Monday, December 13, 2010

An Unsatisfying Conclusion

Let the hate mail begin!!

This is all true. Prophead has taken a new position as a library dork, and I'm moving out of the CMS world and more into project management.

To be honest, I knew this day was coming. I've made my peace with leaving the web world; the lack of TFRLs since HighEdWeb sends a pretty clear message that it's pretty much done.

I'm not really interested in someone taking over TFRL. If you have ideas for a comic or whatever, just do it! It doesn't need to be based on TFRL.

I do want to say that you folks are wonderful and your support of TFRL has been nothing sort of amazing. I've felt very honored to know many of you and will miss the high ed web community dearly.

Thanks for a wonderful experience; it's been worth every minute of it, and I wouldn't trade it for anything (except maybe large stacks of unmarked bills).

Friday, October 8, 2010

All You Need is Love

Fortunately, this hasn't happened. Yet. However, I do have a couple of clients that I worry about. For them, having access to their site isn't too far off from giving them a sharp knife and telling them to run around campus as fast as they can. I worry that they will accidentally do something horrible to their site. So far, it hasn't happened, but it's inevitable.

That's why, the sooner I can move to doing something else, something less dangerous, the better. On the Web, your mistakes (and the mistakes of people who then blame you) are very, very visible.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen

Yeah, this really happened. And I blame Prophead.

I was making a backup of the [REDACTED] department website before switching them to the WCMS, and I noticed a very large file go by with the name ''. I commented on it to Prophead and he asked what was in it. I hadn't bothered to look, but once he asked, I opened it up - only to be confronted with about 20 short mpeg files of - ahem - "lesbian porn".

Most of the videos were of pitifully low quality; I have much better stuff at home... I mean most of it was despicable and tasteless in the worst possible way. Not that I actually looked at any of it. Because I didn't. Not most of it anyway. Well, maybe a couple, but only to confirm that it was actually porn.

I don't know who uploaded this file (I honestly didn't want to know), and it got wiped when we switched them to the WCMS, but really? Porn? In an academic department's website? Not cool. Not in real life.

Seriously. I shouldn't have to deal with crap like that. Really.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Official TFRL HighEdWeb 2010 Session Endorsements

Several people have posted on the top ten sessions they want to attend at the HighEdWeb 2010 conference coming up next week in Cincinnati. I thought this was a great idea until I saw that my session wasn't listed in any of these posts. ~o_~o

But since it's also election season, I thought it only appropriate that the TFRL "editorial staff" should "endorse" the sessions it thinks are worth attending.

Before I start, I'd like to apologize to all the people who aren't going to get mentioned in this post. It sucks to get ignored, but I blame HighEdWeb for having six concurrent tracks and forcing us to choose. Seriously though, these represent only the sessions I'm personally interested in. You are probably interested in better things than I am.


APS1: Hanging 10 in Google Wave
Poor Robin Smail; Google nuked Wave after her presentation was accepted (sorry, but I did LOL). I have no real idea on what she will be presenting on instead, but I do know this: Whatever it is, it will be hilarious and will be full of Firefly/Serenity references. I'm going to this one strictly for the lulz!

SOC2: "Hella Drop Shadow": Presenting and Teaching in the Era of the Backchannel
If you aren't familiar with the keynote backchannel revolt from last year's HighEdWeb conference, then "hella drop shadow" probably doesn't mean anything to you, but for those of us who were there, it was something of a transformative event; demonstrating the power and immediacy of the backchannel. I'm pegging this session to be both extremely informative and very fun.

MMP3: Managing Projects in Web Development
OK, now we get down to serious business. Project management is probably where I'm headed, so this session is "relevant to my interests". I'm pretty sure that I know some of this already, but I'm also sure that I'll learn a lot as well.

MMP4: Navigating and Surviving a "Perfect Storm"
Holy crap! This presentation sounds almost exactly like the presentation that I will be doing the following day! I think I have to go to this just so I can either a) incorporate all of their points into my presentation, or b) rebut all their points in my presentation. Mostly, I'm just curious about their experience in doing THE EXACT SAME THING WE DID.

RED3: Maybe the Purpose of Our Redesign is Only to Serve as a Warning to Others
I initially wrote down that I was going to see Mark Greenfield's It's the End of the Web as We Know It Redux, but then I realized that this was the Red Stapler track, and that I was going to be presenting next door. It's a bummer that you have to go to your own session. I've already seen my presentation like 3 times. Boooooring.

I think I may sit this one out. No offense to anyone, but I tend to be pretty wiped after presenting, so I'll probably take a nap or go for a walk.

MMP6: Online Brand Development in a Decentralized World
OK, I'm not a marketing person (All these higher ed web conferences seem to be lousy with marketing people... what ever happened to academics? #justsayin), but I really like the description of this presentation. I like hearing anything that has to do with "limited resources in a decentralized environment". I think that the information in this session will help me help our clients realize "that content and site structure are the keys to success". Sounds like good stuff.


