“Or, How My Faith in My Fellow Man Was Restored Because of Twitter.”

While I haven’t posted anything on this blog, I have been Tweeting. To a much lesser extent, I have also been updating my Facebook page. Why? Well, I’ve been busy and Tweeting is like the snack cakes of blogging. It’s easy (gotta love those iPhone apps) and it’s just easier to fill 140 characters with something rather than blog, at least in my case. As the family and local “tech guy” (finally graduating from PC guy, AV guy, and techie) I have tried to explain Tweeting to many people. Microblogging? Timeshifted Texting (my fave) or the new real time replacement for People Magazine? It’s all those. All the more interesting and powerful tools ever created in the world could be put to different purposes and used effectively by different trades people. Think about the hammer. Put a nail in to a board? Of course! Break open a rock on the Moon? Now we’re talking. Basically the same tool… different users, different uses. Twitter is like that to me. I think it’s this multifacidness that just plain stumps a lot of people.

“To share or not to share.”  

Tweeting like Facebook, a blog or most any form of social networking tool can allow a person to share just about anything they want, whenever they want, to the entire world. This puts off a lot of people and companies when it comes to social media in general. I have personally flip flopped on the amount of information I want to share at different times over the past 15+ years. Yes.. I had my first “home page” aka blog, while I was working for Indiana University in the early 90′s. Over time I have found more of a comfort level with sharing bits and pieces of my life with complete, and utter strangers. For those who have known me (in person) for sometime, this may not be a total shock. I have a more extroverted personality and as they say, I have a gift for the gab. I’m a story teller. So.. details about me come out. It’s part of who I am. Online though, in all these dark and strange alleyways off the ol Super Information Highway (the Internets for you younger readers) is sometimes a frightening place still and people and companies both want to avoid going into these shadowy areas or being percieved as having ever ventured there. Guilt by association? A big fear for people and corporations a like. It’s this assocation or trail of connections that is both the incredible and awesome power of social media today as well as it’s biggest hurdle. Why?

“I don’t want my Mom reading this…”  

Well, in this case, I actually do. But this statement and fear can also be read “I don’t want my investors/stock holders reading this…” as well. What “this” is that people don’t want their Moms or stock holders reading, isn’t a news article, it can be ANYTHING posted outside the comfort and control of a press room, or one’s own writing. This is very scary stuff for a lot of people, and again, companies. People like to create a persona and magange it. This social media stuff can get out of hand. This is where my story really begins and where the power of social media (and people) can be seen!

“Space Geek” 

Oh I love space. I’m a geek’s geek and a nerd’s nerd. These things I cannot deny. I was born one day before Apollo 16 landed on the Moon. The first thing I remember building out of Lego as a 5 year old was the Viking Mars Lander (it was July 4, 1976 when it landed, my 5th birthday was later that July). My den/home theater/man cave is a shrine to manned space flight.  I say all of this to set the stage for what comes next. See, I’m not the only space geek out there. Until recently, I didn’t know there were conventions for fans like us. Sure I’ve been to comic book conversions and a sci-fi convention or two (who’s counting?) What I did know, from Twitter, is that there was an astronaut by the name of Michael J. Massimino, aka, @Astro_Mike.

From @Astro_Mike I found: @NASA @NASA_EDGE @bethbeck @CatherineQ @TaviGreiner @ericmblog @Clearedthetower @saburitz @flight0001 @flyingjenny @moonrangerlaura @salottimc @comtnclimr @txflygirl @howellspace @absolutspaceguy @genejm29 @apacheman @marsroverdriver @absolutspacegrl. Some of these people are just fans, others are NASA employees, contractors, etc. All interesting people or organizations I’ve been able to have conversations with and feed my passion and curiosity about manned space flight. It was through them that I learned about all the incredible events of the past few days.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 1″  

Somehow I missed completely, the opportunity to signup for the first ever NASA sponsored “TweetUp” at NASA Headquarters on July 21. Astro_Mike along with the entire STS-125 crew were going to be there. I missed it. Gone. However, @ericmblog was kind enough to offer me a guest seat. He had signed up and was allowed one guest. Me. A complete stranger, save for our shared interested in manned space flight and conversations in broken 140 character long chunks. I had my reason to go to Washington DC for a few days of vacation.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 2″

For the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, there were incredible events planned for this past week by NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. Every year the NASM hold the Glenn Lecture series. This year’s speakers were the entire Apollo 11 crew and Deke Slayton. As it turns out Senator John Glenn, introduced the lecture. Did I have tickets? No. The sign up had been almost a month earlier and tickets given out by lottery. 7000 people signed up, only a few hundred seats were available. @flyingjenny was unable to attend and offered her four tickets up. Did I get there in time? Nope. Some guy from across Michigan got all four. @ericmblog, within a matter of moments offered me a ticket (I had been second to respond to @flyingjenny). I now had my second, incredible reason to go to DC. All through the kindness of strangers.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 3″

On July 19th, at the NASM, Apollo astronauts Al Bean (Apollo 12), Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins (both Apollo 11) were having their recent books signed. I got to the museum just as it was opening and stood in line for… hours. Almost four hours actually. I had run out of time. The line to have books signed was cut short. I had purchased two sets of each books in hopes for a few signatures from some of my childhood (and adulthood) hereos. Nope. Didn’t happen. What did happen is that @ericmblog ‘s wife took a set of my books and instead of having a set of her own signed, had mine instead. I met Eric and his wife while standing in line that mornining. Sure, we had tweeted, but the first time I spoke face to face to them was there in line at the museum.

“And Now for the Lesson…”

I was able to attend some of the most memorable and historic events because of strangers. People I hardly knew but shared common interests. My first attempt to thank these people for their wonderful gifts seem paltry compared to what they did for me. @ericmblog and his wife @saburitz were treated to dinner at the Capital Grille and @flyingjenny is getting a signed Al Bean book. Now, if you’re a company or individual wondering about a benefit of social media, please take away the following learning from my story…
Connecting with people who share your interests or passions is never a bad thing.

With enough conversation and sharing of information about yourself, (I had to give @ericmblog my contact information at some point), you can get to know the people behind the @. Given the right opportunity, these people can demonstrate their amazing knowledge. @ericmblog and I conversed at length about new launch systems as well as photography. They can also share their kindness and support. I now consider these people and others I’ve met through these past few days as friends. A word I and others do not use lightly or casually.

In the end, isn’t this what people and companies both want out of social media?

Images from my recent adventure:

Glenn Lecture at NASM and Apollo 11 Event at Newseum 

NASA’s first Tweetup with STS-125 crew