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2 Jul 2010 (updated 2 Jul 2010 at 19:39 UTC) »

NASA STS-129 Shuttle Launch Tweetup: The Impact

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch Tweetup: 
The Impact   405380main nasa tweetup 100x75 photoMy wife and I were 2 of 100 social media users chosen to participate in NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis TweetUp on 11/15/2009. This 2-day gathering of Twitter users began with presentations by NASA technical, media, and astronaut staff, a tour of the Kennedy Space Center property, and a visit to the shuttle from just 1/4 mile distance. The 2nd day we were set up with a private press tent near the giant countdown clock and Vehicle Assembly Building, and watched the shuttle launch from only 3.5 miles away — the closest people are allowed to be when it lifts off.

You can re-live NASA TV’s entire 5 hour coverage of the event, including interviews with the TweetUp attendees and the launch.

For the attendees, the return on their investment (ROI) was obvious. Participating in Twitter (a free service) and registering on a web site (also free) resulted in a once- in-a-lifetime experience of being part of a select group allowed to view a launch on site, plus receive lots of press attention. It’s safe to say that most of the people were excited just for the opportunity to see the launch up close. Some came from as far away as Britain and New Zealand.

What about NASA’s ROI?

From a social media perspective

While the event was run by NASA public relations and social media groups, much of it was set up physically using volunteers and staff personally excited to be a part of it. There were actual costs obviously; the conference room, people’s time, the shuttle buses, gasoline, the tent, press kits, etc. This was actually their 5th tweetup, but the first one centered around a shuttle launch. As a social media event it was done very well. They setup a special hashtag (#NASATweetUp), every table on both days had free Wi-Fi and AC power, the front of the room had large displays showing the Twitter feeds, the event was simultaneously streamed to the Internet, and there was an expectation by presenters that people would be actively involved but would be looking at their laptops most of the time. Attendees were treated like press; and received press kits with mission details, CDs of data, and more. More than once NASA made it a point that they were open and would discuss anything at all — after all, it’s your space program. Your tax dollars paid for it.

Almost all of the people that participated were selected on a first-come, first-served basis, having little to do with their social media standing, number of followers, or areas of interest. It was driven by the passions of the people wanting to attend. The only exceptions were FOX News, Laughing Squid, and Space Tweep Society, who received specific invitations, which again NASA was very open about.

NASA estimates the 100 people represented over 150k of personal followers. Conversation was so active that #NASATweetUp became the 3rd most popular trending topic on Twitter during the first day of presentations, ahead of the press conference discussions about water being discovered on the moon. By the end of the first week the event had generated over 10.4k “tweet” postings referencing the #NASATweetUP, plus a lot of blog, podcasts, and main stream media content. Speaking for myself, I picked up about 40 additional Twitter followers because of it.

Twitter Traffic Rockets into Space Along With Shuttle Atlantis

Here is where the ROI becomes a bit more obvious and interesting

First; there’s little question whether this was reaching the target audience. While the group was a mixture of diverse people and interests, everyone that went to that web site to register and traveled at their own expense to be there was passionate enough to be the target audience. Also their friends and family would be included in this circle. They didn’t have to be paid, so there little doubt to their motivation.  Everyone was as excited to be there as the people at NASA were on their first day of employment.

Social Media is about sharing the experience, in whole. While the mainstream press frequently focuses on the downside of the news and mostly attends launches in case there is a “tragedy”, the social media press had nothing but excitement and positive things to report.  Every moment generated a Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed/blog post. In fact the interaction with the TweetUp press was so much more involved and positive, that the monitors displaying the mainstream press conference were turned off after about 20 minutes of their depressing questions.

Unlike when the mainstream press posts a single story about a launch, and one about the landing, the social media continued to discuss the events every day for over 2 weeks. Furthermore, because the TweetUp itself was news, generating additional stories, and the people attending were interviewed by their own local press when they returned home, there was more mainstream coverage about this than would have otherwise occurred.

Some of the simplest things, like the massive eagles nest on property, or that an armadillo was spotted living at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex, made social media news. The human experience, shared.

When the van carrying the astronauts stopped on route to the shuttle so the press area could to wave them off (a NASA tradition), because of the TweetUp it was the largest gathering of people there since Apollo 11 — NASA history in the making.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected ROI results was that in the wake of massive budget cuts and an ending shuttle program, a grassroots organization was created by some of the attendees to help save the NASA space programs. Their main point? With all the wasted government spending, and bailouts of deceptive financial institutions, why remove support from an organization that is actually working well?

There is also a documentary in progress concerning the event, again, being created by one of the attendees.

The TweetUp generated hundreds of additional photos and videos compared to the mainstream press. A large number of friendships also resulted, and I’m sure some NASA staff renewed their energy about working there.

NASA Pushes Social Media Experience to New Heights (press release), also published on RedOrbit

NASA Blogs: Tweet,two,one … Liftoff!

NASA considers the event a success and is planning on holding another one — pehapps larger this time. They are aware the general public views things they take for granted like seeing a rocket launch, talking with an Astronaut, or learning the complexities of putting it all together, as bottled-up treasure that should be shared.

Social Media Coverage

Many of the 100 TweetUp attendees posted blogs and podcasts of the event, relating in their own words their experience:

Skylog: Looking Up!

This is How NASA Will Win the Public Back

The Sociology of Tweeting and How It Affected a Space Launch: The Incalculable Benefits of Social Media on Geeks

STS-129 NASA Tweetup: Return on Investment

NASA Tweetup — Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch — Day 1 and Day 2

Attend a Shuttle Launch In Person — YES!

Birgit Pauli-Haack Photostream

NASA STS-129 TweetUp Photostream

There’s also Space Tweep Society post listing many more sources

And there were some social media stories:

Houston, We Have a Tweet: NASA’s Latest Social Media Launches

How to Launch an Effective Tweetup: Recent NASA Tweetup Offers Four Easy Lessons for PR

Mainstream Media Coverage

The presence of the TweetUp people was itself news, and caused the mainstream press to extend their coverage of this launch compared to others. CNN made a video and interviewed several of us:

CNN Coverage of NASA TweetUp

And many media outlets ran stories containing interviews or tweets from our group:

Atlantis Blasts Off On Space Station Supply Mission

Tweeps come from around the world for NASA Tweetup at Kennedy Space Center

Amador County local ‘twitters’ from NASA space shuttle launch

WSJ: Space Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off

From a Personal Perspective

I’ve already mentioned this event caused my Twitter followers to increase, as well as my making many new friends and renewing my interest in space science. I can’t imagine not going to another one and doing an even better job of covering it for myself and others. One problem that became obvious to me was that I need to make a few changes to my blog and web site so I can more rapidly publish photo and video material. Things happened very fast.

My launch video was shown on CommandN as a video pick of the week, and my blog entry as a web pick. I also could not resist creating the following 2 photos:

Crasher Squirrel at NASA TweetUp

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch 
Tweetup: The Impact   AtlantisCrasherSquirrel photo

Summing It All Up

The NASA TweetUp is a good example of how and why companies should embrace social media, instead of fearing a lack of control over it. Such control is mainly an illusion, since any employee or visitor with a cell phone in their pocket or eventual access to the Internet can publish a message or photo to thousands instantly. It’s better for companies to allow access and address employee issues as they would with any other individual concerns. In many ways, Social Media is exactly what marketing has been complaining they’ve wanted for years — to be able to target the people most trusted to spread the word about their product to friends and families. The problem is that people are honest and direct about products. Social media is not compatible with deceptive advertising or spin. You have to actually have a great product and earn trust. By participating in social media and hosting events, companies become an active member of the conversation. NASA took shuttle mission #129 and made it as special as #1, generating weeks of positive press and excitement.

NASA is already planning to host another TweetUp. I will try my best to be a part of it!

Syndicated 2009-12-07 13:30:04 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

NASA STS-129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2

NASA Tweetup Entrance SignOnce again my wife Cindy and I left our home around 5:30am and made the toll laden drive to NASA, this time bringing along my hi-def video equipment and tripod. Again we arrived about 15 minutes before we needed to be there, and again there were several other cars ahead of us waiting for the KARS ball field parking lot gate to open. When it did we parked in rows on the grass and had a bit of a tailgate party to kill the time until the buses arrived. By this point everyone was making  friends and exchanging contact information.

