IT/Web: June 2009 Archives

7 steps towards social media success, Governing

"3. Brace for, and embrace, the unexpected The example of NASA's online contest to name a new module of the International Space Station is cited as an example of how online participation can produce unexpected results. More than 230.000 people suggested the name Colbert as a result of comedian Stephen Colbert, who used his nightly talk-show to rally audience support for this name to be used. NASA did not expect this when they conceived the contest, but it was not necessarily a bad thing. As a result of Colbert's campaign, and the subsequent appearance of a NASA official on his show, NASA received a lot of great publicity. Jeanne Holm, chief knowledge architect at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: "You just have to understand that there will be unexpected 'opportunities' that social media will give you". In the end NASA named the station Tranquility -- in honor of the touchdown site of Apollo 11 -- but gave Colbert's name to an on-station exercise machine."

Keith's note: Jeanne Holm from JPL is representing NASA at the Personal Democracy Forum this week. She is speaking on Day 2 in the session "The Blogging of the Bureaucracy: How to Use Social Media From Inside Government". It would be interesting to hear someone from NASA JPL speaking about this topic when the agency as a whole cannot yet figure out exactly what its policy is with regard to the use of social media - with JSC and ARC at opposite ends of the spectrum on the issue. Perhaps Jeanne will post a transcript of her comments as well as her presentation (hint).

NASA JSC MOD Memo: Policy on Use of Social Media
NASA ARC Internal memo: Message from the Center Director: Social Networking at Ames
NASA Shuttle Commander Tweets, Will Answer Questions from Space
STS-125 Tweetup at NASA HQ

NASA Hosts STS-125 Space Shuttle Crew Tweetup in Washington

"NASA will host a Tweetup with space shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 crew July 21 at the agency's headquarters building in Washington. The astronauts will discuss their recent servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. This Tweetup is an opportunity to meet and speak with the STS-125 crew and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA. Plus, you'll get to mingle with other space-exploration-minded Tweeps. The event will include a one-hour "meet and greet" session, followed by a presentation and a question and answer period with the astronauts. Scott Altman commanded the STS-125 crew, which included Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good. Massimino is known as @Astro_Mike to more than 500,000 people who followed the mission on Twitter."

Transparency Update

Open Government Directive, Phase III: Drafting

"President Obama issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government in which he called for recommendations on making the government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.
From the start, the White House Open Government Initiative has approached the crafting of these recommendations in an open fashion. An initial Brainstorming phase in late May asked you to identify topics for the recommendations. In the Discussion phase in early June, you explored those topics in greater depth. Today, we ask you to work together to draft recommendations that translate good ideas and lofty principles into specific actions that can be taken to achieve open government. This Drafting Phase invites you to collaborate on creating recommendations for open government policy using a web-based wiki tool."

Spacebook Update

After bashing on Govbook, here comes SpacebookAndrea DiMaio

"The main limitation of an environment like Spacebook is that it creates artificial boundaries around the individual: users can network only with colleagues, but experiences in social media in all industry sectors show that the value is most likely created at the intersection between corporate, professional and personal networks. The reassuring element in this case, though, is that the Nasa Goddard CIO seems very well aware of all this. She told me: "The bottom line is that collaboration and connections are so important in my opinion to an enterprise, anything that reduces the barriers to entry is good.". NASA already has a presence on external networks: the real question is whether, when and how those two worlds will become one. I'm pretty sure she will be actively looking forward to that."

NASA ARC Internal memo: Message from the Center Director: Social Networking at Ames

"At Ames, I believe it is appropriate for members of our workforce to responsibly use social networking sites, if they so desire, to share with people everywhere our excitement about what NASA does and stands for. By doing so, we are contributing to the dissemination of NASA's news and communicating the Agency's knowledge. We can remind the public about upcoming events and link to other interesting sites. We can communicate more effectively via mobile devices.

However, with any professional activity, some guidance is necessary. It is important to use these sites in an appropriate manner. My own experience with this process has been educational. Just as with e-mail there are times and topics one should avoid and you have an obligation to think about the information and your audience before you post. Please keep in mind all NASA employees are responsible for safeguarding sensitive information, so take care to exercise appropriate privacy options."

Keith's note: The "real" Buzz is now on Twitter.

Army gives soldiers access to Twitter, Facebook, GCN

"An Army order directs network managers across the country to stop blocking soldiers' access to certain Web 2.0 Web sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, according to several media reports today. The order issued May 18 jointly by the 93rd and 106th Signal Brigades, permits access to five social media sites within the continental U.S, said Stephen Bullock, strategic communication director for 7th Signal Command, which oversees the brigades. Bullock said the order "wasn't really a reversal of policy," as much as an effort to address inconsistent and often arbitrary decisions that had been made from base to base. "So we gave guidance that made it a consistent set of web filtering standards, resulting in better service for our users," he said. Access should be available to Facebook: Delicious, Flickr, Twitter and Vimeo via the Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network, he said."

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Launches Spacebook

"What's next for Spacebook? There are currently pilots at Ames Research Center and Kennedy Space Center on SharePoint so integrating these capabilities may be desirable. The ability to leverage use of widgets and have use mashable apps is something that we want."

