Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

News orgs should look to government for innovation

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 17:06 - by

I never thought I’d say this, but we need to look at some of the innovative things that government is doing.

In a recent post for, I looked at NASA’s internal employee social network, Spacebook. The core behind the idea is to create a more collaborative culture at NASA. And why not?

The Web has made collaboration easier than ever before and that’s what Spacebook is hoping to tap into:

The network allows NASA’s estimated 18,000 employees, regardless of where they’re stationed in the world, to interact and collaborate.

The site gives employees the ability to change their status on their profile pages, share files, friend other NASA employees, follow their friends’ activities a la the Facebook news feed, join groups that interest them and more.

Spacebook asks users to list their areas of expertise, which NASA is hoping will make it easier for employees to find colleagues when they need to collaborate or ask questions. Linda Cureton, chief information officer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told the blog Space Marauder that Spacebook is an asset to NASA in this down economy:

” ‘With the constraints we’ve had in hiring and our workforce issues, you want to know who knows what, such as experts on batteries or encryption,’ Cureton said. ‘There may be certain skills, abilities and talents that exist throughout the center, and you want to be able to tap into that knowledge to know areas of expertise of people.’ “

So while, yes, as a former government employee, I’m a bit stunned to say that news organizations should be looking to government for innovation, I’d dare say there is more innovation going on in government right now than at traditional media outlets.

Now a site like Spacebook may be overkill for smaller news organizations, but I can see it helping out larger companies that have multiple offices and bureaus. What about a company like Tribune? Couldn’t an internal social network help get people from different newspapers together on company-wide innovation efforts?

Why not? Tribune needs it.

Leaderboard for week of 5-25-2009: Innovation with Twitter edition

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 13:41 - by

This week’s Leaderboard features three beatbloggers who use Twitter in innovative ways.

Many journalists complain that more and more is being thrown at them, and that they simply don’t have enough time for everything: stories, posts, tweets, videos, etc. There are ways to integrate social media into journalism, however, that don’t take much time or even make journalists more efficient.

Twitter can simply be a great way to take notes and make them public, for instance.

Michelle De La Rosa | San Antonio Express-News

  • De La Rosa is another strong education beatblogger (a trend is forming with education reporters here).
  • De La Rosa’s tweeting is particularly strong, and she uses Twitter to live blog school board meetings. Using Twitter to live blog provides several advantages for reporters. First, reporters can post live updates for people who may not want to or be able to attend the meeting itself. But perhaps more importantly, live blogging a school board meeting doesn’t really take any extra time. De La Rosa would have to attend any important meetings anyway and take notes. Twitter can be a fantastic way to take notes, while producing a live product at the same time.
  • In fact, many beatbloggers find Twitter to be a great way to take notes. Because each tweet is going live, beatbloggers are forced to make sure their notes are coherent and concise. There were many times when my notes were a big mess (especially the hand written ones). Twitter forces reporters to take good, concise and coherent notes.
  • Many beatbloggers directly copy and paste many of their tweets into blog posts and news stories. Using Twitter to live blog events is one form of new media journalism that isn’t a huge time sink. It can help make reporters more efficient.
  • De La Rosa also contributes to a group education beatblog.

Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle

  • Berger is one of the best at live chats, and we recognize him this week for his chat on the space shuttle Atlantis coming home. Berger and fellow science geeks got together to chat while Atlantis reentered orbit and made its way to Edwards Air Force base.
  • Berger has done a lot of live chats before, but this time he integrated NASA’s official Twitter feed into his chat. Throughout the CoveritLive chat, tweets from NASA updating Atlanta’s progress or providing interesting tidbits would pop up. Messages like “The deorbit burn is complete, and Atalntis&the crew have begun their descent to California!” and “This will be the 53rd shuttle landing at Edwards. The first was STS-1 on April 14, 1981.”
  • CoveritLive now allows Twitter feeds, searches and hashtags to be inserted into live chats. This takes CoveritLive to a whole new level, and makes live chats a lot more interesting and valuable during events like this.
  • CoveritLive recognizes that Twitter integration could get out of control. After all, a lot of people were talking about Atlantis while it was coming home. Just adding every tweet with the #Atlantis hashtag would have been a nightmare. CoveritLive allows chat authors to moderate Twitter content. You can go in and simply select the Twitter content that you want displayed during your live chat.
  • CoveritLive also allows unmoderated content to automatically appear during a live chat. The NASA Twitter feed, for instance, is trustworthy and not updated that often. There is no reason it needs to be moderated.

Andrew C. Revkin | The New York Times

  • Revkin gets this nod again for his great use of linking. His posts are often thorough on their own, but Revkin links to a lot of good outside information. His posts are a jumping off point for delving deeper into a topic. Revkin asked, “Should Major Emitters Focus on the Sun?
  • What really makes this post shine, however, is Revkin’s YouTube slideshow on using solar energy. His slideshow shows several charts and graphs that illustrate how little the U.S. government spends on solar energy research compared to other energy technologies.
  • His post, however, wasn’t just a random question, but rather ties in with this week’s U.S.-led meetings on climate change, known as the Forum on Energy and Climate. Revkin’s knowledgeable users engaged in a spirited back and forth about the merits of different energy technologies in the comments section. Revkin himself entered the fray to respond to one commenter comment on nuclear power (an expert on the subject at that) with, “Interesting thought. It’s important to note, in looking at the graphs showing rich-country investment in energy research, that nuclear (fusion and fission) have long gotten a much larger piece of the R&D pie than solar, so just wondering here if the solar component needs more respect (not that nuclear needs less).”
  • A post like this makes sense considering Revkin’s users. His users are more knowledgeable than him on many topics. Rather than try to teach them about solar energy, he gathers facts and figures and gets his knowledgeable users to debate a topic. Once he gets these knowledgeable people talking, a lot of great information comes out. The comments after Revkin’s posts often look like debates between experts. Revkin can also use the comments section as a place to find new story ideas.
  • Back to the linking aspect of this post. Revkin links to relevant Dot Earth posts from the past, WhiteHouse.Gov documents, Chinese news sources, an AFP story, a YouTube video, a Twitter search, and more. His blog post is a wrapper that makes all of these disparate pieces of information feel like one.
  • Revkin’s use of Twitter searches in his blog post is also of note. If people are already talking about a topic, why not link to those thoughts on Twitter?
  • Let’s not forget that this blog post was ultimately created to get people talking. The post title is itself a question. Revkin found some data, created a slideshow, linked to relevant content and put it all together into a coherent post that gets his knowledgeable readers talking about why so little money is spent on solar solar research.
About BeatBlogging.Org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.