC1-SER1, I think I've met most of those goals. I'm content, and I hope the regulars glean some value from our time together - goodness knows I do.

Well, enough freeform. In summary, thanks. Here's to another decade.

Advice to others thinking about joining the conversation? Email me, I'll try to help. In general though - I'll let Arnold speak for me.

UPDATE: There is a new Navy milblog hatchling you may want to check out - TheGreenieBoard.

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