Allemp Run Amok?

Originally posted Spring 2006

I just returned from a beautiful, disconnected week away. Upon return, I found a passel of allemp email [email to all employees] waiting in my InBox.

In the past seven days there have been 29 emails sent to all employees. Along with a flurry of campus announcements, we've had discussions on Women in Action in Nicaragua, CIA involvement in Afghanistan deaths and a boycott of Exxon Oil. This is the typical end of semester flurry of events and activities announced through allemp.

Without venturing into debate on the content, I suggest we have an outdated communication strategy.

Sending an allemp is like sending announcements over a loudspeaker system. Everyone gets the news. Not everyone listens, and the more announcements, the less captured their attention. Still, allemp provides a vehicle to get the word out to all PSU employees.

Having full fledged discussions on allemp, however, is like using the loudspeaker system for online dialogue. Think about it. Would we do this if we had a PA system? No, we'd post a notice and invite those interested to join in at a designated place.

To know and love allemp is to have been at PSU for a while. It has roots in the PSU community and many people truly appreciate the ability for any employee to send all employees emails without moderation. It's about culture, history and pride. Lots of valued conversations about our community have occurred, so I'm told. In fact, I like some of it myself. Having come here almost three years ago, I've learned a lot about a lot at PSU through allemp.

However, technology tools for communication have changed and we need to change with them. It starts with the premise that while allemp (the loudspeaker) is appropriate for making fellow employees aware of news and events, it is not appropriate for online community discussion.

I'd like to propose a slightly more evolved campus communication strategy. Heres what it might look like.

1. Create a new email listserv for the campus. Call it PSU Announce. This list is the official campus communication via email. Same news will go to myPlymouth Portal. Select campus offices and individuals will post. Guidelines will be developed, but consider it important news, the official stuff.

2. Maintain allemp with one modification. Allow individuals to opt out if they so desire. At the very least, provide good instructions on how to filter their mail. Keep allemp informative.

3. A Campus blog. Yeah, a 'web log' Some of you know and visit blogs, others have probably heard the hype. (I have my own misgivings with the blog hype) However, this is exactly the type of tool people use for engaging online. We can create a campus blog where anyone can post. Those who visit and engage regularly will keep it alive. Discussions live and die by their own means. Any level of engagement--or none--is possible. And, if you want to seed conversations, you could post a teaser note to allemp. Invite people to join your conversation.

If you wonder what drives me to this topic, consider this. For every flurry of online discussion, I get emailed from people throughout the campus. 'How do I opt out?' they ask. 'Stop the madness!' they plead. I also have a team of talented individuals around me who have entered the world of online discussions and interaction, much like our students, and they laugh at our follies on allemp. It's so dial-up.

Allemp can also be a security or liability issue. With no controls in place, a new virus or other 'internet nasty' could be quickly distributed campus-wide. An individual could send something offensive and place the University at risk.

I'm not suggested elimination or censorship of campus communication. Rather, simply a bit of refinement.

Thoughts? Ideas? I'd like to hear from you.

6 thoughts on “Allemp Run Amok?

  1. I think a campus blog for the kinds of topics you mention is a great idea! Even better if we can make it a channel in myPlymouth.

    I, like you, think these conversations are often worthwhile debates/discussions and that having a forum for all on campus who wish to participate would be ideal. Allemp doesn't seem to be the appropriate place for it.

  2. I think you are on the right track. There is no need to take away the right to free speech, however if we could modify the current system and create a new way to more effectively communicate with one another, we could get our individual messages across better because people on the other end would be opting in to listen. I think this is a great solution to a growing problem on today's campus. Great thoughts!

  3. I have often wondered why general announcements continue to be pushed through allemp when they are readily available to the campus through "announcements" in the portal. I think the redundancy of allemp and portal announcements had a place when the portal was new, but has outlived it's usefulness.

    I would like to see allemp be renamed and evolve into a tool/listserv which members can use for discussion purposes. The conversations I have witnessed through allemp have been informative and enlightening and I enjoy learning the opinions of others' through this forum. It gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in on the issues of the day in a medium which most are familiar. I would not advocate for eliminating allemp at this point in time.

    However, over time I would argue that the allemp tool/listserv could evolve into a weblog format as folks become more comfortable with this forum. The weblog concept is new for many folks. I would like to see some data to support the use of weblogs in lieu of allemp as it now exists. For example, I'd be interested to find out how many "hits" you received on this weblog as the result of your allemp letter. Do these "hits" reflect the open rate of your allemp?

    Great communication is a key component of any healthy organization. I appreciate your efforts to update existing communication protocols.

  4. Some other comments submitted...

    "I agree that we need to heighten the awareness among verbose faculty about the ‘loudspeaker’ (good word) nature of ‘all-emp’. I have two suggestions to consider: 1) do not allow reply-to-all from all-emp, if technically possible; or 2) have a pop-up box appear when someone tries to send an all-emp, reminding them of the rules and the ‘loudspeaker’ nature of all-emp. They would have to click OK before ‘send’, giving them time to reconsider. "

    "Read your blog piece. Your suggestions are excellent and your points are right on the mark. Do it!"

    "The one thing that you should realize is CIA in Afghanistan and Mobil/exxon were not campus events. The Women In Action appearance was a campus event sponsored by the PSU Nicaragua Club, Diversity Council Women’s Studies council, Women and Gender Resources and The Latin American council. I gave myself the assignment to get a large turnout, which occurred.
    Because a couple of people complain about the views of others does not mean their position is correct and proper, which is what I sense in your explanation. A major problem on this campus is that there is not enough communication, debate and discussion. The solution to that should not be to suppress dialogue but to enable it to thrive. That is what an institution of learning is supposed to be about. It is possible that your suggestion has merit but such a blog should be given ‘front page’ prominence. Too often I sense from from the management side of the administrative pyramid that efficiency is job one and that isn’t necessarily what faculty consider should be the priority"

    "Thank you for your very thoughtful discussion of the "allemp" issue here at PSU. Most of the time I just dump the political stuff because I really don't have the time to read all of it. I think you suggestion of "PSU ANNOUNCE" is a good one and I would make a request to get my name off the list before it starts! "

  5. Excellent ideas all! Please implement them---but we must be able to opt out of allemp. If official campus communications will go through PSU Announce, I see no need for allemp and don’t want to receive these emails. Those who opt for discussion can do so in an appropriate place without intruding upon those who have other priorities.

  6. IMHO the psu-allemp is out of control. In a lot of cases messages are posted 2 or more times, most of these to inform the community of events that should be on a central calender coupled with a link to further details. Also the organizations involved could provide an announce
    list. Interested individuals could sign on to receive reminders about
    upcoming events. From my view at the bottom of the pile it is becoming easier to just delete any allemp and allfac emails as sorting through them is time consuming and not very productive. Furthermore, it is hard to see “real� emails through all the list emails.

    Another area of concern is the use of “to� and “cc� addresses to people both inside and outside the PSU community. Any address put in these fields is visible and available to everyone who receives these mass mails. While I am sure no one YOU know would give these addresses to a spammer, it only takes one co-opted machine to compromise every address in the email. If you need to send a bam to other addresses the "bcc" addresses should be used.

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