IT/Web: August 2010 Archives

Reader note: I took interest in Nmap Developers Release a Picture of the Web from The article says: "The Nmap Project recently posted an awesome visualization of the top million site icons (favicons) on the Web, sized by relative popularity of sites. This project used the Nmap Scripting Engine, which is capable of performing discovery, vulnerability detection, and anything else you can imagine with lightning speed. We saw last month how an Nmap developer downloaded 170 million Facebook names, and this month it's a million favicons; I wonder what they'll do next?"

So I took the liberty of searching for our beloved icon. Here is the link which finds the NASA logo in the mix.

According to the article, "the area of each icon is proportional to the sum of the reach of all sites using that icon. ... The smallest icons--those corresponding to sites with approximately 0.0001% reach--are scaled to 16x16 pixels." The came up at 232 232 pixels which, if I understand it correctly NASA reach = ((232^2)/(16^2))*(0.0001%) = 0.02%

Again, if I understand right, this means that 0.02% of the people who surfed the web in 2010 have visited As a check on my interpretation of "reach", Google is stated as 11,936 x 11,936 and therefore has a reach of ((11,936^2)/(16^2))*(0.0001%) = 55.6516% ...or >1/2 of all users use Google. Which is certainly a believable calculation.

Another Reader notes: I think it came up as 464 464 pixels. Not 232 X 232.

NASA IT Summit Day 2

Keith's 17 Aug note:

This morning, before anyone spoke, NASA Deputy CIO James Williams said that no sessions can be recorded. This was rather startling given that no prohibition whatsoever was made prior to this. Nor did NASA PAO inform me of this prohibition. No mention is made in the event's printed program. I find this to be the height of hypocrisy on NASA's part. It is also baffling. On one hand they profess their support for Open Government yet they turn around and prohibit attendees at a taxpayer-funded, publicly attended meeting - one webcast live - from recording the presentations.

Heads up to the meeting organizers: I fully intend to violate this recording ban at several sessions today.

Keith's 17 Aug update: NASA just twittered "Just to clarify: Attendees free to record #nasait proceedings with exception of the 1:30 general session at the request of the speaker." Yet if you go to this NASA CIO page you will see "The following speakers will be streamed live from this webpage ... 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 17, 2010 Jack Blitch, Vice President & General Manager Walt Disney Imagineering-FL"

This is quite a "clarification". It is also goofy - I can sit at home, watch and record Blitch speaking via a webcast at a taxpayerfunded meeting open to the public, but I cannot record him in person? This makes no sense whatsoever. I intend to violate this ban.

Keith's 17 Aug update: Well, the Disney presentation was interesting. They are certainly a bunch of creative people. As far as what was so sensitive about the presentation such that recording was prohibited, I guess its the news that the interior cabins on their cruise ships which lack an actual porthole will now have a virtual porthole created by using a plasma screen and a live image taken outside the ship. Must be some ITAR issue, right?

NASA IT Summit Day 1

"NASA's first Information Technology (IT) Summit will bring together government and industry leaders to explore the outer reaches of information technology. The summit, which takes place August 16-18 at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland, will gather 750 participants and more than 100 expert presenters with themes on collaboration, social networking, innovation, infrastructure, operations and IT security and privacy."

Information, agenda, and live webstream. You can follow the summit tweets via the hash tag #nasait on Twitter Search.

Keith's note: So far the meeting has gone well. The event was very well organized and ran like clockwork. That said, some curious things emerged rather quickly as I observed the sessions and the audience. First of all, the 1,190 registered attendees are overwhelmingly white males aged 40-60. Second, although half of the audience was, at any given time, fiddling with their cellphones (and a few with laptops), only a dozen or so attendees were actually Twittering from/about the meeting. Given the discussion about future trends, social media, and new populations of stakeholders (audiences) this was rather troubling.

Also, unless someone else signed in on the media list, I was the only media representative in attendance. I assume that is what prompted Charlie Bolden to give me a shout out from the podium ("Is Keith here?"). Also, other than IT manager Brian Dunbar and photographer Bill Ingalls, I saw no one else from PAO in attendance. Nor did I see any education and outreach or social media staff from the mission directorates.

