Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A rant on institutional Facebook pages...

Something just set me off. It's not that rare that that happens, but it is rare that it annoys me enough to post here (not that I've abandoned this blog, I just use it mainly as a place to occasionally weigh in on topics of interest to me, not a regular publication.)

There is a hullabaloo going on at MPOW. The school has hired a firm to redesign our school logo, and put up a Facebook poll to allow students, faculty and staff to vote on the designs. I'm not going to put the pics up here, because this post is not about the redesign, the vote, or the wisdom of paying for a design firm to come in and do something you could have had your students do for next to nothing while simultaneously freezing/cutting the budget of almost every other department on campus. ::ahem:: Nope, not about that.

What it's about is this comment from the institution, posted on their Facebook wall, in response to the widely negative comments and criticism from users:

"We’re pleased to receive so much feedback – that’s why we’ve engaged you in this process. But this is a serious process, and an important institutional initiative. Please engage in your feedback in a constructive and professional manner."

This entire logo campaign is being run on Facebook. The poll is only available there (it's also flash-based and requires you to authorize an app to vote, but let's leave that alone for now...) I feel like we, as an institution, are coming into a place originally built for students, asking for their attention, asking for their patronage, asking to be allowed into their online space, and then telling them how they should interact with us there. That's not fair, imho.

If we, as institutions and companies, want to go out and "be where the users are", we have to accept that we can't always define the rules of interaction there. One of the first things I learned about online communities is that they all have their own (though often unspoken) codes of conduct. You don't get to communicate with people in what is generally an informal space, and then ask them to be formal. If you want to reach them there, you have to accept that there may be unfortunate consequences. People may be immature and unproductive. (Seriously, if you post a video on YouTube, people will say stupid and immature things about it eventually. Get over it. If you don't want to deal with that, don't use these platforms.)

Ok, I'm done ranting. For now.