MMP7: 10 Years In The Hole: A Possibly Cautionary Tale About Being A Higher Ed Web Geek
OK, who can resist a session that has a title that pretty much sums up your entire higher education career? This is the session that I think may run away with the red stapler this year in the MMP track (I know for sure I'm not getting it), and I don't want to miss it!

SOC8: The Cluetrain Stops at Higher Ed, Will Anyone Take Delivery?
I pity da fool that misses any Mark Greenfield presentation! Anything that Mark does is absolutely worth listening to, and this presentation, based on the Cluetrain Manifesto, promises to be a high water mark. To tell you what I think of Mark, if I could only attend one session at the conference, this would be the one. I'm just glad that my presentation is not up against his.

MMP9: Confessions From a Wicked Vendor (or What I Learned in My First Year on the Other Side of Higher Ed)
OK, let me start off with a disclaimer: Karlyn Morisette, the presenter of this session, is getting a tattoo of TFRL characters at the conference. So it's clear that she's completely psychotic and unstable and probably on meth. Her presentation is a personal story of her experience as a vendor. Job-wise, it doesn't have a lot of relevance to me. But let me clue you in on something: personal stories are what people like to hear because we connect with them as people. I like sessions that are personal stories because I feel that I get to connect with the presenter. Aside from the tattoo and the fact that she's seriously smart, that's why I'm going to this session.

TNT10: Got Centerpiece? So Does Everyone Else or...
MMP10: Dirty Secrets of Web Directors
OK, this one is a tough call. On the one hand, I want to bring my vuvuzela to Michael Fienen's presentation on centerpieces (hey, we have a centerpiece too!!), and on the other hand I really want to hear what Nick, Chas and Matt have to say about issues facing web directors. I haven't yet decided, but I do know that I can be bribed.

MMP11: Behind the Green Door: Life on the Other Side of a Homepage Redesign
The only reason I'm attending this session is because I'm presenting it. While a part of my brain says "your presentation is fine" another part worries that it's total crap. However, my presentation will have cameo appearances by the Three Stooges, John Belushi, Peter Gibbons (think "Initech"), Approval Guy, The Incredible Hulk, a bunch of baboons, Billy Mays, Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Fonz, David Hasselhoff, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Palin, and the Kool-Aid guy. Oh, and Chuck Norris (but that goes without saying).

So that's our endorsements for this year. Remember to attend early and often. I'm looking forward to seeing EVERYONE next week in Cincinnati! I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wellcome to Are Sight; We Hope U Liek It!

I'm sure this has happened; probably a bunch of times. But I'm not a content guy. Other than porn (see Thursday's upcoming TFRL), I really don't care what people put on their sites. That isn't my particular problem, and I pay very little attention to what people send us for content. I have enough problems without worrying that faculty members with multiple graduate degrees can't spell or put together a complete sentence.

And we have a very decentralized approach to content on our site anyway. It's called "every man for himself".  In other words, departments are pretty much on their own when it comes to content, unless they want to pay money to get help - which is rare.

BTW, we have neither a "Physeology" nor a Physiology department on our campus, so I can't get in trouble for that. And depending on your stylistic rules, there might be 17 errors in that short paragraph.

Monday, October 4, 2010

There's No Place Like Home... There's No Place Like Home...

OK, now we're back to reality. This really happened. And I have to apologize to a co-worker and former minion for using it, but honestly it was just too funny to pass up.

Honestly, if I stop doing Web support, I'll miss things like this. I think.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've Seen the End... We Don't Get Nice Things

OK, my boss must be wondering about my sanity and stability right about now, but this is just a fantasy of a project gone horribly wrong. Now, I would be lying if I said I'd never been in meetings like this before, but not recently.

Fortunately, most of our meetings are quite civil. Maybe not any more productive than this, but certainly civil.

  • I've never worn or even contemplated wearing a bomb belt to a meeting.
  • I've never brought a loaded weapon on campus, nor considered using one on inanimate hardware.
  • I have never successfully bribed another employee to do something that I couldn't talk them into doing some other way. And if I were to try bribing Prophead, I would use wine, not cash.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saying Everyone is Special is Just Another Way of Saying that No One Is

Hat tip to Dash of The Incredibles for the title of this post.

This is another in the series of exploring implementing change with limited resources. I hate to be a curmudgeon (not really, I love being a curmudgeon), but sometimes the only equitable way to allocate limited resources is to give no one anything.

But that's really just another way to say that resources can't be divided equitably. It's pointless to deny everyone resources just because you can't divide them equally. Faced with limited resources, there are going to be winners and losers. The problem arises when the losers (and sometimes the winners) take it personally.

Just because your project got resources and someone else's didn't doesn't mean that you are better or more important than anyone else. Maybe your project is considered important despite your participation in it. Ever think of that?

Managers have to (though often times they don't) make tough decisions about how best to use the limited resources at their disposal. With everyone clamoring for a piece of the pie, it's not an easy decision to make. Telling someone they aren't getting resources can easily be interpreted as saying "you suck." That's why people need to find ways to get beyond taking it personally.

