UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

UK Universities On MySpace

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 February 2007

Andy Powell alerted me to Warwick University’s presence on MySpace.

Warwick University presence on MySPace

Is this a first for Warwick University or are other universities also doing this?

Is this a sensible way of reaching out to potential students?

Should universities be pro-active in doing this?

Doesn’t it break all sorts of established guidelines such as Web accessibility, design principles, use of corporate logos and visual identity guidelines, etc.?

Isn’t Facebook a better alternative?

Should universities observe what happens and back the winner?

What are the resource implications of doing this?

What are the implications of not doing this?

Personally I have to confess that I don’t like MySpace’s user interface – even for friends such as Adrian Stevenson and the Witches of Elswick, and performers such as Atilla the Stockbroker. But if the service is successful, does this matter? After all, I’m not part of MySpace prime demographic audience.

What do you think? And, perhaps more importantly, does anyone know what the users think?

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19 Responses to “UK Universities On MySpace”

  1. We need to think carefully about the how setting up a ‘corporate’ presence on these sites effects the existing dynamic. My personal feeling is that too much offical University interference will make these places less attractive and end up spoiling it for the students. There’s also a real danger of looking like a Dad dancing at a disco…

    Saying that, if every other University sets up a MySpace site then we’ll have to as well – in the same way that all bands now have to have one.

  2. “There’s also a real danger of looking like a Dad dancing at a disco…”

    I think it probably does anyway.

    Aren’t there are at least two distinct uses of a MySpace profile?

    1) talking to your audience
    2) your audience talking to you (via comments)

    I can’t really see Universities using MySpace as a corporate conversation channel (although I’d be pleasantly surprised if this did work), but rather using the university’s profile as a hub for finding other university members, alumni and prospective students.

  3. Peter Miller said

    I had a brief look at TheDemocracy iTV player and Warwick also had a channel on there though I couldn’t decide whether it was official or not.

    As an academic, I’ve steered clear of both MySpace and the Facebook for the reasons Michael Webb states. On the other hand, students do find Fb a productive environment and I suspect it does raise their expectations of VLEs.

    I found your postings on RSS interesting as I also think it will be strategically significant over the next year or two. If we could use it to penetrate the commercial VLE and Fb information silos, we might make some progress. Fat chance?

  4. Peter Miller said

    Incidentally, I think the announcement of free accounts on dabbleDb’s Commons merits attention as a simple way of generating RSS feeds.

  5. Hi Peter – I’d not heard of dabbleDB but, as you say, their announcement of “a way to build free Dabble databases under a Creative Commons license. Functionally, it’s the same as our paid service except that data you keep in a free application is publicly accessible.” may be of interest to readers of the blog. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  6. Prospective students are the key reason doing this is probably a good idea.

    I saw this last year on Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA)’s discussion forum, where many people who were considering going to the University started asking questions about courses, and then, once they have been accepted, they used it almost like a 6 months Freshers Week – they got to talk to and contact other students who would be freshers like them the following September.

    Using MySpace is a good idea, because its not too official and gives a “meeting place” for this community of prospective and soon-to-be students, and is pretty low maintenance – now its up there, there is very little they need to do to the content apart from occasionally add new information. Facebook is out of question because, well, you already need to be a student to use it.

  7. Peter Miller said

    “Facebook is out of question because, well, you already need to be a student to use it”. Although I’m not a member, I don’t think that’s true any more, at least not as far as joining is concerned.

  8. phil already touches on my thoughts in his previous comment, but to reiterate: the idea behind sites like myspace is to create a community, engage with other users, etc. so, unless the university is willing to TRULY engage with other users, it’s simply applying old-school one way marketing to an inherently two-way/multi-way social web space.

    i had to laugh out loud (literally) recently when somebody at our university suggested that we may have to get a presence in second life. question: why? are you also going to get dedicated staff to be present 24/7 in this virtual representation? what value are you going to add to the community? there was talk of “we could get lecturers to do virtual lectures”…and this in a place where we can’t, for the most part, even get lecturers to write a few sentences about their course for the yearly prospectus!

    if it’s done, it needs to be done right…by people who actually understand – and LIVE – the medium. management may say “we need to be on myspace” purely because they’ve read it in this month’s marketing magazine…but do they understand it?

  9. these types of myspace accounts are the new “brochureware” of the social web…

  10. On the Warwick Uni myspace area, there are half a dozen blog entries – only one since the beginning of October 2006. Zero comments. Zero kudos. I’m not sure why the brochureware doesn’t just link to the actual University website.

    However, the area has 360 friends and 52 comments (7 in the last month)

    Emperically, it is probably adequate to just: create a link to the University website; let students add their own comments and add themselves as friends.

  11. It is possible for anybody to join facebook. But to join the ‘network’ for an institution, an institutional email address is required. However, the institution may have a ‘group’ which the user can join.

  12. On the Warwick Uni myspace area, there are half a dozen – only one since the beginning of October 2006. Zero comments. Zero kudos. I’m not sure why the brochureware doesn’t just link to the actual University website.

    However, the area has 360 friends and 52 comments (7 in the last month)

    Emperically, it is probably adequate to just: create a link to the University website; let students add their own comments and add themselves as friends.

  13. …there are half a dozen blog entries…

  14. Brian, I wondered if there was a delay in adding comments which include html, as it took a while for message 10 to come up, but 12 appeared instantly?

  15. Hi Keith – Comments are normally uploaded immediately, but, as you have noticed, some are delayed (WordPress thinks that they are spam and I have to manually authorise them). This happened to you (earlier today) and has also happened to Phil Wilson and James Brown (and myself!) in the past.
    I’m trying to work out the reason for this. I have noticed that some of the comments have two IP addresses associated with them – and, on further investigation, on a couple of occasions I found that one of the IP addresses was on a blocked list. But I don’t know what the IP address is associated with. Perhaps, as you hint, if you embed a link to a resource which has been classed as a spam destination or has been used as a spam relay, this could be the cause of the problem. Although as I’ve only seen either one or two IP addresses listed, I don’t think this is the reason. Perhaps it could be the domain name you include?
    However as I reclassed your posting as a legitimate posting, I hope you won’t have this problem again.

  16. Looks like Salford University has already been added. Btw, The Pav is the student social club. So, by not adding ourselves first, we’ve let someone else decide how the site looks.

  17. Robert said

    There’s also
    http://www.myspace.com/ucca1

  18. Kyle said

    I think that MySpace has grown into such an established site with the younger crowd, that this is probably a good way for students of the schools to interact.

  19. Ray said

    Yeah… it is very common these days for anybody including colleges and universities using social network web 2.0 sites like YouTube and MySpace for networking globally.

    Ray
    ——–
    MoneyWaterway.com

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