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We have a new writer/editor on board as of yesterday. Desperately needed, I might add. I’ve already passed her two tasks that I really needed an editor’s eye on, and she already caught a typo I missed (I did write it and hadn’t proofed it yet–nor had I put it up yet, but that’s beside the point).

I’d love to tell the story and link it, but it’s not ready for public viewing just yet. I’ll give some background instead.

In a cost-saving/environmentalist attempt to be more efficient, our office is going to stop sending a letter reminding students who apply that we’re missing information from them like standardized test scores and their high school transcript. Instead, we’ll be directing them to their online account with us, where they can view their regularly-updated status and see exactly what we’re missing at the time.

In the past, this letter and the transcript or scores often crossed in the mail, prompting anxious calls. At the same time, I expect we’ll get “I didn’t know I had to check that” calls from now on, even though we’ve made every effort to point them to the resource, and we know that most students are using it. Obsessively, even.

So there’s rewriting of current material to be done. We have to catch everywhere we might mention that letter.

Even though the process of halting this letter started almost last year at this time, it was only today that we made the decision to stop the letter entirely. Starting tomorrow.

So there was, of course, a bit of a scramble to make sure we’d killed it everywhere we needed to. Most of it was double-checking on things I’d changed six months ago and forgotten about for certain, but it was a scramble nonetheless. I checked the last place I needed to at about 5:10 this afternoon.

In the process, a few things were proven to me.

I had considered asking the new writer/editor to help me locate the letter references, but quickly dismissed that as folly. She would have no idea where to start other than a search engine.

If I hadn’t been in the office today, this might have been a problem. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I really do think that I’m the only one in the office that knows all the content on our site backwards and forwards. And given that memory isn’t always my strong suit (I digitize most of it to give me more processing room), that resource needs to reside somewhere else too.

Basically, I’d argue that for a large site containing lots of procedures, you need documentation for where things that may need to be changed reside. And it has to cross platforms.

We’ve yanked a lot of references in my time with Admissions:

  • SAT I became just SAT.
  • We used to recommend against the rush option for their scores–strangely enough, there was a time this came to us via paper, whereas the normal scores came electronically and were loaded faster.
  • We used to take scores as official if they were printed on a high school transcript. No longer.

And that’s just standardized test scores.

Now that I’ve been there long enough and I know all of our materials, I can name most of the spots all the above used to appear: which brochures (viewbook, fact brochure), presentations (prospect, out-of-state, SASD), letters (AU001–the missing information letter; a host of others not worth mentioning), pages on our site (news/html/newsat.htm, from our old site–and I’m sure you can recognize the archaic structure there), the application for admission, and a ton of standard email we send out as reminders.

It’s the pieces I don’t touch regularly that have gotten missed. I found an email from what used to be a separate team in the office that still has both the rush score and transcript mention that was sent out as recently as last January.  And, I suspect, more recently than that still, but have yet to have proof.

Our office is, unfortunately, a bit of a Kraken: multi-armed and sprawling. Such is the nature of a large office with independent functions, much less a large university or a multi-campus institution like ours. We can occasionally collect all our arms, but most of the time a tentacle does get loose. They’re squirmy little buggers.

And no, I’m not going to make the Cthulhu comparison some of you might be expecting.

But back to my point.

Not everyone in the organization is going to be an expert. You’ll always have new staff. Help with managing sites, processes, etc is always welcome. Documentation may be key to keep all your miscellaneous bits in line.

Everything is Miscellaneous, and it doesn’t always flock as neatly as Weinberger demonstrates. Learn to manage your organization’s information, both for the benefit of your own memory and sanity, and to help the new folks on your team.

Social bookmarking has caught my attention again. I’ve had one account or another for years and years, but in the last year or so I’ve really latched onto it.

In part, I think it has at least a little to do with my iPhone. Before this, I’ve (generally speaking) had two computers in use at any one time. One for work and one at home. And the work bookmarks went on the work laptop, and the personal bookmarks went on my home computer.

When I started emailing myself links to my work email address from my home computer rather than hauling out my work laptop, though: that’s when I knew I was in trouble.

And then the iPhone came along. And believe it or not, it’s my main mobile device. When I stopped in on the Learning Design Summer Camp, all I brought was my iPhone. No laptop. And I did fine interacting with the Live Question Tool, and backchanneling via Twitter, and all that.

