Virtual FOSE to include cloud camp this year

July 1, 2010

You’ve probably heard of FOSE, right? Well, Virtual FOSE is coming later this month.

On July 21, the virtual conference will bring together experts and IT professionals to discuss a variety of topics, including cloud computing.

Christina Condos is vice president of events for 1105 Government Information Group and tells us more about what you can expect.

“What virtual FOSE does for us is get us out of the Beltway area. It lets people who probably would not ordinarily attend the event, especially in these days of cut budgets, to be able to access some of the content and also to see some of the vendors. On the vendors’ side, it gives them access to people that generally would not [be] at an event in D.C.”

This is the second year of the virtual conference, and she explains that the idea of them is certainly not new, but they’ve become a lot easier and more manageable over the years.

“Most [virtual meetings] were very clunky and just not user-friendly and there was a fear in the beginning of — ‘there go live events! The Internet is going to take their place!’ But, in the last few years, the technology has gotten so much better, and we’ve also gotten the demand from our customers, meaning the vendors, that they would like to do things virtually.”

Because it is virtual, she added, there is also more flexibility.

“We do archive it. For three months, you can continue going back there. You can still see the content, you can contact the exhibitors; however, you might not get a live response. The advantage to going on the actual day is that, if someone is exhibiting, it’s almost like an instant message conversation. So, there are advantages to attending, but if you can’t attend, you can still go after the fact.”

Virtual FOSE will have Craig Newmark as a keynote, as well as a variety of sessions about existing and emerging technologies. Condos adds that this year there will also be a cloud camp.

“[It’s] in an unconference format, which means that people that attend the event kind of create the agenda. It’s moderated . . . by Dave Nielsen and we promote it to people who are interested in cloud, which, it seems, everybody is, so we get a pretty good turnout. We do have sponsors. What Dave does is, he’ll poll the audience on four, five, six different topics that they would like to cover. They crowdsource it . . . and then they break into groups and have some informal sessions on cloud. Then they get back together after the fact to share what they’ve learned and what they’ve found out.”

Virtual FOSE is free and will take place from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on July 21.

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NASA JPL crowdsources with cloud

June 7, 2010

We continue our conversation about NASA’s JPL moving into the cloud.

Today, we start off discussing how President Barack Obama’s Open Government Initiative is influencing cloud at agencies — and whether or not cloud is helping JPL to comply.

Tom Soderstrom, the IT CTO at NASA JPL and Khawaja Shams, senior solution architect at NASA JPL tell us more.

TS: Essentially you can divide what we do in two ways. One is, it’s good for the mission. It makes us do better science. The other one is about communicating that to the public and getting the public excited. Our stockholders are the public. If the public wants to know more about space and science . . . it will go through the budget.

We’re very pleased to see that it’s a cloud and we’re big supporters of data.gov. We think it’s a fantastic idea — [where] you can get the data out at less cost and much more easily to the scientists and the public. So, we came up with this term . . . of citizen scientists. If they could get access to the data much more easily and quicker, they could maybe even help turn the wheels of science.

We worked with Microsoft using their Azure cloud on [a project] called Be a Martian. Citizens are able to do anything from tagging images online to creating programs that tag the images online. It’s a contest and . . . it’s been very successful. It’s a way of crowdsourcing and we took the images — 250,000 images from the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity — put them in the Azure cloud and gave the citizens access to it. It’s been terrific. We did the same thing with at EclipseCon.

KS: EclipseCon is a developer conference. Roughly a thousand or so developers worldwide attend each year in Santa Clara, and we held a contest there called the e4 Rover contest where we allowed developers to drive a mini robot around a Martian landscape basically that we had put together. We used this as an opportunity for public outreach, as well as to get developers to build interfaces to command the robot and view the telemetry that is coming back from the robot.

In order to run this contest, we needed a lot of infrastructure that we didn’t want to just go buy for this one week contest. So, we ran the entire contest on the Amazon cloud and leveraged a lot of the services that are very common to companies like Amazon and Microsoft and Google and we were able to get these for free and very quickly — services like load balancing . . . [and] getting computers running in multiple data centers, and services like the delivery of images to the operators that were, in this case, the developers. This project was actually quite successful and it made venues like Slashdot and Digg.

We ended up getting a lot of open source code back that we can go ahead and directly use to make very useable interfaces.

TS: What surprised us a little bit was the quality of the code that these developers came up with during the conference. It was 24 by 7 and Khawaja was there manning it, and the ways of lighting the road that the developers came up with were quite ingenious, including one on an iPhone. So, the crowdsourcing works both ways and we are quite excited about it.


