For the first time I managed to capture this on camera.
It doesn’t occur often and you have to be precise down to the second (it only took 0.57 seconds for ISS to cross the Sun) when you photograph/film it. I am using Calsky.com for predicting where the space station will be based on local coordinates. Transit-finder.com is another alternative.
For this capture I actually used two cameras of the same type: Sony RX10 III (yeah, I had one broken and while it was in repairs I bought another one)
One was capturing video and another one still photos.
Being my first capture I know I could have done better.
Here is what I did wrong and what I would do next time:
1) I filmed in 1080/60 fps to take advantage of Sony’s ClearZoom option which would double the range of the lens from 600mm to 1200mm (using a software zoom, not optical). In post-processing I felt the need to scale the footage up to fill the frame, which ate from its resolution (better to scale down that up). I should have filmed in 4K/30 fps then scale down eventually to 1080 and fill up the whole frame. The disadvantage of 4K in this camera is that slowing it down from 30fps would look choppier than slowing down from 60fps. I didn’t test software like Twixtor, which can slow down without loss of quality.
2) I could have used a sturdier tripod. The one I used was light and even walking around it seem to cause shake in the camera at 600mm (although I didn’t touch it and the tripod was on solid ground).
3) I should have manually focused the camera and not let it on Autofocus Continuous. It seems it can have problems focusing through the variable ND filter I was using in front of the lens.
Other than that what I did is:
1) I used the lens at its maximum extension of 600mm + ClearZoom which basically double it (at the expense of quality, as ClearZoom is Sony’s proprietary software zoom algoritm). Maybe a teleconverter would be helpful but I didn’t find one to work well with my camera type.
2) I used an variable ND filter in front of the lens to cut the light coming from the Sun.
3) I used f/16 also to reduce the light even more (the variable ND filter alone seem wasn’t enough).
4) I also used a high shutter speed but I can’t remember right now how much.
5) I used Aodbe Prmeiere for editing and for creating all these “Predator View” looks (I couldn’t stabilize the video as Premiere’s Warp Stabilizer failed to do so – After Effects wasn’t any better)
The still photo I managed to capture was just one and also didn’t look too good.
Next time when this happens (and it can take a long time to happen again in my place) I will try to do better :).
Last month, November 2016, we had the largest Super Moon since 1948. Naturally, I didn’t want to miss this and also wanted to capture it on video.
Because my camera, Sony RX10 III, isn’t a very capable camera in low light video (very capable in daylight, can even take 4K) I decided to capture the Super Moon as a series of photos for putting them together in a timelapse video later on.
After three days of chasing the Super Moon around Phoenix-Arizona and other days spent editing here is the result.
The following Facebook tips (which I find very useful) are a re-post of tips which the famous social media user Robert Scoble posted on his Facebook account. He gave the permission for everyone to re-post them.
1. SHARE three posts from someone else about stuff you are interested in. If it’s your friend’s kids, you’ll see more kid photos. If it’s tech/entrepreneurialism, you’ll see more of that.
2. Write five original posts about the same topic. You’ll see even more of that same topic on your feed. I remember when I wrote about the Napa earthquake. My feed, within 30 seconds, became nothing but earthquake news. Most of the time I write about tech news and post videos with entrepreneurs, so most of my feed is exactly that.
3. Turn off as much privacy as you are comfortable with. Especially let people follow you, instead of friend you. Then post some things to public. You’ll find your posts start getting an audience you never knew existed. Most of you are WAY too private. By the way, you can still post to just your family even after you turn on following. Each post has its own privacy.
4. Make sure your bio is up to date and public. Most people don’t make it easy to find them. You’ll find coworkers and friends start finding you.
5. PUT EVERYONE in either “close friends” or “acquaintance” lists. That makes your feed dramatically better (I’ve done this on dozens of people’s accounts and it always works).
6. Unfriend people who do not post to Facebook or engage with anyone else. You’ll find your posts start getting reach they never did before. Why? Facebook only releases your posts to a few people at first and watches what they do with it. If you have friends who never like, never share, never comment, and never post their own things, THEY HURT YOU.
7. Make sure you like, comment, and share other people’s items. That teaches Facebook what kinds of things you like to see in your feed.
8. Hide things you don’t want to see more of. For instance, I hide almost all selfies, things with quotes, things with memes, things that make me stupider. Funny, now Facebook is showing me far fewer of those things. (Each post has a “I don’t want to see this” item in the drop down on right side of each post, which is how you hide things from your feed. I use that every day on many posts and Facebook continues to get better because of that).
9. Unfollow people who are too noisy. Even your real life friends and family. If you put them in lists (you did follow #5 above, right) you can still see all their things by clicking on the list. But your main feed will get dramatically better.
10. Check your event page at least once a month. Make sure you decline things you aren’t going to and accept things that you will. That makes those events go viral and helps everyone’s calendar out.
11. Check ALL of your Facebook settings once per month and make sure they stay the same. Really important on mobile apps. I find if I delete the app and then reinstall it, all my settings go back to default. Understand each setting.
12. Turn on all security features like two-factor authentication. People who do that generally don’t get hacked. Don’t care? You will when you get hacked. Do the same for your email and other social services too.
13. Make sure you have at least 10 public posts if you are trying to make friends. Make sure those posts say something about you and your passions. If they are only selfies, don’t be shocked when people don’t accept your friend requests. (I won’t accept ANYONE as a friend if they don’t post at least some geeky/business items to public).
14. Don’t let people post to your profile without your approval. I find that people who do that usually have crappy content and it almost always is a flag.
15. Make at least 400 friends. People with fewer than that number of friends almost always are crappy at Facebook.
16. If you are going to friend someone with 5,000 friends you MUST have at least 50 common friends first. Why? They can’t add more friends and use this as a sort of social proof to make sure you aren’t a jerk (jerks generally don’t keep that many friends). If you are going to friend a normal person, then you better remind them how you know them and it helps to have at least five common friends first, so they know that you aren’t just a spammer.
17. Most content does NOT get to you. If you want to see more from specific people, VISIT THEIR PROFILES at least once a week and engage on their content. Or, even better, put them in a list and visit that list. Lists show all. Your main feed only shows you the most popular stuff from them (and that’s not really true, Facebook’s algorithms look at a variety of things to figure out what to show you). In general you are only seeing one out of 10 of my posts, if that. So you gotta visit my profile more often to make sure you get it all.
18. On Mobile, make sure Facebook’s app can know where you are. That not only makes features like Nearby Friends possible, but also makes your feed have a few items from your location.
19. Mostly post using Facebook’s native tools/apps/web site. Those who repost Twitter into here tend to be crappy at Facebook and engagement. Same with those who mostly use Buffer or other tools like Hootsuite.
20. Engage in your own comments, as well as those of others. For people like me I look for signs you will engage and not just post. Plus, it helps you learn from others and encourages them to comment, which helps get your posts more reach too.
21. You can reorganize the stuff on the left. On the web version of Facebook you can click little wheel icons next to each item and reorganize them. I put lists up top so I can get to those fast.
22. Treat Facebook like a meal. You wouldn’t just serve me pasta with no sauce, right? So, if you only have a feed with your kids photos, that is like pasta with no sauce. You DO have interests other than your kids, right? Same for those who post only selfies. You only interested in yourself? Or those who post only animals. You only interested in animals? Or, those who only post memes. Really? That’s what you want to be known for? OK, but I don’t need to stay your friend, either. Make sure you make your friends smarter and show that you have a diverse set of interests.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong at over 186,411 miles away from Earth while walking on the moon. Behind this phrase there were 33,000 people who were and are part of the American Space Agency NASA, and who dedicated their lives to make this possible.
