I’m creating a new category called Metapost. I think of it as a “behind the scenes” post where I share some of the details of what goes on behind the scenes. There won’t be any dirty laundry for these posts, but there are some things that I will discuss that might make some people feel awkward and uncomfortable. If this is the case, then you are free to ignore my squawking. Nobody is forcing you to Clockwork Orange my blog.
The development of MyWMU.com started really last year when we had a change of leadership. Our new VP arrived and brought a whirlwind of change in his wake. We kind of already knew that there were some of us in the rank and file who were fond of technology and especially clever with social media. The nature of social media pretty much guaranteed that we’d discover each other and our strengths and expertise. Originally there were three, then we acquired some consultants and the group grew to five. This core group of five started to brainstorm some pretty great ideas. A lot of the power I found was always there but viciously muted by a culture that didn’t understand and didn’t care to understand what possibilities lay before it. Once that culture evaporated, like so much fog in a stiff breeze, the past, the negativity, the railing complaints all fell away and all that was left was a group of very creative people who could finally enjoy the blessings of evaporating negativity and a massive new influx of empowerment. Once given power we took it and marched forward. Some would say we progressed at a breakneck speed, but as far as my perceptions go, it was brisk and refreshing, not an onerous pressure as some would assume. I can remember when “Western Express” came to me. I was driving on Interstate 94 from Paw Paw to Kalamazoo after a wonderful celebratory meal at Bistro 120. As we were making our way towards the I-94 on ramp we started to brainstorm titles for this new blog we were thinking of. I knew it had to feature Western in it somehow, so that was obviously going to be in the title and I had a firm grasp on what we wanted to accomplish with this new blog. Right after we joined the flow of traffic on I-94, headed back to Kalamazoo it was if the title for the blog emerged from the tangle of thoughts in my head and solidified. It felt a lot like how a super-chilled glass of water can freeze if you agitate it, that progressive and fantastic freezing as the liquid acts surprised that it’s still a liquid and quickly marches into order and becomes a solid. Just like that the title fell into my mind, “Western Express” – and then I marveled at it. It was perfect. Express as in fast, Express as in News (Pony Express of old…) it was a title that was short, not schlocky, it had a pleasing multiplicity of meanings and I championed the hell out of it once I got back to work.
The blog took shape shortly thereafter as Western Express. The title was also handy in that it had a delightful initialism, “WE”. Not only “Western Express” but also “Together”. I still softly chuckle at how great it all turned out.
We had selected a host of different technologies to help us with our goal. The biggest technology we saw before us was WordPress itself. It was almost Kismet. A perfect superstructure with which to publish our message. An external entity, a different network, a company that was responsible for 17 million voices. It had everything including a breathtaking cost-efficiency that we could not possibly beat any other way. Twenty bucks to turn off ads, ten bucks for custom CSS adjustments, twelve bucks for custom domains. Such low sums in trade for stability, accountability, and professionalism was totally irresistible. Truth to be told, I didn’t even consider any other path to take. WordPress was so utterly PERFECT, such a great fit, so elegant that any further considerations were thoughtlessly abandoned.
We progressed, establishing our new voice in popular consciousness using this new approach and I felt it vital that certain qualities were branded with fire into this new thing we had created. That it be a refuge of positivity, that it be regarded as a safe place where people won’t be seen as opportunities to be taken advantage of, but rather as guests standing around the bonfire of positivity, feeling welcome without a single worry that there were any traps anywhere near any of them. This was when I realized a truism that I’ve heard many times in the past – “Be that which you wish to see in the world”. So in a way, this “Western Express” was a kind of philanthropy. We express philanthropy into the world so we can reap philanthropy from the world. Is it a waste of money and resources? Absolutely not. The time and money and loving attention that we are giving this entire effort is how we can express our affections for everyone. Western loves our Alumni, we love our Students, we love everyone and we hope that what we put out into the world is reflected back at us. In many ways, it’s quite karmic. Finally we can put our collective humanity, our collective philanthropy into action and undo some of the damage that Western has endured in popular consciousness since I’ve been in attendance with this institution. That’s my personal goal, and as long as I have a role to play, this is what I bring to the table.
Things progressed from there, people think that we actively advertised this new resource but actually, the truth of the matter is that we made an embarrassing mistake. We failed to make this entire thing private and before we knew it we had people poking around this new thing and it became a socialized meme and spread like wildfire. It’s proof positive that social media is damn near a miracle. Without any action on our behalf the blog took off and started to spread. The fact that people regard it that we intentionally spread it always brings a chuckle. We didn’t do anything, you all did it yourselves – and we thank you.
After that, the entire project started to expand. We acquired two more staff members in our team and our technology increased. We turned to WordPress again for more help with hosting and WMYou was born. We purged the notion that what we were doing was blogging, that we had blogs. What we really had was an “Engagement” and we were “Engaging”. Truth to be told this slight change in verbiage is actually more accurate. What we’re after is engagement so instead of “blogging” we’re “engaging”. Perhaps you have to be where I am to see it completely. We also picked up GoDaddy as our Internet domain registrar. After that we also picked up iPage for the glue that is holding what you see how all together. No other technology really entered our minds and it wasn’t out of spite, it was just simpler to do it this way. In many regards some of the people who might feel awkward about what we did should consider themselves the unintentional victims of Occam’s Razor. The simplest path was pretty much all we spent any time on. C’est la vie.
Now we have a full presence, MyWMU.com. The response we received from our audience was absolutely intoxicating. What makes me blush is when I learned that other “bigger” institutions commented that we must have had a huge budget and a sprawling staff to pull off what we did. Truth here is that we did it all for about a hundred bucks and the raw passion of seven very dedicated and talented people.
Some people who went to our new site accidentally fell victim to a GoDaddy landing page. I had to make a last-moment change to our Domain Name System setting for the site and it took about 48 hours for that change to propagate throughout all of the Internet. People who had ISP’s who were lucky to get the “most fresh” DNS information experienced the site without a single hiccup, while others who either had an ISP with not-so-fresh DNS data or had DNS Cache staleness problems ended up seeing the GoDaddy landing page. For those people who fell into the later camp, I offer my apologies and I hope that you try the site again, that problem should no longer affect anyone on the Internet.
Now that we have expended a rather prodigious amount of energy to get MyWMU.com aloft, we are still very active and we’re really looking forward to see just how far all this positivity can take us as an institution. Our story has just begun, to say “Stay Tuned To This Bat Channel” is a massive understatement. I hope everyone enjoys what we’ve brought to our little corner of the Internet. It means a lot to all of us on our team and we’re always seeking feedback and fresh ideas, so don’t be shy.