MMP4: Politics or treason: Toeing the line or begging forgiveness in site adaptation

Anne Petersen 
Director of Digital Marketing, University of Illinois at Chicago

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at

Announcer: This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb Conference in Austin, 2011.

Anne Petersen: Hi, I’m Anne. So I did a past version of this at J. Boye in Philly. It was about…it was a 20-minute version of this, not near as in-depth, but at that time I was very gung-ho about you can do this, you can really make politics disappear by doing these few things. And these things were basically making your objectives and your reasoning transparent, asking your site visitors and ensuring those results, publishing your standards, owning and learning from your mistakes, of course, and then consulting with your community, which is an obvious one. We all know it, but sometimes you need to be told.

I still believe those are true, but since then, we have been chastised a few times for some of the things I did rouge. And first, some of the things that we thought we believed that we had buy-in on, and it turned out that we didn’t.


So I’m going to be explaining those stories and hopefully hearing some of yours at the end and hopefully, we’ll all learn something from all of these experiences - some of which are great and some of which suck.

So before I keep going, is anybody in the room from Chicago? Hi, Erin. Anybody else? What institution are you from?

Audience 1: [Indiscernible]

Anne Petersen: Oh, OK. OK. So you know the environment over there.

Audience 1: Yes.

Anne Petersen: Which is very much who you know, a lot of clout kind of situations. So it’s kind of the worst case scenario when it comes to politics because there are so many people operating in a way that seems like they’re the be all, end all of whatever. The buck stops here and you can go no further if you do not please that person.


That’s one of those situations. That gives you a little bit of background. Anybody from University of Illinois in general? OK. Now, part of the reason I asked this is because I don’t want to get fired.


Anne Petersen: And some of the stuff I may say here may get me fired because I’m going to be very honest about some situations that I ran into that involved administrators that are higher than me and they might not agree with, and they’re very sensitive to criticism, and I learned that the hard way. So I haven’t learned it really hard way as in getting fired yet, but I don’t want to tempt fate.

So if you could be judicious about what you tweet about what I might say about, say, or chancellor or our president, I would really appreciate it. But I trust you guys and I hope you’re my friends, so do me a favor in turn and don’t get me fired.


I’m also the president of Chicago’s only Hackerspace or Makerspace. If you’re familiar with the term it’s not what it sounds like for some people that are thinking, oh, hackers are the ones that go into your systems and take them down. We mean hacker in a different way. We’re reclaiming the term in a way.

And we do stuff like teach electronics. So this was an Electronics 101 class, just a very basic hobbyist class where…that was pencil mark that was conducting the electricity. So it’s really cool and we do things in a lot of different ways. Basically, we’re the ones that take the thing out of the box and say, OK, how do I take this apart and make it better?

This girl for example, had knowledge about like textiles, she did embroidery, she had no knowledge of electronics when she walked in the door. And by the end of her experience with us, she made stuff like this. And this was a flex resistor jacket, she embroidered our logo on the back, put some LEDs in it and then whenever she pointed at her back, there was a resistor in the elbow, whenever she clipped her arm, the LEDs would light up.


Cool project, by the way. She also made an LED light bright. So basically, conductive thread in lines and then you could stick LEDs wherever you want it to and it would move with the fabric and light up when you wanted it to.

So at PS: One, I’m a volunteer. They can’t really get me fired from there, so I can talk about that all I want to. But it’s another one of those situations that I really compare to life in academia. I’m working with volunteers. Every single person there who’s doing work for us is there because they want to be there and just for the love of it.

Now, when you’re working with faculty, you kind of have to remember, you don’t have carrots and sticks to drive them with unless you have something that ties into tenure. So it’s difficult to work with them sometimes and get out of them what you want because you don’t have a lot of say in their experience at the university.


So when you want to get them to do stuff for your site, it can sometimes become problematic. And the lesson learned is basically, experiences from non-profits where people are really volunteering and just being there for the love of it, really helps in academia.

Joi Ito, who became head of MIT’s media lab, here’s a quote from him. “It’s trying to lead a bunch of people who are just there because they want to be. It’s a very different kind of management than, say, managing a bank where you’ve got sticks and carrots in structure.”

The leadership method of online communities and World of Warcraft and open source projects, is actually really similar to doing something like leading a bunch of super smart creative academics and students. So I really do believe it’s similar.

So here we’re going to share stories, I’ll share what I’ve learned and then we’ll talk. Though, please interrupt me if you’ve got a question that’s relevant.


