NASA Closed Participatory Exploration Summit

Just yesterday I posted about how impressed I was with the transparency in a recent blog post from Wayne Hale.  And within that post I wondered I wondered if the current workforce in NASA could ever strive be as transparent.  Sadly, as of today the answer is a resounding NO.

The latest evidence is in the Participatory Exploration Summit being held in Boulder, Colorado today and organized by NASA’s Engineering and Science Mission Directorate.  A set of meetings presumably about Open Government and exploring ways in which taxpayers can participate with NASA programs.  It would seem that this exactly the type of event that should accommodate  public participation on some level.  But from what I can tell, there’s not even any way that a taxpayer could pay his/her way into attendance. 

Truly disappointing. 

Wayne Hale opens up

Over the weekend, Wayne Hale – the recently retired Space Shuttle Program Manager – delivered a magnificently open and transparent blog post titled “Killing Constellation” that covered a lot of ground on the topic of NASA’s human spaceflight program.  There were some amazing insight and stores within his post.  Among them are nuggets about how NASA almost chose never to fly the shuttle again after the Columbia loss.

After the Columbia loss, there was a furious space policy debate in Washington.  The “Shawcross Option” was to never fly the shuttle again, deorbit the incomplete ISS, and turn NASA into a pure R&D organization with half its existing budget.  That option was nearly chosen.

And lessons to be learned by those still working within the confines of government.

An early lesson for all of those involved in government budgeteering is to read the fine print, especially the assumptions.

And ultimately, how decisions made in the return to flight years ultimately doomed the Constellation program.

So yes, I had a role in the killing of Constellation; a long time before February 1, 2010.

It’s an amazing read on a number of levels.  For me, it has provoked deep thought after deep thought evoking more questions than answers.  Such as, could the current NASA workforce ever aim to be this transparent?  Is NASA headed towards the “Shawcross Option” after all?  Are the last Shuttle fights the last time I’ll see a U.S. space program send a human into space during my lifetime?

2010 Social Media for Government Conference in Chicago

I’ll be the first to admit that I had my expectations set at a fairly nominal level for Advanced Learning Institute’s latest Social Media for Government event in Chicago this past week.  But it was really a wonderful time.  The smaller size of the event (approximately 50 people) really gave me a chance to make some deep connections with most of the attendees.  Additional ALI did a great job of adding value by facilitating networking time by organizing lunch and dinner outings.  The location didn’t hurt either.  Being across the John Hancock Building, 2 blocks from Michigan Ave and 4 blocks from the lakefront provided easy access to social fun.  Hillary Hartley and I actually rented bikes, rode along the lake, onto the Riverwalk, into the Frank Gehry infused Millennial Park to soak in an evening of Indian music and dancing in the park. 

photo

Regarding the conference content, there was some great presentations and case studies shared

The city of Geneva, Illinois shared a true participatory government example in explaining how a Facebook Fan Page for Geneva, Illinois started by a high school junior … on his own time … became adopted by the city and established as the official Facebook Fan Page for the city.  Truly inspiring stuff.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin shined light on a court ruling about how access to Facebook profile pages of a government official is not required.1 Essentially, that means that government officials with Facebook profiles can still choose who to connect with on Facebook.  And that means, that social media jerks can still be left on the outside. 

“Social scientists.”  A term used by John Ohab – the man behind Armed With Science – to describe the type of person that social media practicers are:  one part web-savvy technologist and one part communications expert.  I like that term and imagine myself making use of it in the future.

But many challenges and unanswered questions remain. Including the typical ones surrounding culture change (or lack of) to embrace these new tools.  While everyone in the room understood how the risks of social media tools are no different than the risks faced by organizations when introducing email and telephones into their operations, evidence of how to properly make that case so that stakeholders grasp the message remains an ongoing exercise of experimentation

In fact, I was stunned by the number of people – who were sent to this conference with the task and action item to develop tactical strategies of social media use in their organizations – face blockers in their workplace preventing them from using these tools.  That’s right.  Access to sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube is blocked at the firewall level.    Craaaaaazy.

My presentation was a case study of the Ames Spotlight blog project I worked on in 2007.  Within that case study, I discussed how open source solutions and community practices are tools in efforts of social media adoption within government institutions.  While my presentation wasn’t designed to stand on its own (its mostly a slideshow of photos) it is embedded below.

 
  1. I searched the interwebs for a link about this, but haven’t found one.  I’ll be following with the presenter to see if there is something on the web to point to.

Speaking at the Social Media for Government Conference in Chicago this week

Probably should have mentioned this previously, but this week I’ll be speaking at the Social Media for Government Conference in Chicago.  I’ll be providing a case study on the WordPress blog I created for NASA Ames Research Center in 2007 (screenshot of that is below), including all the cultural, process, and legal barriers the team encountered along the way.1  But I’ll also be speaking about the value of open source community principles as a change agent within government agencies and bureaucracies – a topic I’ll be zeroing in on even more during a talk I’m giving next month at the GOSCON conference in Portland, Oregon.

 

Ames center.arc.nasa.gov blog screenshot built with WordPress

  1. This is a case study I’ve been wanting to share for a few years.