And managers aren't fortune tellers; they often don't really know what the organization will need in a year or five. This is especially true in IT, where technologies and their uses evolve rapidly.

Combine limited resources, imperfect knowledge and imperfect people... and you have a recipe for an unlimited supply of TFRLs!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unicorn Pony Rainbows are REAL!

I'm partial to unicorn burgers myself, though My Little Pony salami sounds pretty darn good too!

Why do we even fight these battles? Well, the answer is right there in the cartoon: limited resources. We're trying to do too much with too little.

I'm not a fan of this.

I got my bachelor's degree in natural resources management (truf!), and that major was all about 'managing' 'resources' - if you can imagine that. One of the first tenets they drilled into your head was that resources are limited, and unlimited use of resources inevitably leads to their depletion.

We do the same thing in higher education that the timber barons did to forests, only we don't end up with massive clear cuts; we end up with people and systems overtaxed and spread too thin. We end up with units with conflicting goals and needs completing for the same resources (whether human, financial, or technological).

Inevitably, you end up getting less done than if you had strategically limited the use of your resources because the resources you have are spread so thin and have so many demands on them that they can't be effective.

And this goes for software too. I'm the only person supporting our WCMS. Imagine if our management - in their infinite and inscrutable wisdom - decided that the WCMS would be used as a wiki and for incident management, as well as for web content management. I wouldn't be able to do any of those things effectively, regardless of how good the program was, because I would be spread too thin trying to make it all happen.

This is all Management 001A (Resource Management for Retards), but it's amazing how quickly we forget that during tight budget times. Rather than trying to do more with less, we should be trying to figure out what we can do without (My God, I'm starting to sound like a Republican. Eek!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HighEdWeb 2010 TFRL T-Shirts!

I still have a few TFRL T-shirts left over that I'm going to bring to HighEdWeb 2010 in Cincy.

If you are going to be there and want one, now is the time to order!

Yes, they're $30, which is highway robbery, but I ain't making anything on the deal.

Here's the design:

I've got shirts left in the following sizes and colors:

1 - Medium Navy
3 - Large Navy
1 - Large Dark Red
2 - Large Black
2 - XL Black
1 - XXL Black

Order now before they are all gone! Tweet me @tonydunn or leave a comment and I'll put you down. Bring cash to Cincy to get your shirt.

Monday, September 20, 2010

When the Only Tool you Have is a Hammer, All of your Problems Look Like Nails

I've never understood the attraction to software that is supposed to be able to "do it all". Just like those printer/fax/scanner things you see on the market, do-it-all software may to it all, but it will do it all poorly.

For example, 'FingerPoints' is supposed to be able to do content management, and at least one person has commented that we could dump our WCMS (which works great) and use FingerPoints instead. We'd save the licensing fees for our WCMS, the argument goes.

But that's a false economy. As we learned when we went through our WCMS process 3 years ago, just because a piece of software says it does something doesn't mean that it does it in a way that is useful or that meets our needs. 

Consider one of the WCMS products we seriously looked at. "WCMS editor allows upload of image files": CHECK. Sure, but what that 'check' doesn't say is that only administrators could upload images into the WCMS and all images went into a single common 'library'. There is no way that something like that would be even remotely useful or usable for us or our users. 

Part of the problem is asking the wrong questions, or asking incomplete questions. "WCMS editor allows all content editors to upload images to their site space and insert them into page content as desired" would be a better (but still not perfect) question. 

Part of the problem is the reliance on checklists of features. We learned this when we purchased our first WCMS. When we purchased its replacement, we required vendors to give us a sandbox and sufficient training to be able to use it enough to determine if it met our needs. Those vendors that refused were stricken from the list of potential products without compunction. Think of shopping for a car and having the dealer refuse to let you test drive it. You wouldn't do that. And software can affect many more people and cost more than a new car.

And part of the problem is trying to use software to do tasks for which it was not designed. Our WCMS was designed to be a Web content management system. And it does that task great. It would be possible to try to repurpose it to be a wiki, but it wouldn't do that task very well. I suppose it could also be used as issue tracking software, but it would completely and totally suck at that. It's not what it was designed for, and though you may be able to make it do something like what you want, it will never be what you want.

I believe in using the right tool for the right job. We have wiki software that works great. It costs money, but because it works well for our needs, it actually saves us money in increased productivity. I for one, would scream bloody murder if they tried to take the wiki away.

They say when the only tool you have is a hammer, then all of your problems look like nails. My response is: invest in better tools because with better tools you get better solutions. 

Oh, and a final caveat: I haven't been put in charge of anything, nor is it likely that I'll be put in charge of anything. This is just a horrific fantasy I've cooked up in my mind. One problem with this cartoon is that so many posts have been based on real life for so long that when you do something completely fictional, people think it's real. 

P.S. There are still some HighEdWeb 2010 TFRL T-shirts available. But there's only a few left, so order yours now! I only have design #2, in medium, large and XL, mostly in black, but a couple in other colors as well.