Keith's note: "May be desirable"? Yikes, of course it is desirable that they are mutually integrated. Note the title of this post "NASA Goddard launches ... " not "NASA launches ..." It is bad enough that NASA is trying to reinvent the wheel internally with in-house applications. But the thought of NASA having multiple internally-developed social networking sites which are, by definition, much less capable than the ones you find in the real world, is really scary. Yet another example of how this agency is incapable of cooperating internally - the net result being that every center needs to have its own shiny new toy.

What is sadly humorous is how this blog post was written - one that is freely open to the public - yet a link is offered to Spacebook that only works inside the NASA firewall. Why bother putting it there if no one outside can use it? Yet another example of how NASA never stops to ponder the reaction of the rest of the world to what it does inside the gate.

My snarkiness aside, Linda is to be congratulated for jumping into this Brave New World like few other NASA center CIOs have. You have to start somewhere - and she has. Now she and the other forward-thinking CIOs need to make the next big step - to go beyond the mind-numbing cultural confines of their respective field centers and implement NASA-wide solutions.

Keith's note: This was emailed by Michael Interbartolo to the members of the open/public Facebook group "Greetings from Mission Control". So much for transparency at Mission Control. Why not give Ellen Engleman Conners (the one who is ultimately responsible for this policy) a call at +1 281 483-8456 or email her at

"I wanted to let you know that per new Mission Operations Directorate Social Media Policy I will no longer be posting any publicly available photos or videos whether it be on my own time or government time. Nor will there be any translation of the publicly released execute packages or the PAO media kit for the general public to better understand what is going on during a mission as it is not considered official PAO sanctioned release of information.

While I am disheartened with this policy and feel it goes against the mission statement of "To inspire the next generation of explorers... as only NASA can." I will comply and there will be no updates during the upcoming STS-127 mission. It is my hope in the future the Agency/Center/Directorate will find a way to harness this and other social media tools and not limit the interaction with the public to those solely in PAO or the Astronaut Office."

Update from Mike Interbartolo: "The policy which was internal to Mission Operations not handed down by PAO has been clarified and as long as myself or anyone else posts information that has already been released to the public (whether it be PAO websites, NASATV, MMT press conference etc) we are okay to engage the public on social media sites on a non-interference basis. Our prime job is still to ensure safe manned spaceflight operations."

Editor's note: JSC PAO is ultimately responsible for all such policies. If it was implemented with their knowledge then shame on them. If it was not, then shame on them.

"So Greetings From Mission Control will continue to post what it has for several missions pictures/videos and other mission ops data that folks could probably find on and elsewhere if they knew where to look or how to understand an execute package."

Editor's note: THAT is great news - but this dysfunctionality vis a vis PAO, MOD and policies needs to be addressed such that everyone knows what can and cannot be done - and why. The fact that there was this much confusion can - and should - be traced directly back to Ellen Engleman Conners.

Online social networking: The glue that binds people together at NASA,

"... I tied the process and implementation of the pilot back to the elements of glue. In NASAsphere, an adhesive layer was created by building trust into the network, as well as setting expectations of participation. Mechanisms for bonding were described by NASAsphere participants, when asked "is social networking just for Gen Y, or can anyone do it?" They mentioned "attitude and openness," "willingness to embrace (new things)," "'ageless' attitude," and an "attitude to can overcome fears," amongst other things. Testing the bonds really comes down to the activity level and results of the group of people."

Findings from the NASAsphere Pilot

Keith's note: In all fairness I was not able to see or use the NASAsphere system nor am I allowed to post comments at That said, based on the excellent materials in this post and discussions with some actual users, I have to ask what the value is of NASA reinventing the wheel when other social networking tools are already publicly available. Indeed, NASA seems to be working on several competing/duplicative systems with another one at GSFC supposedly about to go online. This is being done at a time when the agency still has no established guidelines as to how social network tools could or should be used at the agency.

More importantly, instead of creating in-house, NASA-branded social network systems and thus perpetuating a closed society that is impenetrable to the outside world, NASA employees should be increasing their interactions with the external (real) world - not avoiding them. NASA needs to use all of these readily available tools to become more transparent - not more opaque.

Oh yes: look at the expensive mess that NASA has gotten into with ODIN, NOMAD etc. Does anyone really expect that an internal NASA social networking system would ever keep pace with the tools that the rest of the world will be using? Imagine what would have resulted if NASA had tried to invent Twitter ...

NASA's CIOs are all meeting in Huntsville. Hopefully they are talking about this issue. The tools are already out there waiting to be used.

Data Transparency via, White House Blog

"The Administration is committed to moving past these barriers in providing the American public withunprecedented access to useful, unfiltered government data. An important part of that effort is, a platform for free access to data generated across all federal agencies. Through, we aim to provide an open architecture and to make data available in multiple formats. The goal of is to enable better decision-making, drive transparency, and help to power innovation for a stronger America. If you havent yet checked it out, I encourage you to do so. Whether for a school research project, developing a new application, or evaluating a business opportunity, you might just be surprised by what you find."

Keith's note: When you go to and select which agencies to search NASA is not listed. Yet NOAA, NSF, etc. are listed.

Dot Mars, Economist

"Cyberspace is noisy, chatty and well-connected. Space, by contrast, is not. Communication between Earth and spacecraft is clunky and reminiscent of the days when switchboard operators had to plug in telephone lines by hand to connect the people at either end. But that is now about to change. America's space agency, NASA, has been researching what it calls the delay- (or disruption-) tolerant network protocol, or DTN. The idea is to introduce to space the automated protocols that enable seamless communication on the terrestrial internet."



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