The Joy of Blogging

Plagiarism exposed:  someone else came up with the phrase ‘blogging is the ultimate exercise in narcissism’ so I can’t claim original credit for it.  My own view is that to be an interesting blogger you must have exhibitionist tendencies. 


After a year and a half of intermittent writing on the NASA blog page, I think it’s time to make a few observations about the process.


Blogging is not my foremost work assignment; I really have a full plate of other things to do.  Blogging is sort of a sidelight for me, and my blog is mostly written outside normal work hours. 


Early in my post-shuttle career, I had a young social-media savvy technical assistant who proposed the idea that I should have a NASA blog; he coordinated all the set up.  Don’t blame the NASA PAO or IT departments for me taking up electronic real estate, it was our own idea.   


But I’ve really grown to like doing it.  You psych majors can comment on my subconscious motivations.


Let me make the following very clear:  I have never been told what to blog about.  Nobody writes my blog but me.   I’m responsible for the content, spelling, fact checking, and any errors that appear.  I’ve never been told to delete or censor or remove anything from my blog.  Nor is there a list of topics, or any strategic communications plan guides me in writing the blog.  Even though I have frequently asked for feedback from my bosses, all I ever get is a thumbs up.  So I feel pretty free to write about anything that is on my mind, trying to keep common sense about it.  But I put my name on it and I stand behind it.  I never post anonymously nor will I comment on somebody else’s blog anonymously. 


So don’t confuse my blog with official NASA policy. I’m just one guy here and you are getting this one guy’s take on things.  Plus some mostly true old guy stories about things that may or may not have really happened during my career.  Hopefully entertaining, but at least giving some insight into how things work inside NASA.


I have read other blogs that are clearly written by public relations flacks and those blogs are obvious advertisements or press releases dressed up to look like a blog.  I wouldn’t be a party to that sort of a blog.


I have to approve your comments before they show up in public.  That clearly dampens discussion but I believe it is necessary for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.  Since blogging is not my full time job, I generally log in about once a day and approve the comments; sometimes – especially when I’m travelling – it is less often.  Sorry, but that is why your comments take a while to get posted.


When you write a comment, I automatically get it in an email.  I generally read these first on my blackberry; but the bb does not have the capability to log into our blogging software and allow me to approve the comments for posting – I must get my real computer booted up, logged on, etc., to do that.  One interesting feature of the software is that emails announcing your blog comment show to me (and me only) your email address.  So if you really want to remain anonymous from me, you might keep that in mind.  I rarely write to folks on their email, but do so occasionally.


The number one reason I don’t post comments is that many of them are spam.  Somebody with a foreign email address comments “Really liked your post.  I need to move money to my relatives in the US.  Please log onto this web site and put your bank account number and I will send $5 million to you”.  Yeah, right.  Or “Buy cheap pharmaceuticals at”.  Nope, I’m not about to let the comments to an agency website blog become a host for fraudulent – or even legitimate – business advertisement.  If your comment including the “signature” contains a website or email address, I will not post your comment.  The software the NASA website uses does not allow me to edit comments, so I either have to approve them entirely or they don’t get posted.  Spammers will not get posted. 


I will not post comments on UFOs, conspiracy theories, perpetual motion, or other crackpot topics.  Nor will I post comments that are obscene, comments that advocate violence, or comments that cross over to pure disrespect.  I’m the sole judge of these on my blog.   


I have a strong obligation to post comments that I disagree with.  I will even allow people to call me (but only me) names.  I got a real zinger the other day and I’m still smarting over it, but you can find it posted.  It’s a free country, everybody is entitled to their option. 


What I’d like to do is provide some small window into how things work at NASA, what has happened in my career, and what I’ve learned along the way.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t make agency policy, nor am I a management consultant.  I have made more than my share of mistakes, but hopefully I’ve learned from them and make fewer now than in my earlier days. 


I hope you find my blog interesting.  Now that I’ve started, it is hard to keep quiet. 


More to come.

21 thoughts on “The Joy of Blogging”

  1. Hi Wayne —

    I love reading your blog, especially the pretty-much-the-truth remembrances from NASA’s past.

