I love the Curiosity Rover, and unconverged Comms at NASA

Here at the secret mountain laboratory of Greenpeace International, we set out some time ago to integrate our digital communications with our traditional channels. I’d set up a “web team” back in the early 00s which originally had a mission of slinging HTML onto a website, but which over the years had become responsible for our YouTube channel, social media, online photos, the press section at www.greenpeace.org, and eventually all things “on the internet” — despite the fact that we had a video unit, a press desk, a photo desk — all doing distribution by traditional channels. When Inge Wallage came on as our Comms Director, she spotted the fact that it was time to converge: digital was no longer the backroom add-on, it was an integral part of all our communications.

This is probably a common phenom in the evolution of many communication departments over the last decade, but every now and then I see evidence of that old left-hand right-hand problem where you can really tell that one part of an organisation just didn’t get the memo that it’s 2012.

Take NASA. I am so in love with whoever is tweeting on behalf of the @MarsCuriosty rover, currently my favorite inanimate object on twitter. (Though I’m also highly appreciative of The Fake iTunes 10 icon, and @MyToaster).

Who wouldn’t love the cheeky, clued up vibe coming from the Martian surface?

Today’s wake up song: “Digging in the Dirt” by Peter Gabriel. Because no song says “Digging in the Regolith.” <sigh>
@MarsCuriosity
Curiosity Rover

A River Ran Through It. I found evidence of an ancient streambed on Mars, similar to some on Earth http://t.co/wfbpp7BW
@MarsCuriosity
Curiosity Rover

Road trip! I covered 32 meters of open Martian road yesterday (sol 38). Every long drive needs a soundtrack. Any suggestions?
@MarsCuriosity
Curiosity Rover

Sadly, the one I thought the best was actually from a parody account, now closed:

Nasa just upgraded me to IOS 6 — apparently I’m in Norway.”

Yesterday we get the news that our intrepid traveler became the MAYOR OF MARS ON FOURSQUARE!!! I just find that brilliant and awesome, and I see the news spreading on Twitter faster than a dust storm on Phobos. 

Of course, the younger folks at JPL and NASA knew it was news, so I imagine someone woke up a press officer in NASA’s traditional media department and carefully explained what Foursquare was so the Space Agency could issue this release:

NASA’S Curiosity Rover Checks-In on Mars Using Foursquare

WASHINGTONNASA’s Curiosity Mars rover checked in on Mars Wednesday using the mobile application Foursquare. This marks the first check-in on another planet. Users on Foursquare can keep up with Curiosity as the rover checks in at key locations and posts photos and tips, all while exploring the Red Planet.

NASA is using Foursquare as a tool to share the rover’s new locations while exploring Mars,” said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will help to involve the public with the mission and give them a sense of the rover’s travels through Gale Crater.”

After landing in Gale Crater last month, Curiosity began a planned 23-month mission that includes some of Mars’ most intriguing scientific destinations. Curiosity is roving toward Mount Sharp, a mountain about 3 miles (5 kilometers) tall. The rover is conducting experiments along the way, seeking clues in the rocks and soil that would indicate whether Mars ever was capable of supporting microbial life. It is taking and sharing pictures of the trip.

Back here on Earth, Foursquare users will be able to earn a Curiosity-themed badge on the social media platform for check-ins at locations that generate an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Available late this year, this new badge will encourage Foursquare users to explore science centers, laboratories and museums that piqué scientific curiosity.

NASA has been on Foursquare since 2010 through a strategic partnership with the platform. This partnership, launched with astronaut Doug Wheelock’s first-ever check-in from the International Space Station, has allowed users to connect with NASA and enabled them to explore the universe and re-discover Earth.

The partnership launched the NASA Explorer badge for Foursquare users, encouraging them to explore NASA-related locations across the country. It also included the launch of a NASA Foursquare page, where the agency provides official tips and information about the nation’s space program.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its Curiosity rover for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

Notice what’s missing? The most essential piece of information for anyone who actually WANTS to “Keep up with curiosity as the rover checks in”: the Rover’s user handle on Foursquare, MarsCuriosity. The release even fails to mention the Rover’s twitter handle, @marscuriosty.

Only a journalist and editor combo who aren’t on Foursquare, or Twitter, would miss that. Because as that little rover knows, news these days isn’t just about the Who, What, Where, When: it’s about the “How do I connect.”

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