Things I’m Not Ready to Talk About

The Recent Tragedy at my Alma Mater

I’m completely drained. Since waking up to that text message on November 16 to now, it’s just been hard to wrap my head around the whole ordeal. I’m blessed to have an amazing support system and a wonderful husband who got me through this. And sadly I have too many friends who have experienced suicides of classmates and friends and family. My own husband has lost family members.

I hope that Jacob’s death can open the door to talk about mental health—especially on college campuses. Right now the focus is on bullying, which is in some ways just leading to more social media bullying (from grown ass adults!). We need to honor his memory by learning from this tragedy.

For the upcoming LiveWhale Developers Conference, I am presenting on our web response to the crisis and how we handled our communications. I’ll be thinking it out over Thanksgiving break, so maybe I’ll be able to talk about it after I sort out all the thoughts in my head.


I’d actually love to talk about this, but I haven’t had time to process all the awesome. After the conference was over, my husband and I stayed a few days in New Orleans to be tourists. We saw some floats, ate a ton of food, and I got a tattoo. I have a lot more to say about our trip.

I also have a lot to say about the lessons I learned while at the conference, and the new ways I want to approach our web content. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to read over my notes and properly geek out since we’ve been home.

The Dog

Yeah. Uh. We got a dog. We fell in love with a dog at a rescue before we left for New Orleans and were approved to adopt him. Unfortunately, while we were gone, someone else adopted him. We kept our appointment and let a dog pick us. Sadly this particular dog has major separation anxiety. He’s a great dog, though. Pugsley Addams is a cuddle bug and he’ll eventually adjust and not destroy the world when he’s left alone. We just keep telling ourselves that.

Chicago: eduWeb 2015

Every time I go to a conference, I wish I had a time turner a la Hermione Granger. Having to choose between multiple sessions? It’s too hard!

For the past few years, my job has focused on social media and becoming a LiveWhale CMS guru. This year, to expand my wheelhouse, I attended sessions that primarily focused on analytics, advertising, and teamwork.

I flew away from O’Hare with a ton of ideas to bring to the upcoming school year. I want to expand our use of Google Analytics and use social advertising to support our recruiting messaging. And, per usual, I want our team to function more seamlessly. That will come up again when I go to ConfabEDU in November, I’m sure. The editorial calendar and my Virgo organization tricks will catch on. They will!

Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.
Sometimes a picture can say more than any note-taking can.

Since I have over 50 (small) pages of notes, I’m going to limit this blog post to talking about the opening keynote from Sree Sreenivasan. I was lucky enough to meet with Mr. Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for The Metropolitan Museum of Art before the conference began for a quick look at Washington College’s social media. I’ve already implemented some of his tips including a more striking Twitter profile picture and more engaging Twitter description.

According to Mr. Sreenivasan, we need to focus on the mobile experience and making content available in formats our audience want. Our institution is targeting teenagers; this audience often engages with our content through mobile devices. If the content isn’t created with them in mind, will they consume it? As we focus on our stories and our videos, pitting them against Buzzfeed and the never ending supply of cute cats on YouTube, we need to make sure our content cuts through the clutter and stands out. Colleges need to connect to their students, alumni, and professors and show those connections to prospective students. I’m happy to say that Washington College is working on this through video campaigns like #unhurried.

To make our content appealing to our target audience, we have to consider the language and attention span of these students. Throughout eduWeb, I heard a lot of dislike for press releases being copied and pasted into the CMS. I’ve already talked to my boss about this, and we do need a repository of press releases somewhere, so I cannot light them all on virtual fire like I’d hoped. However, I’m going to adjust the workflow so that we have a web story and a press release—not just a press release. Creating a smaller, easier-to-read web stories also means content that is more evergreen for our department sites.

These aspirations and plans are taken from just a few pages of my notes. I hope that by posting them here, I can force myself to work hard on them. I’ll also be updating on my experiments with Google Analytics once I have some time to figure it all out.

A Look Back at Analog-A-Go-Go

Dan and I have been going to Analog-A-Go-Go since its inception, and each year it’s grown and changed. Logistically, this year was the best set up we’ve seen. Upon check in, we received a map that showed where vendors, beer and food would be located, but there was still a lack of instruction when it came to staying behind the fence-line with booze. I assume that this is a new ordinance from the town, but a mention of it prior to our stroll over to the air conditioned tasting room probably would have helped us not break the rules.

Analog is always hot. I’ve come to terms with this, and encouraged my husband to start searching for a new partner-in-crime to attend the event with him. This year, though, I had to suck it up and go. I pre-gamed with Gatorade and overjoyed at the water coolers they put out. I also devised a plan to complete the try-every-beer game faster: we each grabbed a different beer after waiting in line and I would try a tiny sip of the ones I was interested in. That way he got to try everything, but we only had to wait in a few lines. It proved an important time saver, and we were out of there before I became an overheated crankypants.

The main draw of Analog—aside from the beer of course—is the vinyl. Some of our favorite record stores, Rainbow Records and Jupiter Records, had booths but various other vendors set up shop as well. The other artisans and vendors this year were impressive as well, and in general the set up was greatly improved from years before. There was a better flow, and a better system for parking than in previous years. Part of this is due to the expansion of Dogfish Head as a brewery. In the years we’ve been visiting the brewery we’ve seen its growth, and the past few years that growth has been exponential. Part of the newest addition includes a truck entrance; directing traffic through this entrance made it easier to have flow between the vendors/beers and the main tasting room (with its glorious air conditioning).

My only complaint was our tour, and I—the girl who hates to talk to people about uncomfortable things—was actually upset enough to talk to the manager about it.

I should have realized immediately that going on the tour with this particular guide would be painful. His mannerisms, his vulgarity—it didn’t sit well with me. I have been on the DFH tour at least a dozen times by now, and several times I had one of the best tour guides ever, John. So, yes, I do hold the bar pretty high, but this young man ticked every box that made me twitch. It doesn’t matter what you’re like when you’re hanging out with your buddies, drinking PBR and being a bro. When you have a job giving tours for one of the larger craft brew companies, you need to project a professional (although off-centered!) personality, and that is not accomplished through dick jokes. Whether he realized it or not, he was representing this 20-year-old company poorly from a hospitality standpoint. The manager seemed on point, though, and I’m truly hopeful that she will address it with him and make him a better representative of the company.

I have lots of opinions on the hospitality and customer service industry, and part of that probably stems from my job in marketing a college. You need to believe in your product—you need to bleed what you’re selling. In my case that’s liberal arts, in his case it’s craft beer that is enjoyed by a demographic that skews a little too old to enjoy a barrage of jokes about “hard wood.”

Analog Sculpture

A highlight of the day (that we actually missed but got to enjoy on our way to pick up a case of Festina Peche before we left) was the unveiling of a sculpture that dispensed beer. A very cool thing, and one of our favorite guys was tapping and handing out samples of beer from the new art piece as we walked by. It complements the Steampunk Tree House that was once at Burning Man and now sits proudly in front of the brewery.

I’ll put it this way—one little hiccup in an otherwise good day isn’t going to completely turn me off from this brewery, especially since I got my gumption up to say something. I can thank them for getting me into craft beer, even if I’d rather spend my time at Burley Oak or Evo these days, enjoying the slower pace and smaller scale. I am happy for their growth, and wish them well with future events.