This is Aaron Rester's blog:

Field Notes from the Digital Prairie

Friday, April 26, 2013

Higher Ed Web Org Chart: Large Schools

Further breaking down the data the data from my survey of higher ed web organizations, below is a breakdown of schools identified as having more than 5,000 students (n=55). There were no huge surprises, the major differences with small schools being that large schools tend to be less centralized and have larger staffs (my heart breaks for the Armies of One at these large schools!). Perhaps reflecting their more decentralized models, large schools' web departments are slightly more likely to charge other departments for their services and significantly less likely (0% of respondents!) to have their heads report directly to the university's president. They are also slightly more likely to still be contained within IT departments (perhaps reflecting the difficulty of fighting organizational inertia in a large institution?). Finally, large schools seem, oddly, to be less inclined to provide information architecture services.

How centralized is the production and maintenance of the web at your school?
  • 1 (very centralized): 13% 
  • 2: 20% 
  • 3: 33% 
  • 4: 24% 
  • 5 (very decentralized): 11%
The group that does *the majority* of your institution’s web work is part of:
  • Marketing/Communications/PR: 56% 
  • IT: 25% 
  • Some combination of the above or other: 18% 
How many people work for that web group?
  • 1: 4% 
  • 2-5: 55% 
  • 5-10: 25%
  • Over 10: 16% 
Are you a part of that web group?
  • Yes: 87% 
  • No: 13%
What kind of tasks does that web group perform?
  • Website Development 96%
  • Visual Design 91%
  • Information Architecture 84%
  • Content Strategy and/or Production 75%
  • Application Development 69%  
  • Social Media Management 62%
  • Server Administration 35% 
  • Other 5% 
To whom does the head of the web group report?
  • VP or Dean: 36%
  • Other: 25%
  • CIO: 18%
  • Assistant VP or Assistant Dean: 16%
  • None: 4%
  • CTO: 2%
  • President or equivalent: 0%
Does the group that you identified as  performing the majority of web work at your institution charge other departments at the institution for its services? (n=15)
  • No: 73%
  • Sometimes/It depends: 13%
  • Yes: 13%

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Kickstarter

Yesterday actor/director Zach Braff made a stir by launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million to finance a new film called Wish I Was Here. This is the second major film project, after the Veronica Mars movie, to attempt to finance itself via the crowdsourcing website in recent days. Some artists I know are taking a dim view of such projects, arguing that artists who could otherwise receive "traditional" financing are exploiting both the new business model (which was intended to support small, independent projects) and their fans, who are investing in projects (and thereby alleviating already-wealthy artists' risk) without any of the financial returns that traditional investors could expect to see.

I can see the point. However, I tend to be of the opinion that the primary downside to already-established artists crowdsourcing their projects' financing is that it may funnel what is likely a finite set of donors' dollars away from encouraging new artists—replicating the problem that has stultified the Hollywood studio system and the big record labels, and that tools like Kickstarter were created to solve; of course, chances are that if someone has the ducats to send Zach Braff ten grand, they probably wouldn't blink at laying out another 50 bucks for your boardgame about being a gay golddigger.

Other than that, though, I still think Kickstarter's odd mix of feudalism and capitalism isn't bad for either artists or their fans, no matter who is using it to raise however much money. It's feudalistic in that it's a return to a much older form of funding art: patronage. Like Kickstarter patrons, when a Venetian nobleman commissioned a painter to create a triptych for an altar, they did not expect financial returns; they did for social (and perhaps spiritual) capital, the satisfaction of having made something beautiful possible (and of being known to have made that thing possible). Of course, there is a crucial difference in that Michelangelo did not receive royalties or residuals, as Zach Braff is likely to do; but then again, the Guild of Wool probably didn't receive David t-shirts, either.

But, as I mentioned, Kickstarter also manages to combine feudal patronage with pure market capitalism:  Braff has created a market in which consumers can express the true value that his work has to them. To me, the ability to see a new Zach Braff movie might be worth the ten dollars I'd pay to see it in the theater; to others, the ability to see that movie (and, importantly, to have that movie be made exactly as Braff wants it, without the interference of meddling producers) is evidently worth a thousand times that much. Of course, they're also paying for the ability to see themselves as being involved in the production, to accompany Braff to the premiere, etc. All in all, I don't see much, if any, harm in this. People get a greater say in the art that they want to experience, while artists have the chance to make the art that they want to make while not having to satisfy the desires of investors whose motivation is primarily economic. Seems like a win-win to me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Higher Ed Web Org Chart: Small Schools

Following up on my last post, here are stats specifically for small schools (under 5,000 students, n=45). Stats for larger schools to come.

