Williams is experimenting with Switchboard.


Have any of our readers signed up? Comments:

1) Kudos to the Alumni Office for experimenting. (I assume that they are behind this effort. Corrections welcome.)

2) Switchboard seems to be a tool for creating your own private Craig’s List. Do any readers know about it?

3) This project is doomed to failure, like so many previous Alumni Office efforts. The central problem is that no alumni need another login, another password, another closed space walled off from the outside world. There will never be enough interesting things here to justify my bothering to check it. Vaguely relevant rants here, here and here.

4) Instead, the Alumni Office, and Williams in general, should be following my advice from three years ago:

As an institution, Williams should be creating very little new content. Doing so is too expensive and time-consuming. Instead, Williams — meaning the Alumni Office, Public Affairs, Admissions, the Dean’s Office and any other department that needs to communicate, either externally or internally — should be linking and collating, organizing and transmitting. That is the future of communication in the world of elite academics. When will Williams figure that out?

Not yet, sadly. There are some signs of progress. Whoever is behind the Williams twitter feeds (both here and here) is doing a good job, especially in retweeting news about Ephs far and wide. No login in required! No special place where only Ephs can see the links.

Without such openness, failure is inevitable.

5) Here is more advice from 5 years ago:

What should the Alumni Review be doing? One answer is just what it is doing now. Another answer (my suggestion) is to taking over some of the functionality that EphBlog provides. The Alumni Office ought to generate an RSS feed of all the blogs maintained by Ephs, a Twitter Feed of all their tweets, a collection of all the news stories that feature Ephs and so on. All this material should be tagged by, at least, class year and, even better, area of interest, consistent with my description of the Williams Conversation.

Summary: Every thing (blog post, op-ed article, tweet) written by an Eph (students, alum, faculty, staff, local resident) is part of the Williams Conversation. If EphBlog demonstrates nothing else, it is that there is a significant demand from Ephs around the world for items of interest from that stream of information. But no Ephs wants to see every item in that stream. Instead, she wants to see all the items connected to someone from her class or all the items touching on her professional field or all the mentions of her hobby. Williams ought to collect, organize and redistribute these tidbits from the Williams Conversation. The more/better that the College does so, the less need there is for EphBlog.

Where to start?

First, stop wasting time with Switchboard, the Alumni-only mailing lists, Route 2 and other closed systems. Second, start opening up. For example, create a public list of all the Ephs who tweet. Organize them by class and by interest. Make it easy for others to start following them. Present them on a web page. (There must be simple tools for doing this. Suggestions?) Another example: Create a public Google news feed that includes every mention of famous Ephs.

Organize the content and attention from students/alumni/faculty will follow.

The Williams Conversation needs a moderator. Better the Alumni Office than EphBlog . . .

Print  •  Email