There is no shortage of means of communication on campus: innumerable posters vie for student's attention on the walls of public spaces and students receive fliers in the mailboxes—at least until BSG voted on Wednesday to stop the practice.
Arguably the most heavily-trafficked advertising venue is e-mail, however. Student inboxes are inundated every day with the student digest and a veritable flood of campus-wide messages announcing everything from College House parties to summer job opportunities.
The snowballing avalanche of campus-wide e-mails is a source of increasing frustration among students, and the Student Web Advisory Team (SWAT) has been working with Information Technology (IT) and the Web Design Team (WDT) to come up with a solution to the information overload.
SWAT's goal is to streamline and simplify the methods of communication online. The group is focusing on changing both the student gateway website and the digest in order to aggregate information that currently seems to lack cohesion.
According to John Connolly '11, BSG president and member of SWAT, the group is nearing a finalized version of the new digest.
The design would replace the current two-category system—"Official Announcements" and "General Community Interest"—with a six-category list. There will be two events sections and two announcements categories, one for posts by faculty, staff and administrators, and the other for student posts. The redesigned digest would include sections for the Ride Board and lost and found notices as well.
"The events are categorized by when the event is happening," said Connolly. "For the student announcements, students will be able to rate them, thumbs up or thumbs down, and [the posts] will move based on that. Really popular things—and things that have good titles and that aren't frivolous or posted 18 times—will be moved to the top...it's a community moderation technique."
According to Connolly, the digest will still be posted online and will still be e-mailed, and SWAT theoretically envisions twice-a-day digest e-mails, "one at the end of the day to tell you what's happening that night, and one at the end of the night telling you what's happening the next day."
If the new digest succeeds and students respond well to its launch, it could mean a significant decrease in the volume of class list e-mails. Currently, anyone can send a school-wide e-mail using the class list function.
Connolly hypothesized that if the digest can effectively disseminate everyone's announcements and information, "the class lists wouldn't exist because of the [new] digest. It would be coherent and everyone would read it because that would be the only thing they're getting."
The new student gateway is the second part of the SWAT effort. Associate Vice President of Communications for Marketing and Publications Robert Kerr, who is working with the advisory team, explained that "it's not going to look or act anything like the current gateway."
SWAT, in collaboration with Kerr's WDT, "sketched out the designs for what [we] want, and we are working with software developers in IT and it's going great," said Kerr.
Connolly described the planned changes to the gateway, saying, "we're trying to bring some more coherence to it and we're trying to make it a gateway to other places."
Over Winter Break, software developers in IT designed a new software platform for the digest, which is currently in place online. Once SWAT and WDT finalize their plans, the digest will go through testing before being submitted to BSG for approval.
Kerr and Connolly were both enthusiastic about the prospective redesigns, and optimistic that they will be well-received and beneficial to the community once they are implemented.