Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

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neufer
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"There are actually a lot of layers to these jokes"

Post by neufer » Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:20 pm

rstevenson wrote:
I hadn't known about BAUT before it was mentioned here, so I just spent an hour having a look around. I'll definitely be going back, mostly because of the specific different sub-forums but also because of the general level of discussion. (There's much less of the I'm really funny so I'm going to make a joke in every thread attitude that is unfortunately rife here on the good ship Asterisk.)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/09/17/ST2010091702545.html wrote:
Secretary of stand-up: Corny Washington jokes? Robert Gates has a million of 'em.
By Greg Jaffe Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010; 11:45 PM

<<Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates often tells people that if they really want to know what he thinks, they should read his speeches "very carefully." Yet even a cursory reading of his collected oratory reveals this undeniable truth: Gates loves Washington jokes - very, very bad Washington jokes.

Last month, Gates, clad in a dark suit, white shirt and navy tie - the unofficial uniform of the Washington bureaucrat - stood before a capacity crowd at the Marines' Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco. He gripped the lectern with both hands and peered into the sold-out auditorium. "It's a pleasure to be with you in San Francisco," Gates said in a deadpan reminiscent of W.C. Fields. "But then, I have to confess, it's a pleasure to be anywhere but Washington, D.C. - a place where so many people are lost in thought because it is such unfamiliar territory." The audience laughed and clapped. Gates, buoyed by the reaction, pressed ahead: "Where people say, 'I'll double-cross that bridge when I get to it.' "

Gates's anti-Washington jokes, which sound as though they were cribbed from an old issue of Reader's Digest, are a staple of just about every speech the defense secretary gives outside Washington. His ordinarily loyal staffers roll their eyes at his one-liners. The press corps groans. Gates's speechwriters have refused to include the jokes in his speeches. Gates puts them in.

One might argue that Gates's lowbrow, anti-Washington humor reflects a deeply sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the nation's capital. To excel in Washington, it's sometimes better not to be seen as too eager to be part of Washington. The Pentagon's top spokesman rejects this theory. "The jokes do not disguise some secret fondness for Washington," said Geoff Morrell, a native Washingtonian. Still, he conceded that the jokes offer some insight into the way Gates operates. "There are actually a lot of layers to these jokes," he said.

In Gates's most personal and passionate speeches to the military's service academies, he has lavished praise on the department's heretics who risked their careers to force change. "At some point in your career, each of you will surely work for a jackass; we all have," Gates told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy this spring. "But that doesn't make taking a stand any less necessary for the sake of our country."

Defenders of Gates's jokes maintain that the defense secretary knows his audience. "Real live people like hearing what they think is a good joke over and over again, no matter how corny," said one senior military official who worked for Gates and, like many in Washington, was reluctant to admit publicly he doesn't always laugh at his boss's jokes. "Furthermore, what may seem corny here may not be so corny in Peoria." Morrell agreed. "To some, the jokes may seem old and stale. They may fall flat in Washington. But without fail, they work on the road," he said, while emphasizing that Washingtonians shouldn't take offense.

Earlier this spring Gates traveled to Kansas, where he spoke before a crowd of about 500 people at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. A middle school band warmed up the crowd with jazz standards from the 1950s. A Boy Scout honor guard held down his right flank. "It's always a treat to be someplace other than Washington, D.C.," Gates said. "The only place where, as I like to say, you can see a prominent person walking down Lover's Lane holding his own hand." The audience hooted with laughter.

The defense secretary's jokes have even won over some fans inside the Beltway. A few weeks ago, Tim Farley, the host of Sirius-XM radio's public affairs channel, patched together audio of Gates's anti-Washington shtick with an announcer's booming voice and the sounds of a boisterous comedy club audience. "He's on a farewell tour," the announcer intones. "And he's taking heavily armed comedy to your town!" Farley said he was tickled at the thought of the white-haired, sober-minded Gates fishing for laughs in a smoky club. "It's kind of like Yoda going on a comedy tour," said Farley. He calls the segment "SecDef Comedy Jam 2010," a play on the military's shorthand name for the secretary of defense.

In the latter days of his tenure, Gates has even begun experimenting with some new material. On his way to Iraq and Afghanistan last month, the Pentagon chief stopped in Milwaukee to deliver a speech at the American Legion National Convention. "It's my pleasure to be with the American Legion," Gates told the crowd of aging veterans. "Of course, I would have to tell you it's a pleasure to be away from Washington. D.C. - a town all too clearly built on a swamp and in so many ways still a swamp."