How centralized is the production and maintenance of the web at your school?
  • 1 (very centralized): 31% 
  • 2: 13% 
  • 3: 24% 
  • 4: 24% 
  • 5 (very decentralized): 7% 
The group that does *the majority* of your institution’s web work is part of:
  • Marketing/Communications/PR: 62% 
  • IT: 20% 
  • Some combination of the above or other: 18% 
How many people work for that web group?
  • 1: 27% 
  • 2-5: 67% 
  • 5-10: 7%
  • Over 10: 0% 
Are you a part of that web group?
  • Yes: 96% 
  • No: 4% 
What kind of tasks does that web group perform?
  • Information Architecture 100%
  • Website Development 91%
  • Visual Design 82%
  • Content Strategy and/or Production 80%
  • Social Media Management 62%
  • Application Development 51%  
  • Server Administration 40%  
  • Other 4% 
To whom does the head of the web group report?
  • VP or Dean: 31%
  • President or equivalent: 20%
  • Other: 20%
  • CIO: 18%
  • Assistant VP or Assistant Dean: 13%
  • CTO: 0%
Does the group that you identified as  performing the majority of web work at your institution charge other departments at the institution for its services? (n=13)
  • No: 85%
  • Sometimes/It depends: 8%
  • Yes: 8%

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Web in the Higher Ed Org Chart

At next month's HighEdWeb Michigan conference, I'll be presenting a talk titled "The Dream Org Chart," in which I'll examine some of the different organizational models within which institutions of higher education place their web teams, and suggest a model that I believe would solve some of the challenges that institutions face in the maintenance of a high-quality web presence.

To gather data for the first part of the presentation, I set up a Google form and turned to my colleagues on Twitter and the UWebD mailing list. Exactly one hundred responses rolled in over just a few days, far more than I had planned on or even hoped for. I am no longer surprised by the kindness and generosity of spirit that resides in the higher ed web community, but I continue to be thrilled and humbled by it.

Sifting through all of this data will take some time, but I will continue to post here as I analyze it, and will of course post my final presentation here as well. Clearly, there is a hunger for this information in the community, so I am happy to make the responses public (please note that I have had to update this link). I have stripped as much identifying data as possible.

So without further ado, some initial numbers are below. How these numbers relate to your expectations? Any surprises, or suspicions confirmed?

What size is your institution?
  • Under 1,000 students: 5% 
  • Between 1,000-5,000 students: 40% 
  • Between 5,000-10,000 students:14% 
  • Over 10,000 students: 41% 
How centralized is the production and maintenance of the web at your school?
  • 1 (very centralized): 21% 
  • 2: 17% 
  • 3: 29% 
  • 4: 24% 
  • 5 (very decentralized): 9% 
The group that does *the majority* of your institution’s web work is part of:
  • Marketing/Communications/PR: 59% 
  • IT: 23% 
  • Some combination of the above: 12% 
  • Other: 6% 
How many people work for that web group?
  • 1: 14% 
  • 2-5: 60% 
  • 5-10: 17% 
  • Over 10: 9% 
Are you a part of that web group?
  • Yes: 91% 
  • No: 9% 
What kind of tasks does that web group perform?
  • Website Development 94%
  • Information Architecture 87% 
  • Visual Design 87%
  • Content Strategy and/or Production 77%
  • Social Media Management 61%
  • Application Development 58%  
  • Server Administration 36%  
  • Other 9% 
To whom does the head of the web group report?
  • VP or Dean: 31%
  • Other: 28%
  • CIO: 16%
  • Assistant VP or Assistant Dean: 14%
  • President or equivalent: 9%
  • CTO: 1%
I also asked one follow-up question of those who had shared their email addresses with me, namely:

Does the group that you identified as  performing the majority of web work at your institution charge other departments at the institution for its services? (n=26 27)
  • No: 81%
  • Sometimes/It depends: 12 11%
  • Yes: 8 7%