I had a great meeting today with the principles in The Institute for Information Policy (IIP) here at PSU about how to enhance their web presence. It was interesting because these guys are all heavy hitters in their collective spaces … they are also very well respected by their peers both on our campus and in the international space. What blew my mind was how much they knew about the web and at the same time, how excited they got when we started to talk about the powers of CMS tools, RSS, and other “newerish” items they hadn’t really heard of.
At the moment, they have a grad student (who doesn’t?) designing and updating their site. They went over their goals with me … “make it look nicer and easier to use” is what they said. But when I was digging deeper, I discovered that they also wanted the ability to share more up to date news, connect with peers, raise their google rankings, write and publish their own content, understand who was showing up at their site, etc … they didn’t really know it, but they have some fairly serious needs and they came around to the idea that Dreamweaver isn’t going to cut it for them. I showed them Mambo and we talked about how critical it is that they have more control over their content and have the ability to update it quickly … what got them the most excited was the whole RSS concept. They just loved the idea of being able to syndicate their own content and were even more excited to be able to subscribe to other Research Center’s materials. The problem is, when we looked further, we discovered that all the other Research Centers they pointed me to don’t have RSS feeds and are pretty much static sites. It gave them an idea that they could actually jump to the head of the class in their space with a well-designed site. It was cool to see.
It was really just a chance meeting in that I rarely meet with faculty about technologies like web sites and stuff … I am usually more tied to the larger mission critical stuff we do in the Institute … but, I have been anxious to get a couple of the heavier hitting faculty at PSU interested in using some of these technologies so I spent the time with them. Well worth it. I felt like a salesman and actually caught myself getting excited about the nuts and bolts of it all.
What I was hoping for was a group of faculty who want to push the limits of the technology … What I got was a group that really got into it and are more than willing to both along for the ride and help drive! They all walked away feeling like the curtain had been pulled back on web technologies and they were seeing for the first time that, “hey we can do that!” That’s what I’d like to be able to create on a more regular basis — opportunities for faculty to take complete ownership over their IP and have the power to publish and push it. Sorts of laughs in the face of the traditional back office technologist who honestly believes that they must control it all … just not my style I guess. Have others had similar experiences with faculty getting on board and being jacked by being able to regain control over their use of technology?