    Also really enjoyed the snippet from Mitchner’s “Space” – hard to believe the world of the Enlightenment missed such a big light show!

    — Mike
    Clinton CT

  2. Your blog is a delight Mr. Wayne. He has an aura of “adult”, correct, credible. I love to read it. And I am very happy that my comments are suitable for publication. I love making comments I feel good when they are considered relevant. Keep telling us their stories, they are interesting and well spoken. Enriched with the addition of large Caraga knowledge and inspire with added load of life experience. Do not stop, do you have a legion of fans, I’m sure. I am a big fan who always waits anxiously for a delicious read. Congratulations!

  3. Wayne,

    Your blog is important because it is quite an education in spaceflight issues. Reading 50 Wayne Hale blogs gives one a very sensitive radar for questionable statements by industry players.

    It is also an insight into the people who wrote ESAS, its PEIS, CAIB’s report, built 4 generations of spacecraft and several space stations, developed Constellation architecture, flew to the moon, etc, etc.

    The Augustine Committee could speak for itself by doing its business live on the web.

    It would be useful if Administrator Bolden and Deputy Administrator Garver posted podcasts of their media appearances more quickly on the NASA website.

    MarshalStar occasionally has some interesting info not found elsewhere. It would be nice to see an “around the centres” weekly newsletter – or have I not looked hard enough.

  4. Wayne, I always enjoyed the press conferences that you were a participant in, and when you moved on and up from the Shuttle Management position I knew I would really miss your down to earth (no pun intended) and clearsighted comments.

    So I am delighted you are blogging! How great to get a dose of Wayne, either a story or an insight or an opinion; and even more often than the press conferences.

    Thanks for being willing to share your thoughts with us. Blog on!


  5. Many thanks for that insight and that media savvy person was spot on. Your blogs are a fascinating glimpse into something that I find absolutely riveting so please do keep it up – and a personal plea – more flight director stories please!

    You’ve very kindly posted several of my comments and some of these have taken a few days to appear – I know that’s because you are busy and I except that it takes as long as it takes. I hope that others see if that way too.

    Please do keep up the blogging!

  6. Hi Wayne,

    I really enjoy the stories from your Shuttle flight control days…I thought you mentioned in one of these blog entries they might find their way into a book at some point. Let us know when that’s coming out!

  7. Keep it up, I find your postings thoughtful, but what I really admire is that you write in the same “manner” as your speaking. As an engineer I try to emulate your measured tones in my answers or presentations and find that it helps lend weight to matters of importance.

    Thanks for your example!

  8. This is one of my favourite blogs, even though I rarely comment.

    I like the inside stories and I like the variety. I’ve learned a lot from your anecdotes and approaches to your job. It’s often a good dose of reality amidst the flurry of opinions surrounding space flight and it’s often thought provoking, such as Saturday’s piece.

    I hope there’s much more blogging to come.

  9. Wayne,

    Please keep doing what you do – it’s a joy to read the real inside story.

    In fact, maybe you should go one step further – write a book! You’ve already got one sale chalked up right here.

    My very best wishes,

    Newcastle upon Tyne, England

  10. Wayne,

    Blog on! Yours is the most interesting blog I follow on the Internet.

    I have appreciated the more-frequent posts of late, but knowing that many are motivated by the decisions of current political leaders also makes me empathize with the thousands of affected people.

    Like one of the other commenters, I also appreciated the recent reference to Michener. I worked my way (that’s the only way to phrase it!) through most of his books and learned a ton. While a thousand-page book always took some effort to start, I invariably enjoyed them and was sorry to see them end.

  11. Please allow me to add a thought or two here, Wayne.

    First and foremost, I have always appreciated your candor. I have seen you handle (with great care and a refreshing view) the news conferences you’d participated in while managing the shuttle program. I have seen your lecure, given at MIT, when you were invited to speak on mission control — and I found it most illuminating. Having now followed your blog for some time, I find myself looking forward to reading more about your experiences, thoughts and insights.