NOTE: This is my space adventure which happened in Jan 30, 2013 (2 years ago). But only now I got to write it in English.
It was a clear day on January 28, 1986 in Titusville (Florida) although the night before has been unusually cold for this time a year. A cold front brought the cold air from Canada. It was so cold, that ice has appeared on structures, lakes, cars and on the street, making it difficult to move everything and more slippery in the morning. There are not many days like this in Florida, because this is where the sun and the heat are at home even in the winter, but when there are days like this, they enter into the history of that place.
Thirty km (20 miles) from Titusville, in Cape Canaveral (part of Kennedy Space Center), placed vertically on the launch pad with the number 39, the Challenger space shuttle is ready to take flight in the 25th mission in US Space Shuttle Program, which began in 1981 with the inaugural flight of the shuttle Columbia.
The ice formed on the launch structure and even on the two supporting SRBs (booster rockets) was not worrying anyone, except possibly for the engineers who worked on them. Everything seemed perfect.
Philip Metzger, who was newly employed at NASA as an engineer and worked on the navigation and communication systems in the space shuttle program, was waiting impatiently the launch scheduled for 11:38 a.m.
Working in the American space shuttle program is a tradition in Philip’s family. Philip’s father worked in the Gemini and Apollo programs and he always took his family to the meetings at the Kennedy Space Center. Philip himself, as a child, was building rocket models and was interested in cosmic flights. When there would be a missile launch announced, he would watch it from his home’s porch in Titusville. Being part of this environment where mostly everybody was interested in the cosmos and space flights, he would have never thought he could work in another area and for someone else other than for NASA. Thing That happened as soon as he finished school in 1985.
Approaching launch time, cold started to subside and ice to melt. The sky was completely clear; such a spotless blue!
Philip along with several colleagues walked out of the office and looked toward the launching ramp, which was located a few kilometers away.
The shuttle’s flight that day was a special one: because it was the first flight of a person who had no connection with astronautics/NASA and had no special training at the base. She was actually the first passenger (and first teacher) to be transported into space; the Agency chose from over 11,000 candidates. Her name was Christa McAuliffe and in a little while she would make history. Because of this, the flight itself had more media coverage than normal, and so it was shown live on several TV channels.
“We have main engines start …4, 3, 2, 1 … and we have a lift off of the 25th space shuttle mission!” announced NASA’s reporter with a serious but enthusiastic voice. Trembling, the 2,000 tons of metal, electronics and fuel that made up the space shuttle began to rise majestically into the sky. Everyone around the area felt the vibrations emitted by the engines, even though they were a few miles away. The moment of a rocket launching is an emotional one, it makes people’s eyes moist, it gives voice to others, it is a moment that cannot be forgotten. Some of these emotions I have experimented later as well.
Philip Metzger was watching the shuttle’s flying maneuvers while continuing the ascent without problems.
Or as he and others thought.
Unknown to them at the time, the rocket and its occupants were actually starting their journey towards eternity. Seventy three seconds later, at an altitude of 20 km, Challenger shuttle disintegrated after an explosion; the crew actually survived the explosion only to die moments later because of the impact with the ocean at a speed of 333 km/h.
Philip looked up and couldn’t believe it. However, he was waiting to see the rocket emerge from the explosion clouds and glide towards the ground (there are some rescue procedures in case an accident happens, especially if the shuttle is was high enough and not affected physically).
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that.
Philip and his colleagues have spent much of that day listening to the radio in the hope that the astronauts could be rescued from the ocean. It was not meant to be. Seven lives were lost and NASA’s space shuttle fleet now had one missing.
The disaster put a hold on the American space program for two years while they were investigating. Conclusions have been drawn and improvements have been made in the construction of the two solid-fuel missiles attached to the space shuttle; this is where the accident happened. The extreme cold made some of the rubber rings that sealed joints to stiffen the rocket’s segments very hard, so they were no longer malleable and that allowed hot gases to escape to the side and puncture the shuttle’s main tank, which in turn had blown up the entire space shuttle.
As a child, I remember the announcement of the disaster which also broadcasted on the radio in Romania, my native country. I was fond of astronomy & astronautics, and I could not believe that something like that could happen. It was the first time I heard of a space disaster and unfortunately, it was not the last.
NASA-past and present
Space exploration is dangerous, even more dangerous if compared to the seas and oceans exploration that happened hundreds of years ago. The fact that other astronauts and cosmonauts were killed before the Challenger, enabled the improvement of space transport so well, that at the moment all the launchings into the cosmos (with or without human load) have a success rate of 95% -97%.
Since its inception, NASA (the US Government Space Agency), has been at the forefront of space exploration and navigation, along and competing with the State-owned Soviet Space Agency (now Russian).
Over the years, NASA had many achievements, one of the most important is landing the first man on the moon; an achievement unmatched to date.
Some of the other achievements are the first orbital space station Skylab, the first visit of a planet in its orbit (Mariner 2 around Venus), the first successful landing on a planet (Viking 1 on Mars), the first visit to Jupiter (Pioneer 10) and of Saturn (Pioneer 11), the first reusable space vehicle (space shuttle), the space probes Voyager (our messengers and our messages “in the glass” that now run beyond the solar system), the Hubble Space Telescope (which for over 20 years has been scanning the Cosmos and deciphering many of its secrets), part of the actual international space station ISS, robotic missions to Jupiter (Galileo) and Saturn (Cassini-Huygens), Martian missions culminating in the recent Mars Science Laboratory (and Mars Rover Curiosity, the largest vehicle that landed on Mars so far), the mission to Mercury (the Messenger) and Pluto (New Horizons -which is en route to the planet).
Even in the communist times (in Romania), the US space agency achievements were quite present in the Romanian press, as well as everywhere in magazines and science & technology newspapers. As far as I remember, they were even more present than the achievements of their rivals, the Soviet space agency, which was not surprising given the somewhat cool relations to the Ceauşescu regime. I was fond of collecting clippings from all of these publications.
When you are a child, everything seems doable. All the boys wanted to become pilots or astronauts (unlike nowadays, when everybody wants to become rich). It was a passion that burned within me, but I knew deep inside that it will never become a reality. I told myself I should be happy with just building model rockets and nothing more.
Years passed. I started working in a field that was related to science and technology: computers and internet. By luck (literally), I came to live in the United States.
The Internet has changed the way people interact with each other on a personal level but also how entities (public or private) interact with each other and with people.
Some of these existing entities adapt harder, some faster. One of them a governmental entity, NASA, adapted quite quickly. The US Agency understood the power of Internet communication and the ability to keep connected with people who are passionate about space exploration.
To achieve this, the Agency set up a department of social media through which they started organizing events where active people in social media who are passionate about astronautics had a chance to be invited.
This NASA initiative has entered into its fourth year of operation. Their first events are known as NASA Tweetup (related to Twitter, where many of the guests had/have activity).
The events have evolved, those invited are now active not only on Twitter but also on Facebook and Google. The number of guests rose continually while the number of applicants increased as well; (there are certain conditions for acceptance, among them the guests have to be quite active in social media and be US citizens).
I have also been selected to participate at one of these events, it was at the launch of a new communications satellite called TDRS-K, launched with a rocket – Atlas 5, from the main base space Cape Canaveral (belonging to the Kennedy Space Center, FL.).
My dream since childhood of becoming an astronaut slipped on the slide long forgotten, but I still had one wish: to witness live a cosmic rocket launch. I wanted to be there close to it when the engines start to rattle and shake up the surrounding air. For some, driving a Lamborghini is the ultimate dream. For me, the Lamborghini had names like Saturn 5, Soyuz, space shuttle, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Saliut, Voyager, etc.
