Butler University sues Anonymous Blogger

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Management, Thoughts | Posted on 16-10-2009-05-2008

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As I noted on Twitter at the beginning of the week, Butler University has come forth with a lawsuit against an anonymous blogger for making libelous and defamatory statements about administrators on his blog, The True BU. This post is intended to be a glimpse at how The True BU got started, as well as provide additional insight regarding my previous communications with the defendant. Everything posted here is factual to my knowledge.

Several things about this story (more at Inside Higher Ed) are interesting to me, being a former employee of Butler and one who had several conversations with the student being sued (while under his moniker).

  1. A year ago to the day I posted the lawsuit link on Twitter, this student got his start as an anonymous commenter in our BUForums, an area that I was in charge of and the community manager for.
  2. This student had previously applied to be a Butler Blogger, and I had several email correspondences with him regarding it.
  3. We correctly guessed who the anonymous commenter was about 2 weeks after he began commenting in our forums, due to several pieces of ‘evidence’ that matched what he said with who we thought it was.

There is also a huge difference between how we handled the anonymous blogger in the Admissions area, and how the higher level university employees handled it.

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10 Reasons to Monitor Twitter

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Free, Management, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 23-09-2008-05-2008

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I know I talk a lot about Twitter, and I know my research is showing that there are not that many students on it, but I truly believe that Twitter will eventually hit a tipping point with this demographic. It’s encouraging to see so many schools name-saving their accounts or starting to engage with people.

I want to provide you 10 reasons to monitor Twitter as a university or college, all from the past 10 days.

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Small Changes aren’t Small Anymore.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Concepts, Higher Education, Management, Recruitment, Research, Technology | Posted on 30-04-2008-05-2008

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Once upon a time, in an Admission office (let’s say… 1993), someone decided they wanted to change the early application deadline from December 1st to November 15th. This would allow them to have more time to read the early apps and make a better decision, and it would position them with the app deadlines of their competitors.

So Administration made a few phone calls, had the dates changed on the application and in the catalog for the next print cycle, informed a few people around campus, changed some wording in a few brochures, and all was good.

Enter the Internet.

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Flickr, your electronic photo database?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Flickr, Higher Education, Management, Marketing, Photos, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology | Posted on 24-04-2008-05-2008

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(Updated 7/31/2009)

It’s no secret that I love Flickr. It’s a perfect blend of community and functionality in the web 2.0 world, and it’s an extremely powerful tool.

Could it also be your solution for an electronic photo database management system?

Let’s take a walk at what Flickr has to offer you, and how it can help you organize your campus photos and provide some additional value to your workflow. We’re going to get pretty in-depth here, so buckle up and refer back often.

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A Season of Change

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Email, Higher Education, Management, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Thoughts | Posted on 07-04-2008-05-2008

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I’m back from a very refreshing week of fun and sun in Florida with my wife, and am starting to get settled back in the office and get caught up. While I was out I tried my hardest to avoid work email/RSS/Twitter, but it’s just impossible. To my credit, I left 75 work emails unread and 700 posts in my Google Reader, and did pretty well at avoiding Twitter.

Vacation also allowed me to take a step back and look my profession as a whole. I read or re-read a lot of great books:

Right now is a ‘season of change’ for me both personally and professionally. Vacation couldn’t have come at a better time; in the week leading up to my trip our Director of Admission resigned, our Assistant Director had a baby and went on maternity leave, and our print coordinator (my counterpart) and main web designer who did the butler.edu redesign put in their 2 weeks. Needless to say, change is in the air. With new positions come new opportunities, both for those leaving and those arriving. Change can bring more change, good and bad. And while we are filling positions, there are a few things I can look forward to/lobby for.

For example, our current CMS only allows me to change content on sites within go.butler.edu. I can’t control anything on the homepage, navigation, etc. and only recently got access to the callouts in the margins. (A post on that and web usability has been sitting in my drafts for months. I’ll get it out in after I have a little more data.) With the new web designer vacancy, I am going to lobby for access to the ‘ArtApp’, aptly named after the guy leaving. It is the ‘CMS backdoor’ that allows access to these sorts of things. No better time than now to cut red tape. I was hoping Art would give me the keys before he left, he has very similar feelings as me about the CMS limitations.

Another opportunity will be revamping emails, etc. Currently, I design emails and the copy comes to me. We’ve really worked over the past year at refining the copy into an ‘email-compatible’ format. I kid you not, previous emails have been more than 1.5 pages long in Word… imagine that in a 550-600px box. *shudder* The person leaving the position has been great at recognizing this need and helping to cut text before passing it on, and she has also been a wonderful liason for me to the print department for getting photos for emails. With the absence of this position, I am going to try and get access (finally) to the campus photo library for emails, and start working more on text edits and getting our electronic materials to match the print versions better.

All of these positions will be hard to fill; our team works so well together and hopefully we can find some people to step in and hit the ground running, but still be able to bring us some fresh ideas and thoughts on what we’re doing here. I haven’t even been here a year, and at times I feel myself slipping towards the dreaded rut of moving along with business as usual year after year using previous materials and methods.

In all, it’s good to be back. Do yourself a favor and take some time off if you haven’t recently. It’s healthy for you. Winter is pretty much gone, so get out and enjoy the weather. You don’t even have to go anywhere far; just enjoy a day to yourself. Take a photo walk around your hometown, read some books, play with your kids, work in the yard, wash the cars, clean out the garage, go to a presidential rally, or just do absolutely nothing. But take a day off. There is so much more out in the world other than work and keeping up with the 9-5. The blogs will be here when you return. The emails really aren’t that urgent. The project can wait a few more days. And when you get back, you’ll be refreshed and ready to start back up again.