NASA Tweetup Tailgate NASA Tweetup Tailgate

Arnold Evens of FOX TV Dallas showed us he uses a OLPC (“One Laptop Per Child”) PC as his field equipment. Designed for use in 3rd world countries, it was a very good choice; long battery life, waterproof, durable plastic. I’ve thought of this myself, so it was very cool to see someone actually doing it. Many people had never seen one before so it became one of the topics of conversation during our tailgate party. In case you don’t know, you have the OLPC project to thank for the fact we now enjoy $200 netbooks.

OLPC OLPC

Our Press Tent

The buses came and took us on a several mile trip to the NASA press area, located right next to the famous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the large launch countdown clock. There NASA had set up a special tent for us, again complete with WiFi, power strips, and large displays of broadcast and twitter feeds.

Tweetup Sign NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4124546476 ffbef93a0e o photo

Everyone picked their locations and began their news broadcasting.

Tweetup Tent

TweetUp "Press" In Action

Keith Barrett Twittering Away

Keith Barrett Twittering Away

Long Shot Showing Keith and Cindy

Long Shot Showing Keith and Cindy

Cindy Tweeting

Cindy Tweeting

Our View of the Tent Front

Our View of the Tent Front

NASA gave presentations and answered questions while the launch progressed. We were currently in a 3hr hold, so this was a perfect time to walk around and take photos of the area around the tent, and the countdown clock.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123779405 9696884075 o photo NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4124549312 c67bdb0ba8 o photo

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4124549468 190a7ae92f o photo NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123780145 56372ab9bd o photo

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123781387 bc4641f8a4 o photo NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123780459 be7a305744 o photo

All the TweetUp attendees gathered together for a group shot:

NASA Tweetup Winners

I must have said a hundred times that I couldn’t believe I was sitting on the grass next to the VAB building. While we were together, NASA was presented with a group signed poster as a thank you for inviting us to this event.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggl5FFkoctQ

One of the podcasters in our group also took advantage of the opportunity and had us give a live cheer. I recorded this live on my cell phone.

The Interviews

Many of us, including Cindy, were interviewed by local press, podcasters, and film makers.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4124550816 8f14b40558 o photo

Most of the press that visited our group were more interested in the few people that traveled from other countries to be here today. I though it rather ironic that old media was interviewing the new media, and in several cases the new media was reporting on it back.

The Astronaut Wave

As the astronauts are driven to the launch site, it’s tradition for the van to stop by the press area so everyone can wave at them and wish them success. Days before the launch, the astronauts spend most of their time in isolation to prevent catching a cold and bringing it with them into space. This last stop could be the final time in their lives that they see other people should something go wrong with the mission, so it’s a very important sendoff. We were thrilled to be a part of it.

The van was accompanied by a security helicopter. The Astronauts are all suited up so they cannot leave the van.

NASA Astronauts on their way to the launch

We waved like crazy. NASA later told us we were the largest gathering of people to wave them off since the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. One of several reasons why this tweetup is now a part of NASA history.

The Launch

As T minus zero minutes approached I went and staked out an area to set up my video equipment. Two different NASA people said I had to be in different places, so there was some relocating until I had a spot no one seemed to feel was in their way.

While I was setting up, my wife was still in the tent. NASA starting to hold drawings and giveaways. They gave away the TweetUp banners and other items. When my wife finally joined me on the grass, she was excited to say that she had won the sample of Aerogel they were displaying yesterday, so the one disappointment I had about not being able to see it was completely flipped around because now we owned it. Amazing.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123782519 015b8dab28 o photo NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4124552438 8f6dfd07e9 o photo

Then the time arrived. The clock reached zero. The ship took off and everyone was surprised how emotional the experience was. The ground shook like an earthquake and the windows in the building behind us rattled loudly. Car alarms went off in the parking lot near us, and camera shutters clicked wildly.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123782903 8122586741 o photo

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123783031 6cebb54618 o photo

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123783095 bf9cc387d7 o photo

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 2   4123783309 f77d09e28b o photo

It exceeded all expectations and was more impressive than I ever imagined. You can watch my video for yourself:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0ZHI23enn4

The NASA Coverage

NASA created a video highlighting the launch itself and the reactions of the people inside the TweetUp “twent”.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MDfUkHJDBw

The Press Conference

After the launch we went back into the tent to put away our gear and wait out the formal press conference. The questions the main stream media were asking were pretty depressing; “What would have happened if nnnn failed”?, “how much did nnn cost?”. “What about the budgets?”… How could those people not have had the same experience we did? We just watched 6 people ride an explosion into space. Astronaut Mike Massimino yesterday had described the experience as like “a big beast grabbing a hold of you” and taking off, and you hope it knows where it’s going. All we TweetUp people could talk about was how amazing the launch was, that it was a perfect day for it, that it was an honor to wave them off, etc. The NASA staff actually turned off the monitors in the tent after a while and said it was far more fun to talk and listen to us!

John Yembrick and Beth Beck of NASA were wonderful people to meet and made this an incredible experience for everyone.

After it was all over, we took the long bus ride back to the cars, waved goodbye to Beth Beck (who was surrounded by tweeple still talking about the day), and quickly landed in slow-moving traffic for a long part of the trip. Everyone that had seen the launch, not just the tweetup people, were all leaving at the same time.  It took us over 2 hours to finally make it home.

The photos on this article are only a sample. You can view the entire photo stream on Flickr.

[In the final article of this series I will discuss things that happened after the event, plus it's impact on main stream and social media, and on us - the attendees]

Note: UPDATED 12/7 to include the signed poster video and the NASA reaction video

Syndicated 2009-11-26 10:43:45 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

NASA STS-129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1

NASA Tweetup check-in tableRegistration for the NASA STS-129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp was from 7:30-8:30 am, and if you missed it you could not attend any part of the 2 day event. I was already exhausted and partially sunburned from working the previous day, but we managed to get up at 4:30am and NASA Tweetup credentialsbegin our drive to NASA a little after 5:30am. It’s normally about an 80 minute trip according to Google, but we’d never driven to the Kennedy Space Center before and wanted extra time for breakfast, getting lost, etc. After dealing with all the tolls and a mis-turn we arrived about 7:20am, behind 5 other cars already parked and waiting. When people came out to the check-in table we picked up our credentials, program guide, press kit, and some cool gifts and waited. We passed the time by introducing ourselves to each other, taking photos, and (of course) tweeting.

The Morning Presentations

At 8:30 NASA staff escorted us into a conference room inside one of the visitor buildings. The room was filled with round tables, each having power strips. Everyone scrambled for their desired tables and set up their laptops, cameras, and other equipment.

NASA Tweetup banner NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4125065627 6b45222605 o photoNASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4123610147 27689ba38a o photoNASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4109511522 2c27899e9e o photo

Each table was also given an unidentified object used by NASA. Some of the objects were explosive bolts (used), special bricks, and a sample of aerogel (sometimes referred to as solid smoke). I had always wanted to see some aerogel, but sadly I missed the opportunity.

Each speaker was very engaging, and the audience was tweeting the whole time. At one point #NASAtweetup held the 3rd most popular trending position on Twitter.

It was very apparent that NASA was experienced in social media. From simple details like providing power at the tables and warning presenters that people would frequently be looking at their laptops rather than at them, to the the large twitter feed screens in front of the room. The presentation was detailed, humorous, and played to a diverse audience. Everyone had nothing but compliments about the morning. More than once the discussion came up how main stream media looks for and focuses on “the tragedy”, while social media is all about real-time sharing the experience. NASA probably experiences this more than most; it seems that the only reason the main stream media shows up at a shuttle launch is to be there in case something does fail

You can watch the entire two hour presentation just as we did (except broken up into 3 YouTube compatible segments). Note: I can be seen working about 29:16 into the part 1 video.

