Category Archives: Political

What Does Open Government Mean at NASA?

Since their founding in 1958, NASA has been dedicated to doing a lot more than exploring and understanding space. Over the past 52 years, they’ve been responsible for some of the most significant advances in technology. Almost everything we do have been influenced in some way by discoveries made through NASA’s research. NASA has provided an incredible amount of information to the public over the past five decades including stunning images and information that has helped us (mankind) understand how our Universe works. So, what does Open Government mean at Nasa?

Keeping with the spirit of a more open government, NASA has moved forward with several initiatives aimed at promoting collaboration between the scientists of NASA and the public including NASA TV. With NASA TV, the public has live access to NASA and their missions around the clock. This video is also made available to documentarians and media outlets in order to enable them to relay detailed and accurate information to their audiences.

Another initiative by NASA is NASA Open Source Software Development. This program gives the public access to the programs and source code used at NASA. By doing so, they are breaking down the barrier of entry for the private sector to reach space through use of NASA’s investments. This also gives the public a chance to make improvements on the software which may help NASA achieve their goals with less of a burdon on the taxpayer for development.

NASA has also entered the world of cloud computing with their Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. This open-source tool is intended to provide a more cost-effective alternative to building additional giant data centers in order to store and exchange information with the public. Nebula is classified as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform, though there are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) systems planned for 2011.

NASA has even established a Participatory Exploration Office with the goal in mind of not only informing the public about NASA’s discoveries and data, but give the public a change to contribute to the process. By providing as much information as possible to the public, they are also enabling private citizens to contribute their input and ideas towards the betterment of the program.

Five Tips For a Better Political Blog

Political blogging is huge. In fact, it may very well be the largest and broadest genre of blogs currently on the web. One of the biggest challenges facing political bloggers today is not being taken seriously as a source of information. Standing out from the crowd is also difficult, especially for someone just starting out. Here are a few tips for a better political blog:

Decide if Your Blog is Impartial or Opinionated and Stick With It
Mainstream media outlets are constantly being judged by their perceived slant. Fox News is considered by many to be a conservative news source while CNN and MSNBC have a reputation for leaning in a more liberal direction. Whether or not this is true is a matter of perspective.

When you decide to start a political blog, you should quickly determine whether or not information found on your site will offer opinions or stick to pointed facts. This makes a big difference in whether your blog is news source or a commentary on current events. If half of your articles are opinionated, and the other half are not, then it will be hard for readers to judge your site’s usefulness to them. If you want to mix it up, make sure the opinionated articles are in a separate section aside from your unbiased news reports.

Cite Sources
In order for people to take you seriously, you need to cite sources of information used to form your articles. This doesn’t mean copy and paste content from other sites. It means when you quote a statistic or use specific information related to an event, tell your readers where you found the information. This will help you build your reader’s trust while proving your point.

Write Guest Posts
Connect with other bloggers in your field, especially if they share the majority of your political views. This can be done either socially through an exchange of praise on social networks or through writing guest posts for each other’s sites. By allowing another blogger to have a byline on your blog, you are in a sense creating a mutually beneficial environment where instead of competing against each other for an audience, you can each benefit from the other’s reach.

Be Consistent
Opinions change, especially in the world of politics. Consistency doesn’t mean opinions have to stay set in stone. It does mean that your level of quality, depth of research, and stream of content needs to maintain an even or increasing level. Walking away from a blog for a few days can cause you to lose a lot of your audience, especially if they have come to expect a certain amount of content from you over a period of time. If you want to take a vacation, write a few posts in advance and schedule them to come out periodically during your absence. You can also utilize the talents of a guest blogger to fill in for you.

Stay Active in Blogging Communities
Political blogging is a giant community, and one that comes with an immense amount of support in the form of social groups. For example, The PPL is a group based out of Charlotte, NC that intends to offer a place for independent media outlets to set up and cover the 2012 Democratic National Convention. They don’t care if you’re liberal, conservative, independent, libertarian, or a Jedi. Groups like these are an amazing resource that can help a small political blog cover larger events that typically only cater to mainstream media. Find out if there are any communities and/or groups in your area that work with political bloggers and see what they may have to offer.

Pop Goes the Pirillo! Popchips Vice President of Pop Culture Campaign

While you most often see me interfacing with the world from the control room of my own secret lair, you may not realize that I’m a pretty busy guy. That being said, since Popchips already has its President of Pop Culture (some guy named Ashton. He seems quite dignified and head of state-like), I feel that I could most certainly fulfill the duties of the Vice Presidency if so elected.


