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Not your average IO campaign…

August 3, 2011

There are few things I love more than 37 page “broad agency announcements” – especially when they concern a DARPA funded quest for the ultimate social media, strategic communication, online monitoring machine. In a mid-July announcement DARPA is calling for social technology experts to help it track sentiment online, pull out linguistic clues and otherwise sift through the mass of data to find what is truly relevant in all of those online conversations.

This is no small-potatoes social media operation. The request is offering over $40 million in funding over a three-year contract period. For that kind of cash I’d almost be tempted to put in a bid. And while I’m generally leery of any references to social media and strategic communication (STRATCOM, as the cool kids tend to call it, has been dead to me for some time, I’m afraid), this announcement is different. This is DARPA. From the agency who invented the Internet (I know, hide your disappointment – it wasn’t really Al Gore), I expect cool things. I expect emerging technology, innovative solutions and communication evolutions way bigger than Google creating a social network with +s and circles.

As someone who uses social media as a communicator I’m not expecting those kinds of applications from DARPA. What they’re after is social intelligence, and access to open source information in our military theaters of operation quicker, faster and nimbler. They want to be able to get the pulse of social networks and also study how they can be influenced. What this isn’t is a CENTCOM style request for people to manage Twitter profiles and Facebook pages. This is a request for people to build the technology to reach into the web and pull out relevant social data in new ways.

I’m a big online privacy advocate, and it’s why I take specific steps to safeguard information I don’t want public. But I’m also a big fan of using the capabilities online at our disposal to help take down our enemies, and why I think tracking social trends, and using emerging technologies to do it is the way to go. Especially with folks like DARPA, at the helm.

(Hat tip to, where anybody who’s anybody gets their relevant military social media trends and news bits).

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