Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the thousands of employees in the history of NASA, the American space program has led the charge for the world over the past fifty years. Although they have been forced to scale back and cut budgets in recent years, NASA programs continue to explore Mars and support our vast network of satellites. But while our space program takes pride is standing at the very edge of technological innovation and increasing mankind’s potential, their internet savvy has left lots to be desired. NASA is giving its official website a facelift for the first time in a half decade. And it’s using crowdsourcing to design the strategy. NASA partnered with IdeaScale, a platform that engages in crowdsourced user interaction to accept suggestions for the new site.
NASA’s push for the new website launched last week, and they will accept any and all suggestions up until the 19th of December. According to their project page on IdeaScale, the goal is to truly understand what today’s fan of NASA is looking for. The organization posted several questions, looking for details about how people interact with NASA on the internet, where they receive updates about space program projects and what overall is currently missing. Though the initiative is quite new NASA is already receiving a great deal of data. More than 1,250 people have logged close to 300 suggestions, and those suggestions have encouraged more than 400 comments.
Beyond just being a portal for new ideas, the IdeaScale platform also allows people to vote on user-generated ideas. The thumbs-up or thumbs-down method gives NASA a way to gauge popularity, and hopefully determine which ideas should be more closely considered. More than 9,000 votes have been logged already, with the top vote-getter earning almost 500 marks of approval. That support was given to the suggestion that the public receive access to more of the raw data NASA accrues. Other ideas that have received public support are the development of a clock counting down major launches and events, a series of educational videos on subjects appropriate to NASA and a live feed broadcasting from the International Space Station.
While it is an incredible resource for a large organization, seeking this level of consumer interaction online isn’t a new initiative. In fact, this isn’t even NASA’s first partnership with IdeaScale on crowdsourcing. Earlier this year they used the site to poll the general public on their Mars exploration efforts, looking to gauge interest level and develop some anticipation in advance of the rover Curiosity coming down on our planetary neighbor. And NASA isn’t alone within the federal government in this approach either. The Office of Management and Budget has taken to IdeaScale in conjunction with their SAVE Awards. That program looks to connect with government employees and crowdsource ideas for increasing the efficiency of programs and federal organizations. The state of Washington even used IdeaScale to develop ideas that would improve the state budget back in 2010. The winning idea at that time was the legalization of marijuana, which now can be seen as a precursor of what was to come.
NASA may no longer enjoy the focus and funding within the federal government that it did back in the “space race” days, but their efforts continue to capture the public imagination. They were able to develop and release an online multiplayer game with money from a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. And NASA continues to back a citizen science program called Planet Hunters which has actually come up with some incredible work so far. So after a solid month on IdeaScale, they probably won’t have to rely on some fancy gimmicks from an award-winning Perth web design company to define their new site. The ideas will come from those most interested, which should ensure success.