Keith's note: In June 2010 OSTP held an event "Hacking for Humanity" in Washington, DC. A number of NASA employees participated - nearly all of them Gen Y. I should note up front that these folks who attended are, as a group, rather sharp, energetic, and passionate about what they do. Alas, they did not announce this event in advance such that anyone could have known it was happening - much less participate. I made multiple requests immediately after this event in June for a summary of what NASA personnel did at the event and what was developed. I got vague replies that something would be sent to me. Despite these requests NASA provided me with nothing. After waiting 2 months, I sent yet another request today to Robbie Schingler (who now works for NASA CTO Bobby Braun), one of the organizers today. He pointed me to this link which has been online since 1 July 2010. What a surprise.

It would seem that "open government" at NASA HQ really means "we'll get back to you - maybe". Schingler's excuse was that he has been "busy". So sorry to hear that. So, I guess in the future, I need to check this corner of the CIO office website on my own everyday just in case something shows up. When it comes to activities such as this the Gen Y digerati at NASA have yet to figure out how to issue press releases, email advisories, etc. or respond to taxpayer (stakeholder) inquiries. And the sole link on this NASA summary sends me to a page that provides zero information on the projects that these NASA folks worked on. Maybe I'll ask Robbie about this when he speaks at the IT summit next week.

Why do these things in secret such that no one knows what the result is? More closed openness from NASA Gen Y digerati.

More Closed Openness at NASA HQ, earlier post

Citizen Scientists Discover Rotating Pulsar, NSF

"Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project"

"[The NASA system that we reviewed for this audit] is a core system used to process, store, and distribute vital Agency intellectual property, such as [. . .], and crucial program and project information. [The reviewed system] is categorized as a "high-impact system" under Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Publication 199, "Standards for Security Categorization of Federal Information and Information Systems," February 2004. As such, a compromise of security controls1 for a high-impact system could result in severe adverse impact, leading to degradation in or loss of NASA's mission capability, harm to individuals, or life-threatening injuries. In October 20[XX], NASA awarded a 4-year contract to [a contractor] for, among other things, operation of [the reviewed system]."

Full report

Keith's note: I can certainly understand redacting information that would compromise national security. But this report is often incomprehensible due to the huge number of redactions. Simply redacting the entire report would have made more sense. Plus, if there really was a concern about keeping the contractor/system from being identified, why give hints as to when the contract being discussed was awarded? If I really wanted to take the time I could go back and look at NASA press releases from the month of October between 2000 and 2009 and search back through one of more easily accessible websites for NASA contract awards as well.

Message to NASA Civil Service and Contractor Employees: Social Networking Tools and Web 2.0 - Appropriate Use of Web Technologies

"The use of Web 2.0 tools can significantly enhance NASA's ability to communicate with employees and the public about its mission. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to NASA civil service and contractor employees regarding the use of these Web technologies to facilitate collaboration and information sharing within NASA. These Web technologies include tools such as wikis, blogs, mash ups, web feeds (i.e., Really Simple Syndication and Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), and forums, which are often collectively referred to as Web 2.0.

NASA Headquarters and the NASA centers are encouraged to use Web 2.0 tools. Employees implementing Web 2.0 technologies or integrating these tools into the NASA environment are responsible for posting and using content in accordance with applicable ethics, information assurance (IA) and privacy laws, regulations, and NASA policies. They also must adhere to IA, records management and privacy policy guidance. Policy regarding the appropriate use (both personal and professional) of government equipment with regards to Web 2.0 can be found in NPD 2540.1.

Using social media in a professional capacity (e.g., creating a Twitter feed for a mission) is an example of an official NASA communication. The informality and enforced brevity of such media notwithstanding, NASA personnel using Web 2.0 tools are representing the agency, and their communications must be professional and factually accurate."

Keith's note: An example of the implications of this policy: those of you who have Twitter accounts that you use to relay information about NASA can no longer block people from following you. You need to be open and transparent about the information you relay as a NASA employee (civil servant and contractor). If you cannot refrain from Twittering about both personal and work-related stuff then a remarkably simple solution is to get another Twitter account for your personal use.



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This page is an archive of entries in the IT/Web category from August 2010.

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