So UIC, of course, as I mentioned, University of Illinois at Chicago, we’re a very young university, but we’ve got maybe even doubled the bureaucracy because of that, perhaps. Maybe because also, we’re a state institution and that state had a lot of ethics issues.


Anne Petersen: You may have heard of a few. And we’re really strictly regulated, especially when it comes to purchasing, especially when it comes to freedom of speech. We’ll get to that, but basically, it’s very formal.

And in my building, which is University Hall, this is my view. It gets more formal the higher up you go in the building. So there are 28 floors and I’m on the 27th, so I’m surrounded by students all day, not that I have a problem with suits, but people who are very formal and very hierarchical.

So there’s a definite chain of command and if you don’t follow that chain of command, you can sometimes really get bitten, and that’s a problem.


And not only that, our university has a complex, perhaps because it’s so young, perhaps because it’s not the flagship campus of the university. We have 27,000 students. We’re a major research university and yet, there’s still this feeling that we’re not the priority of the system as a whole and it gets ingrained in people.

And there are people, especially older folks like faculty that have been there a while, staff that had been there a while, that really feel that because they remember the time when we really were underfunded, under-recognized, et cetera. So you have to be aware of your organization and its situation.

And then of course, there’s egos to deal with. And whether or not whose ego that is, doesn’t really matter. Of course, it affects you more when it’s above you than below you, but at the same time, you have to manage those relationships. Whether that’s going out for lunch with whoever it is, if you can, if it’s a problem of getting time on their schedule, making friends with their assistant, honestly, is a really good idea.


But you have to figure out how to manage those egos to some extent. So we used to have a really, really convenient shortcut to the can-you-put-this-on-the-homepage question, that everybody gets a lot, I’m sure. I’m sorry, these are our students. Our students are really enthusiastic. I’m sorry, I needed to back up a little bit, are really enthusiastic.

Many of them really want to help and then there are the ones that are just trying to get their degree and get out of there and they end up being sarcastic and snarky sometimes, especially around midterms, the finals. And when you put up a discussion on the Facebook page, they will be like, I’m studying for finals, it sucks.

So there’s a little bit to manage there, although they certainly…they don’t report to you, you shouldn’t censor them or anything like that, but you have to know that it’s going to happen and figure out how to manage that, too.


But anyway, the can-you-put-this-on-the-homepage thing. So this is our homepage. That is my photo from before. And this column right over here, the what’s hot column, was basically just a sub-reddit and it pulled the full feed of anything submitted to that sub-reddit and voted up to a certain extent.

Well, the problem and good thing, both, was that we didn’t get enough action for that to turn over very quickly. So it would switch about a new one would come about once a day but the old one would still be there, which made it great for people who wanted to put like events, announcements, even like prospective students asking for advice. We had that happen a few times. It was fantastic and we got great conversations from it.


The problem was that it worked so well we became lax about it. We monitor it but not really super closely and not as much after-hours as we should have maybe. And then one day we woke up to find this, and I’m going to quote it. There are swears. “What the fuck was happening today?”


Anne Petersen: And this was in response to something happening outside of our Student Center and it was just a student going, “What the heck?” And it was a completely honest conversation, it’s totally relevant to the students, but of course, our administration freaked out and rightfully so. I understand donors come here, alumni come here, and they’ll see this.

So we did moderate that one. We had a policy in place that said basically, don’t swear, be nice to each other, that kind of thing. I’ll get to why I shouldn’t have done that later. But we had the policy in place so we felt just fine in taking that down. So we did.


The whole situation kind of escalated when the chancellor kind of became aware of this and understood that - I look at her office, anyway - and understood that anything, anything put there would go out straight up. So they were like, “So do you have moderators in place?” I’m like, “Yes, we just hired a new student moderator.” But not hired, he’s a volunteer.

So we’ve got a student, we’ve got grad student, we’ve got me monitoring it. And then…and I didn’t think this would be a big deal. This was the next story to go up that was a “problem”. So it was a link to the Chicago Tribune about a student who filmed women in our dorms - former student now, of course. And then at the bottom there’s, OK, why weren’t we alerted to this?


We put out crime alerts all the time and in fact, we overdo it, in my opinion, to some extent, but nothing went out about this one. And part of that is that he wasn’t convicted of it, yet. He was accused. And at this point, since he wasn’t convicted, we couldn’t put up a crime alert.

