I just watched a quite excellent video interview, Elon Musk at MIT, talking mainly about SpaceX, and also about Tesla (nothing about Solar City).

My first reaction to this is, why are so many of these kinds of presentations presented in a format (adobe flash) where there is no practical way to listen to them offline? Yes, I know, I could record it on Camtasia or whatever, but that kind of defeats the purpose — too much time and hassle. There are a lot of these presentations that I’d like to be able to listen to as podcasts while walking or exercising. I don’t have time to sit in front of a screen to listen to interviews. I already spend enough time tethered to a screen, working.

(In this case, someone has subsequently put the interview up on youtube, so it’s possible to convert to mp3 and download fairly painlessly using the very useful syncfile.co youtube downloader/converter. I had already watched it by then, guess I should have waited. But there are a great many video interviews that people put up on their own sites in adobe flash or vimeo that never make it onto youtube.)

I could understand it if the purpose were to prevent people from watching without paying, or to force them to watch ads, but this is a free public presentation. It is on MIT’s open web site. I don’t care about the video, it’s just talking heads, and I know what Elon Musk looks like, I’ll use my imagination. Seems like, if the goal is to reach a wide audience, it would make sense to give people a few options? So why choose a format that shuts out part of your audience?

When you’ve already spent the time and money to record a video, the effort required to add an mp3 link, or at least upload it to youtube and link to that, is trivial. How about it, MIT and all you other purveyors of free web content who use adobe flash or vimeo? Is there some logic here that I’m missing?

As for the video, it was well worth watching even if I had to blow an hour and a half stuck in a chair. I thought Musk’s answer to the final question from the audience was a masterpiece of diplomacy. The question was (paraphrasing) “how would it change your thinking if NASA’s SLS program succeeded in getting to Mars before SpaceX.” His answer was along the lines of the time frame for SLS is pretty far out there, great if they get there, what’s important is not a single mission, it’s building a system to support a colony, etc.

Good answer. Mine, which probably exemplifies one of the many reasons why Elon Musk is a billionaire and I’m not, would be more along the lines of “I would have to rethink my world view to allow for miracles”. The reason has nothing to do with the quality of science and engineering at NASA, which as best I can tell is mostly first rate — all the NASA folks I’ve every interacted with have been very smart, dedicated engineers. But NASA competing with SpaceX is like a race between two superstar thoroughbred racehorses, in which one is ridden by a skilled, world class jockey (Elon Musk), and the other is ridden by Jabba the Hut (the U.S. Congress). I know who I’d bet on.

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