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Domains and the dot edu

Andrea Rehn was awesome enough to post some questions she has about the domain project that is beginning to ramp up at Whittier College. One thing I love about these projects is how institutions who jump into this treat it like an open-source community. My hope is that I can add both to the knowledge base and source code of these projects. One way we are doing this is through Github where folks can collaborate with us on efforts like support documentation.

ANYWAYS, I’ve already got a little sidetracked. Her questions focused around how these type of projects interact with the official institutional sites and infrastructure. I’m happy to talk about how we’ve thought about it at the University of Oklahoma while adding the caveat that I don’t believe that one can completely craft, or would want to craft, a totally hard and fast policy, as there are always exceptions to the rule.

Though I’m housed out of the Center for Teaching Excellence, we have worked closely with the OU Web Communications team, the team responsible for OU homepages and official social media, to make sure we are in lockstep for how our system, OU Create, should be utilized. Collaboration on this effort is fundamental and a great advantage of domains projects as it ultimately brings in a lot of stakeholders (IT, Marketing, Libraries, Colleges, Academic Affairs, etc.) The simplest “rule” we have is this: OU Create primarily functions as as service for individuals. This is congruent with how our individual web spaces have always worked at OU. Similarly, official OU organizations work with OU Web Communications in building out their digital presence.

Now, this isn’t to say that if there was a way in which domains could be beneficial to an organization that wouldn’t be supported. For instance, if an organization needed a second place where they aggregated individual member blogs, were working on a digital scholarship project that required Drupal or Omeka, or wanted a space for a one-off project, OU Create would be the perfect space. I like to think that domains, particularly subdomains, can be the equivalent of the #hashtag; a space for an event or idea to take place within a defined timeframe. It’s okay for these to eventually exist as a historical record. Static information (how to get in touch with the department) shouldn’t exist solely on the domain side.

Should student clubs be allowed to launch their own domains, or should they be housed in the student life system OrgSync, which enables some web presence and builds in smooth transfers of leadership, but does not provide the same data privacy?

As I mentioned, issues like institutional organizations become grey-er areas with domains, and student clubs become the grey-est! We also have OrgSync at our campus and I’m personally a fan of it. Student organizations don’t necessarily need a domain that lives with them beyond their tenure at the institution like you would need with a personal site. In fact they need the opposite, which is the ability to pass along the site to a future student. Even further, you get one whiz kid to build your site and no one knows all his custom hacks and how to fix the site in the future. It becomes a graveyeard quickly and you’re stuck covering the hosting costs. OrgSync has a little bit more of a Super User administrator ability to it that I find valuable.

Again, their are ways in which we could support their efforts but being the main landing page for a student organization isn’t a business I’m interested in.

What about student media, including the campus newspaper, Youtube channels, radio, yearbook, etc?

Our Student Media organization runs a custom CMS which we currently don’t support (and a lot of news organization sites have something like this). Since news was one of the first industries to have a need for a strong management system, there are several custom developed apps that are out there. I’m sure there are use cases of WordPress for news (Time.com for instance), but this hasn’t been a specific case that I’ve came across.

One thing I would consider,should this come up, would be the technical side. When a major event happens on campus, our newspapers server gets slammed. If your newspaper’s site was also on everyone else’s, this would effectively shut down all sites. Organizations like this are probably better off with dedicated server space as opposed to shared server model that university domain projects are built on.

Again, I always like to add the qualifier, that if there is a secondary way in which we could support their ideas (something like the NY Times Snow Fall project comes to mind) I’d be happy to try anything once. :grinning:

What about academic staff members? Is there any reason not to offer them the same freedom that faculty and students would enjoy via self-hosted domains? Who should pay for domain space, and how should the institution fund this on an ongoing basis?

We’ve agreed that staff members should get the same opportunities as faculty and students. They (I should say “we”) are as much a part of our community as anyone else.

Should DigLibArts’s web presence itself reside on our Domain service, or should our central hub pages remain part of the campus website and servers? Should academic departments be able to have their own domains (in addition to their pages on the university site)? What about departmental student honor societies? Or should those entities be hosted by the campus-wide servers?

(Note: I’ve lump the last two questions together) Again, I would ere on the side of continuing to recommend the university infrastructure first and consider DoOO an exploration space. But these types of questions helps make the case that this isn’t necessarily black and white. Different institutions will have unique opportunities to further collaboration efforts by supporting them with modern web capabilities. I personally believe that this is ultimately a net positive in terms of both digital literacy and digital scholarship, and I encourage universities to broadly support these efforts–at whatever level they may exist.