Daily Archives: July 24, 2015

How a bunch of government space geeks at NASA won the internet

By Adam Epstein – How exactly NASA stumbled upon perhaps the greatest social-media strategy of our time is a story of both blind luck and shrewd management. And the NASA social behemoth wasn’t always a behemoth.

The year is 2008. Newspapers are folding left and right. Science reporting is a dying profession.

Veronica McGregor, the head of communications at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, needs to figure out how to get as many people as possible to notice that man is placing a large piece of machinery on an alien world after a 422-million-mile journey through space.

The masters of this social-media universe are John Yembrick and his deputy, Jason Townsend. Both are veterans of other government agencies. more> http://tinyurl.com/opsamjy

Policing Reddit Could Kill Reddit

By Megan McArdle – Like many technology companies, Reddit benefits from substantial network effects. This is economist jargon for something that is more valuable when there are other people using it, the more the better. The classic example of this is the fax machine.

Network effects are wonderful for a technology firm when it’s growing. Early movers can gain an advantage that is very hard to displace, because once everyone else is using Microsoft Word or a Playstation, there’s a cost to switching away.

On the other hand, investors (and antitrust lawyers) often assume that network effects are more durable than they actually are. In fact, they can be quite fickle.

Once your network starts shrinking, the collapse can be sudden, because every node that gets subtracted from your network makes it less valuable to the people who remain. Networks that start growing often start shrinking–and a modest decline can quickly prompt a stampede for the exits.

Anyone remember MySpace? more> http://tinyurl.com/qbselq3

Updates from GE

Watch These Scientists Catch Lightning on Top of the Empire State Building
By Connolly Jurkiewicz – Electrical storms and lightning have been around since Earth’s infancy – possibly even sparking first life. Yet 4.5 billion years later we still understand strikingly little about how they work, including such basics like what causes lightning and how it travels.

That’s not exactly reassuring, given an estimated 100 lightning bolts hit the surface of the planet every second, each carrying between 100 million to 1 billion volts.

In the 1920s, GE set up the High Voltage Engineering Laboratory in Pittsfield, Mass., to study lightning. The work included a “special project” exploring the phenomena from a room on the 102th floor of New York City’s Empire State Building. (The skyscraper still gets struck 100 times per year, on average.) more> http://tinyurl.com/op5z7d5

The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance

By Lawrence Lessig – Real reform will require changing the way campaigns are funded — moving from large-dollar private funding to small-dollar public funding.

.. Either approach would radically increase the number of funders in campaigns, in that way reducing the concentration of large funders that especially typifies congressional and senatorial campaigns right now.

Solving the crisis in our democracy will not be cheap or easy. We won’t end the corruption of a system beholden to the funders until we, the citizens, are the funders.

That truth takes courage to utter. This election needs that courage. more> http://tinyurl.com/q7fawkj