As we roll out our latest communication features on HEUG Online--Blogs and My Page--it seems like a good time to take a brief look back at where we've come from and a look forward at where we might be going in this arena.
My first exposure to what has now become the HEUG was back in the Paleozoic era, circa 1998, when I first became aware of various list serves that were hosted by various institutions. I recall that Northwestern and Catholic University of America were two of those universities, but I'm afraid the rest have slipped my mind. It was generous of those schools to host those lists, but it was certainly a big step forward when the HEUG became a real organization and we eventually consolidated all those lists in one place, namely HEUG Online, which made its debut at the 2003 conference. And of course, HEUG Online provided much more than just a systematic naming system, an easy subscription mechanism and archiving and searching capabilities for listserves (which we now call Forums). It provided the File Library, Group and User Profiles, News, and so forth. We tend to take all these things for granted now, but those of you who were active HEUG members back then can probably recall what big step forward it was!
Subsequent years have seen the addition of a number of enhancements to both the structure and the content of HEUG Online. We added Issue Tracker, which has been a very useful and important tool for many (if not all) of our PAGs (and TAG). We moved all the conference-related stuff--registration, speaker/presentation management, etc--from a third party commercial vendor into HEUG Online; the functionality and usability is much better than their system was, and we're no longer paying for those services! We've added videos, podcasts of selected conference sessions, and other content. Last spring we upgraded the site to version 3.0 of the Socious tool set, which gave us nicer look, feel and navigation, links, favorites, RSS feeds and in general a lot more flexibility in tailoring the stie to our needs. And now we have upgraded again to version 3.2, which gives us this Blogging capability, the new My Page that lets users share much more with the HEUG community than just their name, rank and serial number, and several other behind-the-scenes features that again will make it easier for us to grow and evolve.
By the way, for those of you who don't know exactly who Socious is, they are our friends and partners in this endeavor. The company was founded by Scott Balthazor, Paul Schneider, and Steve Balthazor, all of whom had experience dealing with large ERP applications. Paul and Scott had dealt specifically in PeopleSoft Higher Education and saw a need for tools to help the HEUG members collaborate more effectively (we only had email lists back then). We were their first customer, and although they now have well over 30 similar organizations as customers, we know we'll always be their true love! They have been great to work with, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them.
Of course, the site would be just an empty shell without all the content that thousands of HEUG users contribute, so it's all of you that we really want to thank. As you probably know, the HEUG is widely known and envied as an extraordinarily effective user group, and it's because of the hard work, generosity and sharing spirit of all of our users. (They tell me that the corporate world is a much different place than higher ed.) If you look at all the knowledge and advice that has been exchanged via our Forums, conference presentations, File Library contributions, Issue Tracker postings, and so forth, it's pretty impressive. Again, the main goal of the HEUG, and in particular of your Communication Committee, is to provide the infrastructure needed to support all this work and make our communication and sharing as effective as possible.
So, where do we go from here? Well, first of all we want to monitor how well our current structures and features are working, and tweak them as needed. To that end, we welcome your comments on this blog, and/or your email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org (Yes, it's a bit outdated address leftover from the time that newsletters were the Communication Committee's main focus, but it works.) We also plan to conduct a survey to assess our communication effectiveness in the near future.
Second, we will continue to work with Socious on further enhancements to HEUG Online, and we will keep an eye on the wider world of social networking to try to determine how we can best interface and interact with that world. But we don't plan to abandon the tried and true for the new and flashy. After all, as antiquated and quaint as it might seem, good old-fashioned email through our various Forums still accounts for the largest share of our communication with each other. That isn't going away, but we want to make sure we support a full range of options for various purposes and various communication styles. (Though I have to admit, I'm not sure whether I'll ever embrace things like Twitter; I can barely keep track of what I'm doing myself, let alone share it with the world.)
So--please comment on the blogs you see on the site, set up your own if you're so inclined, and use the My Page feature to tell us a little more about yourself and share cool, amazing or amusing stuff. For our part, we on the Communication Committee will try to do our part to keep you informed as to what we're doing, what we're thinking, and how you can get the most out of HEUG Online.
Vice President for Communication and Membership