Linda Cureton says when it comes to innovation, sometimes you just have to do it.
The chief information officer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center says waiting for guidance, policy or standards can take years, and you end up with a lot of talk and not much action.
That is why Cureton took a page out of the popular Facebook social networking site to launch of NASA Goddard’s own version, called Spacebook.
In fact, Cureton announced the new collaboration site on her blog. Spacebook officially went online June 8, she says.
“One of reasons we wanted to do something like that is we were looking at some things like consolidating networks so a lot of people got concerned about the effect on their projects,” says Cureton in an interview with FederalNewsRadio after a panel discussion in McLean, Va. Thursday night sponsored by Women in Technology.
“Well, one of things Spacebook does is increase your ability to collaborate. One of things that the center wanted to do strategically was enable collaboration among villagers at Goddard, and using technology for a very introverted culture seemed like a great thing to do so they can talk to each other and collaborate electronically even if they are not very physically close or not from interpersonal relationship apt to talk a lot to each other.”
Cureton says in the first week about 100 people signed up, and groups started to form.
“What’s pre-populated there already is information already in Goddard phone book, your name, office number and room number,” she says.
“Users can upload their picture, resume, projects, certifications and information about what you are working on. You can create groups or affinities. The main purpose is to enable people to do better from a work-oriented perspective.”
In addition to Goddard, Cureton says in her blog post that there are “pilots at Ames Research Center and Kennedy Space Center on SharePoint so integrating these capabilities may be desirable.”
But, Cureton says, the tool is open to anyone in NASA, and the agency is considering making it an enterprisewide tool.
Cureton says Goddard did not have to issue new policies or jump through any extra hoops to launch the Web 2.0 application. She says acceptable use of IT policy covers social networking tools just as it covers e-mail or Microsoft Office documents.
“The technology doesn’t change the policies about how you conduct yourself,” she says.
“For example, you can’t put procurement sensitive information on Spacebook, just like you can’t e-mail it or talk about it at the water cooler.”
There were a few hiccups before launch. She says she needed to reassure Goddard senior managers that the risks of the tool were minimal.
“We had the normal skittishness associated with social networking,” Cureton says.
“There was concern about what will people see about me or what are the security issues or what about people who are not well behaved and what will do about it? The people in our governance process wanted to make sure we thought through those things, which we had, but we wanted to give them extra assurance that this would not introduce new vulnerabilities or wasn’t going to make anything dangerous for us in any respect.”
Cureton received concurrence from the IT governance board to move out with Spacebook after many of these concerns were mitigated.
She already has started thinking about what’s next.
“The ability to leverage use of widgets and have mashable apps is something that we want,” Cureton writes in her blog.
“We would like to include blogs and a more seamless interface to NASA Web capabilities including those potentially offered in the Web services sourced by one of NASA’s I3P contracts.”
And Cureton says some employees already have come to her asking for more, and other agencies are interested in learning how NASA Goddard developed the site.