Part 1: John Yembrick (NASA public affairs officer), Jon Cowart (Ares I-X deputy mission manager)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl9zBgpmdjQ

Part 2: Wayne Hale (strategic program planning manager), Mike Massimino (astronaut, STS-109 & 125)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBlrUAxtB3Y

Part 3: Veronica McGregor (public affairs, NASA’s JPL), Miles O’Brien (space reporter, former CNN anchor)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBoqWw9V-_8

Here’s a screen capture of our table from the simultaneous broadcast on NASA TV:

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4124378856 3b7876570a o photo

All the speakers were informative and entertaining. After the session Astronaut Mike Massimino stayed around for autographs and photos.

Keith Barrett with Astronaut Mike Massimino

NASA then told us they had to step up the schedule, and that the buses would be leaving about 11:45, so we had about 45 minutes to site see and have lunch. While touring the visitor center I saw this display of old Apollo 11 items:

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4123611743 9933083c2f o photo

I once owned this View Master set, which included the vinyl record.

The Afternoon Tours

At 11:45 we climbed aboard bus #2 to our first destination while our tour guide, Greg, described the sites we passed and his experiences working at NASA. Since the day would be presentations and tours, I decided not to carry around my heavier Hi-Def camera equipment and tripod, opting instead for my G1 camera phone and a common pocket camera.

Our first stop was the International Space Station building, where you can see what some of the modules of the Space Station look like and feel like to walk through. There were also genuine station modules in a clean room area. These are used to replicate and solve problems up in space, or prepare them for actual transport to the space station.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4124380878 8391ce5104 o photo

Tour Bus #2 with Greg

Keith Barrett at NASA STS-129 TweetUp

In front of a Space Station Module

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4105733705 27fe27475a o photo

Space Station Bathroom

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4111475524 68d3a70c77 o photo

Real Space Station Modules in Clean Room

NASA Limited Area Warning Sign

Guess TweetUp Credentials are OK for Limited Areas

Our next stop was at the Apollo 11 memorial attraction. I had actually sen this attraction once before in the early 1980s and it seemed the same, and just as enjoyable.The entrance is through these massive metal doors, that when they opened I half expected them to sound like #2’s office doors in “The Prisoner” TV series.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4110710269 ea5daa2fe5 o photo

Apollo 11 Experience

When it begins you see all the original Mission Control stations setup as if long abandoned …

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4111475720 69d4a822d1 o photo

1969 Mission Control; abandoned

… but suddenly they spring to life with lights, sound, and displays, and you are taken on a recreation of the Apollo 11 mission of 1969.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4111475760 2e1a6d5ae1 o photo

Mission Control; Alive!

Last time I was at NASA was back in the early 1980s, and they had a Saturn V rocket sitting outside, rusting, that you could climb on and take photos. Today this massive structure has been restored and is on display inside the building you enter when leaving the Apollo 11 recreation.

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4110710383 c843853ab4 o photo

Saturn V Engines

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4124381422 66665b9b9c o photo

Saturn V

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: Day 1   4110710459 424b0bd01e o photo

Saturn V

There were other Apollo mission vehicles on display as well:

L.E.M.

L.E.M.

Lunar Rover

Lunar Rover

The Big Surprise

Our final stop was a surprise. We heard that we would be taken to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis while it was still on the launch pad, BUT NASA did not tell us that we would be stopping only 1/4 miles away from it! Words were insufficient to describe our excitement!

STS-129 Shuttle Atlantis

STS-129 Shuttle Atlantis

STS-129 Shuttle Atlantis

STS-129 Shuttle Atlantis

If NASA had warned us that this was going to occur, I would have brought my good camera gear! I had to settle for these photos, plus I also did a quick, short live stream video from the site:

NASA Tweetup STS-129 Stop

Quite an exciting way to end the day! We continued to take pictures until it was time to load back onto the bus and get dropped off at our cars, then take the long drive home.

Tomorrow was launch day!

These are only a sample of the photos taken today. You can view my full photo stream on Flickr,

[In the next segment of this series I relate the events of the second day of the Tweetup, including the shuttle launch]

Syndicated 2009-11-23 02:17:04 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

NASA STS-129 Atlantis Shuttle Launch

I attended the NASA STS-129 Tweetup and recorded a perfect shuttle launch! Click the image to play the video. It’s about 3 minutes in length and 82MB in size.

STS-129 Shuttle Launch


Syndicated 2009-11-17 13:53:07 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

NASA STS-129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: The Invitation

NASA STS 129 Shuttle Launch TweetUp: The Invitation   405380main nasa tweetup 100x75 photoThe Boy Scientist

Today I would have been labeled a “tween”, but back in the 1960s I was simply a boy addicted to science and science fiction. Chemistry, electronics, NASA, television, movies — I consumed it all. I took things apart to learn how they worked; not always able to put them back together in working order again. I was the kid on the block with the best chemistry set, the largest collection of sci-fi paperbacks, builder of model spaceships, and watched absolutely every televised movie and show remotely related to science fiction.

It should not come as a surprise I also grew up mesmerized by the Apollo space program. I was glued to my TV when the moon landing occurred. I had my Apollo 11 model apart, representing the various states of the rocket as it headed to the moon. I saved every newspaper and magazine clipping. I would to write to NASA, and they would send me booklets, posters, and glossy photos.

I still have all the clippings and the NASA literature.

I was told at an early age that I would never qualify to be an astronaut because of my poor eyesight and childhood allergies, plus military pilots were the people going into space not the scientists. That didn’t deter my love of the idea of space travel; I continued to follow the space program from afar.

Eventually medical advances in optical surgery would eliminate the eyesight restriction, and the shuttle program advances would permit non-military passengers, but by this time computer programming had taken over as my career.

NASA and Social Media

NASA began exploring the opportunities of social networking technology. Their first use of Twitter was the Mars lander, which would tweet occasional status messages (like this one and  this one). I would later learn that the joke within NASA was that they always explore new frontiers (such as social media) using unmanned space craft first.

@Astro_Mike (Mike Massimino) became the first Astronaut to use Twitter from space. Since then, several astronauts now have accounts and it’s not unusual to have conversations with them — 140 characters at a time.

Tweetups, a gathering of Twitter users, became popular in 2009. Many conventions know that bloggers and instant messaging are going to be a part of their audience and set up displays of Twitter feeds and special tags/hashtags to tie all the generated content together.

NASA decided to hold one; a very special one.

The Announcement

On October 13th, NASA posted the following press release:

John Yembrick
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100
john.yembrick-1@nasa.gov
Oct. 13, 2009

RELEASE 09-240

NASA Launches Tweetup for Space Shuttle Atlantis Liftoff in Florida

WASHINGTON — For the first time, NASA Twitter followers are invited to view a space shuttle launch in person at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA is hosting this unique Tweetup on Nov. 11 and 12. Space shuttle Atlantis is targeted to launch at 4:04 p.m. EST, Nov. 12 on its STS-129 mission to the International Space Station.

“This will be NASA’s fifth Tweetup for our Twitter community,” said Michael Cabbage, director of the News Services division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Each event has provided our followers with inside access to NASA personnel, including astronauts. The goal of this particular Tweetup is to share the excitement of a shuttle launch with a new audience.”

NASA will accommodate the first 100 people who sign up on the Web. An additional 50 registrants will be added to a waitlist. Registration opens at noon EDT on Friday, Oct. 16. To sign up and for more information about the Tweetup, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/tweetup

The two-day event will provide NASA Twitter followers with the opportunity to take a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, view the space shuttle launch and speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts and managers. The Tweetup will include a “meet and greet” session to allow participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA.

To follow NASA programs on Twitter visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/collaborate

For more information about space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-129 mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

- end -

They also posted a tweet about it. I actually missed seeing this, but a friend (thanks @JenVargas) was looking out for me and told me about it. The story also appeared in our local news. I live in Orlando, so being able to drive to NASA made this pretty easy to attend, but I would have traveled across country for it.

On 10/16, about 10 minutes before noon, I was camped on that web page. Like trying to win an ebay auction in its last minutes, I kept refreshing the page waiting for the time when the login form appeared. About 4 minutes before noon, it did. I immediately registered myself and my wife. Using the site before noon made me nervous, so just in case I also waited until a few seconds past noon and (using a different browser) I registered us again. Since both times I received confirmation screens that I was all set, and any attempts to register again displayed an “already registered” screen, I was sure I was in. In less than 15 minutes the web page displayed that the signups were completed.