The other problem that the chancellor had with this was that we’d use the word creeper. And because that person hadn’t been convicted of this, we couldn’t put that on the homepage. We couldn’t put that out there. And remember, this was still feeding the homepage.

But at the same time, this conversation is completely legitimate. Like for the current students, this is a concern. They want to know what’s going on. They want to know why haven’t we responded. And we did respond to this, but she wanted me to take it down from the homepage. And I said no.


This was a freedom of speech issue. And that freedom of speech issue is a really big deal when it comes to state schools because there are foundations out there watching to see if you’re censoring basically students in whatever venue that is. So what I did next was lawyer up.

I said no and then I went, “Let’s talk to the lawyers about this and see what they think.” So we talked to four lawyers down state and they examined the whole situation and seeing our policies and all that. And what they eventually said was, “You can’t take that down.” That would be censorship, right?

So not only could we not take it down, but as Mark Greenfield has already mentioned, we can’t even have that policy that says, please don’t be rude to each other. The policy down state says something like treat us as you would a family dinner during the holidays, which I think is a good message.


But they were kind of shocked that that was in existence. And I assumed that they’re going to be talking to the folks down state as well. So what we could put up was a disclaimer, basically saying these are not the opinions of the University of Illinois at Chicago, which we did, but we left it up on reddit.

The eventual decision…so victory, right? I was right-ish. We did have to take it off the homepage because that man really didn’t belong there anymore. The communities had kind of diverged. There was the community on reddit and some of those people were from reddit like they didn’t even know that it went to the homepage. They had no idea.

And there are other people that went into the homepage, or were trying to get things on the homepage like, Sarah, I love you, or silly stuff like that. So there was a culture emerging there that didn’t necessarily align with our objectives here.


Now, here, most of the focus is on prospective students. And when we had to take it down, we just ended up like putting in our blogs, and Blackboard and our Facebook page, which isn’t bad, but it’s not the initial intent of what we had up there, which was much more fun in my opinion.

But it’s really frustrating that these non-participatory people, these people that would never put something there still have the power to censor it, and that’s tough. And sometimes you could have the discussion on like how do we defeat this? How do we really go around this? And sometimes, you just kind of have to, unfortunately, go with the flow.

Now, about the community there, how many of you are familiar with reddit? How many of you are familiar with culture of reddit, too? OK. So the culture of reddit just by itself as a community, is very…a little snarky, a little rage-filled.


This is one of their rage comics that’s really against the 4chan invasion. And then, of course, they pass around me, it was like come at me, bro, which is a Jersey Shore reference. But they do get high falluting like proceed towards mine person. But I don’t want to say there is an average redditor, but here is an example of a redditor .


Anne Petersen: They love narwhals, they love bacon - I mean, who doesn’t? But that’s what we’re talking about. So really, the community had…I actually went to one of the meet-ups and it was mostly non-students. It was mostly students from the area that just wanted to know what was going around UIC and like wanted to know about the concerts that were coming in, the events that they could take part, and that sort of thing.


So we realize that the community had really evolved and totally evolved past what our objectives for the site were. So we understood that we really had to recognize the diversion and how exactly we can manage that. It wasn’t really clear so just ended up taking it down.

But you have to be transparent about what you do. If you’re not honest and you don’t make clear that, yeah, this was a mistake and here’s why…that’s me trying to be clear. But if making your reasoning evident really helps smooth over the bumps of, OK, you did wrong, why? And then if we could explain that, OK, this is what happened, that really helps matters too.

The other thing that helps matters is of course testing. Always be testing, ABT. This is University Hall, this is one of the cafes right in my building.


I got answers all the time and just test things out. We just run through things, try to see if this is better than this, if this verbiage is understandable, that sort of thing. So my recommendation really - always be testing.

The CEO of Dropbox actually told us about their methods on Quora. They do a handful of people off the street, literally. And then in that case, most of whom couldn’t even get through the installer at first. Zero of them notice the icon, for example, and in his words, “More than one person tried clicking the screenshots in the tour.”

This was a mortifying experience for us causing us to add a giant assed, blue bouncing arrow pointing to the trade or anything in the hall. Sometimes you have to learn these things and you have to learn the hard way. But when you learn the hard way, then you can go on and publish them.

You can show this to other people and share those resources and that testing with the rest of your team or with the rest of the people outside your team and other silos to show them why you’re doing what you’re doing.


