Earlier today, 500 people meandered through Astroengine.com, and I was a little confused as to where they came from. I checked the social bookmarking sites, but this particular page wasn’t listed. Normally, an excess collection of visitors will appear from the aether after quasi-randomly plopping onto my server from StumbleUpon, or blasting my bandwidth during a Digg surge, but this traffic was different. The visitors found my website after clicking a link on a new website called A Portal To The Universe. I knew the site existed, but I hadn’t had the time to check it out. But it is awesome.
Astroengine’s regular readers will know that I have a fascination with the movers and shakers in the world of social media, and I have found various ways to use it for my evil intelligence gathering methods. Also, I’ve met some fantastic people along the way and made very good friends. This time last year, if someone said, “Ian, you will make real friendships online in 12 months,” I would have thought, a) OMG, I’ll be more of a geek than I am now! or b) that is the saddest thing I’ve heard in my life, I never want to see this laptop again.
But then, the web mist cleared, and I saw the light (with a little help from my good friend Avi). Social media isn’t about connecting with a bunch of strangers who have little care for who you are or what you do, it’s about forming social links with like-minded people who have a genuine interest in what you have to say. It’s not quantity (@aplusk-style; why would you want the responsibility of entertaining over a million followers on Twitter anyway?), it’s quality that counts.
Before I realized it, I was collaborating, communicating and collecting space news from real people with real science to distribute. I was tweeting, digging, stumbling, reddit-ting, mixxing and generally socializing my heart out. Along the way, certain platforms fell by the wayside, and now I’m currently enjoying Twitter (more than I should), StumbleUpon and pretty much all the Google applications. Facebook has been steady and so has Digg (for better or worse).
Building a community is the mainstay of social media, but what do you do if you have too much information flooding your bookmarks? You might use an RSS feed aggrigator, or you might filter your Twitter messages, but wouldn’t it be great if you had a website that helped you find the specific information you are looking for, and helped you find other like-minded people in an ocean of chatter?
But now it would appear space news is welcoming social media with open arms. Two exciting projects have appeared online, using the best information gathering techniques on Web 2.0. Finally, it would appear space science is getting the attention it deserves.
Portal to the Universe
In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009), the Portal to the Universe was launched at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (JENAM 2009), that took place at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, in April.
It is a fantastic news platform with featured news from a range of blogs and news sources. Real-time data is also available from many missions with a wealth of socially generated topics. In the spirit of social media, the Portal grabs community-based space news, displaying all the relevant news to the astronomy and space community. An amazing resource I have been using since it was launched.
Keeping up-to-date with cutting-edge astronomy and space science breakthroughs has just become that much easier, thanks to the Portal To The Universe, the latest Cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). As a high-tech website embracing Web 2.0 technologies, the Portal To The Universe aims to become a one-stop-shop for astronomy news. — Portal to the Universe
This website actually came as a surprise to me. Ricardo J. Tohmé, founder of AstroSpaceNow, contacted me on Twitter and mentioned they were starting up a social astronomy blog. Fortunately, I went to the site to check it out and was impressed with the design of the “coming soon” page. Feeling I’d be left out if I didn’t, I signed myself up for the newsletter and forgot about it.
Then, as promised, a week later, the site went live.
Looking at the pages of AstroSpaceNow, there is a very real Twitter/microblogging feel, and at first, I was a little cautious. There has been a massive surge of the bold-colour/bold-type websites over the last few months, so I didn’t want this to be just another Twitter aggregator with a space twist.
As it turns out, AstroSpaceNow is tremendously powerful. It uses the power and speed of Twitter to keep up to date with key space-related Twitter accounts. Each account is tagged and colour-coded so you can quickly scan through the lists. Each Twitter stream is categorized and the site refreshes every five minutes.
So, if you want to find out what the space news buzz is all about right now, and find the interesting people who are buzzing, this is the site for you. It’s another fantastic resource for space bloggers, as one glance at the pages of AstroSpaceNow and you know exactly what is going on.