Web Decimal Conundrum

Readers and my most sarcastic fans know my reluctance to blandly use the “Web 2.0” word, but bear with me– the decimals don’t matter, what I struggle with is the ratio issue.

Daily I interact, participate, create, dwell, explore in this place of “folksonomic social networked connective reading/writingWeb 2.0-ish world” — yet I work in a large organization that feels mostly around Web 0.75.

One of my peeves is the pervasive use of email as a sole communication means. What I am referring to as almost daily, there are 4 or 5 fully formatted HTML, graphic laden emails about various events and programs in our college system, and there is no corresponding related information on our colleges’ web sites. That means the only content “repository” is the inbox, which has no legacy record, no memory, no search. Our lack of a coordinated event calendaring system (beyond the clunky one to use for foisting meetings on people) means the lowest common denominator, event email spamming. A successful communication strategy ought to connect web site information, email as notification (heck, do you think RSS is on any radars around here?), and yes, sometimes even print.

And our use of web based systems, is sometimes painful. In a recent job hiring, a candidate’s application via our “online form” was not recognized correctly because they had entered a SSN without using the hyphens. Who has time for usability testing, if it makes sense to a programmer?

More. We were recently asked (by email) to complete a Trip Reduction Survey (this is done by our county to collect information on how few/many people use things like car pools, alternative travel modes, etc). These are the instructions:

By law all employees must complete an annual Trip Reduction Survey. It will only take 5 minutes of your time. Copy the link below and open it in Internet Explorer. We need all employees to participate so please ask your fellow coworkers to do so. The information used from these surveys will benefit students & employees by providing information that will enable the county and ValleyMetro to create better routes to serve high traffic areas, like our campuses.


Once you reach the site you will need to enter DO’s code: xxxxxxx

That is correct. A simple 8 item survey uses a technology that requires a specific web browser. And yes, I tried, it certainly ASP-barfed on FireFox.

I was not the only one scratching my head, as there was a follow-up:

You have all received the Trip Reduction Survey link by now and I have received several questions.

Let me reiterate:


Now, this is a bit unfair on our organization, as the survey is actually created and posted on a county government web site. So maybe the county’s Web Decimal is down near 0.6 or lower. How can a public service government entity, charged with serving all, exploit such hokey, stone age web tools to require a specific web browser?

Now I know it takes large organizations, large amounts of time to change, but it does not happen on its own. It takes drive from the bottom and the top. I’ve been in contact with a neighboring education institution, and their CIO’s email footer has a link to a WordPress blog which links to a wiki for their technology plan.

So tag and feed and blog and wiki and podcast this… I’ve got some glitzy event emails to comb through. What’s your ratio?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I think we’re around .75 too. Getting there. I’m hoping we’ll be at 1.0 within a year. One benefit I have is sitting next to our web developer and he’s really on the ball. It’s getting the rest of the community on board that’s hard.

  2. “So tag and feed and blog and wiki and podcast this… ”

    … and email. If you want to pitch for media crossover, you’ve got to deliver your message *in* the old medium.

  3. I hear you, brother. Like Laura, my place is at about .75, or maybe .6. Some folks may actually hope the Web will just go away, with email as a necessary, easy-to-use evil. I kid you not.

    The drive from the bottom, or even the middle, sometimes feels as if it alternates between pushing on a rope and running into a wall.

    Sorry, you caught me on a bleak day. :)

  4. Alan, I hear you and I also know the frustrations from the other side. In the absence of a calendar—which I completely agree we should have—what can we do to help folks do their jobs better? And, do they have access to the resources they need to do the job differently? Do they even know that there is a better way? Should we start keeping track of the senders of these messages and then invite them to a workshop to help to better accomplish their goal?

    My experience is that some of these folks are doing good just to get out a formatted message and if they have the interest in sending it formatted, just maybe they are our audience for a little training? Of course, we don’t even know if these senders have access to web space. Not all colleges give employees such access.

    I remember working at the MCLI in the early 80s and then again in the late 80s. Such a wonderful environment! And you have done such an amazing job of building skills and staying in the forefront. Many times I regret not staying at the MCLI and competing to retain leadership of the department. But, I chose to go to a college and work in a teaching and learning center at that level. Such a different world! Priorities change by the day—sometimes the hour. Staying out of crisis management mode is tough but we are heading that direction.

    Is there a way we can work together and help these folks better accomplish their goals? I remember when you first suggested gently that I might want to move to CSS for my web design. And I did. Got a book and buried myself in it for a week and developed a tableless design. This was a big step because I am not really a technologist. But your prodding, my respect for you and your knowledge—convinced me that I needed to make this move. I did—and then the entire department has moved that way. When you make a splash, you cause a ripple. Maybe we should try to create some type of ripple by working with these emailers?

    And, I too tried the Trip Reduction Survey in FireFox with the same unfortunate result. I am betting the county has very few resources. I know my son works for Child Protective Services for the state and the equipment and software tools they have is not up to the standards we enjoy in MCCCD. And—their take-home pay is going down each year. They don’t get the raises and retirement and insurance deductions go up. May be that those folks at the county were doing good to get anything up in a form.

  5. Well at least you get the information in the body of the email message. :-)
    In my organization, most email that comes from the central office has attachments with single paragraph entries, or meeting agendas that are full of silly graphics. All as Word attachments!!!

    The body of the message will say something like please see the attachment for meeting information. You have to download and open the attachment to read the single paragraph of text, which could of easily been put into the body of the email. So I’d say we are web .56…

  6. Thanks Billie for your thoughts and I value your long experience in Maricopa. I know the perspective and focus is different sitting here in a District Office compared to that at our colleges. However, as one person, I cannot do much and I doubt “workshops” are truly the answer.

    My strategy has been to try and be an example, and it has taken a lot of work (still not done) even to get my own office to think about the online information components to the work we do. And then I count on, hope, to infect the ideas with foresighted people like yourselves that can affect local change, which has happened as you cite.

    But there is a huge mindshift needed to think/act digitaly, and for one that calls itself a learning organization, we have a long ways to go. So I am trying to push the message out in a number of ways, but I doubt just contacting the person who sends the plain text agenda as a Word attachment or the secretary who spiffs up the Theater’s new play anouncement is going to be effective.

    It cannot be “business as usual” in the Web x.0 world.

  7. Tim,

    I just got an email reminder for a meeting for one of our district technology groups. It had a link to follow to get to the agenda. this landed me on a Sharepoint portal site, where I clicked another link for agenda. Here I had one more link, and it was a Word Document.

    I think we just lost a few more decimals.

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