Every now and then a video comes along that goes viral with an unexpected impact. In this case the video titled "NASA - The Frontier is Everywhere" by Canadian Reid Gower of Victoria has done just that. Gower created the video because he was frustrated with NASA.
I can understand some of that frustration. NASA is wonderful organization that inspires people daily and does great work in so many areas. However NASA is plagued by politics, poor middle management and a public that just doesn't have enough time to pay attention to them, unless of course something goes wrong or there's a big announcement.
What's interesting is that Gower is targeting his frustration at NASA and in particular the way they disseminate information. Gower says "I got frustrated with NASA and made this video. NASA is the most fascinating, adventurous, epic institution ever devised by human beings, and their media sucks. Seriously. None of their brilliant scientists appear to know how to connect with the social media crowd, which is now more important than ever. In fact, NASA is an institution whose funding directly depends on how the public views them."
Let's remember Gower is Canadian. Why isn't he ranting about the Canadian Space Agency? Ah well, NASA does have much higher profile. Gower says "their media sucks", well ok, sometimes it does, and then he says "None of their brilliant scientists appear to know how to connect with the social media crowd", and this unfortunately is where I disagree with Gower. NASA actually does, in my opinion, do a great job with the social media crowd. In fact among space or science agencies around the world they lead the way. NASA has embraced social media using blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, USTREAM, fourdquare, myspace, flickr and Gowalla. They have Twitter accounts for senior management, astronauts and all their missions. They connect! Their scientists use social media to connect as well. But remember they have a job to do and it takes time to be social, but none the less, they do connect.
So I find Gower's frustration misplaced. I think the problem is not that NASA can't connect with the public, it's that the public has more distractions than time allows. The internet has had a profound affect on society. Mobile phones have had an equally if not more profound affect on society. People's attention span is very short. When NASA makes an important announcement people do listen, if only for 15 minutes.
The video inspires me as a human, not someone who's supports NASA and wants to see them connect more with the public. Could NASA do a better job at connecting with people? Sure, there's always room for improvement. But what I would like to see is the Canadian Space Agency adopt social media the way NASA has. Then maybe frustrated people like Gower would pay attention to some of the great things happening in his own country as well. NASA inspires but so does the Canadian Space Agency.