With my selection to participate in this event organized by NASA, my desire was starting to take shape (from 600 applicants, 60-70 were selected, and from which only about 50 people actually attended).
After a journey of several hours by plane, I arrived in Titusville (Florida), a small town of 40,000 inhabitants looking like a Russian Star City of Americans where everyone speaks about rockets and space exploration. It can be compared to Silicon Valley (US Technology Center) and Hollywood (the same for American Cinema).
After our first dinner with some of the group members, we all met the next day at the headquarters of the Kennedy Space Center, where we had the opportunity to get to know each other and the organizers from NASA. We also got to meet with Jason Townsend, who was the main coordinator (this after we got the entry permits).
Getting into the complex (part of it is an amusement park), the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex visitor greeted us with NASA’s rockets from ‘ 50-‘ 60-‘ 70 which were gathered in a park named Rocket Garden. That is where the “Grandparents” were resting; their names were Redstone, Atlas (old model), Titan and Saturn 1B.
This is where we had a press conference broadcasted live and on the Internet at NASA TV. There were several speakers from the Agency staff that gave us information on the new telecommunications satellite that would be launched soon (at the time of the article, the satellite was already in orbit), about the carrier rocket, other NASA programs including SLS program (Space Launch System), space shuttle replacement program (which were recently withdrawn from service), and about NASA’s future in general, especially now that the private space industry is gaining momentum.
Atlas 5 and the communication satellite & data TDRS-K
The satellite launched on January, 30th, named TDRS-K, had a mass of 3.4 tons, is an important piece of the constellation of telecommunications satellites of NASA (TDRS-Tracking and Data Relay Satellite), that helps the Agency connection between different locations, programs and NASA vehicles.
For example, communications between ground stations and other NASA space vehicles (whether space probes visiting Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, whether observation tools in orbit such as the Hubble telescope or the future James Webb, or international space stations ISS), pass through these telecommunication satellites. Whenever you launch a missile, the communication between it and the ground goes through these satellites.
Before having this constellation of satellites, NASA had ground-based stations in several places on Earth, some locations being quite dangerous because of the political instability.
Basically, without this belt of satellites found in the geostationary position (fixed point) above the Earth, at a height of 35,700 km, NASA would no longer effectively communicate and receive data with other space vehicles. TDRS system is the backbone in terms of communications that NASA is using to support all current and future missions.
The new TDRS-K satellite was launched to replace other satellites of the system which were in service for over 25 years, and is equipped with modern communication tools and data forwarding.
So far, 10 satellites were launched under the TDRS program but one of them was destroyed in the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
In some of the NASA launches, the Atlas 5 rocket was/is used and which is manufactured by a joint venture between Lockheed-Martin and Boeing (named United Launch Alliance-ULA).
The Atlas 5 is highly reliable two-stage rocket (100% success rate), with the first step equipped with Russian RD-180 engines (made in Russia), and the second stage (called Centaur), equipped with American engines RL10.
The average dimensions of Atlas 5 are 58 m in height, 3.80 m in diameter (payload can have between 4-5 m diameter) and 334 tons in weight.
The rocket is able to place payloads having between 9 and 29 tons in low Earth orbit (under 2,000 km altitude) or 4.7-13 tons into geosynchronous orbit (35,700 km in height).
Some of the missions that have used the Atlas 5 rocket for launch are: “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter”, (Mars exploration probe in orbit), “Juno” (spacecraft that will become a satellite of Jupiter, and will explore the orbit), “New Horizons” (spacecraft now en route to Pluto), “Van Allen” probes (that studies the radiation belts surrounding Earth called ‘Van Allen’), as well as the famous mission called “Mars Science Laboratory” which put on largest robot on Mars so far (1 ton) called “Curiosity”; (the robot landing moment was transmitted live by several television channels in the so-called “Seven minutes of terror”).
Atlas 5 is one of the most successful American rockets, and so it continues to be used in NASA’s programs and other partners’ programs.
This was precisely the main reason why we were invited at NASA and so we were taken to see Atlas 5 close up, right on the launch pad (a privilege not many have).
I must admit that I was one of the fans that waited a lifetime to see their idol from just a few meters away. As I approached the rocket I began to tremble with emotion. A few minutes later after I got off the bus I looked at it with amazement and pleasure. Again, all my childhood I wanted to see a machine like this, and now I was just a few dozen meters away from it. And there was a bonus, I was about to see the equipment in action the last evening of the event organized by NASA. ‘Equipment’, does not mean that there are just random pieces of metal and fuel together. The people who have the same passion as mine, maybe they are even more passionate, dedicated their lives to the field and worked hard to bring it to life; and last but not least, these are the people who have put heart and soul into what they do. These people consider themselves lucky that they can do this and I can’t do anything but envy them.
We were taken in the control room where they control the rocket and its launch. This is the place where you can hear the “3, 2, 1 … and we have lift off!“. At the time there only a few were on duty, but on a launch day, the hall is usually filled with people making sure that each piece of work is working perfectly, that way everything is perfect at moment 0 when the rocket is launched.
Shuttle Atlantis Museum , VAB/launchpad 39 and Astronaut Hall of Fame Museum
Kennedy Space Center also houses one of the American space shuttles that was decommissioned last year: Atlantis. Atlantis was also the one who made the last flight of the US Space Shuttle program, which started in 1981 with the flight of shuttle Columbia.
If the shuttle Colombia, the first shuttle to fly, wouldn’t have disintegrated at re-entry in 2003 in the atmosphere (killing all seven crew members and being the second disaster involving the space shuttles), probably it would have had the honor to conclude this US program.
Being last to fly, Atlantis had the honor of having built a house-museum only for it, meaning that the building is now under construction around the shuttle (note: now, two years later, the museum is open for public). Atlantis has not even been cleaned (as was done with every other shuttle), it will be displayed exactly as it landed from space.
In order to be ready for flights, shuttles were assembled in the so-called VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building); yes, everyone at NASA uses abbreviations. In this building, which is one of the largest in the world by volume (3,664,883 cubic meters at a height of 166 meters), the shuttles were brought here and put together with the main tank and two solid fuel rockets called SRBs (for this job they use cranes capable of lifting 250 tons each). Back in the day, this is were they assembled the Saturn 5 rockets that carried people to the moon too.
The building is huge, not only from the outside but also from the inside. It’s so huge that it has its own “climate” inside. There could be small clouds that forms in the upper parts of the building on very humid days.
The launch pad 39 is located close from VAB. This is where space shuttles are launched from. Space shuttles were transported from VAB to the ramp by means of vehicle-tractors, so called crawlers, the largest land-based transport vehicles (their weight is 2,700 tones, have two diesel engines of 2,700 horsepower plus 16 cylinders – each with two electric motors of 1,000 horsepower).
We didn’t get too close from the launchpad, but instead the hosts took us to the new pad which is now ready for the new space transportation system that NASA will have and which will replace the space shuttle: SLS (Space Launch System), which will be somewhat similar to Saturn 5, only stronger and more modern.
Here we are, right on top of the launching ramp (we got there by elevator), where the view was breathtaking (literally, the wind was quite strong).
After I witnessed the ‘present’ of the agency, the time came to learn about the history of NASA and for that, we were invited to explore the Museum “United States Astronaut Hall of Fame” at the Kennedy complex which has the largest collection of memorable personal belongings of the astronauts who participated in the NASA programs. Personal items or equipment that were used in different missions by: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell, Sally Ride, Alan Shephard, John Glenn and by other astronauts (62 in total), that awakened memories for some of the people in the group, who were older and had caught those days, and the admiration from the younger people who have read about that period of time.
