Archive for December 2010

Facebook Class of 2015 Groups: Deja Vu All Over Again

For the third year in a row, a corporate entity — this year, RoomSurf — has established more than a hundred misleading Facebook groups designed to attract members of incoming freshman classes. The groups have no real affiliation with the universities they pretend to represent, though that is hard to tell by just looking at them.

Check out today’s New York Times for an overview on RoomSurf and the Class of 2015 Facebook groups.

Back in the day (and by that I mean 2008), Facebook groups were grassroots efforts started by people who actually shared a common interest in something. Our admissions office would allow groups for the newly admitted class to emerge from amongst the students themselves. That changed in the wake of these “Facebook-gate” shenanigans; our admissions office now creates official Facebook groups for our incoming classes.

Of course, if RoomSurf or any business has a product or service to promote on Facebook, they are perfectly free to do so. Students — like all sentient beings — are marketed to all the time. What is objectionable in this case is the disingenuousness of RoomSurf’s tactics. Call my hopelessly naive, but if their services are cool, useful, affordable, etc., then why not promote them with the honesty and authenticity that is supposed to exemplify social media, rather than stooping to what feels like a cynical con game?

So what to do in the wake of all this?

1.) Create your own Facebook groups for incoming students and create them early. Last year, our admissions staff created a Class of 2014 group after the URoomSurf group was already established and had attracted over a hundred members. It took a little while, but the official group eventually far outstripped the bogus one, with over one thousand members. This year, admissions created the Class of 2015 group in July, and it already has a nice head start on the RoomSurf group, with 145 members to their 28.

2.) Make your group is the “place to be” with lots of fun and valuable content and participation from your own student staff. This probably goes without saying, but as an authentic voice for your students your group should have a whole lot more to offer your incoming class than any RoomSurf group could. Make sure your group is monitored, questions and problems are addressed quickly and honestly, and students get a chance to interact with each other around some fun content only you can provide.

3.) Steer people to your group with posts on the bogus group’s site and posts on your main university fan page. No need to get angry here, tempting as that may be. Just a simple message like, “This group was not established by University staff or students. The group at [LINK TO YOUR GROUP] is maintained by University students and staff in the Admissions, Residential Life, and Student Life offices — come check us out!” should help to clear up confusion your incoming students may have as to which group does what.


Sorry Google, I Still Love My Kindle

Google announced today that it is getting into the e-book retailing business, competing directly with the current leader in e-book sales, the Amazon Kindle.

The unique selling proposition of Google e-books i that they are stored “in the cloud,” and you can read them on any computer or device: any Web browser, the iPhone, any Android-powered smartphone, the iPad, the Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Sony E-Reader. Any device except the current leader in e-book sales, the Amazon Kindle.

The problem with this approach for me is that the only device on which I want to read a book is the Amazon Kindle. I’m not going to sit down and read my 900-page biography of George Washington on my laptop. I’m not going to read a Colin Dexter mystery on the office iPad. Like Google books, I can read my Kindle e-books on my laptop, on the iPad, on most smartphones  – except my Palm Pre, but that’s a post for another day. But unlike Google e-books, I can also read them on the Kindle, and that makes all the difference.

The Kindle — along with the other e-readers — is purpose-built for reading. It’s incredibly light, easy on the eyes, easy to take and find notes on. For me the Kindle’s main advantage over Barnes & Noble and Sony is the keyboard. (That’s also one of the things I love about my Palm Pre. I guess I just need my keyboards to have keys.)

The iPad is not an e-reader. It’s too heavy, it doesn’t fit neatly into your hands (not mine anyway) and it feels like I’m reading a screen rather than a reasonable approximation of paper. And I’m sorry, but the much-vaunted appeal of the page-turning gesture is lost on me.

I am glad that Google is getting into the e-book retail game. The more competitors in this market, the better I think for authors, publishers, and readers. But with all Google’s talk of the “cloud” notwithstanding, books are tangible, tactile, things. And as it turns out, so are e-books. I still want to hold them in my hands.

See my late-night ode to my Kindle on the Midnight Apple Pie blog.