Only at the U
The University of Minnesota cracks me up. I love my college, and will continue to do so when it is my alma mater, but really, when you're bad your bad. Here are some examples (in my opinion):
Signing Football Coach Glen Mason to a new medium-length contract, then firing him one year later
Pretending that MyU is basically on similar ground as Facebook and MySpace
Moving the football team to the Metrodome in the first place
Okay, you get it, I'm a football fan. But before getting to our real assignment, I would like to discuss why our great university thinks MyU is such a revolutionary tool (just hang on, it blends with it eventually). I was in one of my classes last fall, and the professor was talking about a meeting he went to over the weekend that dealt with the university's technology. He said, while he had never heard of it, that this MyU thing was really great, and all the students love it, according to the administrators in charge of the meeting he was at. So he asked the class, "So you guys really like this, like outside of class?" The class responded with a "No?", as in, what are you thinking, all in unison. Everyone laughed, and then he asked, why don't you like it. There were many reasons, but summarized they are:
First, it should just be called My Tools, you should be able to access it just like web registration; one click and login, and select your class, and you have everything in front of you. This is very similar to Facebook's rioting dilemma, in that the U just forces everything on top of you. I am one of the few people that use UMCal, so I wouldn't mind that on my page. But a whole page of unwanted news, portfolios, lists, and other options stands in the way between you and your class. These are the same options we get a million emails about per week about, and if we really wanted we would have signed up or attended to it by now.
Second, I think I understand that Vista is a copywritten term, so (unless you buy it out) you cannot really call it your own and embed it into your current format. So why not just give the students what they want, a quick link to vista, and not put all the crap inbetween. Now when I log into FastWeb (a scholarship search engine) I understand why they try to get you to fill in ads for the Army or the University of Phoenix, they are trying to make money. But the U seems to have no money making schemes that I know of on the initial MyU portal page, so why? That is the question I would like answered.
We are smart enough to get through MyU portal, but unless my class survey sample of 150 is wrong, I think this is a great example of why people need options. Oh, the reason I started this whole rant is because in the middle of the University's Living in Online Communities: A User's Guide they state
The University has its own online community too, called MyU. All students, staff and faculty have an account that is accessed by entering their own unique log-in. If you have not accessed your account yet, visit www.umn.edu/initiate. This will give you access to e-mail, discussion boards, an online calendar, and more. Just sign in at myu.umn.edu, and find out!
Only at the U. Wow, I'm glad they put that enticing exclamation point at the end, I'm ready to find out!
Here is a story that goes out to anyone who's ever lost a friend (because you didn't know what their complete name was) and won them back again:
I met a friend at a camp in middle school, only remembering his first name, because his first name is so unique. I learned about Facebook in 11th grade doing college visits. I went to Macalester and it was my friends homepage. He explained it was only for college kids, but while I was there, we spent time looking at pictures of our friends (we went to the same high school) who I had not seen since school started. About a week after I was admitted to the U of M, I logged on, and within a week was able to see a lot of my friends' adventures over the past 3/4 of a year. As time went on, Facebook allowed you to be less exact when searching for people. First you had to know their name and school, then I think you could search anyone if you got their exact name, then Facebook put in some sort of google search for names, and you get renditions of peoples names with the relevancy to your original query. Well, a month ago I put in my friend's name from middle school, and poof, there he was, one of about 15 matches. Over the past four weeks we have exchanged emails and caught up on each other, planning to meet again when we have enough money (he lives in California now).
As you can probably tell, I like Facebook. I would say while keeping in contact with my close friends, if you check Facebook every day (sad, I know) you will be able to see all your friends' names once a year via the birthday announcements. I do not necessarily wish everyone that shows up a happy birthday, but I can at least remember some people I have not talked to in a while.
I was part of the Facebook Riots (Schneier), and was at one point a proud member of the group, "I will quit Facebook the day my mom joins". Luckily for me, I don't think that day will come, but she is definitely able to. When Facebook expanded to include employers, I think the fun died down. Before, it was the equivalent of going to a safe party that your parents would never want you to attend. Now, its like the ladies in the lunchroom in elementary school making sure that you clean your plate and keep the noise level down, or you cannot go outside. We all understood that anyone could have a umn.edu X500 sign-in (Guests could/can login for a temporary amount of time to the U of M), but just assumed everyone who would try that hard probably could find out another way as well.
Personally, I am off the NewsFeed, I just get worried about the day that Facebook tells me, "That girl that used to like you in middle school was staring at the picture of you on the beach for 25 minutes at 10:23 am". I do not think that is a message any Facebooker wants to receive. I limit most of my other content as to I would want it limited to me. That is, I search Facebook profiles the most when I want to find out more about people that I could potentially befriend, in real life that is. So I like to use Facebooks to look for any red flags, much as employers use behavioral interviews. For this reason, I open up my profile (and thus my life) to all people at the University of Minnesota. While I understand the University is a large network which makes a lot of people able to see me, that also means to me that there is a smaller chance of someone coming across my profile randomly.
As far as schools are concerned, I prefer Cornell's "Do what you want, but be careful" attitude to our "Be very careful, but do it if you think it is the best decision for your life". College is great time for people to find themselves and make mistakes. If the U paid Facebook enough to not allow any umn.edu addresses, our students would be behind in the future because Facebook seems so big that it will our adapt the communication styles of our future managers and coworkers.
While I agree with Schneier that Facebook etc. has full power of my information, they all know that it will take one lawsuit where someone who "clicked the privacy box" had their data accessed inadvertently by a third party, and the company could go down. Companies are still run by people, and I think that people running social networking sites want a balance between happy people, happy lawyers, and happy profits. So if things like Google or Facebook are ever bought in the way, like how General Electric and Disney, among others, basically own everything, I think then we will see profit pushed much faster than happiness.
Now that you're done reading this, you can go back to MyU and have tons of fun posting with 3 other people on the message boards with the rest of the undergraduate community!