2016 Conference

Defeating Content Zombies: What “The Walking Dead” Taught Me About Web Governance,

There are zombies walking among our websites, said SUNY Oswego Director of Digital Communications/Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Tim Nekritz.  So to best tackle those zombies, and implement web governance in what can be seen as a post-apocalyptic, lawless space, Nekritz turned to lessons from AMC’s smash hit show “The Walking Dead.”

That zombie content can take the form of pages that don’t go anywhere. Or haven’t been edited in years. Or that reflect outdated, incorrect information that frustrates your users.

“Zombie content is the scourge of your website and the web in general, ” Nekritz said.

Web governance is about implement effective rules and policies for your site. It involves figuring out what your strategy is and how that strategy is communicated and implemented. It’s about what policies you achieve your goals, what standards you enforce, and who enforces them.

Traditionally schools have gyrated between a centralized, controlling model and a more loosely organized collaborative model for web governance. Nekritz sees elements of Walking Dead’s protagonists the law-and-order Rick  and  the more free-wheeling Darryl in those ideas. He argues that good web governance combines elements of both to achieve success.

“Rick is the law and order guy,” Nekritz said. “This is as if you as a central web office control everything and dictate the terms of web governance.” a tendency to take on too much and set impossible goals.”

“Darryl is more situational,” Nekritz said. “He works on the fly and admits he doesn’t know everything. He works with others to achieves solutions.  He evolves.”

The two sides need each other. “Rick and Darryl cannot survive without each other,” Nekritz said

Central focus is important. Collaborating with others is important.

Nekritz found other parallels between the web and the show:

  • In the early days of “Dead” there was chaos. This was analogous to the uncontrolled days of the web in the early to mid 90s. Standards did not exist. “The zombies devour site usability and it’s not entirely clear what site you’re on,” sometimes Nekritz said.
  • The show entered its “On the road” phase, which was like websites learning to establish a little order or discovering that they could perform certain tasks. “You’re learning to walk,” he said.
  • The “Hershel’s farm” era is like implementing your first CMS: It seems like a refuge, but dangers lurk.
  • The prison phase represents the unilateral control sometimes admins crave.   “You’re locking down creativity, locking out collaboration. As Rick says at one point: “This ain’t a democracy.”  There’s evolution possible in this scenario. “It’s not going to get you anywhere,” Nekritz said.
  • When the characters encounter the Governor, again all seems good, but eventually it turns out that the Governor wants too much power or contro. To Nekritz, this is like a bad vendor relationshiop.  “I know colleges that contracted all their web updates out to a vendor and none of them are happy about this,” he said. “Don’t give away your governance.”
  • When the show gets to the Sanctuary again, there’s a big catch: Canabalization. And on the web: “Yielding governance just ends up in a cannabalization of resources,” Nekritz said. “If you’re not preparing the meal, you are the meal.”
  • Finally arriving in Alexandria offers the characters hope that they have met good people. And web editors all crave kindred spirits too  “Alexandria represents the spirit of collaboration,” The characters found a common goal, Nekritz said.  “Even your most difficult editor –they want to be good, too,” Nekritz said.

Nekritz said the college was able to apply these lessons in Oswego’s latest redevelopsment. They worked to reach out to stake holders from deans to department heads and editors. They developed a content audit to help cull down old content. Pages were assigned a ranking: Keep, review, revise, delete (Tim’s favorite, by the way). While Oswego is working to build a more comprehensive digital strategy, they’ve worked collaboratively and that’s created better relationships between communications and marketing wit other web stakeholders. The office published a blog to keep stakeholders appraised of news and solicit feedback. And they stressed the importance of working together.

“Knowing that we’re all on the same side working for the same thing is very important,” Nekritz said. It can help you to thrive, even when surrounded by a horde of zombies.



Knowing that we’re all on the same side working for the same thing is very important.


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