For a decade, Philip Metzger was part of the team that prepared the launch of space shuttles. Every time a shuttle took flight, the excitement before and after the launch gave him and his team no peace. None of the releases were considered a routine, especially after the Challenger disaster.
Philip made a career change when the international space station ISS program took shape: in 1995 he joined the team that was testing and assembling the components of space station before launching it into orbit. One of the most important events of this period was a test called “Multi-Element Integrated Test”, which was considered the biggest aero test in the history which lasted a few months; 24/7 they put together sections of the space station and tested them as if they were operating in space; as a comparison – the space shuttle is the size of a football stadium.
“Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab” within SwampWorks
Since NASA has several programs running at the same time, after completing the main work at the international space station (2002), Philip got his doctorate in physics of granular materials. He intended to enter the team that was in charge with the exploration of Mars and moon, since that is the main direction someone takes at NASA after the withdrawal from exploration of the space shuttles.
Later, he founded the NASA laboratory “Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab” (granular mechanical operations on regolith -regolith is a layer of soil, dust, crushed rock solid that covers large rocks – layer found on Earth, Moon, Mars, asteroids and some other planets).
This laboratory was one of those visited by us the next day at NASA.
Philip’s laboratory is part of the so-called “Swamp Works” (by analogy with “Skunk Works” Labs, secret laboratories of Lockheed-Martin – from where the super planes SR-71 Blackbird , U-2 spy planes, invisible F-117 Nighthawk planes and the F-22 Raptor, etc. came out).
In the “Swamp Works” complex, NASA is preparing for the future. The main goal is to explore and utilize the natural resources of the solar system, be it water, metals, minerals, and more.
If humanity intends to settle on other planets, it will need to learn how to exploit these resources on the spot (it would be too expensive for these resources to be sent from Earth on a regular basis).
Philip’s team is working on a robot prototype that could excavate the lunar material (rocks, regolith and ice), and also use it in the construction of embankments, roads and landing places.
Other teams are working on some technology prototypes that would not allow moon or martian dust to settle on certain equipment (especially electronics), because this would damage them, and also on some tools prototypes that can detect water in the regolith from the lunar poles.
This research comes in the context in which President Obama outlines one of NASA’S direction, basically, the mining of resources found on some asteroids around the years 2025 and sending people on or around Mars around 2030.
Private space exploration is gaining momentum
But NASA is not the only one which who dreams of reaching these natural resources from outer space.
A few private companies are also interested to do the same.
One of the private companies is called “Planetary Resources” and the founders are Peter Diamandis (the initiator of the Google X Prize) and Chris Lewicki (a former NASA employee). This company also has a list of reputable investors: Larry Page (Google founder), Eric Schmidt (former President of Google), James Cameron (Director), Ross Perot (billionaire), Charles Simonyi (former Microsoft software architect and Executive).
The aim of the company is to develop a robotic industry to be able to exploit the resources found in asteroids. Someone said that this company could become, in the future, the first company valued at a trillion dollars (Apple and Exxon Mobil are now the most valuable, each valued at over $ 500-700 billion).
The other mining company is “Deep Space Industries” which is basically trying to do about the same thing which is: the robotic extraction of resources from asteroids and planets.
These companies are recruiting talent mostly from NASA. Those companies won’t necessarily be competitors of NASA, but rather partners. It wouldn’t be the first time when NASA is cooperating with commercial companies in exploration and exploitation of the space. Many of the components that are used by the organization are manufactured by the private companies (Lockheed-Martin, Boeing). SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow Aerospace and Blue Origin are other newer private companies that have contracts with the American Agency (SpaceX already has made shipments of materials to the international space station).
After he retires from NASA, Philip Metzger said that the private sector will be the direction in which he will focus his attention. A man with a big passion, will rarely sit on his front porch waiting for the days to pass.
Romanian participants at a NASA Lunabotics competition
In his career at NASA, Philip also got to know several young Romanians who competed in the Lunabotics Mining Competition last year, in the team ‘Coandă’. Team Coandă (from Politehnica Bucureşti university), was the only participant from Europe (from 40 international teams).
Lunabotics competition is a competition at the university level that wants to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to form teams and seek to develop innovative concepts and prototypes in excavating and exploitation of lunar soil. The challenge is that the students to be able to build a prototype, called Lunabot, to excavate and deposit a minimum of 10 kg of lunar material (simulated), in 10 minutes (there are some other factors taken in consideration, such as tolerance to dust, ways of communication, vehicle mass, the energy required to operate and autonomy).
NASA will directly benefit from the most successful ideas and the winning teams will receive scholarship awards and invitations to rocket launches.
The opinion of Philip about the Romanian team was a good one.
The students were fantastic: enthusiastic, creative, determined. They were the only team from Europe. Their lunabot was extremely unique and creative, unike any other one in the competition. Coming to Lunabotics from outside the United States is challenging because the students not only had to develop the robotic mining robot, they also had to deal with compatibility of electrical connectors and computer systems, travel visas and passports, shipping, raising the extra funding needed for travel and shipping, and so on.
Every team that manages to get to Lunabotics with a working robot has already accomplished a major victory, but to also overcome these other challenges is proof that they are a very hardworking and determined team. The students who build lunabots are helping humanity discover how to use the resources of our solar system, which are billions of times more vast than what we have available on the Earth.
I would have loved to find some Romanians as well who work at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to take their interview (not only to Philip), but unfortunately, I could not find any. Those with whom I was able to talk to, work in other locations of NASA (among them, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California).
Launch of the Atlas 5/TDRS-K
“Go Atlas!“… “Go TDRS-K!” “T-15 seconds …5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … and lift off of the Atlas 5 rocket with TDRS-K, enhancing and improving the capability of space-based tracking. ”
Originally, the noise of the rocket engine start was not heard very well from the place where we were taken to view the launch (approximately 8 km away), but people started to get excited anyway, as they do at football games. Many of them were prepared with cameras to videotape and take photos, but others just sat and watched the rocket ascent into the sky. NASA TV also filmed it, and then interviewed the participants.
As the rocket rose, noise and vibrations began to be felt around our spot as well. At some point everything started being very intense (just imagine the type of noise that a blowtorch makes only much more intense, especially after the rocket has exceeded the speed of sound).
After many years in which I have dreamed of such a moment, now I lived it.
“No … I have no words, I have no words to describe … poetry … should have sent a poet … so beautiful …“, in the words of Dr. Ellie Arroway, the main character in the movie “Contact” (1997), at the moment when they made contact with the extraterrestrial civilization to which they were sent to.
Emotions overwhelmed me in such way that I didn’t get to photograph and tape much. I knew that others would do a better job filming it than I would, since they have more modern and efficient equipment for night-time and I would find it on Youtube or NASA videos.
Photo: Ben Cooper
The engines rumbled, the rocket vanished into the night and, once with the ignition of the second stage, it became too distant and so we weren’t able to see anything but a bright star moving further away. The speaker kept us updated of its status and after entering the orbit and NASA TV taking a few interviews, we gathered and waited for the buses to take us back to the Kennedy Space Center, where we had our last group meeting.
From the launch to low Earth orbit (under 1,000 km), the flight lasted about 7-8 minutes, with a speed of 8 km/s (minimum speed necessary for an object launched from Earth to reach and remain in orbit). It took a few more days of maneuvering and restarts of the engine for TDRS-K to reach orbit geosynchronous, 35,000 miles around the Earth. Over the next 6 months, the 3.4 tones satellite will be operational at full capacity and it is expected to remain so for at least 15 years.
