What Voyager II & a Blog Post have in common

Voyager 2 - More like a blog post than I realized

The Voyager mission was designed to take spacecraftadvantage of a rare geometric arrangement of the outer planets in the late 1970s and the 1980s which allowed for a four-planet tour for a minimum of propellant and trip time. The flyby of each planet bends the spacecraft's flight path and increases its velocity enough to deliver it to the next destination.

JPL Fact Sheet - California Institute of Technology

This technique of using the local planet's gravity to accelerate the craft to the next planetary rendezvous is a little like viral theory.  The "gravity assist" technique, which was first demonstrated with NASA's Mariner 10 Venus/Mercury mission in 1973-74, and shortened the flight time to Neptune from 30 years to 12 years, multiplies the forward momentum of the craft.  It also modifies the trajectory to expose the craft to new destinations.  A blog post that spreads from reader to reader and is re-blogged to new blogs builds its momentum forward to new destinations.

Whereas the astronomers and astrophysicists and other scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech can calculate the effect of trajectory and successive 'gravity assists,' we bloggers still craft a message to unknown recipients, publish it to the Internet, hope someone reads it and either responds or relays it forward so that another can read it... and respond. Better than a message in a bottle cast to the outgoing tide, but not yet as scientific or successful as exploration of interstellar space.

Weblog - Mission to the unknown

A new weblog, familiar challenges

The desire to write, to think out loud, to write down a thought and launch it into the ether is a little like creating that golden disk containing voice and music recordings, bolting it to the fender of Voyager II, and hoping that some intelligent being somewhere in the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy or beyond will come across it and pick up the thread.  Okay, writing a blog post is not very much like the $865 million effort required to launch Voyager and its message disk to interstellar space.  Yet you have to admit that both actions require a healthy dose of optimism.disc

Hello, from the children of planet Earth.

A group of us are working on a blog design that we hope will invite faculty, students, staff and alumni around the world to stop by, read, and respond. We hope that they will contribute their thoughts, comment and join in the conversation.

This is a challenge.  Design is a very personal, even intimate process. What one considers artful, another considers esoteric.  The elegance of one format is an obstacle to the urge for spontaneity in another.  Form either follows function or defeats it depending on your individual goals, which rarely come into focus until we see something and experience our reaction to it.  Fact is, until this moment in the collaborative act of creation, none of us have come to terms with our desires, wants and needs for this blog. Which is one of the benefits of process. Show me a creator of anything who gets it right the first time and I'll show you a creator who aimed low.

When we previewed the blog design-in-progress for a group of smart and entrepreneurial students, it was met with clear interest, encouragement of its strengths, and helpful inquiries about ways to address its underlying potential for engaging the real-life needs of students, faculty, alumni and prospective students and their families.

Interactivity - can it be organized into  at-a-glance categories?  No one wants to scroll through a long page of disparate posts and comments to find something of interest.  We're all busy.  Give us the top-ranking or most popular threads in politics, student life, music, news, and so forth.

In other words, edit content and format presentation.  Yes, this involves some processing of content in what was originally envisioned as an open, transparent, and unmoderated online dialog.  They acknowledged this.  They know their peers.  There will be the occasional 'immature' post, but that is life and it can be managed. More than anything, they were optimistic that the worldwide community of students, faculty and alumni would ultimately self-moderate.  I also believe that they will.  Recent research suggests that they have it right.