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Our Brand: How to Convey It
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Our Brand: How to Convey It.

August 2009 Archives

The distributed management model: resources

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The Electronic Communications group is a growing fan of awareness and understanding (and signatures) from deans, vice presidents, vice chancellors, and others at similar levels at the University, and then working with communications and other, central staff. There are multiple reasons for our push to work with campuses, colleges, and administrative units more centrally, at a higher level.

The reasons that factor in to our choice of this model in some areas (i.e. mass e-mail) include:

  • Resources
  • Expertise
  • Quality
  • Quantity
  • Improvement

For today, we'll focus on resources, with the other five points to come in future posts.

Availability (read: scarcity) of resources is something many of us are dealing with, especially now. Like every other group at the U, the Electronic Communications group in U Relations has a finite number of staff. We can offer various products and services but need to do so in line with our staffing level, our work plan, and our priorities.

Why do we prefer limiting our work to central contacts? In terms of mass e-mail, it reduces the resources required in U Relations and places the resource burden on the unit, or the unit's parent, that needs to send a mass e-mail. We don't send e-mail as a service and, we can't reasonably expect a group to understand the resources required if we're doing the work for them; mass e-mail isn't free, there's a human cost. Deans, VPs, etc. can make the decision as to who is best suited to deal with these issues in their unit and delegate accordingly. From there, the work can be decentralized or remain centralized.

Additionally, the resources under the umbrella of larger units are more likely to include the necessary skill sets to properly execute a mass e-mail. When you drill down to the lowest level, say a department of ten, there may not be sufficient expertise, or availability, of staff in the communications, Web/HTML, and data/technical areas to do this. See the next part, on expertise, for more about this.

What about backups? When someone is out sick or on vacation who covers their duties? We won't centrally, that's not our role. With more resources available at higher levels, or spread throughout sub-units, issues like redundancy and continuity can be better addressed. Documentation helps, too. Mass e-mail, even one-time mailings, have repeatable processes that tend to differ between groups. Why wouldn't you write this up?

Finally, business needs and priorities need to go toward determining what work gets done and, frankly, when we get to the individual or small group level the, "Let's do this!" mentality seems to set in. Objective analysis of needs and priorities doesn't need to be a drawn out process and can be as simple as someone who's not at the center asking one question: "Why?"

Hopefully this helps you to understand why, from the resource side, we're pushing for the distributed management. Not only does it help us centrally by allowing us to focus our efforts on advancement in many areas, it should help your group as well, for reasons that will become apparent over the next four parts of this series.

Next time: expertise.

New Multimedia Resources are Coming

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University Relations has been working with Video Solutions in OIT to make resources for audio, video, and multimedia productions. The creative work is complete and guidelines and instructions are being written.

Look for these new resources -- including video intros and closings, UofM title bars, backgrounds, and music and voice-over audio intros -- on the eCommunication Standards site and the Images Library in the next week (or so).

Policy Work is Slow but Sure

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Updates to the Publishing Information on the WWW policy are continuing. It feels like it's very close. We're working with the Office of the General Counsel to make sure we've considered all things appropriately from a legal perspective.

Once we have the OGC's blessing, we will be in touch via e-mail to invite interested folks throughout all University campuses to attend a policy presentation. At that time we'll gather feedback and make changes that seem necessary before passing the policy on to the U's policy committees.

Assuming the committees approve the policy, and after the mandatory 30-day review period, we should have a new policy in place in early 2010.

Web Templates: Version 4

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Two major changes have been made in version 4 of the Web templates.

Search field: The search field alignment has been mostly fixed, thanks to some great coding from Kim Doberstein in ASR. The search button now stays lined up with the search field in all browsers at the default size. Zooming in or out can slightly disrupt the alignment, depending on your browser, but it's minimal compared with the older version of the code.

Lists: Bulleted and numbered lists no longer need the "default_list" style added to the <ul> or <ol> in order to make a bullet or number appear on your pages.

These fixes involved major changes in the code. If you plan to update an older version of the template code to take advantage of these fixes, please follow these instructions.

Events Calendar Unit/User Agreements and Key Contacts

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I have received responses from groups that the previous post on unit/user agreements and key contacts is confusing. Here is some additional information to help clarify how units and users will be managed within the new events calendar.

We are defining a unit as any group that has a Dean, University Librarian, President, Sr. Vice President, Vice President, Vice Provost, Chancellor, or Vice Chancellor. Any unit that wishes to use to the events calendar will need to get the unit agreement signed by their unit head. Additionally, only one primary contact and one alternate will be designated per unit on the form. For the user agreement forms, only the primary and alternate contacts for the unit need to sign an user agreement form.

The primary and alternate contacts will be given the ability for units to add/remove contributors for their units. Any contributors added do not need to fill out an user agreement form.