NASA’S Social Activities
The NASA social event on January 30th, barely ended and again on February 10th and 11th, another one was organized. This time it was at from the Vandenberg base in California, where the launch of a new satellite maps-geology of the Landsat program happened. Around 80 people were selected from over 2,000 applicants.
And again on February 20th, they organized yet another event in which 150 active participants in social media were invited to NASA headquarters in Washington DC, to chat live with the astronauts on the International Space Station.
On March 10, NASA will participate in the film festival and SXSW technology in Austin, Texas, one of the most popular festivals of its kind in the.
As you can see, NASA Social team is very active on this front of popularizing science and technology by using new means of communication available that have emerged with the spread of large-scale Internet.
The Future Of NASA
With the end of space shuttle program, which was the main program of the Agency, NASA is in the process of refocusing its business and its this processess. It needs more attention and support from people, more than before because that way maybe the Government will allocate more money for space exploration. The participants in the programs organized by NASA can help in spreading Agency’s messages.
“The Agency’s future is bright. We envision the cooperation between the United States and other nations to bring the solar system in the sphere of humanity. I see the government agency cooperating with private entities, discovering together new ways to contribute to the advancement of humanity on the space path. These are the best moments in space exploration, those that we live today,” says Philip Metzger.
NASA will continue to explore the solar system and beyond, but gradually it will coming off of the activities on low-Earth orbit, which will be taken over by the new private entities that will become service providers for the Agency.
The future of NASA, as it has been outlined by the Obama administration (at least the intermediate one), will be the interplanetary exploration, and in particular Mars and asteroids in the next 20-30 years. For this, they are now working on a new launcher called ‘SLS’ (Space Launch System), which together with the Orion spacecraft, will be the rocket that will be used in the future to launch astronauts to the deep space and Mars.
Some argue that NASA is transforming from an engineering organization which builds things, into a scientific organization that does research. They are intertwined now as well, but engineering dominates, and those who support this transformation have argued that the private industry can take over the tasks of NASA’s engineering. Becoming a more scientific than technical organization, NASA could probably look for more effective answers to the questions: ‘where do we come from?’, “and are we alone in the universe?”, questions that haunt humankind from its beginnings.
If this transformation will actually take place, it will take many years, probably decades.
From what I saw on site and what I learnt from NASA’s history, I have no doubt that these plans will be achieved. I’m optimistic.
It’s true, it will take years before we see any results, many political battles will be fought within the Government and Congress due to the budget and objectives. But for now, within NASA there is some disorientation (yes, the current Administration has mapped out some interim targets but not all are convinced of their feasibility). The organization is not as focused as it was in the 1960s when the main objective was the Man on the Moon. Currently, the Agency does not have the capability to send astronauts into space without resorting to private carriers (SpaceX), or foreign (Russia), and also there are other programs that do not involve human flights which are threatened due to budget restrictions.
The budget is basically the same for 10 years (not increased, nor decreased), while the number of NASA programs have varied and vary more than in the 1960s, which eventually led to a discrepancy between the budget and what NASA can do with it.
We can make a comparison between NASA’s 2012 budget, which was around $17 billion (in 1965 the budget was 35 billion), and the budget for the most expensive military program in the US and the world: fighter aircraft F-35 which has swallowed up so far more 400 billion dollars (2001). There could be a lot done if NASA had at least a quarter of the budget that the fighter aircraft had, and humanity would benefit more from the Agency’s achievements (how did it until now).
The Agency is in a transitional period and I hope that it will find its direction sooner rather than later.
“As we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17!”, were the last words spoken by the last man who set foot on the Moon, astronaut Eugene Cernan, in 1972.
I am sure humanity will return on the Moon and will explore Mars as well as other parts of our solar system. My belief, and not just mine, is that our long-term future is in outer space and it depends only on us to make it.
As for me, I hope I can attend the inaugural flight of SLS, which is expected to take place in 2017, which will send the Orion spacecraft around the moon. This with the help of NASA Social.
You can see my photo gallery of my NASA visit here: Part 1 and Part 2
Since I came here in Arizona, USA I wanted to visit this state, to try to know it better.
Arizona is a diverse state, has deserts, semi-deserts with only summer-spring seasons (south and mid of the state) but also has mountains ranges with trees and four seasons (northern).
The state of Arizona is slitghty bigger (113,990 sq miles – 295,234 km2) than my native country of Romania (92,043 sq miles – 238,391 km2) but traveling inside it is much easier thanks to the more developed freeways network.
I am listing below the attractions which you can visit in Arizona, in no particular order. This list will be updated as I discover more and more places.
The departing place is Phoenix, which is the place where most of the visits may land or come first time.
I have broken down the list in trips which can be taken in one day from Phoenix (leave in the morning, come back in the evening) and trips which takes more than one day (that requires accomodation overnight).
– Cibecue Fallshttp://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=30 Go on US-60 east to Globe, then take again US-60/77 north/east to Show Low (you can make a stop to Seneca Lake right before passing the bridge over Salt River). Right after passing the bridge over Salt River (here you can make a stop and go to the river, there are some small falls to admire) make a left on the dirt road Primitive Rd and go on it until it crosses Cibecue Creek. Take the mile-long trek along the Cibecue Creek to the north to experience the spectacular beauty of Cibecue Falls. Check out road conditions and try to grab your permits before heading out (although you can go without too). The pristine area is great for climbing, exploring and spending time in the crystal clear water. Surrounded by fascinating striated rock walls, water shoes will come in handy for wading and jumping from the rocky ledges.
– Mount Lemmonhttp://www.skithelemmon.com (go to Tucson, get out of the freeway at Speedway Blvd, go east, left on Houghton Rd, then right on Catalina Hwy and continue on Mt Lemmon Hwy until the top. You can also ski in the winter.)
– Beaver Fallshttp://www.havasuwaterfalls.net/beaver.html (from I-40 at Seligman, take exit 123 and drive 33 miles west on Hwy #66 to Indian Road 18. Turn right and drive 60 miles to parking lot at Hualapai Hilltop (at end of the road). Indian Road 18 can also be accessed from Kingman, by driving ~50 miles east on Hwy #66 (~6 miles past Peach Springs). There are no services after Seligman (or Kingman). Beaver Falls is reached by continuing on the trail past Mooney Falls another 2 miles (for a 6 mile RT hike from the campground). It involves a few creek crossings (which could be up to waist deep), and one descent down a steep section in which you need to repel down using a rope.)
– Schnebly Hill Rd – scenic drive to Sedonahttp://www.desertusa.com/desert-activity/explore-sedona.html (from Phoenix take I-17 north. Don’t take Highway 179 – the regular way to Sedona which everybody takes – and after 37 miles on I-17 you take Schnebly Hill Rd (make left – east). This is a more scenic drive to Sedona which goes up on the hills (in the middle and end of the road you will see the red rocks of Sedona and you will drive by them on your way to the town). It’s a dirt road so be prepared with a good car. When you exit this road, after 12 miles drive, you will be very close to the center of Sedona.
– Mount Graham – http://www.summitpost.org/mount-graham/154191 (from Phoenix, take US-60 east, then continue with US-70 east, make a right on US-191 and at Swift Junction Trail make another right on AZ-366. After 11.5 miles, you’ll reach the Arcadia Campground at 6,700′ (see below). The road is gated here between November 15 and April 15.)
