Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Want Ads

Distributed user networks for military supporters have provided the troops with everything from print materials to videogames to body armor. Now there is a site for those want to help provide employment to soldiers when they return home. Hire a Hero is designed to lower barriers to hiring, particularly when corporate employers are wary of new hires who could be redeployed into the field of combat and leave jobs empty and training unremunerated. I noticed a few differences in this site from many military sites. First, it makes its character as a social network explicit and includes photos and links at the bottom of the main page that acknowledges visual conventions recognizable to MySpace users. Given that the site plans to capitalize on the strength of weak ties, which can be key for placement opportunities, as Mark Granovetter has shown, this orientation makes sense, although a new definition of social network sites by danah boyd suggests that "networking" has little to do with social networks, since most users focus on maintaining electronic relationships with peers that they already know rather than to meet new people. Second, this site also presents itself as a charity that deploys common strategies for online donation. However, in the organization of the site, these two not-entirely-overlapping purposes may make articulating the site's mission less clear. Third, this site uses mash-ups of maps to give visitors a sense of local resources, as a Google map of the local area shows a landscape covered with dog tags to represent military-friendly job openings. Finally, the site has a YouTube channel that shows union officials expressing support for warrior-welders joining their ranks. In some ways there is obvious public relations value to these appearances, so it is an intriguing partnership of interests.

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