Wikis, Blogs and Ajax are Not Enough

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The University of San Francisco community does not need another dead-end solution to an exciting opportunity to stand out. As many of you all ready know, the University is knee-deep in the redesign process of the USF home page and all its affiliated sites.

White Whale, the company hired to spearhead the design process, has been extremely open and accessible to the University community and I commend them for all the hard work they have all ready done. They are very open to feedback, so I encourage you all to leave a comment via whitewhale.net/usf.

But in my own experience here at USF, I have come to realize that there are one quality that stands above the rest, and truly defines the fibers that make up our unique quilt. Community is that quality. Truth be told, it is the simple fact that we are small Jesuit school, based on a relatively small landmass in the middle of a vibrant city that causes us to stick together.

Yes, we may not wear our USF gear out to dinner often, but that doesn’t mean we do not recognize, listen or care about each other. The community is visible everywhere around USF.

Speak to any long-time staff member and they will say that they are here for the students, and it is the USF student community that keeps them there.

Similarly, I’ve had many conversations with people within my own department that are about others on campus and how we all are working towards a communal good. So how do we translate this into web design? Well, we must make the University site a place for all community members. That means we must take a life-stream approach and use our page to aggregate all of the various pieces of content being published around campus.

It must be an unrestricted flow of information about what current events; conversations and photos are currently being posted around campus. This, my friends, is what can honestly bring our page to the next level.

If those on the decision-making board for the web site want to approve of something that is up-to-date, then they must not be afraid of user-generated content and all that comes with it.

The USF Community is both strong and extremely fragile. There have been times during my own tenure here that the community has appeared to be at ends with each other. It is moments like these that have transformed the way I look at how our web site should be designed, and operate this day forward.

We mustn’t silence the arguments of a particular issue; instead we should use this as a means to hold those at fault accountable, with the whole world watching. Similarly, organizations, departments and student collaborators should be completely capable of building their own pages and groups for public view on the USF site.

If we can transform our site into this living organ for communication, then not only do we accomplish our goal of building a site that is reflective of the University as a whole, but we set forth our best foot forward into the next generation of web sites, the semiotic web.

In summation, I hope that the above-mentioned is considered. Blogs, wikis and some AJAX do not make our site any better than what it is today: a stale, misrepresentation of the school community as a whole. Let departments collaborate and build pages, give access to students insert content where they see fit. Let everyone be able to annotate and construct this site for the next four years.

But most of all let the endless streams of conversation be visible right on our site. We must remember that the University only exists to serve its students. And students should never hold back their desire for more accountability and visibility from the administration.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I admit I don’t know a lot about tech, but I do know that the continual campus conversation among community members is a cornerstone of the USF culture. It is what makes our campus unique, and what attracts people to our school. I agree that our university website should reflect this. Well said, Michael.

  2. Thank you, Michael, for making the very important (and, weirdly, almost always overlooked) point that you can’t throw a lot of technology and buzzwords at a Web page and expect it to turn into something resonant and sustainable that serves a community. This process takes time and immersion and, above all, lots of discussion and communication; thank you for being part of the conversation. Who knows— you might have a future in this business!

  3. @jason: Thanks for the input, and yes maybe one day I’ll be ready to get involved in the business itself. Till then, I’m a sponge for new information 🙂

  4. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but,
    I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some suggestions for your blog
    you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

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