The press corps groaned. Gates's staffers rolled their eyes. The crowd roared with approval.>>
Art Neuendorffer

JeanTate
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by JeanTate » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:46 pm

Having been here for some time now, I think the main challenge is to considerably increase the number of people who make at least a visit.

In other words, we are small for the same reason that, many decades ago, coal-miners didn't have telephones: because coal-miners didn't have telephones (if you were a coal-miner, you lived in a very tightly-knit community, and if you had a phone, who would you call?). Today it's called the network effect - large networks tend to grow extremely fast, but small ones often remain very small.

By having thousands of newbies 'drop in', dozens or hundreds will stay, and become regular members of this community.

Now APOD is one of the highest traffic sites on the internet, wrt astronomy (it's #1), and even science in general. So there are a very large number of potential community members; why don't they drop in here?

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neufer
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by neufer » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:42 pm

JeanTate wrote:
Having been here for some time now, I think the main challenge is to considerably increase the number of people who make at least a visit.

In other words, we are small for the same reason that, many decades ago, coal-miners didn't have telephones: because coal-miners didn't have telephones (if you were a coal-miner, you lived in a very tightly-knit community, and if you had a phone, who would you call?).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimi_Heselden wrote:
Image
<<James William "Jimi" Heselden OBE (1948 – September 27, 2010) was a British entrepreneur. A former coal miner, Heselden made his fortune manufacturing the Hesco bastion barrier system. In 2010 he bought Segway Inc., maker of the Segway personal transport system. Heselden was killed in 2010 from injuries apparently sustained while riding a Segway. His fortune was estimated at £166 million and he was ranked 395th in the Sunday Times Rich List.

Heselden grew up in the Halton Moor district of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Aged 15, Heselden left school to work at collieries in Temple Newsam and Lofthouse. He lost his job in the wave of redundancies that followed the 1984-5 miners' strike and spent his redundancy money developing and patenting a concertina wire mesh and fabric container to be used for building flood management and to limit erosion. Heselden founded Hesco Bastion Ltd. to manufacture these; filled with sand or earth they quickly found favour with the armies of several countries, as they allowed effective blast walls, barriers, and revetments to be quickly constructed. Made in Hesco's factory in Leeds, these where shipped (flat-packed) in great numbers to conflict zones including Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

In 2008 Heselden donated £1.5 million to the Help For Heroes fund through a charity auction bid for nine people to fly with the Red Arrows. and in the same year set up the Leeds Community Foundation in his home city with a £10 million donation. A further £3 million was added to the foundation in 2009 and an additional £10 million in 2010.

At 11:40 a.m. on 27 September 2010, West Yorkshire Police received reports of a man falling 30 feet into the River Wharfe, at the village of Thorp Arch near Boston Spa, apparently having fallen from the cliffs above. A Segway vehicle was recovered and Heselden was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Investigators said "at this time we do not believe the death to be suspicious" and were investigating as to "whether there was a fault with his particular machine or it was driver error".>>
Art Neuendorffer

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RJN
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by RJN » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:01 pm

By having thousands of newbies 'drop in', dozens or hundreds will stay, and become regular members of this community.
Frequently, the main NASA APOD page will point directly into the Asterisk, causing thousands of viewers to drop in. This is known by the number of "views" that some posts get. But very few of them will stay to post comments. With an "APOD hook" link, the Asterisk may even have hundreds of people voting in one of our polls. But very few of them will stay to post comments. So the Asterisk is indeed trying to leverage the popularity of APOD, but this is not resulting in scores of people staying to post comments.

What has developed on the Asterisk is a dedicated group of intelligent "officers" that discuss astronomy and help APOD in several ways. And this now includes you! Thanks for joining.

- RJN

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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by JeanTate » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:41 pm

RJN wrote:
By having thousands of newbies 'drop in', dozens or hundreds will stay, and become regular members of this community.
Frequently, the main NASA APOD page will point directly into the Asterisk, causing thousands of viewers to drop in. This is known by the number of "views" that some posts get. But very few of them will stay to post comments. With an "APOD hook" link, the Asterisk may even have hundreds of people voting in one of our polls. But very few of them will stay to post comments. So the Asterisk is indeed trying to leverage the popularity of APOD, but this is not resulting in scores of people staying to post comments.

What has developed on the Asterisk is a dedicated group of intelligent "officers" that discuss astronomy and help APOD in several ways. And this now includes you! Thanks for joining.

