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Ben Jones

Aug 10, 2005

Where We’ve Been And Where We’re Going

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Browsing Matt's blog reminded me that I have a blogiversary on the horizon as well. A quick check revealed that I missed it - it was August 6. Ooops. Oh well.

What's interesting is that my second entry didn't happen until October 25, almost 3 months later. This was likely because the blogs didn't have much of an audience in those first months, so blogging wasn't one of my top priorities. For me blogging was almost an afterthought - I was so busy trying to make MyMIT live up to its promises that I had little time for anything else.

When I was hired, MyMIT had been designed to be more of a magazine/newspaper type of thing, with "official" News-Office-type articles and whatnot. As some of you will remember, the blogs portlet was buried way down in the bottom right-hand corner of the site, and we had only three bloggers (me, Matt, & Mitra).

Here's an excerpt from the press release I wrote last summer, which was inspired by the original MyMIT mission statement that was crafted before development even began:

In September 2004, the MIT admissions office will launch a web portal designed specifically for high school students who are interested in learning more about MIT.
Called "MyMIT," the portal serves as a dynamic bridge between the Institute and prospective MIT students. It transcends standard viewbooks and other print material by taking full advantage of the web's interactivity, allowing the admissions office to connect with users and address their specific questions, preferences, and needs.
Articles and features will be updated weekly to keep the experience fresh and to encourage frequent visits. Content caters in large part to the demands of the audience, who can email staff and students with their content requests and questions.
More than simply another avenue of information, the portal allows prospective students to join the MIT community. Using only their web browsers, students can immerse themselves in MIT culture via a variety of 'portlets:' student profiles, MIT facts, latest inventions, campus events, and news features.

Oh, I learned so much in the months that followed.

First, I learned that applicants wanted to read stories from primary voices, not polished (and impersonal) magazine-type articles. Second, I learned that applicants wanted to interact not only with current MIT students and MIT admissions staff, but also with each other. They didn't just want to join the MIT community; they wanted a community of their own.

How did I know all of this? Because within a few months, those little blogs, buried at the bottom of the page, were getting all of the traffic.

For months I brainstormed on how to take that energy and translate it to the rest of MyMIT, as it had been designed. It couldn't be done. Meanwhile, the blogs just seemed to get more and more popular.

And then, one day, I stumbled upon the press release you see up there - and realized that the blogs were accomplishing the mission of MyMIT far better than any component of the site's original vision.

I'm a big believer in finding something that works and going with it, regardless of the details. MyMIT was never designed to be dominated by the blogs, but let's face it - the blogs are what give the site its power.

So this year, the blogs aren't tucked away in a hidden corner. Come September, we'll have twelve student blogs and five staff blogs - seventeen in all - and MyMIT has never been stronger. With tens of thousands of hits each week and requests to speak at national admissions conferences so that other schools can start similar programs - I'd say we're on the right path. After a year of trying to find that path, I can't tell you what a relief it is to be where we are.

I recently revised the press release. I think you'll find that - in spirit - it's not all that different from last year's, which tells me that the answer to my "best practices" question was there all along - it just took a little while for me to see it. Here's the new one:

In September 2004, the MIT admissions office launched an extensive web portal designed specifically for high school students who are interested in learning more about MIT.
Called "MyMIT," the portal serves as a dynamic bridge between the Institute and prospective MIT students. It transcends standard viewbooks and other print materials by taking full advantage of the web's interactivity, allowing the admissions office to connect with users and address their specific questions, preferences, and needs.
More than simply another avenue of information, the portal has allowed prospective students to actually join the MIT community. MyMIT plugs applicants into the daily adventures of twelve MIT students and five admissions & financial aid staff members, offering snapshots of student life, discoveries and research, classes, clubs, events, and everything in between. Applicants can get tips and advice on the application process and then apply online and track their applications.
The admissions staff worked hard this year to assemble a team of talented student writers who now serve as the "front line" for MyMIT. This "primary source" approach is a lot more honest, real, and trustworthy than the static communications of the past. The MIT community is built on a culture of openness - it is in this spirit that we, the MyMIT bloggers, seek to honor MIT's energy and pulse, and demystify its admissions process.

So happy blogiversary to all of us. Thanks to the '09s for being our guinea pigs; and a hearty welcome to the '10s. This is going to be a great year.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

OH MY GOD I'm mentioned in aggregate in that press release!!! *ahem* Sry. I'll contain myself from now on.