But then, about 20 minutes past noon, NASA tweeted that they were opening up the site again. I figured that they either were disqualifying the people that signed up early and wanted to fill those slots, or they wanted additional names in case some of the first 100 did not work out. Shuttle launches do not always occur on time, and people may cancel. After another 10-20 minutes NASA closed the site for good.

The Invitation

We all waited days until the confirmation emails were sent to the lucky 100 people. The Twitter chatter about the event increased, and NASA announced on 10/25 that all the notifications had been sent.

I hadn’t received one.

Twitter does not let you privately send a message to another person unless they are following you, so I posted a tweet to them asking how was it possible I didn’t get in? After all I was registered within seconds of the site being up, plus they re-opened it later, indicating the previously registered people MUST have made it in and they wanted more. I wondered whether the early site accessibility lead to a registration problem affecting the early users. They responded with a direct message back, saying just that the “response really was overwhelming” and instructed me to email them with my details so they could ensure I was on the waiting list. I sent the email, and asked them to note that my wife and I would like to attend together if possible. They were extremely nice about it.

In the meantime people were tweeting about how excited they were as the date approached. I can’t tell you how sad I was to miss out on this. I knew more than most how special it was. It may not have seemed fair, but life is filled with surprises, and I was very happy that some of my friends made it in.

Then NASA announced the launch date was moving to 11/15 & 16. On 11/3, Stephanie Schierholz from @NASA sent us an exciting email:

Dear Keith Barrett,

Congratulations! A spot has become available for you to attend the NASA Tweetup in conjunction with the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission. The launch date has changed and is now targeted for no earlier than Monday, Nov. 16 at 2:28 p.m. EST. As a result, NASA has moved the Tweetup to Nov. 15 and 16. To claim your spot, you need to:

1.      Respond to this e-mail [redacted] by 11:59 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 4 to confirm your intent to participate in the two-day event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Registration indicates:

a.       You intend to travel to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and attend the two-day event in person. You are responsible for your own expenses for travel, lodging, local transportation, food and other amenities. There is no public transportation to and from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, so you will need a rental car or another ride. Once you are on-site each day, NASA will provide transportation;

b.      You plan to attend activities during both days. The dates have changed to Nov. 15-16. Check-in is required Nov. 15 to receive your badge, which will provide your access to Kennedy Space Center both days. If you do not check in Nov. 15, you will not be able to claim your badge Nov. 16. We will be traveling as a group in buses, so you will need to attend all planned activities if you want to participate.

c.       You acknowledge that you are visiting a government facility. To be admitted, you will need to show a government-issued identification (driver’s license or passport) that matches the name provided on the registration. Those without proper identification cannot be admitted.

d.      You acknowledge that you are at least 18 years old.

2.      Verify your registration information. We have you registered as:

First Name: Keith

Last Name: Barrett

E-mail address: [redacted]

Twitter account: keithbarrett

We need two additional pieces of information from you: your zip code and your phone number, preferably the number where we can reach you during the Tweetup (probably your cell number). Please respond to us with this information. If any of this information is inaccurate, please let us know immediately. The information provided here must match the name on your government-issued identification.

3. Please let us know ASAP if you are not a U.S. citizen.4. Please let us know if you have any special needs or requirements that will require NASA accommodation.

[...]

Please note: Your STS-129 Tweetup confirmation and registration does not qualify you for news media credentials at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center now or in the future.

NASA not only sent this to me, but my wife received one as well. NASA had invited us both! There was a lot of excitement in our house that day!

On Nov 11th, NASA sent us the final agenda for the event:

Dear Keith Barrett,

You are confirmed to attend the NASA Tweetup in conjunction with the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission. The NASA Tweetup is Nov. 15 and 16. The launch is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16, at 2:28 p.m. EST. You’ll find details about the event below. Please read the information carefully. We look forward to seeing you on the 15th!

Your Registration Information:

We have you registered as:

First Name: Keith

Last Name: Barrett

E-mail address: [redacted]

Twitter account: keithbarrett

Zip: [redacted]

Phone: [redacted]

If any of this information is missing or inaccurate, or you need to cancel your attendance for any reason, please e-mail us as soon as possible [...]

The Tweetup will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. You are responsible for your own transportation to and from these locations. You will need to check in and pick up your badge at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex before the program begins on Sunday, Nov. 15 promptly at 8 a.m. EST.

Directions to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the Tweetup:

You should plan on using a car to get around the area. There is no local public transportation. Once you are on-site each day at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA will provide transportation via bus. Using MapQuest or MSNMaps, use the city “Orsino,” and the state “FL.” Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located just to the west on 405, between Range Road and East Avenue SW.

From Brevard County beaches (from the south):

Take State Road A1A North until it becomes SR 528 West. Travel west on SR 528 to the SR 3/Courtenay Parkway exit (Exit 49) to Merritt Island and Kennedy Space Center. Turn right (or north) on SR 3 and continue north. Follow signs for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

From Orlando and Brevard County mainland (from the north):

Travel east on SR 528 to the SR 407 exit to Kennedy Space Center and Titusville. Take SR 407 until it dead ends into SR 405. Turn right (east) onto SR 405 and follow the signs for Kennedy Space Center. You will travel approximately nine miles on SR 405. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on your right.

Upon arrival at the Visitor Complex:

Park your car in LOT 5 and walk toward the ticket pavilion. Look for STS-129 Tweetup registration tables to the left of the ticket pavilion, near a gate with a sidewalk leading to the Debus Conference Center, where the Tweetup will take place. Present your government-issued picture identification or a passport to receive your STS-129 Tweetup credential and registration packet. A guide will direct you to the conference center. You do not need to purchase an admission ticket for the Visitor Complex.

Badge check-in will begin at 7 a.m. on Nov. 15. You must check in on Nov. 15 before 8 a.m. to receive your badge and participate in events both days. Those without proper identification cannot be admitted. All registrants must be at least 18 years old. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is a government facility. You must keep the badge and photo identification with you at all times during the Tweetup. If you do not claim your badge and participate in activities Nov. 15, you will not be able to attend launch events on Nov. 16. You will need to bring your badge with you Nov. 16 to check in for transportation to the launch viewing area.

Schedule:

Sunday, Nov. 15/L-1: Day 1

8 a.m. — Program begins with welcome by John Yembrick (@NASA), NASA public affairs officer

8:10 a.m. — Jon Cowart, Ares I-X deputy mission manager

8:40 a.m. — Wayne Hale, strategic program planning manager

9 a.m. — Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike), astronaut, STS-109 & 125

9:30 a.m. — Veronica McGregor (@veronicamcg), public affairs, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

9:40 a.m. — Miles O’Brien (@milesobrien), veteran space reporter, former CNN anchor

10 a.m.-12:15 p.m. — Free time at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Shuttle Launch Experience, gift shop, lunch on your own, etc.)

12:30 p.m. — Buses depart for tour of Kennedy Space Center. For the tour, you must wear long pants and closed, low-heeled shoes. Tank tops are not permitted.

~3:30 p.m. — Return to Visitor Center parking lot

Nov. 16/Launch: Day 2

8:30 a.m. — Meet at KARS Park 1, located on the south portion of Kennedy Space Center on East Hall Road, off State Road 3, to clear security and board buses

9:30 a.m. — Depart KARS Park enroute to the Launch Complex 39 press site at Kennedy Space Center via buses. No personal vehicles will be allowed onto Kennedy Space Center on launch day.

10 a.m. — Arrive at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Press Site

2:28 p.m. Launch of STS-129

3:30 p.m. — Post-launch news conference on NASA TV (you’ll be able to watch/listen to some of this from the tent before boarding the buses)

~4 p.m. — Board buses (the schedule could change in the event of a contingency)

~4:15 p.m. — Buses depart Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Press Site to return attendees to KARS Park

Buses will adhere to strict schedules. If you are not on a bus at the specified departure time, unfortunately you will be left behind. We will not be able to accommodate late arrivals.

