[unisog] off topic: mass emailing

Peter C. Lai peter at simons-rock.edu
Fri Sep 24 21:11:23 GMT 2010

On 2010-09-23 06:57:23PM -0500, Alan Amesbury wrote:
> Rick Hayter wrote:
> [snip]
> > Has anyone found a way to handle these kinds of requests? I can't
> > always say no (sometimes it comes from a VP or the Pres), but because
> > it's happening more often it's starting to impact our productivity -
> > someone has to be pulled off of another project to interface with the
> > requestor, find out what they need, generate an email list, etc.
> [snip]
> You mean they don't just use Google Wave, the Web 2.0 app where 
> everyone's a contributor?  Hey, the subject *said* it was off topic..... 
>   :-)
> More seriously, perhaps, is the idea that once an institution's dumped 
> its responsibilities for e-mail onto Google or some similar external 
> entity, it will become very easy for that entity to e-mail subsets of 
> your population (up to and including the entire population).  This means 
> they can not only bulk-mail your users in ways that it's guaranteed to 
> reach their official accounts, but they'll be able to ensure that others 
> who've paid for the privilege can also have their messages delivered en 
> masse.
> In addition, the service provider will be able to mine that account 
> information for marketing purposes (unless your agreement prohibits it, 
> perhaps), "zeitgeist" trend analysis, etc.  Seems a waste that all that 
> information, which likely has *some* value, is just being given away by 
> higher ed.  I mean, if someone's going to use it, why not us?

Aye, there's the rub. For years, advancement people and others have been
complaining that Higher Ed institutions should be run more like a business.
These days, a non-profit with 8-9 figure operating budgets is a business 
like any other; hence the push to get integrated BI and ERP tools into 
various Higher Ed workflows. In the past, most of the PR work had been done 
with paper mailings, and those departments conducting campaigns did not need 
to interface with IT once they were taught how to use the reporting tools 
available to accomplish their mail merges.

However, due to shrinking budgets and emerging concepts like web2.0, digital
zines, and social networking, outward-facing departments are now turning to 
us and asking "well, seeing as how you spend a lot of money on high tech 
toys, compared to that Mark Zuckerberg guy, who built Facebook out of 
his dorm room at Harvard, what can you do for us in this area?"

Additionally to most people who get lots of junk in their snail mail, paper 
mailings do not really adversely affect an institution's reputation as much 
as online activities do, it seems. For one, sending out the latest "please 
donate" flyer in the mail does not lead to the post office blocking all 
the mail from that institution. At the same time, how many people actually
bother to read the shiny postcard they get from their alma mater? :)

Peter C. Lai                 | Bard College at Simon's Rock
Systems Administrator        | 84 Alford Rd.
Information Technology Svcs. | Gt. Barrington, MA 01230 USA
peter AT simons-rock.edu     | (413) 528-7428

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