Know your role.

Posted by Jesse | Posted in Higher Education, Management, Technology, Usability, Web | Posted on 30-01-2008-05-2008

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funny-pictures-bird-cat-cage.jpgEver been in a meeting with a manager that is completely unqualified to make a critical decision about some piece of technology or strategy? Let’s say you have a website, and you are rolling out a new feature. Now you have been the model web developer; you’ve done case studies, use-ability testing, research, etc. You know what a user wants, and what they most definitely do not want.

Your manager has now identified something that they HAVE to have on the website. Ironically, your target audience also identified that this very thing they are talking about is a bad idea and they do not like it. Now what? First of all, breath deep and find your happy place. In many cases this is where web developers (and certainly education industry professionals) flip their lid. No, the manager in question isn’t qualified to speak about web design, and no they have absolutely no experience in usability – but they call the shots. Don’t fret, you still have options.

Ask why they want feature X. This might be a mis-communication. If “the manager” is a board member, have someone who feels comfortable enough call them up and have a candid conversation on why this feature has to make it into the final roll out. It may be a simple communication issue – the manager said “I’d like for it to be on the site” and someone heard “IT MUST BE ON THE SITE OR SURELY WE WILL BE IN RUIN.

…but they still want it.

Ok, this is where we dig in. First of all, did you summarize your use-ability tests, your research, your interviews, etc. into a readable and clear document? If not, get to work. If you did – go over it again. Do you have charts and graphs? Can you easily see what the users want, what people have experienced in the past as successful implementations? Make certain you can. Don’t frame your data, don’t skew it to make it look good- just make sure the results are clear.

Here’s the part that might make you squirm: They might be right. After looking at your data, and seeing what people want and have been successful with- you might have made his or her case. This is where you get to bring them the report and shower them with praise.

WAKE UP. No daydreaming.

You have your data and it’s clearly pointing to the fact that feature X is a bad idea. Present this to your manager and request a follow up meeting to talk about it. Bring your raw data and be prepared for all sorts of questions. Make your case and request we do not include feature X.

Ok. They still say no. DO NOT head to http://www.monster.com just yet.

Compromise. They obviously want this feature and don’t care that it’s bad for your website. Is there a way you can implement feature X to limit it’s exposure? Could you possibly negotiate to get feature Y (the one you were going to ask for next week) into the site? Find a way to soften the blow to meet the needs of your target audience.

The ideal setting would have people who call the shots deferring to “experts” in the respective fields who know more about subject X than they do. This always isn’t the case, so more than likely you’re going to deal with this situation in one way or another. Remember that you are setting a precedent in how you react to your manager. If it turns into a painful experience for both of you, you might not get the chance to be heard the next time. Keep your head up, do your homework and live to fight another day. :)

Showing value for new technology implementation

Posted by Jesse | Posted in Higher Education, Management, Technology | Posted on 06-09-2007-05-2008

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In my industry – higher education – we are often caught by a new, sparkly technology. We (being IT professionals) see the new applications and technology as something that will both forward our “mojo” with the prospective students and give value to the institution. The traditional (and even those considered tech savvy) admission professionals are usually slow to adopt these new ideas, instead relying on tried and true methodologies that have produced the necessary “numbers” for incoming classes.

It’s an odd phenomenon, because the higher education industry could be called a stable job environment, but many directors/deans are unwilling to try new things and fail at achieving their classes. I think the problem that the traditional admission professional can’t get around is not being able to directly correlate a new technology “use” to a prospect – applicant conversion. Take a step back and I’m sure the same can be said in other industries – “How can I be sure that this new product will provide value to my company/institution”? Better yet, how can I quantify that X technology was the actual “thing” that was a part of the conversion? Now I’m trying to convince someone to buy X technology, when X technology will just be another “add-on” entity to aid in our marketing/communications/sales program. Ouch.

I don’t know what your IT environment looks like, but with blogs, chats, email solutions, surveys, etc. our add-ons are getting to be a big mess. You’ve got your work cut out for you, but all is not lost. You have to find that value and be able to communicate it well. Like it or not, that manager asking you to show them value is doing their job. They (directly or indirectly) are causing you to look deeper into X technology objectively to squeeze out all the REAL value you possibly can.

Know thine enemy:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

- Sun Tzu

Be objective in your research of X technology. Put yourself in your management’s position and try to see the technology from their eyes. Think about things like image, cost, implementation, and time spent on X technology. At the same time, ask for a list of clients you can contact that are actively using X technology. Ask your user groups about X technology, hit the forums and gather as much information as you possibly can. Schedule a demo with X company to walk you through the product. Demos are a *great way to get that first glimpse of customer support. Once you understand the technology better and feel comfortable about it fitting in with your existing IT environment, you can begin to organize your data for a presentation.

STOP!!! (At any point did you feel uncomfortable with what you found? What level of risk would this apply to your operations? If you are staring at a growing list, now is probably the time you take your manager out for some coffee and thank them for their brilliant foresight and experience.) If things still look as amazing and shiny as they did when you first discovered X technology, put your presentation together, make sure the right people are in the meeting and knock this one out of the park. This can’t be a long and painful experience; you need to get to the value added part ASAP.

Answer questions before they are asked, anticipate potential wildcard questions, and be prepared to do an ad hoc demo if it’s available. If possible, keep a one page summary sheet with facts bulleted and well organized. If you believe this much in X technology, let it show in your preparation and research.