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Without venturing into debate on the content, I suggest we have an outdated communication strategy.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