Have you ever read "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?" It's a great book. It's about Howard Dean's campaign (written by his campaign manager) but it really focuses on how the Internet is slowly starting to rule the world and people who don't start catching on quick are gonna be in big trouble. =)



I suggest you read it. I think a Communications person like you would love it, Ben. =)

Posted by: Laura on August 10, 2005

MIT blogs are awesome. Period. I can't believe how they've multiplied! I used to spend about 15 minutes every day checking all the blogs, but now I find that there're about 10 I didn't know about or have accidentally stopped visiting! It's incredible. And oddly addictive too.

Posted by: Jane on August 10, 2005

"Come September, we'll have twelve student blogs and five staff blogs - seventeen in all - and MyMIT has never been stronger".

----Woot! 17 blogs! That is awesome!

Posted by: Kathleen on August 10, 2005

I'm glad I've left a mark on MIT history by helping as part of the Blog Revolution!

Posted by: Sean on August 10, 2005

Just make sure that press release doesn't end up in the hands of my mother, or she'll frame it and hang it... I don't know where she'll hang it, but it will be embarrassing and inappropriate.

Posted by: Mollie on August 11, 2005

ben++



grin

Posted by: Anthony on August 11, 2005

Wow, to think that for over a year now, I've been a faithful follower of all those blogs! Must be an achievement... especially since it's true that I used to find the old portal boring and dull compared to what it is now. The blogs are just so exciting! I especially like Sam's and Bryan's blogs - their entries are just so corny and entertaining that it provides an extra dimension to the student life in MIT, which is definitely more than just p-sets, lectures and UROP.



Hmmm... thinking about it, I sometimes wonder how you all cope with it......

Posted by: Eric on August 11, 2005

simply said: rock on.

Posted by: Bryan on August 11, 2005

HOLA!

YAY!!!

I'm guinea pig!!!!

ADIOS!~Kiersten~

Posted by: Kiersten on August 11, 2005

lollll... yea kiersten, oddly that makes me happy too :D

great job Ben!

Posted by: Laila Shabir on August 11, 2005

wow, that's cool

Posted by: Meder on August 11, 2005

17 student blogs, not to mention the umpteen amount of unofficial student blogs.



Anthony totally stole part of my comment, by the way.



I think the fact that you guys blogged was definitely an addition to the attraction all of the 09s feel to MIT and each other (in that completely platonic way, of course...all non-platonic ways stay in the chat smile)



But that's exactly my point, the fact that there exists a lively and always-populated chat (in mit09) is testament to the community and incredible sense of inclusion/comradery you guys create(d) with the blogs. Kudos.



As for Borksi, I don't know where that came from, but whatever, I'm not complaining smile



And Sean, I miss you.



Who's excited for the new non-melodramatic Borski blog? Oh right, nobody. :( smile



Later,

Mike.



P.S. Ben, expect an email soon about when I'm going to be in Cambridge in the next week, I think.

Posted by: Michael Borohovski on August 11, 2005

I just have to add one more thing here,



The Class of 2009 has been a part of a process that will make history; its incredible to see this happen even before we are on campus. I am SURE that other colleges will follow this idea of blogging. Seriously Ben, whose idea was it in the first place!



well borski! I do look forward to your blog, after reading ur thoughtful comments here on Ben's blog. smile

Posted by: Saad Zaheer on August 11, 2005

yeah i have the same question,



WHOSE IDEA WAS IT, REALLY?



Well, i salute that person!! :D



and happy belated blogiversary to you too Ben! :D

Posted by: Laila Shabir on August 12, 2005

It's definitely true. Thanks to these blogs (esp matts, yours and mitra's) i have a whole new image of MIT - one where people actually do things other than studying (which was definitely my image of mit a year ago). Also, I think these blogs are one of the greatest ways of showing all visitors that you actually do read what we have to say and enjoy it -- something that makes us alot more comfortable.

Posted by: nehalita on August 12, 2005

haha, ben those were some great ideas and thanks so much for you time & effort. i look forward to sending in my app and seeing you at your info session at fort washington!

Posted by: Lipei on August 14, 2005

it is cool to have your own blog. with help of MyMIT i found some friends and useful things



p.s. yeah , and i think so. this year will be great.because we are (10's) coming.

Posted by: Ajymurat on August 17, 2005

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