Bates Online Media http://batesmedia.net Bates College Web Communications initiatives Thu, 19 Nov 2009 22:39:53 +0000 http://wordpress.com/ en hourly 1 http://www.gravatar.com/blavatar/9e28369b9269c152b858cc11640c2b5c?s=96&d=http://s.wordpress.com/i/buttonw-com.png Bates Online Media http://batesmedia.net Domain architecture (redux) /2009/11/19/architecture/ /2009/11/19/architecture/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2009 21:28:08 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1484 ]]>

Here is my update to our domain architecture. I’ve added realms of online communication to the map. See, also, how this relates to Bates and the Social Web.

Jay Collier

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Measuring engagement: first impressions /2009/11/03/measuring-engagement/ /2009/11/03/measuring-engagement/#comments Tue, 03 Nov 2009 13:25:11 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1289 ]]>

We’ve only gathered two weeks of integrated data for our new home site — and we’re still fine-tuning, so caveat emptor — but already we can see some interesting trends on our two primary subdomains, www.bates.edu (home page and subsites) and home.bates.edu (the top levels and news site).

Compared to a year ago, our visits, page views, and pages/visit are up quite a bit.

Our bounce rate — visitors who arrive at a page or post and leave immediately — has gone down from 58% to 11% over the past year. This is a very good as a preliminary measurement of engagement.

The time on site is down, even though the number of pages per visit is up. This may indicate that people are scanning and understanding each screen more quickly and clicking to the next. If so, that is good. We’ll be investigating.

More segmentation is coming as we begin tracking exit links and gather more data. By way of background, here are some content measurement tips from our strategic partners at iSite.

Jay Collier

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Background on Home 4 /2009/10/30/home4-background/ /2009/10/30/home4-background/#comments Sat, 31 Oct 2009 00:05:03 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1166 ]]>

I’ve been receiving inquiries about the deployment of our new home site, so I thought I’d post some background in case you’re interested. Thanks to David Kelly of Dickinson College for giving me permission to share his excellent questions.

Question: What was your motivation to move to an open source CMS?

We were charged with a very targeted task, to improve the first impressions presented to visitors when they arrive at the top levels of www.bates.edu.

Question: What alternatives did you consider (both open source and commercial)?

We had been prototyping with Drupal, WordPress, and Expression Engine over about a year and chose WordPress for these sites.

Question: Did you have much prior experience with open source applications?

We did not have previous experience producing a major site (with 30,000-plus page views a day) with these three software packages.

Question: Did you use an implementation partner for the initial installation and configuration of your system?

We hired an interactive agency to provide external strategic input and architecture support within a phased approach. I was able to recruit our first new staff member who started as this project got underway; he did the interface design. We contracted with W3Markup to transform the design into a standards-based, cross-platform theme to apply throughout the site.

Question: Was your implementation a conversion from an existing CMS? If so, from which CMS did you convert?

Yes we converted content from our legacy CMS, Ingeniux.

Question: What was the scope of your implementation (e.g., entire College Web site or smaller sub-sites)?

The vast majority of content at bates.edu is managed within Ingeniux, and we have proposed an initiative to select a new content platform for official academic departments and administrative offices and migrate content into it.

Question: Do you host the CMS system on campus or do you have it hosted by a third party?

We started prototyping on WordPress.com hosting, moved the site to an external host, and then moved it to a new campus hosting environment.

Question: What operating system and database systems do you use with your CMS?

LAMP. [Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP]

Question: What are the ongoing staffing requirements for operating your CMS in terms of FTE, skill sets, and levels of experience with the software?

Since this project covered only the home/news content, our initial and sustaining staff requirements are not extensive. All are permanent staff: 1 executive producer/project manager (40% FTE), 1 interface designer/ Web developer (50%), five staff content contributors (averaging 10% FTE each), and 3-5 student assistants.

Question: Were you able to use existing staff or did you need to hire additional staff?

Our interface designer joined the team at the beginning of the project (he worked 80% for 8 months on it). Otherwise, we’d have outsourced much more of the interface development.

Question: To what level did you need to customize the baseline software to meet your needs?

We installed several plugins to add functions on top of the base software. See this interview for details: http://bit.ly/3oFAup

Question: What other ongoing costs have you encountered with running your CMS?

We continue to improve the site incrementally, but we don’t bill for our time, so there are no other hard costs.

Question: What is the division of labor in Web site management at your college?  For instance, are hardware and programming performed by IT while design and content are handled by a communications group?

For this project, we developed the strategy, configured the software, edited the content, and designed the interface within the Office of Communications and Media Relations. Hosting services and system
integration are provided by the IT division.

