So Greg started the thread with Too Many Newsletters. I responded in Too Many Newsletters Probably Means Alternate Communication Paths Need to be Employed. Aaron Shaffer chimed in with Mass Communication at Case. (Just in case you need to catch up on the thread.)
I've done some further thinking about this and have brought it up in a meeting. There was much discussion. I am going to mention that discussion here and respond to a couple of things Aaron said.
I think all mass communication should be handled by the department of communications here at Case.
It is. All mass emails end up going through Marketing & Communications.
I think the problem is, the people sending out the mass emails may not know or may not know how to use the other avenues of communication. (This is what we talked about in the meeting -- ways in which we could promote these other avenues.) Right now, we may have a case of "functional fixedness"; it may be perceived that all there is is email.
We need a way to change that. It's going to get easier and easier to send out mass emails. That's one of the goals of one of the projects I am working on. Designated people will be able to sit at an email client of their choosings, send out a mass email, that email will go to a moderation queue, a certain select group of "Mass Communication Custodians" will get notified something is waiting for their approval, and they can approve it for dissemination.
It's only going to get easier, which means there will be more of it.
What we need is to raise the level of awareness of the other avenues of communication. And, we need to raise the awareness of the tools we have on campus that facilitate them. Leverage the Blog system for your department or organization's web page so you can have XML feeds and email susbscriptions to your updates like the ITS homepage. Use lists.case.edu to hand create your groups. People will be able to opt-in and opt-out (though, that can be disabled for a given list), but you can prepopulate a list with whomever you want. An email to firstname.lastname@example.org (depending on your requirements) can even have your list automatically prepopulated with our Directory data.
I think that in between these:
- XML feeds for web sites built leveraging the blog system
- Email subscriptions to web sites built from the blog system
- Hand-edited, opt-out-able Sympa lists
- Hand-edited, non-opt-out-able Sympa lists
- Pre-populated, opt-out-able Sympa lists
- And, Pre-populated, non-opt-out-able Sympa lists
What is needed is guidance and documentation... lots of documentation. And, whaddya know, we have a wiki for documentation. Pages full of screen shots and step-by-step tutorials and informative descriptions on the different technologies should exist. Something like http://wiki.case.edu/Howto:Communicate_with_the_students or http://wiki.case.edu/Howto:Reach_the_students explaining all of this and detailing the options, when the options are applicable, and why the options are better (in some circumstances) than mass emails. It will probably need broken down into sections like http://wiki.case.edu/Howto:Create_XML_feeds_at_Case, http://wiki.case.edu/Howto:Setup_email_subscriptions_to_my_Case_website, http://wiki.case.edu/Howto:Create_a_mailing_list_for_my_newsletters, etc.
I may take a stab at it, but I don't know how much time I'll be able to devote to it. I have a blog/wiki/planet/topics/mysql/subversion server on the fritz with a rapidly depleting supply of any hardware to move it to, the whole project about fixing the mass email system, an authentication web service for CAS, and day-to-day ops to worry about (not to mention all these blog entries *whew*). But, I'll see if I can get something jumpstarted.