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Decommissioning Spacebook
By Sarah Rigdon, OCIO-NASA Headquarters

Think back three years. In mid-2009, enterprise-scale social media services were not what they are today, yet many large organizations were already aware of social media’s low cost ability to address collaboration needs.

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) saw the potential for social media but did not see many third-party applications that met them. Social media could improve business processes, encourage collaboration and information sharing, and build their community of stakeholders and partners. Projects most often fail because of barriers to communication. Social media provides a space to communicate in ways that teams otherwise would not be able to do. Also, NASA’s innovation stands to benefit from platforms that facilitate the intersection of disciplines.

Emma Antunes, Web Manager at GSFC, created the homegrown Spacebook social network. It featured user profiles, group workspaces (wikis, file sharing, discussion forums, groups), and social bookmarks. It was especially useful for small teams that needed to collaborate without emailing larger groups. And it was all developed using existing contracts, IT resources, and staff.

In the past three years, the pace at which NASA users have adopted Spacebook is inverse to the pace at which third-party companies have launched enterprise social networking products. Spacebook has provided valuable lessons in user adoption.

The OCIO decommissioned Spacebook on June 1, 2012, and is archiving all user accounts and content. John Hopkins, OCIO Chief of Staff, sees the positive side. “Something that we often fail to do in government is…to not close [applications] when they cease to be viable,” he said. Emma Antunes agrees: “We need to be agile and not be wedded to any one thing.”

In shutting down Spacebook, NASA uses the lessons learned to build better tools and make better use of existing resources.