Some people may ask why we limit key contacts to just units and not departments? Even at the unit level as we have defined it, we would have almost 100 contacts. Now imagine if this was open to departments. By limiting to the unit level, UR can have a more personal relationship with the units using the events calendar. This is similar to how OIT meets with the IT directors rather than with individual departments and is similar to the model used for mass e-mail.

Events Calendar Overview Document

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Linked below is a PDF that gives an overview of what the new Events Calendar will look like.

Events Calendar Overview (PDF)

Events Calendar Agreement Forms Posted

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We have posted the Events Calendar Agreement Forms. There are two forms that units will need to fill out. The first form is the Unit Agreement Form which will need to be signed by the unit head and lists the primary and alternate key contacts. The second form is the User Agreement Form and will need to be signed by each of the key contacts for the units. For events calendar purposes, an unit is defined as any organization within the University that is overseen by either a Dean, University Librarian, President, Sr. Vice President, Vice President, Vice Provost, Chancellor, or Vice Chancellor.

If anyone has questions on where their group may fit within this structure, please contact me at casper@umn.edu.

Unit Agreement Form
User Agreement Form

Update:
Unit agreement forms need to be signed by either a Dean, University Librarian, President, Sr. Vice President, Vice President, Vice Provost, Chancellor, or Vice Chancellor.

Update:
Departments wishing to use the system should talk with their unit's administration about who will serve as key contacts for the unit and will be responsible for administrating users for that unit. Only users who will be serving as key contacts for their unit need to submit an user agreement form. As unit's submit forms, we will post who the key contacts are so that people within the units know who to contact about getting access to the system.

Mass e-mail privacy statement

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As of Friday afternoon, the mass e-mail privacy statement, to be used in conjunction with messages sent through the University's Lyris ListManager instance, is live and under a host name many of you already know: www.privacy.umn.edu (and without the "www").

The mass e-mail statement itself is at www.privacy.umn.edu/mass-email. You might note that it and the Web privacy statement are not linked to one another; the Web privacy statement is related to an official University policy, while there is currently no policy related to mass e-mail privacy. To avoid confusion over the mass e-mail statement being a matter of policy, cross-links were left of.

Despite the absence of policy, best practice is to let your recipients know what information is being collected and how that information is being used. The mass e-mail privacy statement was written in broad terms, to cover possible uses of Lyris ListManager and the internal workings of the system. As an example, you might only make use of aggregate tracking data in the system but, the system needs to track at a personally identifiable level in order to come up with the aggregate information so, you're covered.

While inclusion of the statement is not required by policy, best practice is to include the statement for your recipients. Changes to the mass e-mail templates and a broader announcement should be coming in the next week or so.

Tabbed search results

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With priorities changing, we've finally had a chance to get back to tabbed search results and have been making excellent progress. We're currently dealing with some design issues, quashing bugs and rendering inconsistencies, looking at accessibility issues, and engaging OIT as we look for a reliable hosting solution that includes PHP5.

Needless to say, IE6 (and 7) have been problematic and are consuming far too much of our time but, we do need to support those offerings. At this point, running in Firefox 3.5.x, things are looking very good.

The quest for PHP5 may be a roadblock. We'd intended that tabbed search be flexible and extensible so that other groups could add search implementations to go against sources other than the Google Search Appliance and be able to render those results appropriately. Leveraging the better support for XML and classes/object-oriented programming in PHP5 is what makes this not only possible but, relatively easy. Backing down to PHP4 would be a detriment to the project, and require the mangling of good, working code.

Ongoing issues aside, we don't have it running on a publicly available site but, here's a screen shot of where the front-end is at the moment.
Tabbed search example

New UofM Events Calendar

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University Relations is pleased to announce a new events calendar that has been developed to replace the existing system (events.umn.edu). The events calendar is based on the Oracle Universal Content Management platform. By using this platform, the University has full customization opportunities while utilizing a vendor-supported solution. The new events calendar's features include:
• Contributors can add an image, a document, or a video to an event
• Users can add events from the calendar to their Google or Yahoo calendars
• Units can create their own RSS feeds
• Units can administer its users
• Units can create their categories
• A "featured event" section highlights upcoming events

The events calendar will be available to Twin Cities-based contributors starting in early September with a launch in mid-October for visitors. Units may start signing up in mid August for access to the calendar. We will be posting sign-up forms, and information about timelines and demos, on this blog as they become available.

New Blog Templates

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A few months ago, the UThink blogs were upgraded to Moveable Type 4.25. This upgrade meant some significant code changes, and that meant a reconfiguration of the U's templates for the blogs.

All three grid versions--matching the Web templates--are now available for download from the Blog Template page. Before you take the new templates and run, be sure to read the instructions under "Using the templates in the blogs." There are a few key things that you must change to make sure the blogs work for you.

Good luck and happy blogging! As always, let us know if you run into any problems or find something that needs fixing!