What’s that e-journal thing?

Oh that. You’re referring to the RocketSciRick Update.  First, here’s what the Update says about itself:

The RocketSciRick Update is an experimental e-journal devoted to topics in aerospace sciences and engineering. It is currently produced by a one-person writing/editing staff in his not-so-spare time. Often, the recent news itself is summarized from current sources. But the back story behind the main story is also added to provide the context for what made the story what it is now. References are provided for the reader who wants to seek more information.

It is, in fact, an experimental journal distributed by e-mail.  Originally, I had no intention of doing such a journal myself.  I’ve been reasonably content to put sporadic updates on this website as the need arises.  However, a couple of the organizations that I deal with had needs related to e-mail campaigns to reach their members and other interested parties. Those needs are as yet unresolved.  Some suggestions had been made; I decided to explore one of them in more detail.  For lack of a better title, and since I believe in having a backing website for more information, the title became the RocketSciRick Update.

The needs that arose relate to aerospace-related organizations in Silicon Valley.  As a result, much of the focus of the Update is on stories of local interest.  In the current issue:

  • The B612 Foundation, which studies defense against a major asteroid impact, is located in the San Francisco Bay area.  Aside from them, there are a lot of people in the Bay area who are interested planetary defense or mining of asteroids.
  • KickSat, while started at Cornell University, has been worked on in part at NASA Ames. In fact, during his time at Ames, project lead Zac Manchester spoke about the project at a local technical meeting of the Silicon Valley Space Center and the AIAA San Francisco Section.  His funding of the project through KickStarter inspired others in the Bay area to follow suit.  As noted in the current issue, a couple of them have been launched into orbit.

The “SV Aerospace Calendar” which appears in the Update started up as a separate effort.  Some of us had discussed the desire to build a common calendar of events organized by the various local aerospace sciences and engineering groups.  In some quarters, it had actually turned into a sore point of lack of coordination.  I began another prototyping effort using Google Calendar, and host a display of it on this website.  The downside: certain security-conscious companies do not allow Google apps through their firewalls.  As a result, they can’t see the calendar.  When the Update started, it made sense to pull from that calendar and put into the Update content.

What is my impression of the process so far?

I’ve only partly explored the tools provided by the mail distributor, MailChimp.  There are things I’d like a system to do for me automatically, and I haven’t discovered them yet (e.g., TOC generation, proper paragraph tagging or styling).  They may be buried in there and simply need more time to investigate.  Given that MailChimp is a commercial mass mailing tool, it is subject to CAN-SPAM laws.  People who have opted out from their list cannot receive the Update.  This is true of competing services like Constant Contact.

Given everything else I do, I try to constrain the amount of time I spend doing writing, research, and editing for the Update; this experimental journal was not intended to be the definitive word on the subjects of interest, but a summary and pointer to additional sources.  Alas, the research and editing that I do has been fairly intense, almost as if I were assigned to the city desk of a newsroom.  It is an exhausting process… and probably not how I imagined spending my weekends.

And so far, the Update has no revenue and includes no advertising. If it is supposed to stay alive, it doesn’t have a very good business model.

For me, it serves as a learning process in understanding the state of the art of commercial tools for mass mail distribution.  For the local aerospace entrepreneurial community and friends, hopefully it informs them on developments of interest.  In essence, we are experimenting with what is the best way to keep such a diverse community informed, and in effect, how to nurture and grow it. If we can find a better way to do this through the Silicon Valley Space Center (SVSC) or the AIAA San Francisco Section (AIAA SF), then I will probably back off and let them run with it.  As those changes happen, I will announce them in the Update.  Readers of this website will undoubtedly find out about this as well.

–Rick, your resident Silicon Valley space journalist

One thought on “What’s that e-journal thing?

  1. Pingback: What happened to that e-journal? | RocketSciRick

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