But as Dylan said in his presentation last year, you have to share it strategically. It’s a scalpel not a hammer, as he said. We have one example in which we did something that was very…we got responses back from this particular incident. This was after the reddit incident in which the chancellor realized, oh, yeah, we have a homepage. I should be doing something with that.

So we had an administrator retire, not from our campus, but from down state, and she thought that, maybe I can score some points by putting him on the homepage. OK. We have stories on the homepage. They are mostly related to prospective students, not the administration, it’s very much outward-facing, not inward facing. So it really focuses on those other people not the internal people.


And she want it on the homepage basically, so she could throw it up on a slide during the lunch and say, look what we did for you. So she emailed or someone emailed me at about 10 o’clock in the morning, 10:53, I was on my way to train other people and other…one of our colleges on our new CMS. And I said, “OK, I can probably get to it after lunch, say, 2 o’clock. It should be up by two.”

I got over there to the training and about 11:15 I got a text saying, “It has to be up in the next 15 minutes.” I said, “Well, that’s not physically possible. I’ll do what I can.” But eventually, it got so intense at the time that they pulled me out of that training and I was the only one doing training for us. And got me back to my office to do it. The main slide is not in the CMS yet, we’re working on it.


But at the time that I got back to my office, they didn’t have the content ready for me either. So we ended up with this.


Anne Petersen: And if you can’t tell, the left hand side is all content. They gave me a portrait and all of our stuff of course, is landscape. So this stayed up for two or three days. And on Monday morning, we got an email from an alumni saying what the heck?


Anne Petersen: How was this guy of related to anything? Who cares. So you will get that email. And that email in particular, ended up going to the right place - the chancellor got it and sent it back down to us. It had some other things in it like we could address, but at least she was aware that people saw this and went, “Mmph.” So that was a good thing. Sorry?

Audience 2: Did they?

Anne Petersen: Oh, no.



Anne Petersen: You’re funny. I like you. So we found out at that point that it’s really important to create standards for what goes on the homepage. What belongs here, what are the stories that people want to see that will really help people understand the campus, the university, that sort of thing. The thing is that I’ve also been in another university, which will remain in list that also put in some standards of the same sort, but not for the homepage specific, but standards that just covered everybody.

And they were a problem. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but basically, if your standards are becoming a problem, you can test them, too, and find out what the problem is and how to solve it. And basically then, you can pass that back up and try to say, hey, look, we found this from this testing. Test it yourself if you want to, but the standards as they stand, are a problem.


So if you have that problem, that would be one recommendation. And I would say generally with HiPPOs, that’s Highest Paid Person’s Opinion and FAVES, which is faculty against virtually everything, which happens, too, of course. The answer is usually testing.

And testing in a way that you can basically…people get a little sensitive when you critique their site. You go to them and say, hey, you did this wrong, people don’t like this, et cetera. You kind of have to be subtle about it. You have to be strategic. You have to say, well, you know, I’ve heard this from many students. Maybe you should take a look at it. And then if they don’t respond well, sometimes you can then go back to them and say, we told you this earlier. We’ve kept hearing this and this is the numbers since we’ve heard it from, if you can produce a number, even if that’s testing that you went out of your way to do.


And some of this, and again, I’m going to go back to Dylan because he’s awesome, you have to go do your own way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a validated project from top-down saying, you should go test this thing now. If you know there’s something to be tested that you really need that info for, just go do it. Whether or not, I know your university probably doesn’t have the Google 80-20 role or 20% of your time you can use as you will for the university. No, I didn’t figure but I think it was Susan said in the Web Leadership Preconference, you can get really far on a project without anybody noticing.


Anne Petersen: If you’re strategic about it and keep getting the other stuff done. So let me also recognize Dylan for saying that originally. Dylan was an excellent presenter from last year - best of. So skunkworks are another way to do it.


The other behavior you’ll find from, sometimes faculties, sometimes just staff is…just staff, we’re all just staff, but we’re staff, is bluffing. So this, oh, my God, the sky is falling, you have to put this on the homepage, is sometimes just bluffing. And sometimes you just have to recognize that and understand that it comes from, often, a place of fear whether that’s fear of change or fear of a loss of either perceived or real control. They’re fearful of something.

And one way to answer that and then I’m going to go back to this again and again, is data. Well, that can be your analytics, remember. So use that data if you can. If you can go back and say nobody visits this page, should we figure out why?


Or in terms of usability testing, people don’t understand what…people laugh at this all the time, but some students don’t understand what prospective students mean. Like that term doesn’t necessarily mean anything to them. So be aware of that.