Question: Do you have distributed management of content?  In other words, does a wide array of users at your college maintain the content of smaller parts of the Web site?

The architecture and content for our official unit Web sites for academic departments and administrative offices is still managed by many users in our legacy content management system.

The new WordPress site is edited by about 10 current users.

Question: Do these users find your CMS easy to use for content updates?

Yes. The basic editing interface has been intuitive to the degree that users assume they can figure things out on their own. People usually come to me for assistance for more advanced tasks, so we’ve been mostly providing just-in time training.

Question: Do you use a create-approve-post workflow for content updates in your CMS?

I do, indeed, audit changes to content and perform quality assurance after posts are published. We could apply a create/edit/post work flow, but we haven’t needed to do so due to the expertise of our professional staff.

Jay Collier

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Bates and the Social Web /2009/10/30/social-web/ /2009/10/30/social-web/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2009 19:50:59 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1059 ]]>

Yours, Mine, and Ours – Redux

The World Wide Web was conceived, from the start, as a social medium: as a space for virtual collaboration. Although it was dominated, during its early years, by the one-to-many broadcast model which preceded it, the Web has been evolving toward its potential as a social space for meaningful interaction.


In many ways, the Internet more resembles an ancient bazaar than it fits the business models companies try to impose upon it. Millions have flocked to the Net in an incredibly short time, not because it was user-friendly — it wasn’t — but because it seemed to offer some intangible quality long missing in action from modern life. In sharp contrast to the alienation wrought by homogenized broadcast media, sterilized mass “culture,” and the enforced anonymity of bureaucratic organizations, the Internet connected people to each other and provided a space in which the human voice would be rapidly rediscovered. — The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999 (Image from Paul Irish via Flickr Creative Commons.)

At Bates, we’ve developed a blueprint which approaches the entire bates.edu domain from the perspective of social experience, drawing our constituents from general awareness of the College toward deeper social and personal interaction based on shared interests and common intellectual passions.

We know that Bates’ online identity — the sum total of what people know about us on the Web — comes, more and more, from the experiences created out on the wild Web, as well as the official content we produce ourselves. By approaching the Web as social participants — as hosts and connectors — we can better enhance Bates online experience.

“Mine” — Official Bates content

It is important that we publish our official experiences of Bates — text, images, audio, and video — in ways that people can view and subscribe to, wherever they are on the social Web. In overhauling Bates’ top-level Web architecture, we transformed content into a blog format, with timely notifications available for numerous topics and every story.

We deliver updates to those official stories — immediately, daily, or on demand — through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and RSS, and SMS texting. Presenting the Bates experience in this format also helps people find and use our content via search engines and social media services.

By identifying a new content platform and migrating official department and office sites into it, we will be able to make more of the Bates experience available to people where they already are, rather than requiring they come to us.

“Yours” — Bates’ identity on the wild Web

Anyone with broadband access can publish Web content of many kinds — text, images, audio, video, animation, maps — at almost no cost and with little effort. (Nevertheless, the uneven distribution of Internet access is a concern of which we must remain aware.)

Some of that user-generated content is about Bates people, events, and stories. Some is produced by Bates-affiliated people and organizations, such as the Bates Life blog from Admissions, the Online Media blog from Web Communications,  the LinkedIn group from Alumni and Parent Programs, and blogs from the Dance Festival and Outing Club. Other content is posted by prospective students and parents, professional colleagues, and unaffiliated friends, including dozens of Facebook groups.

We pay attention to mainstream media, the blogosphere, and the Twittersphere for content about Bates — via open tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search — and share it with Bates people, as soon as possible. This allows us to identify trends and determine how to participate effectively.

“Ours” — Curating content by and about Bates

Along with making our content useful, engaging, and findable on the Social Web — and paying attention to what Bates people publish about our College — we have countless opportunities to participate in co-creating online experiences about Bates. Determining the most appropriate kind of involvement — from interpersonal to group to public participation — requires knowledge of each environment and people involved.

By way of example, here is how I evaluate each alert I receive:

If I learn about something of interest to a particular Bates constituency group — such as a compliment about our sustainability efforts — I forward it to the most appropriate Bates person.

if I receive an alert about something of uncontested interest to the global Bates community — such as a blog post or video clip created by a Bates person — I place it in our social Web stream, which goes out into social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and NetVibes. (These official spaces are linked from the bottom of every page in our new Home/Views sites.)

If I have an opportunity to contact the person who created the content, I will do so to share my appreciation of their work.

We’ve worked hard to get this far on the Social Web … but we’ve only just begun. Stay tuned.