(In the event of a 24-hour delay, we will repeat the launch day schedule, but all times will be 30 minutes earlier)

NASA Tweetup and Technology:

We will have free Wi-Fi available both days if you choose to bring your laptop. The SSID and WEP Encryption Key for the STS-129 Tweetup are: [redacted]

Tweetup attendees should charge their electronic devices before each day’s events. Power will be available only during portions of the event Nov 15 but will be available throughout the launch Nov. 16. You may need to allow your mobile phone to roam to achieve the best cell phone coverage.

Cameras will be allowed. NASA will use UStream to broadcast the 8-10 a.m. portion of the Nov. 15 Tweetup at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-television. Portions of the Tweetup may be broadcast on NASA Television and online at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. Photos will be posted online during and/or after the event at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto. Your participation in the event signals your consent to appear on air and online.

The Twitter account for the Tweetup is @nasatweetup. We are following all those who are confirmed to attend. You can view the list of attendees at http://twitter.com/nasatweetup/ksc-sts-129-tweetup. Please begin following @nasatweetup, where we will post updates and reminders about the event. Feel free to send questions you may have to that Twitter account. We will use #nasatweetup as the hashtag.

Food:

You are responsible for your own meals. You are welcome to bring your own breakfast, lunch, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. We encourage you to bring and plan to drink plenty of water. If you plan to eat breakfast or need a mid-morning snack, please get it before you arrive at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and NASA’s KARS Park.

On Nov. 15, the day before launch, you will be able to purchase lunch at restaurants inside the Visitor Complex following the morning presentations or retrieve a lunch you brought from your car and eat it outside the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Food options at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex:

Orbit Café (Visitor Complex) – cafeteria with indoor seating

G-Force Grill – snacks and sandwiches

Milky Way – soft drinks and soft-serve ice cream

Space Dots – ice cream

Snacks/drink kiosks

On Nov. 16, launch day, you can bring food with you onto the buses and to the press site. Commercial food options are extremely limited. At the press site you will have access to a mobile food wagon with snacks, water, soft drinks and sandwiches available for purchase. If you are looking for breakfast on the way to NASA’s KARS Park, you will find numerous restaurants and bakeries conveniently situated on Merritt Island along SR 3, both north and south of SR 528. Please allow enough time to arrive at KARS Park by 8:30 a.m.

About Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 Press Site

The STS-129 Tweetup will be conducted in an air-conditioned tent at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site, where news media from around the world are working. You may be approached by reporters requesting to interview or photograph you. If you don’t wish to participate, simply decline their requests.

You may leave the tent and roam around the press site, but you are not permitted to leave the press site without an official public affairs escort. You also are not permitted to enter the press site auditorium, where news conferences are conducted (the large yellow building with metal siding) or any private news media facilities (the trailers and buildings you see on the hill toward the front of the tent).  You may enter the NASA News Center (the concrete building with the wedge-shaped roof, also on the hill), but we ask that you keep your visit short in order to respect the needs of the reporters who will be hard at work there.

Restrooms are located in a concrete building on the hill, behind the press site auditorium.

If you fail to follow the rules and heed the instructions of NASA security and your public affairs escorts, you could lose your credential and your privileges to attend the launch.

What your STS-129 Tweetup credential gets you

Your badge will provide admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, including the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction, and to a NASA bus for a tour of the Kennedy Space Center, including a stop near the launch pad, on Nov. 15. We recommend that you take advantage of your special access to the Shuttle Launch Experience during your time in the park that day. We also suggest you go there first, then get lunch and shop for souvenirs. Your credential does not provide access to any other premium attractions, and you likely will not have time to visit them.

Your badge will provide admission to the Launch Complex 39 Press Site on launch day. You must show your credential to park at NASA’s KARS Park and board the bus on launch day. DO NOT LOSE YOUR CREDENTIAL. You must have your Tweetup badge and government-issued photo identification with you at all times.

Please note: Your STS-129 Tweetup confirmation and registration does not qualify you for news media credentials at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, now or in the future.

Appropriate dress:

For the L-1 bus tour of Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 15, you must wear long pants and closed, low-heeled shoes. Tank tops are not permitted.

Things to bring:

Government-issued photo identification and/or passport (you must have it with you at all times while on Kennedy Space Center property)

Preferred tweeting device(s) and charger(s)

Cameras

Paper and pen or Sharpie for autographs

Small umbrella or rain poncho

Sunblock

Hat

Sunglasses

Money for food and souvenirs

Comfortable shoes

Insect repellant

Food, snacks, beverages, water (if you desire)

Bags, purses and other items may be opened and thoroughly inspected at the Visitor Complex. (Procedures to search all bags carried into the complex by visitors and employees are actions taken as part of the increase in security and not part of a specific threat to our facilities.) Any item you do bring must have a tag with your name and information on it.

The following items are not permitted:

Alcoholic beverages

Large beach-type umbrellas

Folding chairs

Laser pointers

Hard-sided coolers, luggage and other large bags

Pepper/mace sprays

Knives of any size

Box cutters or similar items

Nail clippers with knife blades

Any other sharp/pointed items, including pointed scissors or nail files

Fire arms of any type (with or without a permit)

Ammunition (live or spent)

Pets

Grills or stoves

In the event of a launch scrub on Nov. 16:

Launching humans into space is a very complex business, and the safety of the crew is NASA’s number one priority. Hundreds of different factors can cause a scheduled launch date to change numerous times. If the launch date moves or delays prior to this planned event, NASA will make every attempt to adjust the Tweetup schedule accordingly to coincide with the launch and will notify you about this change. If on the first launch attempt (L-0, currently Nov. 16), the launch is delayed for 24 hours, NASA will provide you the opportunity to visit the press site again for the second launch attempt. In that event, the launch day schedule will begin 30 minutes earlier. Tweetup attendees are responsible for any additional costs they incur related to any launch delay.

FOLLOW THE LAUNCH: It is your responsibility to keep up with the date and time of the shuttle launch. Follow @NASA on Twitter to receive regular launch updates. You also can receive regular launch updates at http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle. Updates also are available by calling 321-867-2525. We will e-mail you if there is a major change to the agenda, such as a scrub early in the morning during fueling. You can view a schedule of the milestones to launch at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/launch/countdown101.html

NASA’s Safety Statement:

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. While on Kennedy Space Center you may encounter a variety of wildlife, including alligators and poisonous snakes. If you see such an animal, do not approach it or attempt to feed it. Please notify a public affairs officer or other NASA personnel.

Please be advised that hazards are inherent in launching and launch viewing of a space shuttle mission. By accepting the invitation to view the launch or landing you do so with the understanding of the potential risk. Although NASA applies stringent range safety principles and techniques to protect the general public, workforce and property for all areas of the Kennedy Space Center during launch, in the event of an inadvertent circumstance, hazards including debris, blast and toxics could occur.

It is imperative that you stay within controlled areas with your group and strictly follow all instructions provided by NASA. Although an accident during lift-off of the space shuttle is highly unlikely, some safety precautions are necessary. As is the case with the launch of a space vehicle, a potential danger exists from toxic vapors contained in any cloud formed as a result of a launch mishap. In the event of an accident, all persons at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center should take shelter immediately in the nearest air-conditioned building.

Approximate distances to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex from nearby lodging areas:

Cape Canaveral – 21 miles

Cocoa – 19 miles

Cocoa Beach – 26 miles

Daytona Beach – 68 miles

Melbourne – 50 miles

Orlando International Airport – 45 miles

Titusville – 19 miles

For more information about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, visit: http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com.

NASA created a special twitter list of the people attending the event (“lists” are a new Twitter feature introduced in the last month). In 4 days we would be at NASA, participating in something not only exciting, but would prove to be historically significant to social media, and a demonstration of how companies can use it well.

But the real excitement was that I was going to see a shuttle launch at NASA! And my wife Cynthia, who was saying earlier this year that she has always wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center, was going to have an extraordinary experience.

[In the next segment of this series I will relate the events of the first day of the TweetUp]

[Updated on 11/25 to include a copy of the original NASA press release]

Syndicated 2009-11-17 03:07:29 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

The Mutation of Television

The Internet is allowing the consumer to directly purchase product from its creator, flattening out most business models by eliminating the middleman: the distributor or publisher. Industries that accept this impact and explore new business models will survive, others (such as the recording industry) will fight it or die. “The Wrap” published an excellent article detailing why the traditional television business, like music, is dying. I recommend that you read it before continuing here.

