2012 Conference


Gabriel Nagmay, Web Designer, Portland Community College

Serving 100,000+ students a year, Portland Community College is the largest institution of higher learning in the state of Oregon. As the lead web designer for the college, Nagmay works with a small, but very dedicated team who is charged with providing web services for the entire PCC community. @nagmay

Portland Community College  celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and wanted to celebrate but, given the economy, needed to be mindful of expenditures. Their solution was the 50th annversary site – — asking for the PCC community to share their PCC stories.  They received thousands of piees of user generated content that, had they not launched this project, may have never been discovered.

What’s User Generated Content?
Let’s get a definition from a site consisting solely of user-generated content: Wikipedia:

“User-generated content (UGC) covers a range of media content available in a range of modern communications technologies. {…}  Its [sic] use for a wide range of applications, including problem processing, news, gossip and research, reflects the expansion of media production through new technologies that are accessible and affordable to the general public. All digital media technologies are included, such as question-answer databases, digital video, blogging, podcasting, forums, review-sites, social networking, social media, mobile phone photography and wikis. In addition to these technologies, user-generated content may also employ a combination of open source, free software, and flexible licensing or related agreements to further reduce the barriers to collaboration, skill-building and discovery.”

Gabriel points out that VIPs might get nervous about including and highlighting user-generated content on institutional channels.  But, he says, the conversation is happening anyway — we might as well include and be a part of the conversation.

Types of Things to Share

  • Video
  • Photos
  • Audio
  • Comments and “Likes”
  • Ask for Ideas — “How can we make campus more sustainable?”  “How should we celebrate our 50th Anniversary”
  • Location data – find out where people are from, where they went after graduation
  • Career info – allow users to create content that talks about alumni careers; let them share and connect with students

Notice that asking for feedback from your users yields data that’s different from your analytics.  Analytics don’t provide nuance.  If you want to know what your audiences are interested in and about, you need to collect their stories.

Types of Platforms
Pre-built: you can drop it into your properties today and run with it.  (e.g. commenting).

YouTube gives you an api to upload videos to your account. You can create a form that users can use to upload videos to your account.  PCC lets their faculty do this.  YouTube is releasing an experimental widget to make it easier for users to upload content to your account.

Custom Systems
You need a page that creates the content, you need one that inserts the content and you need one that displays the content.  Gabriel likes using  WordPress as a jumping off point: “Why reinvent the wheel?”

Best Practices

  • Keep it simple — be specific and provide a reason.  Keep your interface simple and  get out of your users’ way!
  • SPAM happens.  Moderate actively.  Use APIs that can assist, like Akismet.
  • Post first, moderate second. Delaying the posting of content kills users’ motivation to participate.  Have a comment policy ready to go, too.PCC’s rule of commenting thumb: keep the good, keep the bad,  get rid of the ugly.
  • Incentivizing – give your users something, even if it’s something as simple as the ability to easily share content with other. (Free t-shirts don’t hurt either)
More info:

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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.

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