I can see some of you now (through my secret lair’s control room interface) asking: “What the heck is a Popchip?” A Popchip, gentle readers, is a non-fried, non-baked, but totally popped (like corn!) and seasoned sliver of potato that tastes crunchingly delicious without all of the fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol of a traditional chip. Sure, it’s not as healthy as, say, a carrot, but it’s a darned sight healthier than fried butter. Or Jersey Shore. (Hey! See? Pop culture! I can handle this.) There are Barbeque Popchips, Sour Cream & Onion Popchips, Cheddar Popchips, Sea Salt & Vinegar Popchips, Salt & Pepper Popchips, Parmesan Garlic Popchips, and, of course, Original Popchips. No sign of Tauntaun Jerky Popchips or LEGO Popchips or Bacon (Mmmm, bacon!) Popchips, but if I am elected to this highly prestigious position, I will do everything with my moderate amount of power to get these Popchips passed. On my honor, I will do my duty…

Well, I’ll talk it over with President Ashton, anyway. Probably over tea with P. Diddy (or Puff Daddy or Puffy Combs or Lumberjack Danny or whatever he’s calling himself these days) on a private jet to an elephant golfing match in Thailand or whatever it is that these executive types consider recreational. Whatever you’re looking from in a Popchips Pop Culture Vice President, I’ll make it so – but I need your votes! I’ll pander to pandas. I’ll cajole Cajuns. I’ll butter up bagel bakers. I’ll soft-soap swineherds. I’ll beguile bold billionaires. I’ll charm Channing… Carol Channing. I’ll sweet-talk Sweet Sweetback. I’ll enthrall entomologists. Please! I’m begging you! Help the geek who helps the geeks!

And being a geek, I understand chips (admittedly microchips, usually). But certainly, technology could be leveraged for this position, and I’ve started work on a mind control prototype to help plant the desire to eat Popchips subconsciously to all who might hear our message. But if that fails, there’s always hypnosis.

And I have a plan.

Vote for Chris Pirillo as your next Popchips Vice President of Pop Culture!

I’m Chris Pirillo, and I approve of the Empire Rebel Alliance.

Speak to Tweet for Egyptians

Just like all of us, the folks at Google spent the weekend watching the events in Egypt unfold. They were flabbergasted, feeling helpless as they watched the people there who are desperate to be heard. The engineers knew that if anyone could help give them a voice, it would be them. They put their collective brains together and came up with a service they are calling “Speak to Tweet,” which gives anyone the ability to Tweet using just a voice connection.

The hope is that this project will help the people of Egypt to stay connected during such a horrific time in their lives.

We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to the official Twitter account.

According to reports, the only remaining ISP holdout over in Egypt was taken offline earlier today, leaving the entire country paralyzed with no Internet connection. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of what these people are already living through. People from all over the world have been working together to try and find ways to reconnect the Egyptians with the outside world. It’s fantastic to see that the team from Google, Twitter and SayNow have come up with what appears to be a perfect solution.

Software Taxes

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If you didn’t already know, I live in Seattle. There’s a bill that’s currently in the Washington State Legislature that, if passed, will levy a tax on all software customizations done by businesses (at least, for now, those businesses residing in the state of Washington).

You may not think this impacts you directly, but if other states (or governments in other countries) see it as a viable option, they may consider doing the same thing where you live.

Check out the legislature’s proposed HB 3191. Page 90, Part XV, Point 2, as put forth by Representatives Hunter, Conway, and Hasegawa:

In order to preserve funding for higher education, it is the legislature’s intent to use revenue generated from assessing a sales and use tax on custom software to support the state’s institutions of higher education and financial aid programs including the state need grant.

What the hell does THAT mean? Well, if you’re a business in the state of Washington, you’ll be subject to a state sales tax (currently 6.5%) on any “custom software” or customization thereof.

As Übermind points out, there are two likely scenarios:

  • Scenario 1. If [a Washington company] hires an in-state consultant or consulting company, the in-state consultant or consulting company will have to collect the sales tax and pay it to the state.
  • Scenario 2. If [a Washington company] hires an out-of-state consultant, they will have to pay use tax (paid in lieu of sales tax) on their next tax bill. Again, ANY company in Washington will suddenly have to pay at least 6.5% more for these services.