    I’d never met you, and I regret that I’ve not had that opportunity — I’m certain we would have much to talk about… though admittedly, I’d be as likely to be listening to you intently as offering my own thoughts. My appetite for all that is exploration in space is, as far as I’ve been able to tell, unlimited — and I’ve learned quite a bit from you.

    Please do keep blogging, and by all means resist the urge to keep quiet!

  12. I love your blog though it’s sometimes hard to carve out time to read it. Informal communication is very powerful. I appreciated your comments and share your perspectives and experiences. Thanks for setting a great example for executives and leaders.

  13. Mr. Hale,

    I have enjoyed reading your blog immensely. I have looked up to you and your contemporaries for many years as the ground truth leaders of our space program. Like the lieutenants in the field with the troops it is you that we count on for leadership. It is people like you, and John and Gerst who must act on engineering truth free from politics.

    I say to you most respectfully, the silence is deafening. In one of our Space Programs most dire moments, where are the lieutenants now? Where are the leaders that will advise the General on the prowess and capabilities right in front of him.

    This is not an emotional connection that we have to these vehicles, it is a well informed understanding of their capabilities. It is this capability that we lose with retirement. It is this record that needs to be heralded, over, and over, and over again.

    This is the hour when yet again our Heavy Lift Capability will be relegated to another grass covered concrete slab. The Shuttle should retire, but the stack that has delivered it and its cargo into space should not.

    I implore you and your lieutenants (friends), do not let this happen without even trumpeting the tremendous possibilities that the nation could realize from a SDLV.

    Philip Metschan

  14. Wayne, this is only the 2nd time ive read your blog. Thanks and I appreciate the insight into your motivation. Looking forward to reading future and past thoughts!

  15. Your best blog, well technically Memo, Adjusting Our Thinking, was the one where you put your hand up to take responsibility for the Columbia accident, as no one else within NASA ever really did. That takes great courage. Keep on blogging as they say because its all interesting and entertaining, and I will read them all.

  16. First time visit to your blog and its just as great as your Shuttle Program Manager letters. Your blog makes me wonder what history will tell people 900 years in the future. Will NASA’s new direction appear as a dark age or an age of enlightment?

  17. Mr. Hale, I appreciate your blogging efforts. I somehow found my way to your blog a couple of months ago and immediately realized I had found a treasure of insight into a topic I have been fascinated for over fifty years. So I was pleased to see that you had been blogging here for over two years, and there was much of your writing, and other’s comments for me to read. It’s a very nice body of work, in my opinion.

    Like many others, I love the tales from your earlier days. The mix of technical explanation, the human element with lessons learned captures my attention. Much more so than if any of these factors were left out. Your insight into and views on current events are equally interesting to me. I never have gotten the feeling that your comments were anything but yours. Certainly not some PR or sales pitch. Your views in your words, even though posted on an official website. I like it!

    I thank you again, not only for your blog, but for your years of service to NASA, our country, and therefore to me too. I’m glad you’ve found it hard to keep quiet.


  18. Wayne,

    Add my voice to those who appreciate the time and effort you put into your blog. Sometimes, you give us the sense that you’re holding the door to Mission Control open for us so that we might silently observe the goings-on.

    I do look beyond the obvious, and sometimes wonder why many of your blog entries close to Remembrance Day seem to revolve around Challenger. Perhaps next year, after Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour are safely home, you might look inside and tell us a story about that fateful January morning.

    I will always recall where I was; so will many of your readers. Synchronicity isn’t merely a popular song…

    “Reads” once wrote me to tell me that before he joined NASA, he was an inch taller and had no gray hair! Although you are a year older than I, you look much older…perhaps it’s something in the water?

    Carry on, Wayne.

  19. I really enjoy your blog, Mr. Hale. Please keep up the good work!

  20. Thanks for the insight (on blogging & your blogs content). Especially enjoy the historical leanings – such as the recent Straight Arrow entry, your famous email philosophical musing as a direct ancestor of the blog, and your presentation at Imagine 09 on history and informing the future. Always makes me think and has been a source to draw from as refining my own communications methods. Will be interesting to see how the Open NASA push opens-up/clarifies these communications paths for more of us across the agency.

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