And then serve that data back to that person and sometimes, you can get attitudes to change. But when you have all these testing at hand and when you have all this data, sometimes you’re perceived as you are the person in control. Anybody have a logo police in their campus?

Audience 3: Yup.

Anne Petersen: Yup. Anybody have no logo police on their campus? OK. That’s in our office too, so I understand. And there really is a perception of, oh, God, this...I’m not sure I trust these people. They’re kind of like overseers there. This all-seeing eye.


Anne Petersen: And you can’t disobey them. And my answer to that is sometimes, sometimes you just have to let go and let them do their own thing, and let them make their own mistakes, and learn from them.


Sometimes, if you can call them on the car and go, hey, what? But then, seriously just watch and see what happens. If it’s bad, let them know in one way or another. If it’s good, then you can integrate that. And sometimes it may influence your standards and that can be great.

On the opposite end, sometimes people just screw up. And if someone does that and it affects you, answer with forgiveness and help in trying to make things right. And that will earn you some trust and hopefully gain you some forgiveness in return if you should happen to screw up, which I’m sure never happens.

But in the case that it might, you can answer with humility. Really, honestly, really be sorry. And there’s some absolutely great corporate I’m sorry notes out there that are really on the level rather than formal corporate, et cetera.


If you can say plainly, I screwed up. I mean, sometimes you can’t in certain ways. Sometimes there’s a hierarchy where you have to be contrite in, I don’t know, formal way. But if it’s a time when you can speak person to person say, hey, look, this is what happens and I’m sorry, here’s how I’m going to fix it and you can say it in those terms rather than I apologize for the outage. It really does help.

Think you did a great job when they sold some of the Dreamcast that were advertised as new in box that weren’t. They explained that they opened a bunch of them and those that they saw were absolutely new, but two that they sent out weren’t.


And I’ll quote their note, “We know our customers are smarty pants and could tell if they’ve been duped with still Dreamcast. We’d never get away with taking advantage of you guys, so why would we try?” And there is one from Hulu too who took down some…it’s always sunny in Philadelphia episodes with no notice.

And from there note, “We screwed up really. We handled this in precisely the opposite way that we should have.” And that’s the way to address it especially if you have to address it publicly. But even better than that, if you can anticipate it before it happens, then you can either have that ready or repair it before it occurs.

Netflix does this with a…


Anne Petersen: Did I say something wrong? This is actually an old example and I’m not even going to go into the recent changes, but they have an operation called Chaos Monkey that randomly kills instances and services in their architecture so that they can constantly test their ability to overcome random outages.


They’re also talking about a larger scale version called the Chaos Gorilla to test severe outages. So basically, bottom line is it pays to prepare yourself for chaos.

But sometimes, just sometimes, you always get back to the old corner. And we’ve gotten into that a couple of times. One of them was the president of the university - the system as a whole. He came to us and said, “I want my blog on homepage.”

It’s not really that interesting for prospective students, it was really at infancy at the time, and hadn’t even really developed a voice, it was very internal, it really wasn’t something that a lot of visitor were going to visit. And we did eventually proved that with analytics but we didn’t share it with them.

What we ended up doing was kind of working around it a little bit. So we put it on the homepage, we put it in the footer.


And we also broke convention by just putting it on the homepage first. That’s it. We did put it on the administration page, but those two spaces were the only places you’ll find it. So in short, I would say, think like a hacker. OK, I have to do this. How can I support it? How can I go around it? How can I make it work so that it’s really not going to be…if it’s a bad decision it’s not going to be that evident to your visitors.

One time at the Hackerspace that I am president of, we had a grill outage. A grill like it was out of gas. We couldn’t do anything with it and nobody was open to get a new gas canister. So one of our members was like, we have a torch. I’ve got gloves and glasses. Let’s just do this thing. And it worked out OK, believe it or not. It was actually pretty tasty. Pretty tasty.


And we knew we could do that. Like this is a group of really creative people and will just do whatever needs to be done in order to make it work. So really, the bottom line is know your organization, whether or not they can handle the renegade stuff you might be doing. And for that matter, people in the organization that may be friend or foe and you’re not really sure, sometimes you have to kind of sauce them out and sauce out the political situation talking to people is the way to do that, obviously.

And the other thing is that you have to know the organization and its troops and its rules. My boss has become really, really good at this. And he does it in…it sounds outwardly mean, but he gets rid of the dead weight. We have a very, very secured job situation in that it’s really hard to get someone fired at our university.