- RJN
I see, and thanks for the welcome to the officers' club! :D

Let me try another tack then: what is it that the officers think makes Starship Asterisk* different, say from BAUT or the Space.com forum?

What is it about this forum that we'd *like* to be different, even if perhaps it isn't yet?

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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by JeanTate » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:01 pm

Aesthetics and Astronomy: Studying the public's perception and understanding of non-traditional imagery from space is a report on research into, well, the public's perception and understanding of non-traditional imagery from space!

Here's the abstract:
Some 400 years after Galileo, modern telescopes have enabled humanity to "see" what the natural eye cannot. Astronomical images today contain information about incredibly large objects located across vast distances and reveal information found in "invisible" radiation ranging from radio waves to X-rays. The current generation of telescopes has created an explosion of images available for the public to explore. This has, importantly, coincided with the maturation of the Internet. Every major telescope has a web site, often with an extensive gallery of images. New and free downloadable tools exist for members of the public to explore astronomical data and even create their own images. In short, a new era of an accessible universe has been entered, in which the public can participate and explore like never before. But there is a severe lack of scholarly and robust studies to probe how people - especially non-experts - perceive these images and the information they attempt to convey. Most astronomical images for the public have been processed (e.g., color choices, artifact removal, smoothing, cropping/field-of-view shown) to strike a balance between the science being highlighted and the aesthetics designed to engage the public. However, the extent to which these choices affect perception and comprehension is, at best, poorly understood. The goal of the studies presented here was to begin a program of research to better understand how people perceive astronomical images, and how such images, and the explanatory material that accompanies them, can best be presented to the public in terms of understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the images and the science that underlies them.
The study used some APODs, and also quotes Dr Nemiroff on its traffic.

I think there may be some valuable pointers to how we might make Starship Asterisk* more attractive to newbies.

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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by tekic545 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:27 pm

Starship Asterisk looks fairly popular to me, but here are a couple thoughts on why it's not even more popular.

One is the "Discuss" header on APOD. That implies discussion only of APODs, a very limited prospect. I signed up a couple years ago to discuss a particular APOD, and failed to notice the subsequent, much more user-friendly redesign of the site -- and its breadth.

Maybe at least substitute "Forums" in the header, to indicate the greater breadth of discussion available. Or better yet, "Starship Forums" to pique curiosity.

The other reason, I fear, is beyond the control of the Starship crew. I suspect that the most obsessive astronuts are astro-imagers (like myself.) But collectively, astroimagers seem mainly drawn by the technical challenge of an extreme form of nature photography, and less by the nature of the objects they're imaging. Kind of like big game hunters seeking trophies, with relatively little interest in, say, the evolution of exotic ungulates.

For evidence, witness huge traffic flow on CloudyNights, which is (almost) all about equipment and technique, not astronomy.

That said, Starship Asterisk is a great site. Just needs, IMHO, a little more marketing. (But not too much, lest you attract the crazies. That is, the uninformed crazies.)

Oh, and some of us who are unfamiliar with BBCode may find its presence slightly intimidating. Of course, I suppose we could learn...

Bob

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neufer
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by neufer » Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:25 pm

tekic545 wrote:
Starship Asterisk is a great site. Just needs, IMHO, a little more marketing.

(But not too much, lest you attract the crazies. That is, the uninformed crazies.)
Thanks for clarifying that, Bob. (I think. :-? )
tekic545 wrote:
Oh, and some of us who are unfamiliar with BBCode may find its presence slightly intimidating.

Of course, I suppose we could learn...
Practice, practice, practice...
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by tekic545 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:21 pm

To be clearer, some of the most interesting people I know qualify as informed crazies. But maybe that's a function of my journalism background.

Bob

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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by bystander » Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:14 pm

tekic545 wrote:Oh, and some of us who are unfamiliar with BBCode may find its presence slightly intimidating. Of course, I suppose we could learn...
http://asterisk.apod.com/faq.php?mode=bbcode
http://asterisk.apod.com/vie ... 28&t=20507
neufer wrote:Practice, practice, practice...
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alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
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Re: Why isn't the Asterisk more popular?

Post by owlice » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:41 pm

JeanTate wrote:Aesthetics and Astronomy: Studying the public's perception and understanding of non-traditional imagery from space is a report on research into, well, the public's perception and understanding of non-traditional imagery from space!
JeanTate, thanks for providing this; I've (finally!) had an oppportunity to read it. An interesting study, and I hope more along the same lines will be forthcoming.
A closed mouth gathers no foot.