A Tangled Web
Some television commercials bore into my brain because my life experiences echo their story lines. Does that mean ad agencies are becoming more creative, or am I becoming less discriminating? Iím not sure. I just know that when I see the IBM ad with a staff sitting around a table moaning because the computer system is down and no one ó not the software people, not the hardware people, not the Web people ó will fix it, that ad speaks to me. The teed-off executive in charge, summing up the situation, says, "Well, whose responsibility is this anyway?" Those around the table look her in the eye and say softly, "That would be yours." It makes my heart stop. That could be me.
Iím responsible for the Collegeís development office and alumni association Web sites. "No big deal," I thought. AI can write, I can organize, I know what I want them to do. All I need to do is find someone who can make them do what I want."
So far, Iíve been flat wrong on all counts.
"No big deal." This turns out to be a very big deal. Iíve had to learn a new vocabulary. Words like Web master, Web portal, and hotlink now trip off my tongue. Iíve had to become comfortable with HTML, PhotoShop, and Cold Fusion. Iíve learned that fonts and typefaces scan differently depending on the software program. Regular old cameras are out; digital photography is in.
"AI can write, I can organize, I know what I want it to do." Duh ó I can write and organize and I know what other Web sites I want to link to ours, but theyíre not finished, itís too complicated, or there are too many steps in between. What I want it to do and what the Web site can do in a reasonable amount of time are two different things. I thought the Willie Nelson song "On the Road Again" would be a humorous counterpoint to photos and short bios of the office development staff. After all, development officers are supposed to be out of the office visiting with alumni. "Tacky," said my Web designer. "No sophisticated site has music." OK. He knows more than I do. I changed direction and opted for photos of the campus and students that would tug everyoneís heartstrings. "Too complicated," said the designer. "They take too long to load. People will lose interest." I believed that. Iím losing interest.
"All I need to do is find someone who can make it do what I want." Double duh. We already know there is more to it than that. I was actually lucky enough once to find someone who could make a computer sit up and beg, who could read between the lines and answer my increasingly frustrated questions in language I could understand, someone who had working knowledge of fund raising, but he graduated and deserted us for a full time job at Arthur Andersen.
So now Iím back to relating to commercials. Have you seen the one where the man sitting at his desk calmly picks up his computer and throws it out the window? I almost break into applause.
No frustrations here. College alumni and friends understand what it takes to be a first-rate public university and willingly take on the responsibility of supplementing support from the state and tuition and fees. I break into applause for real.
ó Susan Green
As the Collegeís Web site undergoes renovation, you can check up on its (and Susanís) progress at www.indiana.edu/~college/.