And that’s true in a lot of state institutions, I’m sure. And he manages to get around that in a lot of ways. So he gets people reassigned, he gets contracts terminated, and it shapes the team that he wants and he does it really well. So in his case that is knowing the organization really pays off in terms of what he can get away with. And that’s one example of what he gets away with.

There is also a situation in which - and I’m sure this is common - but cutbacks in people just leaving the university and not getting replaced. When things like that come up, people get really fearful and you have to recognize that sometimes, people are really operating out of that place of fear.

For example, you’ve got a higher administrator that is probably leaving, that interacts with our office quite a bit.


And his two assistants are now probably pretty fearful for their jobs. And one way I figured that out or we found out about it, is basically because she kept bringing to the attention of the chancellor stuff that we’ve done and say, “Hey, look at this. Isn’t this a big deal?” And that’s to make herself seem valuable.

But she always…and this sounds really conspiracy theory, but it’s been a record, it’s always done when I or my boss or both of us are out of the office. So you have to know right now I’m watching my email like a hawk. So you have to understand what’s going on in your organization to really operate within it well.

But you’ve also got to know your kittens. Lorie introduced this idea of and it became kittens after some of our southern counterparts set it as they would normally. But you have to know your people. You have to know the people really on your side, who you can count on, who you can commiserate with in your organization.


But of course, you also have to know your enemies. And now that we know we have that one, we’re keeping an eye on much better than we were before. So really knowing helps a lot. And sometimes you just kind of have to roll with it. You have to know things are going to happen, just roll with the punches.

And there’s a Mike Tyson quote that goes, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”


Anne Petersen: It’s pretty accurate. Chaos Monkey happens. You just have to roll with it sometimes. There’s another quote that goes something like, “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, you sometimes forget the goal was to drain the swamp.” So you have to really know what your goal is. What are you there to do? What is your existence meaningful for?


So you have to know what’s truly important. And sometimes you do have to make compromises. We did one in particular when the head of…sorry, the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Research came to us and said, “Why aren’t we on the homepage?” This guy is important so we had this…negotiate figure out why. We could have told them why and I’m sure this will speak to you guys. This is why.

This is their homepage. A message from the Vice-Chancellor for Research. Calendar, announcements, search, that’s about it. Some new stories underneath. If you’re going there as an undergrad or a grad saying, “How do I get involved in research in this university?” You’re not going to find anything. There is nothing there. There is no data there.

So we eventually said, “Well, you know, are you guys redesigning? Because we’d be glad to help with your redesign.”



Anne Petersen: We also compromised in this case. We had to put something up there. So we put them up there, but we put them up there as research administration. We tested this and students kind of stayed away from it because it said administration. Now, it’s not the OVCR, which is the acronym they wanted there. That means nothing to anybody outside the university, which is good. So that’s not up there.

But because we compromise and we felt we had to sweeten the pot a little, the guy behind there is that vice-chancellor…I’m sorry, vice-provost. He’s now the Vice President for Health Affairs for the entire university, so was news worthy-ish. So we put them up there for a little while and that kind of mollified the ego.

But really, whenever something like this happens, sit down afterwards and re-visit and make sure that you now what happened, what could happen better and how to avoid it in the future, but also getting your reality checks.


And that can involve conferences like this, your people, and sometimes you really need those reality checks. But also, you should keep in mind that sometimes things just come together the way that they should. Or you get a note from that alumni saying, “Why the heck is this on the homepage,” which is perfect timing when we do something that we didn’t really want to do.

So that’s serendipity, and watch out for it because it’s there. You just have to find it. When I was in Denmark, this guy walked through my photo and it was perfect. I mean, he had no idea when he got out that morning that he was about to make a photo for me. But older ones led to him and it was serendipity.

So this guy, in particular, mattered to me that day. And something I want to remind all of you before I close is that you matter. You are between your users and what they want to get to. The information that they need for a scholarship to keep going to school, to register in classes so that they can graduate, just to get in contact with whatever office they need to get to, you matter.


Keep that in mind. If you do the best that you can do, they’ll get to where they need to go. And in closing, our motto at the Hackerspace is, just fucking do it.


Anne Petersen: So really that’s what I’d like to leave you with. Do your best, just fucking do it. Thanks.


Anne Petersen: Any questions? Yeah. I covered everything, you have no questions? OK. Then you’re early for lunch.

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