Jay Collier

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Wrapping the Home launch project # ##comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 14:33:42 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1045 ]]>

Now that Home 4 is launched and undergoing continuous improvement, I’m wrapping up the launch project and preparing for our next program initiative: implementing a new content platform to support the renovation of official Web sites for academic departments and administrative offices. I’ll have a scope statement and draft plan to share next week.

In the meantime, here is the final Home 4 launch project documentation. Thanks to the folks who helped evaluate program collaboration software packages; ActiveCollab made it possible to keep Home 4 on track.

Jay Collier

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The Bates Student reviews Home 4 # ##comments Mon, 28 Sep 2009 17:00:53 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1454 ]]>

Bates Online Media Team Unveils Dynamic New Website

By Gardiner Nardini, managing news editor, The Bates Student.

After eight months of extensive research and development, the Bates OMG (Online Media Group) released a fourth version of Bates’ Internet homepage on September 8, 2009. The Web site, which offers vibrant new features alongside helpful infrastructure from its previous model, is designed to showcase Bates’ rich and multifarious story.

The OMG team, a successor group to the previous web communications initiative formed in 2001, is comprised of two staff members and four Bates students. Jay Collier, in charge of strategy, management, social media and information architecture, explained that the previous page, while pragmatic in its prime, was in dire need of an upgrade.

“The face of a college is important.  The system that was designed was good at the time, but the site’s appearance needs to feature the college as it is today”.

Before implementing a design strategy, Bates OMG worked to pinpoint … Bates’ essential character. The group hosted open forums with students, faculty, parents and alumni starting in the winter of 2007 to gather a representative vision.

One theme of the sessions was recurring: community needs should frame the use and development of new technology, not vice versa.  Ideas expressed in listening sessions signaled another outstanding consistency: the Bates experience revolves around welcoming and being open to each other. “It’s not really hospitality, but more about growth in the context of others. It’s about individuals letting down their guard and their assumptions, and paying attention and learning” said Collier.

“The home site is really a vessel, intended to hold many different perspectives about Bates and the world we live in. We are featuring student blog posts and videos, and hope to encourage more.”

These intentions are surfaced in the content and structure of the homepage, which links to stories, annotated images, and literature about students, faculty, and alumni. While the functions most frequently used by members of the community are present in “The Quad” tab, the homepage is meant to fulfill a higher purpose.

“Its not enough to just see the forest or study the individual trees. We wanted to do both: to connect the big picture with the realities of navigating life here, day to day … we wanted to connect the overall themes of the Bates education with the many different ways Bates people experience them” added Collier.

The Web team rejects the Three-Click Rule — which contends that site users are fulfilled and successful in finding media if desired content can be attained within three clicks — as the fundamental logic behind web navigation.

Instead, they place importance on the satisfaction users feel as they become incrementally closer to their terminus and build direction, regardless of their click count.

In a recent blog post web critic Karine Joly referred to the new homepage as “different and innovative … not because it uses fancy graphics or animations, but because Jay Collier and his team at Bates College have decided to make this redesigned homepage more than just a collection of the usual navigation scheme, useful links, and beautiful campus photos.”

Joly commended the site’s innovative approach to story sharing, explaining that what makes the site concept unique is “the way stories, real stories about students, faculty and staff told through blog posts, photos and news in a section called Bates Views, are featured on this homepage.”

Many students remarked on the page’s well-crafted aesthetics. Alex Friedman ‘12 said that “[the Web site] reflects the character of the college much better than the old website. [It] looks much more presentable”. Others remain loyal to the predecessor. “[The new homepage] is too polished. The old one was simple, modest and full of charm” said David Rahtz ‘12.

“I like it.” said Grif Peterson ‘09, a recent graduate. “It makes me feel like I’m still as much a part of Bates as when I was a student, which is good for those of us who are dating current students.”

The Bates OMG team holds that change is a necessary mechanism for Bates’ Internet media. “Bates requires us to be open to change. An important aspect of the site is that it’s evolutionary. We are constantly re-evaluating and reacting to criticisms.” explained Collier.

“We’re not going way out there. Some other schools need to be so far, far out; there needs to be a balance between practical and appealing, but not head-scratching. It’s a mix of practical and inspired.”

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Review: Bates College goes beyond the usual homepage redesign /2009/09/22/beyond-the-usual/ /2009/09/22/beyond-the-usual/#comments Tue, 22 Sep 2009 17:18:12 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=1017 ]]>

Bates College goes beyond the usual homepage redesign with Home 4…

From Karine Joly at College Web Editor

Have you seen Bates College’s new homepage? You should check it out. It is really different and innovative.