All businesses go through the same downward spiral when they let the accountants, lawyers, and Wall Street take priority over the customer and brand. No model operates forever, and the cycle can occur in any business. It goes like this: (1) The company experiences declining income from what they are use to receiving. (2) Rather than adapt their business or look for new opportunities, they reduce expenses and the quality of their product to the customer. If you’re a restaurant for example, you cut back on complex dishes and serve food made with lesser expensive ingredients. A business analyst I know calls this “robbing your customer” because it was you who set the original expectations of quality and trust. (3) Sales decline further because the product quality and uniqueness attributed to your brand and supported by loyal customers vanishes (4) The company eventually collapses or gets purchased.

This is what is happening to television. Cable meant people were offered more programming choices. VCRs and and DVRs meant they were freed to watch their programs at their convenience. And the Internet offers two more things:

  1. Anyone can produce and distribute content. Quality is based on talent, passion, and ideas — not money, and anything from a 3 minute video made by students, to a web series like “The Guild”, to special big budget web episodes of popular shows like “Battlestar Galactica” can attracted a large following. It’s no longer true that something is too inexpensive to be attempted.
  2. People can watch an even larger variety of content, including content that is not available elsewhere at the time, when they want ANYWHERE, including their phone. A La Cate viewing is taken to its logical conclusion, and physical location becomes unimportant.

It’s not hard to understand that people are attracted to quality. They’ll accept commercials, but not lots of them, or lengthy ones, or insulting ones, or “in your face” interruptions. Cable and broadcast television have destroyed all sense of viewer immersion by frequently displaying distracting animated blips during a show. And if you already have commercials, don’t expect people to also pay viewing fees. Not unless you are only going after the audience segment that wants instant gratification rather than waiting a few days or forever rather than pay. This is why Hulu became popular — it was free and the commercial interruptions were few and only 30 seconds long.

People are viewing content more and more based on what they hear from others they trust (whether it be friends and family, or the celebrities they are fans of), or what they discover is already very popular with the public. With so much content available, and the ability to watch it at will anywhere, large audiences only exist in real-time for the premiere episode broadcast of an extremely popular show or a live event. Otherwise they are spread so thin that the old ratings and time-targeted ad methods of collecting large money at once are gone.

So what does the new model look like? It’s not hard to see where all this is going:

  • People want to watch content on any device they choose, especially if they’ve already bought it in some form. If they buy content, it’s implied they own viewing rights and it must work everywhere.
  • They will not pay “per view”, but may pay “per episode”. If someone pays for a show or an episode, and wants to watch it again, they should be able to.
  • People want their content free, and don’t mind polite, short advertising or being asked for voluntary contributions to get it. Most people are willing to wait a week to see a new episode if it means they can then watch it for free. Most are also happier if THEY judge the value of the product.
  • The people that are willing to pay for content are those that must watch a new episode of their favorite program immediately, or are watching a live event. Some will also pay a subscription fee to avoid all commercials,
  • People are not happy to pay for content AND be forced to see a commercial. It feels like greed or double-dipping into their wallets.
  • Quality content can come from anywhere, and creative people starting out greatly value recognition and control as a form of payment. Broadcasters should be constantly on the lookout for people already creating popular content. There is no risk, and you already know what you’re getting.
  • Content can be proposed or improved by using social media to communicate with your existing or prospective audience. One reason the “Lord of the Rings” movies were so successful is that the fans of the books were included in some of the creative accuracy. “Crowd Sourcing” is helping software development and merchandise create products more likely to be widely popular and with a built-in consumer base already present. This can work for broadcast programming also. Imagine being able to vote on what favorite book series gets next made into a movie?
  • Income is going to resemble the micro-payment model; meaning that instead of collecting a lot of money at once from huge audiences, it will be very small sums of money from a large number of diverse sources over a period of time.
  • The cost of professional quality video equipment and editing tools is becoming ridiculously affordable to the average person. Cameras that cost over $30k years ago are under $3k today and dropping fast, plus their quality is higher and they are a fraction of the size and weight. Even today the mass market holds video cameras capable of producing any High definition video they’d want to upload. The only real barrier is talent.
  • Social Media will play a large part in business. A single consumer has a voice that can reach thousands of people, so whether they like something or not will be heard. This will force products to be the best they can.

It is hard to see how an old school “network station” can survive given these realities. Cable and satellite stations that specialize on diverse content geared toward a common audience (such as a sports channel or comedy channel) may have a better chance. Network stations already dilute their brand by syndicating their older show episodes to other channels. The real brand is now the show itself or it’s creator. Even today, people associate quality and franchises with show like “Battlstar Galactica” or “House” or creators like “Joss Whedon” or “George Lucas” much more than with “NBC” or “Comcast”.

Another thing that is changing is that the Internet is becoming the launching platform for shows. “The Guild” received financing from Microsoft for exclusive initial distribution on their networks. I can see a future where popular Internet shows similar to “Chad Vader” or “The Joker Blogs” start off as personal Internet projects, and as they gain popularity they receive financial support from larger organizations wanting to share revenue (as long as the creative control and the original audience are not alienated).

Generation Y did not grow up watching television like previous generations. They watch almost all of it on the Internet; usually limited to only the few shows or movies they are interested in following. Most for free; but sometimes paying for a download if it was an episode that originally aired for free and was missed, or they want to own it. They are also playing online games a lot, and producing content of their own at an ever increasing rate, including their own Internet broadcasting channels and podcasts. Their cost? Practically $0.00

Overall is means that the industry is going to continue to flatten, and be less driven by spending lots of money for episodes in advance, and more purchasing product that has already proven to be successful. Quality is going to come fom hard work, computer usage, and talent rather than large budgets and expensive actors. By the way; expect union actors to be needed less as well. When you have computers, and the world as your filming ground, why spend tons of money in Hollywood for an independent project?

For the consumer, this is all good news. You’ll have more content, from a larger pool of creative people, for free or little cost. For television, the upside is that if you are willing to work at it you’ll find quality product with a built-in audience and creative people that will share revenue for a mixture of income and recognition and control. The downside is that you’ll have less control, and your added value to this process is mostly financial support, merchandising, and advertising help. However there is nothing stopping you from also starting programs as inexpensive Internet shows and clips and working up from there like everyone else, or creating your own versions of Stickam and UStream collective channels. You have the advantage of a brand to leverage recognition and acceptance. I can see a future where someone creates a popular video series on YouTube, and the “Fox Streaming Network” offers to host it on their site as a channel in exchange for sharing the advertising revenue, and leveraging the show’s existing audience to try other things.

There are always opportunities.

Syndicated 2009-10-26 06:48:43 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

Microsoft Past, Present and Future

Ghost of Microsoft Past

Back in July, John Dvorak wrote an article entitled Is the party over for Microsoft? Setting aside his personal views, the article does a good job of listing many of Microsoft’s attempts to be everywhere by imitating or destroying the innoventions of others.  There are more examples. Gaming became popular, so they launched Xbox, iPods begat Zune, and earlier this week noted the launch of the first Microsoft store. Microsoft plans to open one next to every major Apple store – a strategy similar to how Burger King handles McDonald’s.

I can’t think of anything Microsoft innovated in its history, except perhaps their Surface technology. The company was even founded on pitching a DOS PC product before they ever owned it (and they later purchased it rather than wrote it). I’m old enough to remember computing before Microsoft, when VAX/VMS and Unix systems were replacing mainframes, and in all cases computers often ran for years without a failure or reboot. Microsoft moved from the consumer desktop to the data center with Windows NT, which came out just months after Linus released the first versions of Linux on Usenet (the 2 events are independent of each other; Microsoft did not release NT because of Linux, their competition was Digital Equipment Corporation). With MS Windows came an OS locked into a GUI, which meant it was more bloated, difficult to script, tedious to perform repeat operations, and you could not remote control it (until someone eventually came out with tool that handled displaying the remote screen). Every patch and install required a reboot, and Windows crashed so frequently throughout its history that even today people believe you should reboot your servers once every month or so to prevent them from crashing unexpectedly. Not true for Unix and Linux, but people do it anyway.