– Veterans Oasis Park – https://www.chandleraz.gov/explore/chandler-parks/guide/veterans-oasis-park (located in Chandler and with scenic trails, fishing, birding, horseback riding, loads of picnic areas and an outdoor amphitheater, Veterans Oasis Park has something for everyone outdoors)
– Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch– https://www.gilbertaz.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/riparian-preserve-at-water-ranch (located in Gilbert it looks like a mini-delta with vegetation, birds and other little animals roaming around)
Places which needs more than one day to visit (2-3-4-5 or more days):
Since I began this project, RomanianStartups.com, I have contacted a lot of Romanian tech startup founders (Romania is my native country, just to remind you). It took over an year to gather them together (and their tech startups) on RomanianStartups.com but I am proud to present them all here, in this image.
Of course, I have more to add to the site and I will do it in time, at which point I will update this image (and that with startups).
They deserve all the praise for getting the ball rolling and for continuously growing the Romanian tech sector, this sector being one of the sectors which didn’t suffered much from the 2008 crisis.
In 2007 there were a handful of startup founders, now, in 2014 in this image, they are over 342.
When 7 years ago I have written about the Romanian startup scene in an article for ReadWrite (“Top Web Apps in Romania“) I didn’t have much to write about. Several startups at that time, no incubators, not too many founders and not too many events.
But since then the tech startup exploded, as you see in the above stats (which are not complete yet).
But what Romania still lacks is the other arm which makes a tech sector go wild: the investment capital, the VCs and angel investors.
There are some tech angel investors in the country but no VC fund yet (although we heard from some source that a first VC fund is preparing to be formed soon).
RomanianStartups.com and I will do everything in its power to help with this.
Thank you Forbes and Alison Coleman for bringing the Romanian tech startup scene into the world’s attention.
Nowadays whether you are spending time online or not chances are that data about yourself will be present online. That data is not necessarily put there by you, it could be a third party (either another person or another entity – private, nonprofit or governmental).
You can only control part of that online data and if you are not present online you can’t control anything. Whatever is there, good or bad, it can’t be changed (or, at least, it can’t be changed easily) and it will appear in the search engines.
But if you are present online (moderate or hard core) then you can control part of that data which appears in the search engines.
Most of the people aren’t doing that, but they should and I think in the future they will do it more and more as more people become fairly tech savvy (thanks to the younger generations which now are growing up).
People who are concerned with their personal data being online try even harder to have less data out there.
As the Borg said in Star Trek-Next Generation, unless you are isolating yourself from the world or living somewhere in the mountains, the “resistance is futile“.
My guess most of us won’t go in the mountains to live like a bushman, we will go to visit and return to our agitated and busy lives in the cities.
So, “if you can’t beat them, why not join them“? Why not create and preserve your personal brand?
If you can’t eliminate what others (people or entities) are saying about you (sometimes bad things) why not try to beat them by taking charge of the information which you do and can have control of?
Your name is one of your most important assets. It stays with you your whole life, it can even survive you through your children, grandchildren, gran-grandchildren and other relatives. Your name can survive you now also through the Internet (1000memories.com and much more).
Your name is or can be searched by anyone…and it will be searched, have no doubt about that (see more below).
You want to control what those people are searching about you and want to have the best stuff show up in Google and other search engines. If the government can control the information about itself why not you do it about yourself?
Here you have the ways to do it and I will explain each of them (apologies to those who already know how to do it, but I hope this helps more people who are less knowledgeable and which are not just a few).
1) Own your full name domain name
Like I said in my answer from that Quora question, the best is to acquire your full name domain name, better than having only the first name or the last name domain name.
– good: www.johnsmith.com
– not so good: www.john.com or www.smith.com
When somebody is searching for your name they are usually searching using your first and last name together. Even they know that using just the first or last name separately will give too many results.
They will search for “john smith”, not for “john” or “smith”.
If you have a domain name with your full name and have the content which you want, not what others want, which do you think would be the first result in Google (or another search engine)? Yes, it will be your domain name in most of the cases. If it won’t be the first result on the first page, it will surely be somewhere on the first page.
Of course, beside having the domain name with your name you also should have fairly enough content there which is regularly updated.
You can get all three big general domain extensions: COM, .NET, .ORG
You can setup you personal site on the .COM domain and have the other domains redirect (301 redirect) to this domain (so you won’t have to maintain three different websites with the same content).
If none of these three big general extensions with your name are available (chances are that you are not the only one with the same full name and somebody already got the domain name), then try to see who has that and buy it. Sometime, you can acquire it for little money (little money could mean $50 or $300 – your name deserves that, or even more).
If the owner doesn’t sell (even if you offer good money), well, then you have to get your name on another extension, like .ME, .CO, .INFO, or maybe even countries domain extensions (but be careful which country you pick).
After having the domain name secured (Godaddy.com, Namecheap.com, 1and1.com, Moniker.com are registrars where you can try to buy your domain name if it’s not already taken) you can start building your website.
Building a website it’s easier if you are using an already made content management system (CMS). One of the easiest to work with is WordPress.org. Don’t be fooled, WordPress is not just a blogging plaftorm but it can be used to build customized beautiful and functional websites with the help themes and plugins which greatly enhances its capabilities.
Wordpress is also offered by many hosting companies (you need to have a hosting account too) which makes its installation a breeze. You can be up and running in 5 minutes.
Your website should be registered with the major search engines, be search engine optimized and also a link building campaign doesn’t hurt at all. Every time you write an email, post on a forum or comment on a blog, don’t forget to include a link to your website.
2) Get your full name profile on the biggest professional social network: Linkedin.com
Linkedin.com is the biggest professional network (80+ million people and growing). It is your online resume. The are other professional social networks out there, like Xing.com, but they are smaller.
You should secure your profile and the vanity URL like this: www.linkedin.com/in/johnsmith or www.linkedin.com/in/john.smith or www.linkedin.com/in/john-smith (don’t use something else in place of your full name)
Google and other search engines is looking at the URL (the part after the main domain name) as much as it looks in the title of the page and the actual content. The URL should match what’s in the page.
Linkedin, being a site which is trafficked a lot, is seen by Google and others as an authority site and the search engine tends to place it higher in search results when it comes to people.
Update your profile there – don’t let it stay blank – and allow search engines to crawl your profile (Linkedin has this option in Settings).
Put a link on this profile to your website described in #1 and also put a link to this profile on your personal website so Google can associate this profile with your personal website .
3) Get your full name profile on major social networks websites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram
Facebook and Twitter are two of the most trafficked websites in the world.
Facebook recently got over 1.1 billion people in its network and Twitter has over 700 million users.
Secure your profile and URL just like you did on Linkedin: www.facebook.com/johnsmith – www.facebook.com/john.smith or www.twitter.com/johnsmith – www.twitter.com/john.smith (if all these IDs are taken then try to get some combinations which have maybe numbers in it, along your full name – like www.facebook.com/john.smith123 or www.twitter.com/john.smith123 or something else but STILL have the full name in it).
Don’t use something else.
Like at Linkedin, Google and other search engines is looking at the URL (the part after the main domain name) as much as it looks in the title of the page and the actual content. The URL should match what’s on the page.
Allow Facebook and Twitter to index your basic profile, but be careful with showing other sections of your profile (especially be careful on Facebook – you don’t want your naughty pics be seen by anyone).
On Facebook, you can let search engines index your profile picture, some activities/interests, some arts and entertainment, some sports, some contact info (where you can put your personal website), some notes. You can even have some pictures from your albums set up as public (but, again, be careful what pictures you want to let loose).
Update your profiles regularly (status, mainly).
Link your profiles to your personal website (put link on these profiles to your website described in #1, so Google can associate this profile with your personal website – on your personal website you can also put links to these profiles).
Do the same on Google+ and Instagram. These services are growing and, especially G+, being a Google service it may help your profile be on the first page fast.
