Here are my responses to a short Mars Society interview I had to do. Excuse the cheesiness, but these things you have to do…

Name and Chapter, other bio info

Adrian Hon, UK Chapter Steering Committee member, editor of New Mars.

How long have you been a member of The Mars Society?

Since it was founded.

What was your reason for joining?

It was the only space advocacy organization that seemed like it wanted to accomplish something practical towards getting humans to Mars.

What MS activities have you been involved in?

I edit the New Mars online magazine and am organizing the First Words competition for World Space Week this year. I also designed a Mars Society map of Mars.

What one thing would you like to see the MS accomplish?

To rekindle the sense of wonder and exploration in people across the world; to make Mars seem like a place, not merely a star in the sky.

In 50 wds or less, why should humans visit Mars?

For science, for art, and for curiosity! If we turn our backs on exploring space and Mars, and quash our desire to discover, we will be ending a journey that has lasted millions of years and back when we first climbed down from the trees in Africa.

Twisted words

One of the things that I despise the most in this world is when someone twists your words. Glenn Reynolds recently said in a column that Sir Martin Rees, by saying:

“If they were governmental or international (expeditions), Antarctic-style restraint might be feasible. On the other hand, if the explorers were privately funded adventurers of free-enterprise, even anarchic disposition, the Wild West model would be more likely to prevail.”

he is implying that the Wild West model is a bad thing. Reynolds then goes on to talk about the commercial utilisation of space and throws in a few cheap shots at Europeans (no surprise there) and Sir Martin Rees himself. Reynolds, of course, is a fan of the Wild West model. I’m personally model-agnostic.

I was at the presentation when Sir Martin said those words. Even taken out of context, the quote to me does not imply that he doesn’t like the Wild West model – he’s merely making a statement of fact. From what he said elsewhere in the talk, it didn’t seem to me like he was at all bothered about which model prevailed; he spent most of his time talking about posthumans roaming the galaxy and the speciation of humans.

Part of the problem is that the media decided to quote only a single paragraph of Sir Martin’s presentation (the one above) and left everything else out. That however does not excuse the twisting of his words and frankly the insults thrown at him.

First post

Our first entry for First Words is in, from David Brin! True, I know him probably the most out of everyone I’ve contacted, but small steps and all that, eh?

First Words

So here I am, emailing every single famous and semi-famous and should-be-famous person I know or have ever come into contact with* (or even less) about First Words, and also getting ready to send forth a huge wave of actual, physical letters.

So far, the response has been of deafening silence. Not really a surprise, but obviously I would’ve been much happier if I’d woken up today and an avalanche of responses in my Inbox. It’s not a big deal just yet – First Words won’t actually launch for another month anyway.

First Words is something I’m quite proud of, even though it hasn’t started yet. Unlike much of the other stuff I get involved in, it’s been very snappily organised, and it has a tight focus with achievable goals. Very importantly, it’s time limited so I can forget about the whole thing on October 12th, when it ends. Finally, it’s my latest stab at trying to generate a web phenomenon, and I think it just might work this time.

*Far fewer than you might imagine.

New Mars

I mentioned on Tiny that the New Mars forums had hit 1000 posts three days ago, after first coming online last September about eight months ago. That might not seem like a lot of traffic – in fact, averaged over 240 days that’s only a bit more than four posts a day. I write more emails than that in an afternoon.

Yet in the last three days, we’ve practically hit 1100 posts. That gives an average of 30 posts per day, which is not too shabby. Of course, it’s not as if there was a sudden transition from 4 posts a day to 30; by checking the website logs I can see that there’s been a fairly linear growth of traffic during its existence.

Nevertheless, in the past few days traffic has literally rocketed. I’m obviously very happy about it – my intention in becoming editor of the New Mars online magazine was primarily to create a coherent Internet community for Mars advocates which would in time develop the ability to do very useful and important things. I expected it to take a long time to grow – communities don’t just appear overnight, not even when they have a good feeder mechanism (New Mars is the official magazine of the Mars Society and it hosts the official forums). Yet a month or two ago, when we were lingering around the 600 or 700 mark, I did a few calculations and decided that it would still take a long while to get to 1000.

So – where did this traffic spike come from? I have a few possible and non-exclusion explanations:

1) The simple explanation is that the exponential growth trend finally exhibited itself. By that, I mean as more and more posts were made, more and more readers found interesting things to say and to reply to, and they made links to the site which other people followed, and so on. But this still wouldn’t account for such a sudden growth spurt.

2) We were nearing the 1000 post mark anyway, people got excited and decided to start posting lots. I am doubtful this can explain it all.

3) I introduced a rating system for all members which gave them titles and stars dependent on the number of posts they made. I know for a fact that this is a good incentive for people to post more, as they strive to get that coveted third star.

There are more explanations, but I’ve forgotten them. Anyway, it’s all very interesting and if the current rate of traffic continues we’ll hit 2000 posts in a little over a month’s time. By the end of this year, the problem could well be that there is too much traffic.

But what the hell, that’s a good thing. And I’m sure I and others can figure out ways to channel that activity into productive avenues. Sometimes I wonder what the Mars online community could have done by now if we’d set up proper forum systems back in ’98.