Follow NASA Innovation on Twitter

Yesterday my group hosted a meeting at Microsoft Reston with the ILO Institute on “Innovation in Large Organizations.”  The ILO Institute always brings together great clients (FedEx, Time Warner, SAIC, IBM, US Postal Service) and yesterday was no exception, with an eclectic group from NIH, DoJ, NASA, RTI, GTSI and others. The discussion about that seeming oxymoron – innovation in large organizations – was fascinating, with lively threads about distinctions between Microsoft and Apple for example, and whether the latter is actually a technology company or a fashion company.  [My opinion: its success comes from its fashion/marketing leadership, not technical advances.]

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San Francisco’s Wild and Wacky World of Technology

Fact: San Francisco’s municipal IT continues to self-destruct, according to new reports this weekend.  According to an IDG story (San Francisco hunts for mystery device on city network), “With costs related to a rogue network administrator’s hijacking of the city’s network now estimated at $1 million, city officials say they are searching for a mysterious networking device hidden somewhere on the network. The device, referred to as a terminal server in court documents, appears to be a router that was installed to provide remote access to the city’s Fiber WAN network, which connects municipal computer and telecommunication systems throughout the city. City officials haven’t been able to log in to the device, however, because they do not have the username and password. In fact, the city’s Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS) isn’t even certain where the device is located, court filings state.”

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“The Largest Social Network Ever Analyzed”

FACT: According to ComScore data cited in a story in Monday’s FInancial Times, “Facebook, the fast-growing social network, has taken a significant lead over MySpace in visitor numbers for the first time… Facebook attracted more than 123 million unique visitors in May, an increase of 162 per cent over the same period last year… That compared with 114.6 million unique visitors at MySpace, Facebook’s leading rival, whose traffic grew just 5 per cent during the same period… The findings mark the first time that Facebook, launched in 2004, has taken a significant lead in unique visitors, [and] come at a time of change inside Facebook, as the one-time upstart attempts to transform itself into a leading media company.

ANALYSIS:  This week several members of the Microsoft Institute met in Redmond with a visiting friend from government, and among other talks we had a very interesting discussion with Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft Research principal researcher and manager.  Eric’s well known for his work in artificial intelligence and currently serves as president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

We talked about one of Eric’s recent projects for quite a while: “Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant-Messaging Network,” a project which has been described by his co-author as “the largest social network ever analyzed.” 

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Pentagon’s New Program for Innovation, in Context

FACT: According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the Pentagon has announced “the selection of six university professors who will form the first class of the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows Program. The professors will receive grants of up to $600,000 per year for up to five years to engage in basic research — essentially a bet by the Pentagon that they will make a discovery that proves vital to maintaining the superiority of the U.S. military.”

ANALYSIS: This new program is an innovation from DoD’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), and since tomorrow I’ll be at Ft. McNair for a two-day conference sponsored by DDR&E on Strategic Communications, I’ll congratulate John Young and his staff for the good idea.

But the Post article falls short in two ways: one immediate (it leaves out key information about next year’s program and the upcoming deadline!) and one longer-term (it ignores the overall context of federal support for R&D).  I’ll fill in the blanks below.

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Do Voters Love the Candidates… or their Fonts?

FACT:  John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have chosen distinctively different typeface fonts for their campaign posters, bumper stickers, and TV-ad logos. 

font-gotham-obama.jpgObama uses sans serif Gotham.  McCain uses sans serif Optima. Only Clinton uses a serif, New Baskerville.  According to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, many typographers are following the usage choices closely, and now some political analysts are finding message in the medium; Obama’s choice is “the hot font of 2008,” Clinton’s font flourishes “conjure trustworthiness,” while McCain’s communicates an “old-fashioned yet quirky vibe.”

ANALYSIS:  Anyone who remembers their first experience with a personal computer’s word-processing program recalls that initial thrill when the realization hit: I can choose any font? I can choose any font!!!

Billions of funky emails, resumes, and yard-sale posters later, we’re all perhaps jaded by the profusion of font styles, and tend to have built up biases and defenses regarding certain looks.

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