4) Get your full name profile on other social media websites: Youtube.com, Quora.com, Vimeo.com, About.me, Flickr.com, Reddit.com, Digg.com, StackExchange.com, IMDB.com, Tumblr.com, Posterous.com, WordPress.com, Blogspot.com, Foursquare.com, Namesake.com and/or others which suits your personal and professional interests
As on #2 and #3, get the proper URL which ends in your full name: johnsmith or john.smith or john-smith (some services may not allow you to have a vanity URL, like IMDB)
Update your profiles and contribute to those websites with something (answer questions, upload videos, pictures, submit links, etc), don’t just leave them blank, and link them to your personal website from #1 (on your personal website you can also put links to these profiles).
Allow search engines to index your profiles but be careful how much your share (each service has its own privacy settings so look at those before sharing).
These are trafficked websites and Google tends to bring them to the front in search results.
Having a personal website and having all or part of these profiles will allow you to dominate at least the first page of Google and other search engines, thus controlling a good chunk of the information about you which is online.
There are services which aggregates information about you, so-called “people search engines” (see this question on Quora People Search: What are the best “people” search engines?). The results from those specialized search engines can appear in Google, Yahoo, Bing but you can push them down (onto page 2-3-4-5 or further down) using the strategy above.
Of course, this can take some time, maybe several months to one year of work (consider it a part time job). You have to build your personal website, subscribe to the important and not so important services, contribute, doing some SEO and link building, then wait for the search engines to index you.
It is to your benefit and don’t be paranoid by thinking “my enemies will find out about me”, “the government will find out about me”, “the marketers will find out about me”, etc. They will find out about you anyway (just think about the volume of spam you get in your email inbox and your snail mail box).
Just be careful in what exactly you are sharing on all your websites.
Don’t share your phone, exact address, your family status, your relatives status, your location status (if you are using services like Foursquare or Facebook Places or such).
Although, for somebody who really wants to find out about you (like a private investigator), it won’t be very hard to do it.
Again, see what privacy policies all these websites and services have.
——- example 2 ———–
As an another example (I know, shameless plug, sorry) search after my name “Mircea Goia” on Google https://www.google.com/search?q=Mircea+Goia
On Google search engines I own at least the first page and my personal website always appears there (you can try other search engines too). And I am no celebrity.
Another good reason to control a part of the online info about you is that, beside regular folks, employers/recruiters are searching for you (when you change jobs, when you are already on the job, when you don’t expect it, etc).
You want to show them your best, right?
You want to show them who you are, what you have done, what’s your expertise, what are your interests/passions, how you can help them.
Yes, they can ask you but they will want to find out online info also (sometimes they don’t ask you first).
Let them find you! Let them come to you. This especially if you work in fields of arts (musician, moviemaker, actor, painter, graphic artist, etc), computer science (programming, web programming, web designing, web marketing, mobile programming and designing, etc), or other fields which are based on human interaction (real estate, even planners, etc,etc).
According to Dan Schawbel, a renowned personal branding guru, who wrote this article in Forbes, your online presence will replace your resume in 10 years.
Google is powerful and all present in our daily life. For now, it’s the closest thing to Skynet we have (at least, that’s what I think).
We use its services, from Google search, to Gmail, to now Google+, to the Google office suites, to Google Picasa, to Google Adwords, to Google Reader, to Google Youtube, to Google Voice and many other services (see http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/products/).
But, is this a good thing, entrusting our online presence with just one provider?
You know what they say: don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.
Yet, we are doing so with Google. Sure, they is the convenience in having all in one place…but do we think about the consequence of that?
When we place our bets on one stock people from the industry may say that we are crazy. If you win you win big but if you lose you also lose big. They would advise us to spread the risk on betting on more than one stock and, diligently, we are doing so (except some nut cases). It is wise, isn’t it?
Why we aren’t doing so with regard Google services? Why we are putting all the eggs in the same basket?
We all know that Google is using various algorithms to power its platform. As far as I read, they even it’s using algorithms to power their customer support. It’s a “miracle” when you interact with a real person at Google and probably you are doing so only after great effort from your part (if you are a celebrity then it’s not that hard to get their attention though but how many are like that?).
I just read today some news about Google shutting now many Google+ profiles and in some cases shutting down ALL those services associated with those Google+ accounts.
In the classic Google style (found the hard way by the people using Adsense/Adwords), no clear answer is provided.
So today, I got off a plane this afternoon to find a pile of tweets, emails, and blog comments asking whether it was true that my Google+ account had been suspended. When I managed to get some wifi and check, it turned out that it had been.
They are asking the ex-employee for ID verification. Kirrily “Skud” Robert continues,
It then asks me for my name (uh, don’t you know that already?), email (ditto), link to my profile (ditto), and asks me to provide documentation. I can either give them a scan of my photo ID (obscuring “personal information”, whatever that means), or links to places on the web that demonstrate that this is my name.
They suggest using Facebook (the site that allows Google founder Sergey Brin to go under a pseudonym, and whose own founder has a page for his dog) as evidence. I have something better, though, because I expected this to happen and I had already collated my evidence. I linked to that page and submitted the form.
It raised a chilling spectre in the background about what happens, exactly, when Google suspends your account.
Is it right to kill the access to your email or spreadsheets or Adwords services if you posted a not very decent picture on G+ or did something which didn’t comply well with their ToS? (and you have all these services tied to one email, one identity)
Let’s be frank, how many of you are even reading those ToS? How many are following it letter by letter? I am referring here not just at Google but at many other online services.
Is it right to kill the access to my mail, to my stuff in my apartment, my car, if I was late 2-3 days with my rent payment sometimes?
If you make a mistake on Facebook they have a system of warning you (especially if you add a lot of people in short time or send spam). If they suspend your account you will loose just that social networking account, you won’t loose your email or other services because on Facebook you are for social interaction, not for email and other services.
If you make a mistake on Flickr I don’t think Yahoo will kill your email or IM access as well (yeah, I haven’t read those ToS-es so I am only supposing).
That’s one reason I don’t have my main email on Google and I am not hosting my pictures on Picasa.
As much of our online life gets into hands of Google as more powerful Google become and as weaker we all become. It’s convenient, yes, but is it OK?
Why I am saying we are becoming weaker? Have you ever been dependent on only one company to provide a service for your house? (probably you are even now – electricity, TV/Internet, natural gas).
When your life depends on only one source you are becoming weaker because when that source cuts you off or goes bust you also get dragged down.
You don’t have the power because you don’t have an alternative (other than starting from scratch with maybe another provider – who can do this all over again and again every time they do a “mistake”). Your voice (sometimes critical voice) can be easily silenced by the threat of losing everything. You are more easily controlled.
If we put all of our eggs in one basket (Google) what happens when Google decides, using some algorithms mostly, to cut our online life short? To whom we complain, who would listen to us? The Machine would listen to us? (I am talking about regular people here, not celebrities – tech celebrities or other kind of celebrities)
Why we are afraid of diversifying and why this tendency of concentrating everything we have online in the hands of few companies?
One, it’s the convenience, I understand. We have less and less time to take care of things and we like others to do it for us.
But, I say it again, is this the right thing to do?
Do we become more and more some “robots”, easy to be controlled because of our “lack of time” to take care of ourselves?
PS.I picked Google for this article, but you can replace that with Facebook or other services which tries to have all your eggs in their basket. As a result, that’s why maybe apps like Whatsapp, Instagram took off?…because people were trying to diversify? (yes, I know, these two are now in Facebook’s yard).