Not because it uses fancy graphics or animations, but because Jay Collier and his team at Bates College have decided to make this redesigned homepage more than just a collection of the usual navigation scheme, useful links and beautiful campus photos.

So, what makes it so different? Among other things:

  • The way stories – real stories about students, faculty and staff told through blog posts, photos and news in a section called Bates Views – are featured on this homepage
  • The navigation scheme
  • The dynamic information architecture
  • The use of photo galleries including shots with short captions telling the full story

Really beautiful and thoughtful work, which is why I asked Jay Collier 3 questions about this project. [More]

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New Home, New Views # ##comments Sat, 05 Sep 2009 03:52:56 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=993 ]]>

Welcome to Bates’ new Home site!

This our new front door, the place to learn what Bates is all about and to explore our common interests. We call this Home 4 because it is the fourth version of Bates’ home page … but this version is different. Here’s why.

What to look for

We’ve done our best to improve the online experience, whether you are discovering Bates for the first time, getting to know Bates more deeply, or already a member of the campus community.

If you’re new to Bates, we’ve tried to concisely capture the essence of Bates’ distinctive approach to liberal arts and sciences education. (On the home page, click on “Explore. Connect. Transform.”)

New Home, New Views

If you’re considering applying to Bates to become a student or employee, we’ve tried to help you learn what’s here for you in our diverse and dynamic community of learning.

New Home, New Views

If you’re already a member of the Bates community, we’ve tried to bring together links to services you need in one place.

New Home, New Views

Going a little deeper

Here are a few more specific things to look for.

Get an overview of the “Bates” life, from application and interview, to classroom and field research, to commencement and reunion.

New Home, New Views

Find out where we are, both on campus

New Home, New Views

… and around this part of the world.

New Home, New Views

Watch videos, listen to audio clips, and see slide shows about how we teach, learn, and live here at Bates, and beyond.

New Home, New Views

Select from among hundreds of views of the Bates experience, organized by interest.

New Home, New Views

And, if you’re already on campus, easily find services, resources, and tools.

New Home, New Views

Help us evolve

Just as the Bates experience evolves, so, too, will this Home site … we’re already working on the next version! Whether you’re new to Bates or an old hand, please let us know how we can make this online experience more meaningful for you.

Please keep in mind that this first-phase project covers the several dozen pages where people make their first impressions of Bates, along with almost a thousand recent stories about the Bates experience. Updates to department and office sites is still to come.

Interested in learning more? Read a overview from the Bates Student, the project history, and more about our work on our blog.

Jay Collier

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One Bates. Many Journeys. # ##comments Tue, 01 Sep 2009 12:59:16 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=916 ]]>

As we prepare to release our new Home site — which presents the essence of Bates’ approach to liberal arts and sciences education — I’m sharing the current draft of a vision paper on ways such an education might be expanded through online collaboration.

It’s 12-pages long, so here is a PDF version (2.1 MB download). It’s an evolving draft, so please send comments and suggestions for improvements.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this paper over the past 18 months!

[Updated 9/2/09]

Jay Collier

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Fiscal year 2009 Bates online in review /2009/07/15/fiscal-year-2009-bates-online-in-review/ /2009/07/15/fiscal-year-2009-bates-online-in-review/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2009 17:00:45 +0000 Jay Collier /?p=924 ]]>

What a year! Here’s our list of online media accomplishments from July 2008 to June 2009.

  • We created a vision and goals for the entire bates.edu Web domain. We provided recommendations for improvements to all levels of the online experience: first impressions, news, events, department and office promotion, internal communications
  • We developed the strategy, plan, architecture, content, and prototype for our new home site
  • We supervised the migration of Media Relations stories (500 and counting) in a new content system to improve organization, findabilility, and engagement
  • We managed vetted social media content in Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and NetVibes.
  • We recruited, interviewed, and hired a new online media producer, Web communications assistants, and summer worker
  • We initiated Bates Voices, a new discovery project with students and alumni volunteers that would promote, coach, and select user-generated content (videos, images, stories) about the Bates experience
  • We selected next-generation online collaboration software now in use by the online media team and alumni and parent volunteers
  • We consulted with academic departments: Arts & Visual Culture, Education, Music, Politics, Psychology, as well as meeting with academic administrative assistants from numerous departments
  • We consulted with administrative offices, including Admissions, Accounting, Advancement, Bookstore, Career Services,  Chaplain, Dance Festival, Dean of Students, Dean of the Faculty, Equity and Diversity, Harward Center, Human Resources, Media Relations, Multicultural Center, Olin Arts, Student Housing, and Sustainable Bates
  • We consulted with student and alumni groups, including Bobcats of the Last Decade, Outing Club

And there’s more!

Jay Collier

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