Home For NASA Employees, It’s “Spacebook” Not Facebook

For NASA Employees, It’s “Spacebook” Not Facebook

At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, employees can now log on to their own intranet portal designed for group collaboration, social bookmarking, and general employee-to-employee interaction. The site, which mimics the social networking phenomenon Facebook, is cleverly called…you guessed it: “Spacebook.”

Of course, when implementing a social networking service in a government agency such as NASA, there were a number of concerns that had to first be addressed. As Linda Cureton, Goddard’s chief information officer, notes on her blog, “our legal folks wanted to make sure that we met our policy and regulatory obligations; our IT security folks wanted to make sure that we didn’t expose NASA data or NASA networks to any additional risks; and finally our Office of Human Capital people wanted to make sure that we were all well-behaved and personally accountable.”

Somehow, the agency made it through all those challenges and was able to get Spacebook up-and-running just this week. As on Facebook, users on Spacebook will be able to maintain their own user profiles which list their expertise and personal interests. They can also publish their status, share files, and friend (follow) other Spacebook users’ activity. Not only will this help employees connect with each other more easily than ever before, Cureton believes the social networking will lead to productivity increases as well…especially now as hiring freezes are impacting the center. “With the constraints we’ve had in hiring and our workforce issues, you want to know who knows what, such as experts on batteries or encryption,” Cureton said. “There may be certain skills, abilities and talents that exist throughout the center, and you want to be able to tap into that knowledge to know areas of expertise of people.”

In order for Spacebook to have an initial draw for its users, Goddard’s Web Manager, Emma Antunes, made sure there was some user-generated content already in place at launch time. This content included four forums: a management announcement board, a general discussion group, a forum for new employees, and an equipment exchange forum, which Antunes called “a Craigslist for equipment.”

In the future, Spacebook may add blogs and a “My Workspace” area where users can add widgets and other mashups. They’re also considering integrating their Spacebook portal with the Sharepoint social networking sites currently in use at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Kennedy Space Center.

Here’s an early prototype of what Spacebook looked like while under development. We imagine the final version is a lot more polished but NASA hasn’t released any images of it.

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