j.j. toothman

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Tag: DC

Why I do it

It’s been forever since I’ve posted here.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging over the years, it’s that (for me) blogging is like exercising and eating well.  You’ve got to do it regularly.  If you stop for a while, starting back up takes much longer than you believe it will.  I’ve done many a public online proclamation expressing my commitment to regular blogging.  I’m not going to do that this time.  It hasn’t worked in the past, so I’ll spare you.

So what got me back to writing a post this morning?  It was how pleased I was at the public’s reaction, especially in D.C., to the Space Shuttle Discovery getting piggybacked into Dulles for permanent display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Shuttle flyover DC

I’ve always liked the notion that the Space Shuttles were “our space machines”.  Seeing the people of DC come out and see Discovery arrive was a reminder of why I enjoy working at NASA in the first place. In the picture of what NASA does, my contribution is pretty small, but I do believe that I’m doing my part to help America’s space program and that I’m helping contribute to NASA’s mission, in particular the missions of inspiring the next generation of explorers and sharing knowledge with the world.

Last week’s event was a reminder that people still are fascinated by NASA and the American space program.1  The media is rich in reports of NASA’s demise and there are no lacks of calls for shutting down the U.S. space program. In my opinion, NASA isn’t dying.  It’s evolving.

Enterprise, Meet Discovery

  1. And let’s be fair, that whole event was engineered in a manner to remind people that matter – like Congress – of just that. 

Reflecting on the Gov 2.0 Expo

I’m way late on this post.  The meme has completely moved on in the blogosphere and I’m basically posting this just to have the notes and thoughts tucked away in the chronology of my blog stream.

I was hesitant to attend the Gov 2.0 Expo.  And only decided to go two weeks before the conference.  What I had head that the previous Gov 2.0 conference organized by O’Reilly was that it was a steady stream of technologists asking repeatedly for government agencies to simply open up their data and make it available in a machine readable format. 

But is that really so simple? After attending a session by Sandro Hawke introducing linked data, my thinking is that this process is going to take some time.  Regardless of how Tim Berners-Lee tries to simplify the idea using a bag of potato chips (see video below).


Yes, I did thoroughly enjoy that talk.  Which makes sense as I’m someone who started out on web building and engineering web sites and applications.  But engineers, software developers, and web architects are not the ones who need to have the message of Government 2.0 smashed into their heads.  Why is this?  It’s simple.  The biggest challenges facing Government 2.0 have very little to do with technology.

The technology is there.  Every technologist and youthful member of “the connected age” knows that.  Even advanced concepts as linked data and microformats simply need time to become part of the general fabric that wraps how software engineers go about doing things.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at how web standards evolved.  Ten years ago, almost every web site was a table based design.  CSS eventually took hold, browsers matured, and the web standards message has succeeded.

No, making Government 2.0 happen is not about throwing more technology at the problem.  The biggest issues revolve around culture, process, and governance.  Thus, the best sessions and discussions at Gov 2.0 Expo were the ones that shined light on tactics and case studies that fought those issues head on.  Like Carolyn Lawson’s presentation “Navigating the Maze.” 

Cloud Computing Obsessed

The buzz around cloud computing in the Gov 2.0 arena is at a fever pitch.  And I’m happy to say that the discussion around cloud computing has matured.  The value add such technology can provide is now understood.  The “convince me” phase is over.  So please Google, Amazon, and Microsoft stop pitching us and focus on getting it to work for us.  Get that stuff FISMA compliant ASAP!

I’ll be back

One thing that became clear to me is that the Gov 2.0 movement is still growing and a ways to before it tips.  Given that, events that aggregate various memes such as Open Government, cloud computing, and enterprise 2.0 are critical to evolving the thought patterns of government agency leaders.  Looking forward to the next expo. 

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