I do realize that one hallmark of a dying organization is the generation a mission statement. I guess that is because if the mission isn't evident to begin with, then the organization may be doomed from the start anyway, and a later declaration of purpose, however bold, is unlikely to save it.
I do not see the Asterisk as doomed. The huge anchor link from APOD helps sustain it, along with its dedicated group of posters and administrators. Nevertheless, a starship does need a destination(s), and with others I have been wondering where the Asterisk is going, at times. So this thread is a attempt to hash this out.
Why the Asterisk was Created
Perhaps it is useful, in figuring out where the Asterisk is going, to review where it has been. The Asterisk was created in 2005 for a number of reasons. First, people kept sending me email wanting to discuss that day's APOD with them. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to discuss it with everyone. When I did have a discussion, many times another email would arrive a bit later, knowing nothing of the other emailer, and I would find myself cutting and pasting from the last email. This did not seem efficient.
It occurred to me that many emailers would be just as happy discussing that day's APOD with someone intelligent other than me (or Jerry). It also occurred to me that, many times, the emailer was really interested in a wider audience than just me. I had no way to grant that, since APODs are only rarely changed in any significant manner after they are posted.
It was also evident in 2005 that "social media" was becoming noticeably more prominent. Software for discussion had become free, more stable, and more widely available. So, like in 1996 when APOD added its "Search" function, it just seemed the time, in 2005, to add a Discuss function.
Another supporting factor was that I had just started a discussion board for my (then) Night Sky Live sky monitoring project. This was done in 2004 July and was the beginning of the Night Sky Live discussion board, which later was renamed in 2005 to be The Asterisk. Adding a new forum to the Night Sky Live board for APOD was simple. So that explains the Asterisk's strange URL. Things then started up at the Asterisk and remained simple until serious amounts of spam starting showing up -- but that's another story!
Today, of course, the Asterisk is a small but vibrant community of which I am only one part. Over the past few months, this community survived the pruning of some out-of-date forums, a change to a starship motif, and the addition of several new forums. I have realized that the Asterisk will never become as popular as APOD, but that even as a small board it can be quite a lot of fun and an educational place for people to spend their time, and for me to spend my time as well. As for the initial concerns, The Asterisk can actually make my APOD-spent time more efficient by engaging perspective emailers in intelligent discussion and answering APOD-related questions.
In my view, the Asterisk is as strong as ever. But what does the rest of the Asterisk community get out of the Asterisk? Surely something or y'all wouldn't be here. So, where do we collectively want the Asterisk to go?
Possible bullet points in a mission statement:
* To sustain a vibrant online community where intelligent people can discuss interesting and topical issues involving astronomy and space.
* To provide an online place where people can discuss Astronomy Pictures of the Day.
* To provide an online place where questions about APODs or astronomy in general can be posed at any level and met with sincere attempts to answer them intelligently.
That's all I have just now. Yes, all you got from reading this long post was three short bullet points. And of those, only the first one is Asterisk centric, whereas the last two are APOD centric. Thoughts?
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These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission:
- to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations;
to boldly go where no man has gone before.
The Planetary Society, founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman:
"To inspire the people of Earth to explore other worlds, understand our own, and seek life elsewhere."
<<From 2002, NASA’s mission statement, used in budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.” In early February 2006, the statement was altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. Some outside observers believe the change was intended to preserve the civilian nature of the agency, while others suspected it was related to criticism of government policy on global warming by NASA scientists like James E. Hansen. NASA officials have denied any connection to the latter, pointing to new priorities for space exploration. NASA's motto is "For the benefit of all". The chair and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs wrote NASA Administrator Griffin on July 31, 2006 expressing concerns about the change. NASA also canceled or delayed a number of earth science missions in 2006.>>
<<The Flat Earth Society (also known as the International Flat Earth Society or the International Flat Earth Research Society) is an organization that seeks to further the belief that the Earth is flat rather than a sphere. :
To carefully observe, think freely, rediscover forgotten fact and oppose theoretical dogmatic assumptions. We maintain that what is called 'Science' today and 'scientists' consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of gibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts, technology and inventions, tall buildings and fast cars, airplanes and other Real and Good things in life; technology is not in any way related to the web of idiotic scientific theory.>>