j.j. toothman

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Month: August 2011

open.nasa.gov launches to the public

Congratulations to NASA’s Open Government Team – Nick, Ali, Chris, and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting – on getting their new website launched – http://open.nasa.gov.  The site uses the open source content management system WordPress1 to publish and share success stories as well as projects that promote government transparency and collaboration.

open.nasa.gov Screenshot

I have intimate knowledge of everything the team went through to get this site launched. And as it is with anything having to do with the inner workings of the federal government, this project met its fair share of bureaucracy, repetitive debate, and internal politics.  I’m pretty sure they had to jump through a ring of fire, solve the debt crisis, and return the ring to Mordor before getting this site released to the public.2

But as much as I could praise their perserverance in seeing the project through to the finish line3, I’d much rather highlight and applaud the site’s visual and information design. As a admirer and practitioner of minimalist web design, I believe that interface design should get out of the way and let content shine through.  Simply put, the best web design lets the content speak for itself.  NASA possesses visual imagery that makes up some of the most compelling content anyone has ever seen.  I’m happy to see that open.nasa.gov was designed and developed in a way that I notice the site titles, logos, and navigation only as the functional elements that they are; and not the design and branding elements that they are often deployed as.

I wish I could say the same of every NASA web site.4


  1. Hey, just like this site does.  Those guys chose wisely. 

  2. No. Not really.  Except possibly the ring of fire part. 

  3. A lot of that bureaucracy stuff is often utilized to make projects organically drop off the radar 

  4. Especially, this one 

The day I discovered MTV

It was 30 years ago today that MTV began broadcasting.  I was a 10 year old boy living in East Hartford, Connecticut – a typical suburban neighborhood where kids rode their bikes everywhere and played kickball in the streets while their parents did their best to shield them from the realities of life.  At the time, my family’s basic cable TV system included a tethered punch key system that looked something like this.

Early cable tv box.  Photo credit: http://uk.ask.com/wiki/Cable_television_in_the_United_States

 

That’s right, tethered.  As in, no wireless remote control. As  a 10 year old boy with little attention span, I probably scanned all 36 channels of that box on a daily basis.  It was impossible for something like MTV to escape my attention. Discovering MTV the morning of August 1, 1981 was basically my first day of pop culture education.

That summer, my routine consisted of sleeping until mid morning, eating breakfast, watching TV, then riding my bike to the town pool which opened at Noon.  After a full multihour dose of MTV, it was onto the pool where I met my friends lined up outside waiting for the gates to open. Just like we did every day.  But this day was a bit different. Everyone was hit by the MTV thunderbolt that morning and the big topic of conversation was “did you see MTV this morning? It’s on channel 25.”  Every day would now involve discussions like “Did you see THAT video? It was awesome!” 

Basically, growing up would never be the same again.

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