Most Windows users and Admins today still are totally unaware of how, from the beginning, Unix X-Windows and Linux Gnome & KDE all support running displays and window mangers across multiple boxes. You also have Microsoft to thank for introducing the backslash as a character you type a lot– all other OS’s and the web have always used the forward slash.

Microsoft’s first networking technology was poor. DECnet, TCP/IP, and Novell had replaced IBM Token Ring and SNA, and these were routeable protocols. You could design large networks where traffic was isolate to the systems that needed to listen to it. Microsoft’s original network was flat, and for a while they argued it was the only way to do it, but reality eventually forced them to adopt segments and routing, and eventually the TCP/IP stack. For a long while it was quite a feat to get all the protocol stacks to work together on a desktop PC; even the order you loaded them determined what worked and what was broken.

WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were the widely used Word processor and spreadsheets. Microsoft countered with Word and Excel. WordPerfect was generally considered better because you could use it without ever touching the mouse; it had keyboard shortcuts and function keys for everything. This made it comfortable for use by fast typists. Both product suites existed in the enterprise for years, especially if you worked in the government, until Word finally won the war by the numbers.

Mosiac was the first browser, followed by Netscape as the first commercial browser. When its popularity soared, Microsoft fought back by creating an inferior browser and giving it away for free with the OS, essentially causing commercial enterprises to standardize on it for that financial advantage, and it put Netscape out of business. Microsoft also has a history of not adopting standards unless they modify them in ways that break everything not made by them. Ask any xhtml/css web developer trying to create sites compatible with multiple web browsers and phones what they think of Internet Explorer. They will tell you that they had so many frustrations they created an IE specific CSS file. I include myself in that group.

Not until Windows 2000 or XP did experienced IT professionals begin to feel that the Windows OS had matured enough to truly belong in the data center.

Most of Microsoft’s products, especially when compared to Apple Macs, have GUIs that seemed designed by people that have not actually asked end-users for their input. Actions often take 2 or 3 clicks to reach, and the configuration items are not in the same menus from program-to-program. I started using a MacBook less than 12 months ago and it’s amazing how much cleaner and well thought out the GUI is compared to Windows and Linux.

Microsoft has tried to be everywhere and everything, and had mastered nothing in that process. They have a wealth of products, but in many cases they were trail-and-error reactions to the competition, or purchased takeovers. The cash cow of Microsoft Office and Windows allowed them to take a loss on products competing in a lot of areas. But this is coming to an end, and the new generation of people growing up on smart phones, Google, and social media are more familiar with Microsoft alternatives. Microsoft Vista was one of their worst releases, forcing them to accelerate a release of a replacement, and don’t forget the day their music died.

Microsoft Present

Google, Apple, and Linux are all around them. Google has entered the Operating System space with Android and Chrome OS, and the browser market with Chrome. Microsoft fired back with the Bing search engine. Apple continues to earn customer loyalty and consumer awards, and dominates the mobile media market. Microsoft is ahead in Netbook sales, due to consumer familiarity rather than being a good OS option for that platform. This was an area where Linux could have been a natural leader, but they failed to deliver.

Microsoft made multiple announcements this year that are a turn-around from previous strategies. They are embracing Web 2.0 by providing free versions of Office as Web Applications. They came out with Bing; a new search engine that does not look like they even wrote it.  It’s clean, simple in use and display, and does not follow their usual GUI style. It looks like Google. However they were also caught manipulating search results to favor making them look better than the competition, so they still need to work on that trust factor.  They also took a step toward social media by creating a bunch of Twitter accounts, but currently they all serve as PR announcement tools and do not engage their customers in dialog, sometimes cross-posting between themselves.

If you haven’t seen it, the Microsoft Surface product is very cool.

Divisions and products are going to feel the force of making a profit rather than expecting market dominance and their size will continue to cover loses. The Xbox is a great product, but it needs to make a profit.

Windows 7 officially launched this week and is getting good reviews from grateful people dumping Vista.

Microsoft Future

Microsoft is still using their old playbook on some fronts. When most other technology stores are moving to the web, they are going to open physical stores for the first time in order to compete with Apple. Ignoring all the hype and flash, it’s not clear they understand that the success of Apple is not related to their stores, but their customer service, ease of adoption, and a better product. People go to Apple stores to see and touch very cool, artistic looking products. Will that apply to Microsoft Stores?

They’ve admitted they need to participate in social media by announcing deals with Facebook and Twitter to include their data in Bing. Microsoft and Google are both trying to get into the game. Google is better positioned from technology standpoint, with Google Connect and Profiles and maybe Wave, but social media all comes down to adoption. The users will decide, and right now that’s Twitter and Facebook. Google and Bing are moving as fast as possible to producing search results that change in real-time.

One of the coolest things to come out of Microsoft was a video showing their vision for Xbox’s future. They should be going all guns to deliver on the possibilities shown in their video. If they do, they will lead in several areas of home computing. If they don’t, it’s a vaporware viral video.

Internet Explorer is dying. Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera are taking over. Firefox is used most everywhere the consumer is allowed to install it. If Microsoft was smart, they’d turn IE over to the Open Source public.

It’s hard to compete with innovation, especially concerning Google, Wii, and Apple’s iPhone. Obviously Microsoft recognizes Social Media is important, as is the search engine market, but so far they are treating them as a PR tools. The public will see through that. Cloud computing and web applications are turning the data center and computing into a commodity. The playing field is getting flatter. Microsoft’s biggest advantage in new computing is that they currently dominate the Netbook market. Their biggest threat to this now is a Google Netbook. There is a strong possibility that Google could end up owning the market in the long run (or Apple if they cared enough to complete in it).

Microsoft has the resources to be a leading innovator on many fronts, so you have to ask yourself why do Google, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook seem to dominate most of the future technology change? Because others are creating standardized APIs, allowing connectivity, promoting Open Source, and engaging the public (i.e. “crowd sourcing”). If Microsoft changes the way they engage the public and their product development, they will be a major force. If they continue to do things as they have, they will be slow to change and will only have a small piece of the pie (assuming they survive).

Syndicated 2009-10-25 07:10:38 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

Building A Blog

A few months ago I moved my blogs from their scattered pieces on Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr, Advogato, and LiveJournal over to a WordPress platform. This was a tedious and time consuming project. I had to do a lot of editing. The different platforms were geared toward different audiences. Some were technology centric, some Disney World fandom, some opinionated, some humorous and some personal. On the social platforms my audience was primarily friends and family, so writing tended to be informal and blunt. I frequently lumped multiple smaller, unrelated topics into single articles. These had to be split into individual entries or rearranged into better groupings so they could be properly tagged and indexed.

Getting My Data Out Of LiveJournal …

Getting my data off LiveJournal was tricky, especially since I wanted my comments to survive as well. I located only one, free program (and only for Windows) that allowed me to export the data into a csv I could load into WordPress. After this completed I had about 500 comments loaded, although they no longer had avatars. I was able to perform a mass SQL edit to the database URL column so that the comment pointed back to the URL of the author’s LiveJournal webpage.

Finding a Host …

Finding a viable hosting platform was the most difficult. I hoped for a free web host account that was based on Linux and provided SQL, PHP, WordPress, and a few other resources. Searching the Internet shows no lack of free options, and everyone seemed to love and hate the same sites, however the majority of all reviews I’ve read were fake or spammed into uselessness. Because I wanted a host that allowed my own ads, while not adding anything unreasonably visual in return, I could not use wordpress.com. Other host sites all wanted me to park my domain on their site, which by itself is not unreasonable, but they didn’t give me control  control over the DNS or MX data, which meant a hard time controlling my already extensive email addresses, plus sub domains that pointed to other sites. Most also did questionable things like strip off your www or force you to have it, which is bad if that is part of your brand or you want to handle that subdomain differently. Anytime I made a change to try something out, their DNS TTL’s were often set for a week, not hours. This created some scares and took my site down a few times. In the end I tried two host sites, so that if one went down I could swap to the other. I’m not going to mention who they are because within a few weeks I was not happy with either of them. One thrusted a lot of advertising tricks at me and both look like they could vanish overnight and take your content with them. I ended up going with my registrar, GoDaddy.