But to really get the most out of whenever I was websurfing on my iPhone, I needed to be able to access my bookmarks. And putting them “in the cloud” on a social network (so to speak) has done that.

Someone a few weeks ago told me that you can tell a lot about someone by looking at what they bookmark. I’d give that more credence than judging by their shoes–though I don’t know a lot about shoes past what’s comfortable and looks decent.

My top tags in delicious (name change from the original, so named because a friend of the founder compared finding good links to eating cherries) on my professional account are as follows: socialmedia, reachingstudents, marketing, web2.0, admissions, socialnetworking, usability, content, culture, webdesign.

That’s telling. Though I rather dislike that marketing shows up there: I’ve always resisted that label.

I’m the one usually telling my boss or my equal on the print side (who’s a marketer) that we shouldn’t do that  when he suggests a scheme that smells suspiciously of spamming. We didn’t even have an unsubscribe on the marketing email going out of our office until I got there, and our security policies were (emphasis there on the past tense) not very strong on a few points.

Is it that I’m more ethical than my marketing colleague? Possible. I do know that I’m closer to the age of the students we’re trying to talk with, and way more tech-savvy than he is. And social media-minded, for that matter.

It’s more that I, like many of a similar age and younger, have been totally suspicious of marketing for as long as I’ve been aware of it. “All Marketers are Liars” is more than a book title to me.

In this vein, social bookmarking has become really valuable to me. I’ll more often trust–or at least follow–a link passed to me by a friend or colleague than one being advertised.

So in short, those are the two big draws for me. Social bookmarking is:

  • in the cloud
  • with my community

It allows me to contribute and consume from people I know and trust from anywhere. Which is also the main perk of Twitter, I might add. And I’m sure it could also be extended to many other social networking applications. Care to contribute some more to the list?

We’re creating our own language here at Penn State.

Then again, people in groups together for any significant period of time do. Does anybody outside of Penn State understand the significance of “BS Breakfast”? Probably not: they’d take it for what it sounds like. Which was, of course, the intent. (BS here stands for “brainstorming,” for those not in the know.)

“Language” may be an overstatement, but it’s at least a code. You’re “in” if you know what we’re talking about.

I’m part of a lot of these communities with their own codes: Penn State TLT groupie (joke!) is just one of them. And acronyms are just part of these codes.

One community with a ton of community-made acronyms that I’m part of is BPAL enthusiasts (keep in mind, with the following links, that their aesthetic is quite dark–don’t be shocked). Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) is a Los Angeles-based outfit that creates perfume oils, and it has its own parlance. GC (general catalog), LE (limited edition), CD (Carnaval Diabolique) and the like are pretty common to see in discussions on the topic, as is BPTP (Black Phoenix Trading Post, their sister company, which produces all their non-perfumel goods).

Other communities of a sort are more based on quotes or references. The video Shannon posted yesterday contains a bunch of these. Whether or not you notice them depends on where you spend your time online. One of the first clips is a re-creation of the Numa Numa guy.   There’s also “first!” (warning: expletives, immaturity), commonly seen in comments. See also: Internet Commenter Business Meeting (same warning applies, only way more so. plus offensiveness. plus . . . oh, nevermind–it’s from College Humor, so you should expect as much), which is basically what would happen if a meeting was run like virtually any popular open forum online.

And, of course, if you haven’t yet been hit by a Rick Roll, you haven’t been online long enough, and you certainly haven’t been taking a look all the way through my links. But that may be just as well, really.

Internet Memes (warning: too many warnings than I can list) attempts to collate all these references. It doesn’t hit all of them, but it hits the highlights quite well.

And there’s certainly some mocking of that communal language of references. An editorial in the New York Times today, Lord of the Memes, tells us that to be on the cutting edge, we need to be “not only an early adopter, but an early discarder.” We should go through these products, services and references before anyone else and then get sick of them and dismiss them with disdain should anyone else bring them up. The article ends with “remember, cultural epochs come and go, but one-upsmanship is forever.”

I didn’t discover that editorial on my own. In a rare reverse-crossover reference–real life to online rather than the other way around–someone told me about it at lunch and I looked at it on my iPhone when the conversation waned. There’s some irony there, believe me.

But this is connectivity. Or the cost of connectivity. Or the advantage of connectivity.

The point is, that too is part of your cultural education. So choose your influences wisely–they will become your references, and part of your language. Maybe I should be a bit more selective in mine. 😉

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