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Credibility Effects in Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal



Credibility is always a key issue when analyzing milblogs. Kaboom by Lt. G has several traits that reinforce credibility, as well as some that diminish it. This article will show how both directions of credibility combine together to form a general impression: the blog is credible.




Table of Contents


1. Visual effects on the credibility of Kaboom


2. Content effects on the credibility of Kaboom


3. Summary


4. Bibliography





1. Visual effects on the credibility of Kaboom


The first impression of credibility in a weblog is gained within the blink of an eye - layout, colors and pictures give the user a first idea whether to find a certain website credible or not. In terms of layout, we find a standard blog style with most of the obligatory categories within a blog - blog posts, author information, additional informationblog archive, comment option and a hit counter are present. However, a blogroll is missing.


Detailed analysis:


LT G in Iraq


This is a picture of the blogger which gives a first impression of the author. It serves as a means of establishing contact with the reader of the blog. Given the fact that the person on the photograph is wearing a U.S. army uniform, it adds credibility to the bloggers claimed status of being a lieutenant in the army.


A contact email address is provided, as well as a link to Lt. G's profile with additional information about the author. This further establishes a link with the reader by creating a sense of the author being readily available. The reader has the opportunity to not only post comments on the various blog posts, but he can also directly approach the author via email. Should any questions arise, the reader is able to directly contact Lt. G in order to get some answers from the author himself. This adds another portion of credibility to the blog.


A disclaimer is also posted on the right-hand blog frame, adding further information about the author's intention as well as establishing a sense of familiarity with the author, his ideas and his self-ironic style.


The media player with the song "All These Things That I've Done" is a further means of establishing a connection with the reader of the blog. It serves as an instrument to create a connection with the reader that goes beyond the level of just reading text. Here, the reader is also able to use his auditory senses to experience the blog. By drawing on multiple levels of perceiving the blog, this adds to the author-reader-connection, thus augmenting credibility.


Further down the right-hand frame of the blog, there is a list of military terms. Even at first sight and without a thorough reading of the whole article, it adds credibility just by being there. This list of insider knowledge makes the reader feel like Lt. G has sufficient proficiency in military aspects.


After that, we find a set of three altered photographs titled "Gravediggers Inverted":


Gravediggers Inverted                                


Pictures generally enhance credibility. They suggest that they stand as a kind of proof for the author's claims and dependability. In this case, they also function on a level of content, which will be described further below.


The last element of the right-hand frame is the blog archive. In it, the blog posts are ordered chronologically, each posting listed by its title. This shows the reader that this blog has already achieved an impressive number of entries, thus also adding to credibility by suggesting that this blog has been around for quite some time - in the case of Kaboom, that means a total of 8 months until it was shut down. This sense of continuity is important for the credibility of a blog. Furthermore, a well-organized archive like the one in Kaboom adds another portion of credibility to the total impression the blog has on its reader.


In the lowermost part of the blog, we find a standard website hit counter. Over 154000 visits suggest that this blog has been accessed very frequently by a great number of people. This subconsciously creates another credibility-enhancing effect on the reader - a lot of hits means a lot of people have read it, thus suggesting a good level of popularity. This level of popularity contributes to establish a greater credibility in this blog, in contrast to other blogs that are much less frequented.


In terms of credibility-diminishing effects, there are is only a minor aspect: 


A blogroll is missing. This slightly affects credibility in a negative way. It suggests that the author is not interested in other blogs, or that he does not wish to provide his readers with further links to blogs written by other people.




2. Content effects on the credibility of Kaboom


Visual impressions are one part of establishing credibility. However, in order to really become credible, a blog has to be credible on the content level as well. Blog entries have to correspond to the type of character the author develops and shows while blogging. Lt. G appears to be a confident, well-educated soldier with a deeply developed sense of black humor as well as a tendency to put things in question. He establishes this character by using a lot of jokes, occasionally pointing out his literary knowledge and interweaving parts of popcultural references.


Detailed analysis: 


One big part of establishing credibility is to give your readers a sense of being genuine. Lt. G manages to do this by implementing a lot of jokes, further supporting the image of him that readers get after reading only a few posts.