Because I am not living in Silicon Valley and not in Hollywood but I am involved in web and film – to some degree here is what I found regarding these two fields of activity which seem different but they are not that much.
Web development and filmmaking have lots in common, as a process.
Just like a web startup, you can choose your market and genre for a movie.
Designing the tech spec of a web service/designing the use cases can be equal to writing/rewriting a script in filmmaking.
Breaking down the tech specs into manageable pieces can be equal to breaking down the movie script into the shooting script.
Prototyping a website (mockups) can be equal to storyboarding of a movie.
Choosing your web team can be like casting your actors and choosing the production team to make a movie.
Coding of the website can be equivalent of shooting a movie.
Alpha and beta testing of a website can be the test screening/preview screening of a movie.
Opening a website for the public use is releasing the movie into theaters/TV/DVD/online.
Marketing of a website (SEO, viral, paid, partnerships, etc) can equal to marketing/distribution of a movie.
The goal for both is to have the audience come and use/enjoy your product. Both are using the team work to reach that goal.
Now, there are some key differences between those two, in my opinion.
First, you are used to iterate and make a better web service while your audience is using it, however, you cannot do that with a movie once it’s released to the public. Once the movie is in the theaters/TV/DVD/online then that’s it. There is not Edit button, unless you are doing a remake 10-20-30 years after. Cross your fingers and hope the public (and maybe the critics) will like it so it will make enough money to allow you to repeat the stunt.That’s why in filmmaking failure is not an option (I don’t think you will ever encounter somebody in the film industry to tell you “fail fast, fail often”).
Nobody will tap your back and say “Don’t worry, you can do it again and again until you get it right. Here’s more money for that.” Blow it 2-3 times in a row and you may never make movies again in Hollywood (you might in another parts of the world maybe).
There were well known directors who blew it not 2-3 times but maybe 1 time and they have hard time getting financed for other movies (Paul Verhoeven, after Showgirls and Starship Troopers or Martin Brest after Meet Joe Black and Gigli – both of them started well with Robocop, Total Recall, Basic instinct or Beverly Hills Cop, Scent of a Woman).
The iteration process occurs in the script phase and sometime during filming, editing, test screenings and editing again. That’s why it takes so long for a script to reach the shooting phase, being written and re-written and re-written over again until only maybe the original idea remains, not the original script. It has to be perfect when the filming starts (of course, not always it happens).
Second, it takes more time to raise money for a film comparing to raising money for a web product. I am sure you will be frustrated by this if you have a mindset of a Silicon Valley/web entrepreneur.This is true especially for first timers (James Cameron or Steven Spielberg wouldn’t have this problem). Not only it takes a lot of time to raise the money, also it takes a lot of money to be raised.
If we compare web and film, you can build a web product or at least a minimum viable product for $25,000, let’s say…what you can do with that money in filmmaking? Not much (unless you want to do a short) – renting a RED camera can empty your pockets of a couple a thousands a week if not more – if you want a quality footage. Also, maybe you can convince your actors to work for free but not all your production team will work for free, unless you alone are your production team. You don’t find too many people willing to work for “equity” that often in the film industry.
For serious moviemaking $25,000 is a drop in a bucket. Low budget movies are measured in at least several hundreds thousands dollars per movie, going to several millions. A medium budget movie goes from several millions to 20-30 millions. A big budget movie is over 50 millions, just like well known Internet companies are raising series C,D financing. But you are raising that kind of money for one single movie and you don’t know yet if it will be successful or not (while when you are raising series C,D or more for a web company you already know that your product is successful).
Third, there is no comparison when it comes to manpower needed to make a movie and to build a startup. A startup starts lean, 2-5 people involved and sometimes only 1-2 people. It’s much easier to manage those people if you are a founder. A low budget movie already has tens of people involved, a medium budget maybe hundreds of people to manage. For a first timer that can be a nightmare, especially that he doesn’t know too much how all these departments and people work together – he may be the director/screenwriter but ne doesn’t necessarily know how the gaffers are working, or what the cinematographer does exactly or the sounds/makeup guys/girls do. He needs help, alot of it from people who alrealdy have experience.
If you are technical in a startup you have a quite good idea how your startup should be working technically, and your partner hopefully knows how the business should be working. You may have some time to learn some business side, your partner may have some time to learn the technical side. Being a director/screenwriter doesn’t give you too much time to learn everything and you will need people to show you the way.
A special attention you have to pay to your actors. If you are not Spielberg or Ridley Scott then they can make or break your movie (bad direction can lead them to bad performances, personality clashes can occur, etc). You may have to take some of flak from them (if you are unexperienced) or to swallow your pride to make things work. Sometime, you may need to be confrontational and that is known it’s not a strong point of someone coming from Silicon Valley. With so many people around be prepared to be “stabbed” in the back (not that in Silicon Valley doesn’t happen but I think it happens less than in Hollywood).
Fourth, while your startup doesn’t need to monetize early on to recoup the money for its investors a movie needs to be monetized right away. That creates tremendous pressure on you to put out there quality work which is monetizable (a bad movie will make less money, if all). You also have to have a strategy for that before finishing the movie (contracts with distributors, TV networks, DVD resales, online distributions – sometime you have to have these even before starting the work at the movie because, sometime, financing depends on these contracts).
In my opinion, moviemaking/filmmaking is harder than web entrepreneurship.
It takes longer (a movie can be in pre-production — script writing / rewriting, financing, casting, location scouting, etc — for years), put tremendous pressure on being successful right away (and that means making money with the movie or at least win some important festivals), failing is not encouraged and not tolerated too much (because of the investment put into it). It’s a cut throat business and no wonder that Hollywood is called a “crazy” place…
But filmmaking can be also beautiful, have its own rewards.
For one, you can create masterpieces which can live long time (even outlive you sometime) and be seen by millions if not billions of people, just like Intel was created 43 years ago and still going strong (or Microsoft, or Google, or Facebook).
You can create a film which can change lives, set trends, influence generations.
You can travel, see places, meet new people everytime you are making a movie. You will socialize more. And yes, you can become rich in doing so (or, at least, live confortably).
One example I will give here of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who succeded in Hollywood (albeit, he had lots of money when he went to Hollywood): Jeff Skoll.
He was the first employee and the first president of eBay.com. He remained president of eBay until Meg Whitmann came in 1998. He then went and founded the film production company Participant Media (www.participantmedia.com). Participant Media was and is involved in high profile movie productions like The Beaver, Contagion, Food Inc., The Cove, The Soloist, The Informant, Charlie Wilson’s War, An Inconvenient Truth, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck and others.
NOTE: This article was published first by me on Quora.com on Feb 23, 2011.
In fact, Silicon Valley seem to be moving towards Hollywood, recently. Or Hollywood seem to take notice what’s going on in Silicon Valley. However you want to take it.
There was reality TV series “Start-ups: Silicon Valley” by Bravo TV channel which ran with a so-so success (wasn’t renewed for the second season).
There is also a new TV series from HBO “Silicon Valley” which just started (an American sitcom that centers on six programmers who are living together and trying to make it big in Silicon Valley).
There is even a conference named “Hollywood meets Silicon Valley” (a two day conference exploring the growing convergence between Hollywood and Silicon Valley).
If we count the daughter of Larry Ellison (Oracle’s owner and CEO), Megan Ellison and his son, David Ellison – both owners and movie producers through their Annapurna Pictures (Megan) and Skydance Productions (David) – we see that Silicon Valley is involved also in Hollywood.
Hollywood and Silicon Valley have no other way but to get together and cooperate (Hollywood took some un-popular measures against some Silicon Valley startups which disrupted their business models).
Even Hollywood publications are acknowledging that.