The USNI and other naval blogs have been very active lately, and for good reason. Most of the recent discussions have dealt with piracy and the hostage situation and rescue of Mearsk Alabama skipper, Captain Richard Phillips. Within these many posts and related discussion threads are dozens of competing ideas for combating this particular problem. Posts and discussions on other topics result in similar numbers of ideas and recommendations. Sometimes the speed at which these ideas are generated and debated, and the sheer number of them, make it difficult to keep up with, analyze, and digest them all. Add the contributions from linked articles and other naval blogs, and the assimilation is even more challenging.

Ryan Erickson’s post “Admiral Allen on the Worlds Piracy Threat (and opinion),” resulted in a few comments that got me to thinkin’. The exchange that really piqued my interest was:

  • RickWilmes Says:


we are all here to sell our best ideas to the USNI blog. May the best and correct ideas win.

  • Byron Says:

Ideas do not equal products. Logic sucks, don’t it?

  • RickWilmes Says:


For an empiricist, I believe your last statement would appear to be true. Speaking for myself, I know better. I won’t be saying anything else on this issue.

The Naval Institute blog, if not viewed so already, should be looked at like a naval think tank. And maybe the Naval Institute needs to create exactly that, separate from the blog. My sometimes curious imagination envisions an entity within the Naval Institute that serves a similar purpose to a think tank. It would theoretically include members from the Institute’s general membership, a selection of Proceedings and Naval History authors, and a good helping of USNI Guest Bloggers to discuss issues and cull from those discussions a list of options.

Assuming the formation of such a group, the question becomes, can the Naval Institute maintain it’s independence from any one set of policy and/or strategy recommendations, and instead focus on options? Can it serve not as an advocate for any one set of ideas, as the Wikipedia definition of think tank indicates, but rather a clearing house of reasonable, debated ideas?

If a think tank isn’t the right idea, then how do we gather realistic recommendations from the discussion threads and warehouse them for decision-makers?

Without the ability to dedicate one’s self to any series of related blogs, the ideas become muddled in the background chatter and the totality of the exchanges can easily lead to information overload. Can decision-makers or their subordinates make sense of it all, or are good ideas simply lost in the shuffle? Maybe only the most obvious solutions really get noticed – the easiest to understand and the easiest to sell – and the more obscure, but potentially ‘right’ ideas, get passed over.

None of this is meant to suggest that blogging efforts aren’t worthwhile; quite the contrary. I’m talking about maximizing the input – and impact – of all the contributors’ efforts.

I guess my real question is, can the thoughts generated through this medium and the larger Naval Institute actually help ideas equal products?


Posted by Fouled Anchor in Homeland Security

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  • VADM J. C. harvey, Jr USN

    I have been observing the “blogosphere” daily for the past few months and it continues to fascinate me – more so for the vast potential that exists to develop a true marketplace of ideas than than the reality that has emerged.
    The benefits I’ve gained from reading many posts on a wide array of topics have been tangible, but I have particularly gained from reading a well-written post that challenges the conventional wisdom or a “staff position” that took a long time and the efforts of many to develop.
    The question before us here equates ideas and products – I’m not sure that’s where our focus should be, in this blog or any other. I see the value of this forum as the exposure one can gain from getting a view of a significant issue through a very different lens than one has been using.
    Personally, I don’t use this forum to gain insight on specific options to deal with a particular problem, be it related to shipbuilding, piracy, professional development or whatever, but rather I hope to understand WHY someone has an approach that may differ radically from the one I may think is so obviously correct. Understanding those other WHYs certainly helps me clarify my own. All the best, JCHjr

  • Dee Illuminati

    I think challenging ideas is as important than having them; to be asked clarify the usage of the word ‘crisis’ or ‘failed nation’ as I have been asked to do is Ok. Byron took some exception to a ‘glittering generalization’ I made recently, and that is Ok as well, he didn’t see it applicable to the post’s topic and facts.

    Do ideas equal products? No not necessarily but here is an example of rhetoric and reality and casting expectations:

    China yesterday published its “National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-10),” which emphasized economic, social, and communal rights though it did outline some aims more in line with traditional western notions of individual human rights–most significantly legal rights of defendants.

    Some international human rights groups criticized the document as being vague and simply reiterating commitments already made, but I rather think the point is that Beijing accepts them as goals. Humans are, after all, teleological creatures, and in order to plot a course to B from A, one must first figure out what B is. (Indeed, this feature of human life is what Machiavelli meant by “the ends justify the means.”) The fact that the government accepts a) that Enlightenment and Magna Carta-based rights are in fact rights, entitled to legal protection and b)
    “‘China has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human-rights situation,’ the document acknowledges”
    is a very important step forward for liberty generally–and the step itself potentially undermines the legitimacy of the regime itself.

    I mean re-read this.. and if Byron stated: “I don’t see no stinking human rights” that not radical british empiricism, thats a factual observation.

    However ideas are things that are of the future, possibilities yet unrealized.

    And that is what this blog ought to be about.. over the event horizion statements challenged by facts.

    That is why I read here daily.

    The world is a set of propositions, not necessarily true or false. And products (or tools) from a utilitarian standpoint (knowledge is a tool) may or may not be applicable at the current moment, but might be in the future.

    I like Open Source Geopolitics for its brevity of opine and emphasis of facts.. oddly the USN is the tool of Geopolotics, where the stick meets reality… and why the discourse is so high here.

    I mean for fact-based content freude bud rules.. for lively polite and professional discussion it is here, as ideas do get challenged.

    Reality hits the road when the USN shows up at a piracy discussion.

