I have to create a blog for my Digital Communication class at Royal Roads. An exciting, challenging, and interesting assignment. However, when I heard how we are going to be evaluated, I was a little choked.
The success of our blog –to my knowledge– is being measured by the traffic our blog receives over the course of the 7 remaining weeks of this semester.
This is all wrong.
Take my Twitter account as an example. I’d probably get a D+ in the class if the number of followers I’ve amassed since joining Twitter (June 6, 2008) was the sole determinant for success.
It’s not hard to drive traffic to a blog. Just by stumbling your own blog you can get a few hundred visitors in a day. Yesterday, you could actually pay for followers on Tumblr using their Tumblr Sidebar Iconic Promotional Unit. There are hundreds of of ways to drive useless traffic to a website.
Side note: I was surprised to see Bijan Sabet’s avatar come up in the Tumblr Sidebar Iconic Promotional Unit.
Engagement, not volume, is what needs to be measured. Mitch Joel and Seth Godin are huge proponents of measuring engagement. Seth wrote an entire book about it called Tribes (which our class has been assigned to read). Mitch likely talks about it in his book Six Pixels of Separation, but I haven’t read it yet :). Rahaf Harfoush knows it too. She discusses which metrics are important to measure in her (awesome) book Yes We Did. Not once does she say membership trumps engagement.
Engagement could be the length of stay on a page, the quality of the comments received on a post, the number of returning visitors to your blog, or the bounce rate of a particular page. Whatever it is, each student should be able to define it ahead of time and be evaluated based on that set of criteria.
This month we sit, we talk, we enjoy a cup of joe. Cups and sauces, coffee shops and cabinets, it’s that all important start (and in my case middle and end) to a day. Oh and don’t mind the mini-tv, I just thought it was cute.
We’re very proud to announce that, starting today, you can procure your very own Tumblr Sidebar Iconic Promotional Unit! This product was designed by Tumblr engineers to drastically improve the quality of your life through a complex (and patented) algorithmic process. Also, participants will get a crapload of new followers.
Hit the link under the Tumblr Sidebar Iconic Promotional Unit Gridbox to make a purchase, and your avatar will be displayed and linked until it’s pushed off the grid.
The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. This project design and competition format is an exceptionally motivating and effective teaching method.
A good friend of mine attending UBC recently purchased an old vending machine. Why? Who cares why. Vending machines rule, if you own one. He chose to place it in the music practice rooms at UBC, where he spends most of his time.
I suspect it will do quite well.
This obviously raised the question, “What are you going to put in it!?” If it were me, I’d have it loaded with Coffee Crisps, Twix bars, Crunchies, maybe an Aero or two, and Advil. Oh, and probably something “healthy.” Mmm and some Hoops, those are good too.
I’m going to try and get some photos of the machine (and his selections) for you all to see.
If you had a vending machine, what would you put in it?
In order to promote my monthly photo service, every Tumblr that reblogs this post will be entered into a draw and Friday April 2nd (2010) I’ll choose two (2!) people at random to send an awesome 8”x8” print to, for free. Even if you live on the other side of the world.
Like a man named Jake said, “You can’t win if you don’t reblog.” Let’s have more fun with this than we can both imagine, and good luck!
MyRRU is not myRRU. It’s someone else’s RRU. It doesn’t display any relevant data about what I’m doing at Royal Roads.
The first time I logged in to myRRU, it didn’t welcome me, or hint at what I should do first, like Tumblr does so beautifully. Instead it bombarded me with information that is secondary to what I care about most (as a student): my grades and my course deadlines.
Here’s a screen grab of what a student sees when they login to myRRU. Please look at the link; the rest of the post won’t make sense without doing so :).
Lets take it from the top.
The masthead: a generic iStockPhoto photo of a group of people. Some smiling, some looking on intensively as they are no doubt discussing their Pecha Kucha presentation for the following week. A tremendous waste of space. There shouldn’t be anything like this once you’ve logged into myRRU. We already know we’re all going to be smiling and working in teams.
The center of the page is an un-paginated list of campus news, which goes beyond what the screen grab above shows. Interesting stuff, but it has nothing to do with me.
I haven’t clicked on one of the Student Services hyperlinks, ever. I haven’t clicked on one of the Campus Information hyperlinks, ever. I haven’t clicked on one of the Administration hyperlinks, ever.
The Administration hyperlinks are riddled with issues. Some of them are vague and some are useless:
1. Create Content 2. My Content 3. My Forums 4. Recent Posts
Create what kind of content? If you click, you’ll discover you can post classified ads. Wonderful. So, the logic follows, rename the hyperlink to “Post a Classified Ad.”
Once you know what content you’re creating, my content becomes obvious. But it could be renamed “Manage Classifies Ads.” If it was up to me, I’d take it right out.
My Forums? Who’s listening and why should I care? If you click the link, you’ll discover nothing. Honestly. You’ll arrive at a blank page.
Recent Posts. Vague, but okay, you’d think under the Administration tab, this would be your most recent posts to these mysterious forums. Nope. They’re terribly unorganized posts posted by anyone at Royal Roads. There is, however, a tab on the same page named “my recent posts.” Upon clicking it, you’re presented with nothing, not even a link to “create a post.”
The right side.
Latest Moodle Tip, seriously? Not only do I not care for tips about how to operate Moodle, I’m 21 and the font size for the tip itself is too small for me to read.
Student and research job postings. Finally, something I care about. But they’re too poorly formatted and ugly to look at. I don’t need a list of the 3 most recent posting; I need an RSS feed to funnel into Google Reader with notifications setup to let me know when something pertaining to my interests is available. Or, maybe, RR could consider feeding you relevant job posts based off your interests from our Moodle profiles? That’d be cool and easy.
Plenty of this information is useful, but it’s not what I care about most as a student. The myRRU dashboard, if you can even call it that, should be tailored to each student. That’s a no-brainer. For me, I want to see my cumulative GPA in 24 point font and a notice of when the next assignment for each of my courses is due. This frustration was the very inspiration for the Facebook application I built for my class at RRU.
What’s one solution?
Take a note from iGoogle. Actually, take a few. I want to configure myRRU my way. Add the widgets I care about and organize them as a I please. That’s all I want to see. Everything else is tucked away in its appropriate spot.
Where is that appropriate spot? Not myRRU. Much of the content on myRRU is available to the public. Bad plan. House it under a new name and URL. MyRRU, as the name implies, needs to be about me. Not you, not prospective students, alumni, or a visitor. It should be about you and it’s not.
Who cares enough to fix it?
Has anyone at RRU made a substantial effort to ask students about myRRU? I’m guessing not because I’ve heard nothing. I’m not talking about an email, a questionnaire, or a forum post on Moodle, all of which can easily be overlooked by students. I’m talking about seeking out, speaking with, and listening to students who care about making Royal Roads’ online experience better, like me.
I’d love to talk more about myRRU with someone who has the power to change it. I want to make it awesome.
Update: We had a session on campus yesterday (May 20) where students had a chance to talk with the staff at RR who manage myRRU among other technical aspects of the university. It was great to finally meet with them and let them know what we as students would like to see improved.