Prepare for local event ‘Crowd and the Cloud’

April 12, 2010

Today, Fed Cloud Blog is please to talk with Mike Nelson, a visiting professor of Internet studies in the Communications, Culture and Technology Program at Georgetown University.

He gives us a preview of the upcoming event, Crowd and the Cloud, which will be held on April 20 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Copely Hall on Georgetown’s main campus.

Nelson starts by explaining the impetus behind the event.

MN: The idea is to look at how new technologies, particularly the Internet and the cloud, are allowing people to work together in new ways, and to actually change the way they work in a rather fundamental way.

When I talk to my 12-year-old, she talks about hanging out online. This isn’t a tool for her, it’s a place — and more and more companies are creating virtual team rooms in cyberspace where people from 15 or 50 different locations can all gather, share information, participate in simulations, play with data and pull people in from other sites. It’s a really dynamic, interesting way to do work that wasn’t possible just five or 10 years ago.

FCB: What’s the advantage of bringing all of these people together. . . . This sort of thought process was just getting started [10 years ago]. Then, you had people in chat rooms or what have you and the conversation kind of got garbled. How have things evolved since then?

MN: I think that’s the difference now. We used to have these very simple chat rooms where people were just typing away and lots of different comments on lots of different topics were coming up at the same time.

Now, we have the ability to thread different conversations with virtual worlds, like Second Life [where] you can go in and actually gather around images and three dimensional simulations. You can really focus the conversation and do more useful things. In some cases, you can actually work more effectively online than you could if you were all in the room together in one place.

FCB: We understand that this is new, and new things are often scary things. In terms of security — in the federal space, there’s a lot of information that needs to be shared and discussed, but some people are still kind of worried about [putting information] online. Talk a little bit about some of the security issues that may or may not exist.

MN: A number of agencies are playing with these technologies inside their own firewalls, and we have classified versions of some of these collaboration spaces at intelligence agencies, the State Department, Department of Homeland Security.

One of our speakers is going to be from the State Department and he’ll be talking about how they’re using a very interesting social media tools to reach foreign populations to communicate about America to citizens in hundreds of countries.

So, it’s something that’s not just happening at the research agencies.

We also have somebody from DARPA — Norman Whittaker, who was the fellow behind the Network Challenge — the press called it the ‘red balloon’ challenge.

[Read coverage of the challenge on Federal News Radio’s The Daily Debrief.]

DARPA put about 10 large, red balloons in the sky and challenged groups of online collaboration teams to go find those balloons and tell [DARPA] where they were. People were able to use social media to mobilize thousands of people in a single group and gather all of this information so that together they could track down these balloons in just a few hours.

It was an experiment. It wasn’t going to make anybody any money, but it really showed the dynamics of these groups and how they could organize very quickly, how information flowed, how misinformation flowed.

We’re also going to have Jeannette Wing, who’s the head of computer research at the National Science Foundation, speaking about some of the new research that’s being done on next generation cyber infrastructure — tools [such as] cloud computing, visualization, video conferencing — that will be out there in the . . . commercial sector in three to five years.

FCB: Tell us a little bit about the afternoon sessions — these breakout sessions. If we’re attending, what should we be looking for? What should I be expecting?

MN: Well, the morning is going to be panels. The first panel is about the ‘excitement’, the second panel is about the ‘problem’, and then in the afternoon, there will be specific, table discussions around the key technologies and key barriers to developing these technologies. So, we’ll talk about what people are doing in online games. We’ll look at some of the policy issues relating to privacy and security. We’ll look at technologies, like the Symantec Web and wireless media. We’ll look at crowdsourcing. There are some incredible examples in that area.

In the research community, we have astronomers getting average people to get online and classify galaxies — thousands of people analyzing hundreds of thousands of images in a way that could never be done by just skilled professionals because there aren’t enough, and can’t be done by computers because it’s a complicated process that requires a human eye and a human brain.

So, these are some of the things we’re going to be talking about and at the very end of the breakout sessions, each table will have a chance to share their findings and their key concerns. I think that will actually be the most exciting half hour of the whole day, as we highlight those topics that need more attention and share some of the most exciting applications that are going on.

FCB: Any plans to put lessons learned or data online after this event?

MN: We’re certainly going to summarize it. We’ll have people tweeting throughout the day, and some of the key talks will be made available by video from the CCT Web site at Georgetown University.


Register hereNote: Nelson assures us that the event is open to the public!

On Facebook: The Crowd and the Cloud

On Twitter: During the event, follow #ISOCDC