I wonder; has anyone done a trade-off analysis of whether it’s better to host your content on a free site with their bandwidth controls versus hosting at home using dyndns and your broadband provider’s limitations?

GoDaddy provided challenges of their own. They have an unpredictable implimentation of .htaccess, where some things work and some don’t, and they don’t publish anywhere what that is. The most allowing thing is that whether your htaccess file pre-existed or not, a change might not take place for hours, which made trial-and-error edits to determine what worked a nightmare. I have a working setup, but I still do not have an htaccess file that I like.

Finding A Theme …

Once leaving the constraints of LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook for WordPress you enter a massive world of look-and-feel FREE theme possibilities. With a push of a button your blog can resemble anything. I examined hundreds of themes and picked about 30 that I like, but am not entirely happy with any single one. I’m sure every blogger out there is chuckling at this; they’ve all gone through it. Each theme had things I liked and disliked. I picked one I liked the most, knowing I was going to edit the heck out of iit.

UPDATE: I’ve edited the heck out of it. Told you.

Sub-domains vs Subdirectories vs Toplevel …

Why doesn’t someone create a how-to for all this? Yet another decision you have to make is how are people going to reach your blog and what will the URL links look like. The choices all have pros and cons. I’m not going exhaustively list them all here, but in the simplest of terms as they applied to me:

  1. Unless WordPress is the only web application you will be using and your entire site is dedicated to one purpose/subject, you will want to install WordPress in a subdirectory to help keep your files organized. You may even find you want to install multiple WordPress copies to exploit multiple themes.
  2. With WordPress in a subdirectory, you may (depending on your host service) have the option of pointing a sub-domain to that location. While it is attractive to have your users type “blog.fred.com” instead of “fred.com/blog”, it only has value if you want your sub-domain to be seen by search engines as an independent site apart from the main domain, and that only makes sense if each has sufficient independent content to stand on their own. At least starting off, I wanted all my search engine goodness to relate to my main web site. There are other options for hiding the sub-directory from the user…
  3. You can set up your .htaccess file to redirect visitors (including those coming in from sub-domains) to the WordPress sub-directory, thereby hiding the fact you are using a sub-directory. WordPress further supports this by allowing you to indicate what your want your URLs to look like (“fred.com/blog/my-story” or “fred.com/my-story”). My conclusion is that there is no search engine penalty for going 1 directory level deep and it will make it MUCH easier to perform a redirect to another location should you want to move your blog. You can set up your .htaccess file so “fred.com” goes directly to “fred.com/blog”, thereby making it very user friendly and after that it’s all link clicks.

I elected to (1) put WordPress in a sub-directory, (2) keep that sub-directory visible in my URLs so it doesn’t intermix with other things I might add to the site, (3) created a sub-domain that pointed to my main domain, and (4) set up my .htaccess file to perform a redirect to the sub-directory

Tags Versus Categories …

I soon encountered the confusion of tags versus categories. I’ve been dying to have these features; my content covers multiple areas of interest and readers will finally be able to locate what interests them. On the surface they appear to do the same thing; they both mark content so it’s easier to group and locate. Opinions differ on how they should be used, but in general categories act like file folders to group articles together, and tags are best viewed as sticky notes of popular labels. The difference is their behavior in SEO. Categories are supersets of tags; articles should be placed in just one category to prevent the penalty of search engines viewing the content as a duplicate.

I elected to show tags for tracking down similar content, and hide the categories from the user. I’ve also chosen to drive my menus via categories. Articles can resides in multiple categories and tags, but I am blocking both tags and categories from search engines to prevent duplicate data.

UPDATE: I just suffered through a lot of pain because I made many of my tags and categories the same name and the same “slug” abbreviation. This got crazy when I deleted or renamed some and the others would be affected. I have since went through all of them and gave all my categories slug names ending in “-topic” so they will keep separate from tags.

Plugins and Widgets …

When you’ve been in computing as long as I have, you become numb to the fact that everyone and every piece of technology likes to use different generic words for the same thing. Themes/skins, plugins/widgets/add-ons/injections, containers/boxes/groups, etc. I had to understand what WordPress meant by having both plugins and widgets. Plugins are just their term for pieces of software that add or change blog behavior. A plugin may or may not also create a widget. A widget is just a GUI tool for placing and configuring the logic rather than force the user to deal with the actual css/javascript/php code directly. You don’t download widgets, its just a term. Not every theme supports widgets or plugins well, so it’s not likely you can avoid it always.

There are thousands of plugins, and some behave badly alone or in conjunction with other plugins. Some work with some themes and some don’t. There are also many duplicate plugins that do the same thing, but differently or are just written by different authors. It’s a project in itself to find ones you like and that behave well. WordPress has popularity and download indicators to help, but most of the ones I found were by deciding I needed something and entered search terms in Google (like “WordPress plugin FriendFeed”).

Note: In a future article I plan to write about what plugins I find the most useful.

I wanted to connect my blog to FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, and maybr MySpace, so these are the types I’ve been playing with the most. I’ve had to make manual modifications to some of these to get them to work with my blog. Some plugins make assumptions about your directory structure or host name being root, when mine is in a subdirectory. The FriendFeed comments plugin was one. Some plugins, like smart404 and permalink redirect, actually did nothing in my system (even after performing the required PHP edits).

UPDATE: Apparently there is an issue using multiple Facebook plugins. You get class errors when you try to activate both Facebook Connect and Socialite for example. Also neither of the 2 plugins I found that support cross-posting to Myspace work, and the Twitter Connect is very unreliable. I customized a lot.

Local Comments vs Disqus …

Another debate: I wanted to use Disqus for my commenting system. This mean Disqus importing my previously LiveJournal imported comments. I was excited that the Disqus web site and the WordPress plugin both had an import feature for WordPress, but when I clicked it – nothing was imported. After a few tries 5 comments were imported. I took a close look at those 5 and discovered that they were the only ones in my database with data in the IP address column. Using SQL I set all the IP addresses in my comments table to ‘255.255.255.255′, exported the WP data to XML, and tried the Disque import again. It ran for 10 minutes, then I looked and it had loaded all but 79 of the comments! Unfortunately there seems to be no easy way to track down which 79 comments they were. There is also debate whether you lose SEO benefits to outsourcing your comments. I can always change my mind and import my comments later, so for now I’m sticking with local comments.

UPDATE: Disqus added full Twitter, Facebook, and OpenID, and Yahoo login support, so it may be time to reconsider using it. There are also new comment services that tie together commenting from other social network services, a feature I highly desire.

The Past and Future …

When I started blogging in 2000 (before the term “blog” existed; they were called online diaries then), content mostly reflected the ongoing status of work or your opinions about life and news. My first blog was on a site called advogato.org, which still exists today but now I RSS feed into it. I worked for Red Hat back then, and my audience was co-workers, family, the Open Source community, and any Press interested in my projects. The postings were short, and frequently technical. In the last four years I’ve written a lot more personal articles because I now work for Disney Information Technology, and who doesn’t love sharing their unique experiences at Disney World? It generates a lot of interesting content. Beginning in late 2007 I became active in social media, but ironically I did not have a platform to share this outside of enclosed systems like Facebook and MySpace. Now that this blog has been centralized I hoped to generate a lot more discussion. Today I use tools like FriendFeed, Twitter, Tumblr, and yes Facebook. These allow you to post in real-time and build off existing content created by others quickly, but you also tend to say what you have to say in a pithy paragraph or two.

The most enjoyable aspect of this project is that all of my content survived and is in one place. I actually located my very first blog entry, as well as a few old Usenet posts going way back to the late 1980s! The journey was fun, but it was painful to see how trivial or poorly written some of those old entries were. I did go back and clean some up, but I had to balance how I wanted it to read versus maintaining the historical message and feeling of the original post.

I hope you like this site.  I have additional design options and I’d like you, my readers, to lead me in the direction of what they should look like.

Thanks, Keith

Syndicated 2009-10-25 04:14:03 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

New Mac versus PC Ad

Actually there are 3 new ads, but I like this one the most:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk4FIIkKXdw

Syndicated 2009-10-23 03:41:50 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

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