The U.S. military has its sights set on Reddit.
The Pentagon plans to create a version of the massively popular social news site, hoping that the crowdsourced discussion platform will surface innovative ideas and solutions to problems big and small.
The Reddit clone is called Eureka and will be part of a bundle of social Web services the military has created—dubbed milSuite—that will mirror popular sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube.
What makes Reddit’s model valuable to the Pentagon? It’s not the site’s unique ability to propagate memes, produce rage comics, or surface clever puns. Rather, it’s how the site’s voting systems rewards good ideas and fosters probing discussions. Indeed, Eureka will be far more limited than Reddit: Members of the armed services will post and vote on ideas, and that’s it.
“Sometimes we need that infusion of great ideas coming in from an external source. The notion of having your idea voted up will strike a harmonious chord that’s in many of us.” a Navy spokesman told DefenseNews.
In a way, it’s using the lessons of the open Web to bring innovation to the military, to find solutions to big problems from a crowd—rather than from a formal, top-down structure.
In an interview with Wired’s Danger Room blog, Reddit’s general manager, Erik Martin, suggested that the military ought to keep things pseudonymous (to avoid “offline politics and group dynamics”) and give users the ability to create their own communities, like Reddit does with subreddits.
Martin added he hoped the Pentagon used Reddit’s source code—which is free—“rather than paying some contractor a lot of money.”
Many people in the U.S. military already use Reddit, Anthony Genovese, an r/Navy moderator, told Danger Room. Most take to the social news site to query others about issues related to their life in the military.
Eureka will be part of a suite of services with names like milBook, milTube and so on. If you want to test it out for yourself, however, too bad.
Eureka, like all the milSuite products, will be behind a military firewall.
Photo by US Army Africa