    But the above link is where the future is heading where people like freude bud will be providing input as equally as important as tthe technical facts of a weapons system.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Admiral, I appreciate your comments and the insight into your use of the blog. I hadn’t envisioned the use as you explained, but it’s very interesting and makes sense. The best argument I ever wrote was the one I debated and then tweaked with a better understanding of the counter-arguments, many that I had originally missed.

    Great food for thought.

  • Gentlemen,
    Byrons’ initial conflict was with his take on my comments; that they were a thinly veiled commercial promotion of my business; those “products”.

    I have stated many times, that while airships are indeed my business, my comments directed toward their use by the Navy is not meant to drive business towards my own airships necessarily, but to drive conversation towards a tool that the Navy needs, which might then be obtained at any number of sources.

    Comments about using airships for such and such a task, is as applicable as discussing any other type of ship or hull form. It is a technology.
    It is also, an IDEA… In the spirit of Billy Mitchell, or William Moffet, or Rickover. The idea is that this particular type of technology can effect paradigm shift in Naval tactics and strategy.

    As suggested earlier, this is the place to put such ideas into discussion, that they may be used in the future.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Maybe I took some journalistic liberties with Byron’s “Ideas do not equal products,” but a product could just as well be a policy statement, strategy document, or some other non-material ‘thing.’

  • SeniorD

    I posit that Ideas do NOT equal Products. Rather, ideas are the basis from which products become physical. A single idea may stimulate an exchange between multiple individuals which then leads to a shared concept. Over time, that shared concept is further discussed, more ideas are spawned fostering further development until finally a product is realized.

    Ideas are not just some intellectual exercise, but rather the result of a combination of intellect (IQ) and tacit knowledge (‘street smarts’ or practical knowledge). Consider the “Thatch Weave” as a response to the Japanese ‘Zero’ fighter’s superior maneuverability against the American ‘Wildcat’ fighter at Midway. What began as an intellectual exercise became real through then CDR Thatch’s application of his knowledge, experience and diligence in his craft.

  • Dee Illuminati

    I have watched as Information Dissemination took a lead headline at drudge and USNI was quoted lead Google news upper left hand quandrant, lexiconically possibly the most expensive piece of real estate on the internet.

    USNI has reached a position where it is capable of creating a meme.

    You can’t deliver a grain of rice with HTML but you can ship it.

  • RickWilmes

    Wow, I had no idea my comments would generate a blog entry on this topic. When I said, “I won’t be saying anything else on this issue.” My thoughts were that Byron’s and my exchange were getting off topic and I thought that was a good time to end the conversation so that it would not derail the discussion. Since this topic has its own thread, I am going to retract my statement and reengage into the discussion.

    There is alot already here to work with but I want to start with asking several questions.

    What is a product?

    A product is something produced.

    Is an idea something or is it nothing?

    Is Byron committing a logical fallacy by equivocating on the term “product?”

    How is a product actually produced?

    Can you produce an idea? If so how? What are the two fundamental requirements that are necessary to produce an idea?

    If an idea is produced than by definition does that not make an idea equal to a product?

    By idea, I mean an entity(as a thought, concept, sensation, or image) actually or potentially present to consciousness.

  • Byron

    I’m with VADM Harvey. And no, I’m not going to comment further.

  • LTC Phyllis J. Smith, USA, Ret.

    The quote under the photo of John Adams provides both truth and problems, which may tie-in with the question of whether ideas lead to a product.

    In Adam’s day, there was a reward in being an educated person; being able to speak well, write, think. When American parents have taken an interest in a child’s wellbeing, including health and education,out nation has produced some of the most profound ideas and put them into action.

    My concern is a lack of direct thought from parent to child regarding the merits to speak well, write well, think well,accumulate problem-solving skills as well as social skills. Technology has played its part but the human factor and American values are the predominate influence.

    As long as the athletic directors,coaches and sports are the primary interest and are provided tremendous financial rewards, the English teachers, language teachers, math and science teachers are up against a formidable public foe. Until parents step up to this strong influence,the young people and our nation will continue to suffer the results. Sports stars that graduate from our military academies are lauded more for what they do on the 50-yard line than the contributions they can contribute to our nation, a lot of time and money has been poorly invested. What was the degree Roger Staubach graduated with? David Robinson? Anyone know; anyone care?

    It is as if the general American public has lost its will to think. When this changes, ideas will then become products.

  • RickWilmes

    In Adam’s day, a young George Bancroft was encouraged by his father and others to stay in the United States to study. Aaron Bancroft went as far as to arrange a meeting with John Adams.

    According to Russel B. Nye in George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel(p.31)

    “Adams met them[George Bancroft and Andrew Norton] at the door of his home, a slight old man dressed in severe black. The boy never forgot the visit, and sixty years later the sharp nasal twang of the ex-President and the crackle of his newly-starched stock were as fresh in his ears as on that May morning in 1818. Norton explained his business and introduced Bancroft, “a young man bound for Gottingen.” What did President Adams think of the plan for study abroad? Adams was definite and dogmatic–it was best for young men to be educated in their own country.”

    The world may have turned out to be a different place had Bancroft heeded Adams advice and studied Adams’ “Defense of the Constitutions” as opposed to Goethe, Hegel and Schleiermacher.

    The American public has indeed lost its will to think, I am here to help change that and I see ideas become products on a daily basis. Ideas do equal products in the world I live in.

  • If you’re suggesting that one way to rewrite the concept of ROI is to change Investment to Ideas, then you’re correct and I agree.

    How’s that for a 140-character response? 😉