I spoke with Ken Myer, President and CEO of the WTIA, to find out more about this bill – and why it’s probably not the smartest thing for small businesses here. The Washington Technology Industry Association has been fighting hard against this change.

According to Ken, approximately 2,000 Washington companies that do custom work on software will be directly impacted by this bill if it is passed. Yes, that would include the giants such as Microsoft. However, it’s also going to hit the small startup down the street… and hit it hard.

In order for small businesses to set themselves up to charge sales tax for their services and goods, they will have to raise their prices by 8% or more, just to continue breaking even. Therefore, the tax isn’t only impacting the business owners… it also just impacted YOU, the potential consumer.

As Ken says, this is the first time that a professional service is being turned into a product (and being taxed as such). As we discussed this point, a regular user in my live chat room couldn’t help but ask how a government could possibly tax something that isn’t technically “tangible,” which is a good point. A physical disc is tangible, yes. However, the services provided by businesses who are doing custom code work are not truly something tangible. Where do we draw the line here?

Pardon me, but I thought marijuana was outlawed? How else could Representatives Hunter, Conway, and Hasegawa come up with such an asinine idea? More politics behind the bill are outlined by Todd over at TechFlash.

Why sock it to small business owners who are struggling enough in a challenging economy?

It’s getting to the point where owning a small business in the state of Washington is no longer viable. There are very few incentives for me to stay here (as an operating business entity). I love the weather, I love the people, but these f*ckwits in the House have got to go.

There’s not a state in the Union that’s truly friendly to small business owners anymore.

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video:

The Navy’s USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Experience

A few months ago, Guy Kawasaki (yes, that Guy) asked if I wanted to join him on a trip aboard the US Navy’s USS Nimitz with a handful of other bloggers. I didn’t accept the offer straight away, considering I’d have to pay for travel, expenses, etc. In the end, if it wasn’t already obvious, I decided to embark on what would be the only direct experience I’ve ever had with the US military.

Originally, I was supposed to do this with Guy (and other social media types). Everything was set until there was a schedule change, and I didn’t want to pull out of my speaking engagement at WordCamp. Instead, I was thrown into another group – this one, comprised of DARPA scientists and university professors. I swear, I was the only one in my tour who didn’t hold a doctorate.

Given that I’m not really into following military operations beyond what’s seen in the news, I had virtually no expectations. I was along for the ride – and what a ride it was. I met a few of the Navy’s ardent social media supporters (albeit briefly), and rubbed shoulders with people who are putting their lives on the line for my security.

The memory of standing on the flight deck, feet away from jet fighter operations, is one that I will likely never forget. I was there – in the middle of it. There!

The skill and pride of the crew aboard today’s USS Nimitz is palpable. For a while, they’ve been training off the coast of San Diego – and I was able to witness what would be the closest thing to “daily operations” in the field (including night retrievals). I was a fly on the wall of a very structured home. The primary directive of an aircraft carrier is focused on flights – but while there is only one pilot to a plane, it takes 5,000 people to make it fly.

I’m humbled by the Navy’s efforts, both military and humanitarian. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have boarded and recorded some of my experiences on this carrier. I’m grateful that they’re doing what they do so that I can do what I do.

If I have any disappointment to express, it would be from fellow citizens who don’t stand in awe. This isn’t about patriotism so much as it is respecting a job very well done. My dad served for a number years in the Marines, but he was out by the time I was born. This is about as closest I’ve ever come to experiencing military life – but it was enough for me to value the lives that some of my countrymen (and women) lead.

Though I didn’t document everything, I’ll be uploading a few videos over the next couple of weeks. I’ve already uploaded a couple of them (as embedded in this post), although the flight retrieval compilation on YouTube seems to have audio sync issues (so, you can download the MP4 video, too):

Everybody has a job to do. In speaking with several people aboard the Nimitz, I quickly discovered that every one of them believes they’re the linchpin that makes the entire thing work. And you know what? Each one of them is correct. They’re working independently together – as a team. It’s important for me to note that they’re not politicians, either (at least, not yet); it’s improper to hold them accountable for your elected officials’ decisions.

If you’re in the US Navy, serving (or having served) on the USS Nimitz, a current or former member of our country’s armed forces, let me just thank you for making that decision for yourself. I don’t think if I have half as much courage as you have likely shown, and recognizing that makes me appreciate you even more.

I’m not here to help promote the Navy’s message. I’m just here to tell you that this experience gave me a completely new level of respect for our men and women of uniform.