     "Conduct a sniper check in a combat zone. Salute an officer."

     "Chuck Norris once traveled to the Virgin Islands. They are now known as The Islands." (both examples: Blog entry of Friday, December 21, 2007)


However, jokes are only one part in establishing credibility as an author. Lt. G also draws on references to literature, showing that he also has a good education and thereby adding a portion of credibility to his character. This results in a subconscious process - you are more likely to trust a person's claims when you deem him to be well educated.




     "If that was riddled with clichés, so be it. Romance isn’t exactly an unexplored theme. Damn Billy Shakespeare monopolized the theme some 400 years ago." (Blog entry of Saturday, December 29, 2007


     "In Fair Anu-Al-Verona

     Two households, both alike in dignity,

     In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

     From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

     Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.


     Simply multiply the households involved tenfold, and introduce the guerilla tactics of the people of the crescent moon, and Anu al-Verona evolves into being.

     The players have changed with time, but the theme remains the same and everlong - a fluid and unending struggle for power."

     (Blog entry of Wednesday, January 9, 2008)


The popcultural references we find throughout the blog entries further establish a sense of the blog being credible by adding to the impression of being genuine - the popcultural references by Lt. G seem to be in line with the impression we get from him. Mostly, his references are formed as jokes. One example for that was the Chuck Norris joke mentioned earlier. Another example is this excerpt:


     "Helping bridge the gap between languages and cultures are the terps, who live side-by-side with us and the Stones. Referenced more by their American nicknames than their given Arabic names, these men      simultaneously provide a vital asset to our ability to communicate with the local populace and serve as instantaneous comedic relief. Between Jabba the Hut, Ludacris, Billy the Kid, and the Godfather,

     our terps go out with us on every mission and give us the occasional reminder of home due to the pop culture-related origin of their nicknames.

     Although the money they make is surely a primary reason for their chosen vocation, and their English can at best be described as rudimentary, it’s easy to forget how many of our enemies would gladly kill our terps for      working with us. Bravery doesn’t always wear a cowboy hat and utter quotacious one-liners."

     (Blog entry of Wednesday, January 9, 2008)


Within this brief paragraph, the author draws on a series of popcultural references from cinema (Don Corleone from The Godfather, Jabba the Hut from Star Wars), history (Billy the Kid) and music (the Rolling Stones, Rapper Ludacris). He also includes a set of stereotypes by mentioning the image of the classic cowboy, which - in connotation to the terms 'bravery' and one-liners - is a reference to John Wayne.


Throughout the blog entries, there are also picture sets depicting Lt. G or his squad members, e.g. "Gravediggers Photo Essay 1". These photos add a good deal of credibility, because people are much more likely to believe something when they are able to see it. The photoset "Gravediggers Inverted" was mentioned earlier in the visual effects section. It works on different levels. On the one hand, it adds credibility by giving a visual impression. On the other hand, it also works on a cognitive level. By inverting the colors, the author creates a certain sense of being surreal, which is a reference to the events taking place in war-shaken Iraq. In any case, it forces the reader to think about these pictures, drawing him in more closely and ultimately creating another bit of credibility.


In terms of credibility-diminishing effects on a level of content, there is one minor point within Kaboom

Upon scanning the blog, there is an apparent lack of hypertext within the blog entries, thus suggesting an insufficient level of interconnectivity - a trait that should be established in any internet appearance.




3. Summary 


In order to facilitate a final assessment of the credibility level of Kaboom, we will take a look at the following table which will summarize the points made above.


Credibility-enhancing effects Credibility-diminishing effects
blogger picture no blogroll
contact email address / comment system lack of hypertext
personal profile  
list of military terms  
blog archive  
media player  
hit counter  
popcultural references  
references to literature  


In sum, it is safe to state that the blog is credible. The traits that establish a sense of credibility in this blog outweigh its shortcomings by far.




4. Bibliography


"Lt. G". Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal. 30th August, 2008. http://kaboomwarjournalarchive.blogspot.com/

Various Authors. Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia. 30th August, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org

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