Social networking has started spreading through space. The Phoenix Lander (which I suspect you may perhaps have heard of) has its very own Twitter account, and thousands are already following its far flung messages.
Twitter is status-message network, stripping down the entire web community scene to the simple message "What are you doing now?" And if anybody has a more interesting answer to that than the Phoenix they're either lying or on fire. The 140 character limit enforces sharp, interesting updates (countering the endless verbiage that plagues sites like livejournal), while allowing links to other interesting content - like, for example, brand new images of the Martian surface.
Of course the Lander itself isn't SMSing across the solar system - it's a little busy examining a planet - so somebody at NASA is writing on its behalf. The result is a fascinating news ticker combining just the right combination of amazing information, a cute helpful tone, and thoughtful responses to questions. The characterization of the probe is a nice touch, but I'm already trepidating the tearful farewell (in a few months at most when the Martian winter freezes the Phoenix). I'm sure the messages will stay chipper until last call, but if you can think of something sadder than a friend going cold and silent over a hundred million miles from home then you should probably get psychological help.
It's great to see such excellent use of the latest applications. Government institutions trying to get with it usually turn out like a Tyrannosaur trying to high-five: at best a failure, at worst a painful tragedy. NASA, however, are by definition an organization composed of rocket scientists and it turns out they're pretty on the technological ball.
So if you're horrified that so many people use a revolution in communications computing to talk about the sandwich they just had, follow @MarsPhoenix and raise your Twitter IQ. I get a huge kick out of firing up my twitterstream (@lukemckinney) in the morning and finding that my buddy flungabunga is continuing to rock Sydney, willowbl00's head has changed color again, oh and by the way WE PUT SOMETHING ON MARS AND IT'S TALKING TO THE INTERNET.
Posted by Luke McKinney.
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