I thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on the progress of our Blogs at Penn State project with everyone. We’ve been at this for quite some time and it is starting to really feel like it is catching on. Measuring a service’s success at a place like PSU is tough. Is it measured through the number of users? Is it measured through positive feedback? Perhaps through novel uses of the service? No one can really tell me one way or the other … so for the Blogs at Penn state, I am using my own metrics — and they are probably flawed, but that is why I am saying they are my metrics.
If we are measuring success with numbers alone, I am thrilled with the growth this semester! Since the first week of August there have been about 2,700 new blogs created by about 2,900 new users. That is exciting, but the fact that there are now nearly 24,00 entries with about 9,400 comments makes me think people are not only writing themselves, but engaging in the kind of social discourse a platform like this affords. If we’re measuring on unique uses, then I am floored — student and faculty portfolios are springing up, alumni pages are being developed, and departmental websites are coming to life. The uses are nearly unlimited and people are getting it.
For the start of the Spring semester we have a few new ideas to drive greater adoption of the platform. One of the things we’ve been working on is a new page that is created automatically when a user gets their webspace activated. Every faculty, staff, or student who activates their personal webspace gets 5 GB to do whatever they want with it. At PSU, only about half of the 93,000 students activate their space and only about 25% use it for academic purposes. We think by promoting the service as a web publishing platform suitable for blogs, portfolios, class notes, or really anything we’ll see those numbers jump. The new page is beautiful and shares a very simple message — “Create. Reflect. Connect.” It was designed by our webmaster, Audrey Romano, and really begins the effort to tie the service to its affordances.
If you’ve visited the Blogs at PSU site lately, you will see a striking resemblance. We are working to bring the ideas of web publsihing together under the use of the Movable Type environment. One of the coolest features of the new personal page shown above is a promotional video created by one of our multimedia developers, Zac Zidek. Zac took the text from an old screencast and set it in motion. As far as I am concerned, it is first rate.
So starting this Spring, when a student gets their webspace and visits it for the first time they’ll be encouraged to dive in with a single click to “Create. Reflect. Connect.” We’ll see, but I am vey proud of the team effort on the Blogs at PSU — from across lots of our organizations. What do you think?