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4/20/2010
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NASA CIO Conducts A Web Experiment

In a blog post, the space agency's top IT executive shares her eye-opening experience in using the Web to engage with the public in one-on-one discussion.

NASA CIO Linda Cureton has conducted an experiment in IT leadership via her blog on the space agency's Web site. Cureton wrote about online reputations, then she responded to every comment made by readers. Her conclusion: "Listening changes the listener."

Cureton was promoted from CIO of the Goddard Space Center in Maryland to NASA's' agency-wide CIO eight months ago. For the past two years, she has used her blog to write about leadership, innovation, and IT transformation, among other topics. "One of my reasons for blogging is to use this Web 2.0 capability as a leadership tool," Cureton wrote in her latest post, titled "The Connected CIO."

Cureton said she blogs as a way of connecting with stakeholders and making them more aware of NASA activities and her role there. The Obama administration, through its open government initiative, has mandated that federal agencies engage the public through technologies that promote interactive dialogue. But Cureton, in her blog post, said she has come to realize how one-sided blogging can be, and that she wasn't sure her investment in it had made her more connected.

Cureton, who describes herself as an introvert, used to find comfort in "hiding behind" technology, but came to realize that having a one-way dialogue undermined her reasons for blogging. "I lamented that blogging wasn't as interactive as I thought," she wrote.

In an effort to get past that, Cureton conducted a little test. She blogged about managing online reputations, then responded to every comment made by about a dozen readers.

Cureton said the experience made her feel more connected with people who have an interest in the space agency and gave her a sense of what NASA represents to people.

"As I read and contemplated the comments to my blog," she wrote, "I could feel the passion and purpose of a global citizenship that is connected to me and to NASA in ways that perhaps I can only just begin to understand."

The point to be drawn from Cureton's experience is that other IT leaders should look for ways to use the Web to engage in two-way interactions with their staffs, employees, and customers.

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