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An Open Letter to UCSB’s Instructional Computing Department About the U-Web Service’s Retirement

Another interchange with the brilliant minds at UCSB’s Instructional Computing department. Without soliciting any input from the campus community, they announced not long ago that they’ve decided not to provide web space for students, faculty, or TAs.


Here is their original message:

Subject: U-Web Service End-of-Life - February 2013
From:
U-Web Service Management <sysadmin@umail.ucsb.edu>
Date:
11/26/2012 04:26 PM
To: "Patrick B. Mooney" <ADDRESS REMOVED>

Hi -

We’re sending you this note because we see that you’ve uploaded files to your U-Web account.

At the end of the February 2013 we will be retiring the U-Web service. Since the release of U-Web many years ago, a number of providers have begun to offer similar services for personal web hosting. These competing services provide full-featured service suites with better customer support than we’re able to offer. As such, we believe U-Web customers are better served by switching to one of these other services.

We’ve heard good things about NearlyFreeSpeech (www.nearlyfreespeech.net), Weebly (www.weebly.com), and Google Sites (sites.google.com) as possible replacements. For course-related web publishing, we understand the Collaborate project (www.collaborate.ucsb.edu) is developing a new service to meet this need. Until that is rolled out, instructors can request interim accommodations via email to help@collaborate.ucsb.edu.

Unfortunately we’re unable to automatically migrate your existing U-Web content to any new service provider. Any files left in your U-Web account by March 1st 2013 will be deleted.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.


U-Mail Service Management
support-desk@umail.ucsb.edu


Here is my response:

Subject: Re: U-Web Service End-of-Life - February 2013
From:
Patrick Mooney <ADDRESS REMOVED>
Date:
01/12/2013 10:43 PM
To:
U-Mail Help Desk <support-desk@umail.ucsb.edu>
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I would like to say that I think this is a poor choice, and that input from the campus community should have been solicited before it was made.

As nearly as I can determine, the central criterion for the decision is that “U-Web customers are better served by switching to one of these other services.” But as far as I can tell, no input was solicited from “U-Web customers” about what best serves their needs. Apparently, the basis for the evaluation that “U-Web customers” are better served elsewhere is based on the evaluation that other providers provide services that are technically equivalent to the U-Web service, insofar as other servers also serve HTML, CSS, and other files, just as the U-Web servers do.

However, there are a number of other ways in which other services do not adequately duplicate the U-Web service:

Having a U-Web web site provides an ontological guarantee of an affiliation with the University hard-coded into the site’s URL. Anyone can claim on their website to be affiliated with the University, but forcing a member of the campus community to host their website elsewhere removes an ability for the viewer of that website to confirm this assertion on the web designer’s part.

U-Web is paid for without direct cost to its users. Other services are not free (NearlyFreeSpeech), or require posting ads or corporate branding on the web site (Weebly), or unduly restrict the ways in which content can be created (Google Sites, which requires the use of their page-creation tools and prevents direct editing of HTML). I use my web service to provide instructional materials for my students. I believe that this is a valuable service for the students — and the students who have written letters of recommendation for my application for the Academic Senate’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award agree. Should I give my students the impression, then, that my course is sponsored by Weebly? Is this the image that the world-class University of California wants to give of itself? Putting corporate logos all over course website designs undermines one of the most basic assumptions of higher education — that academics and intellectuals are engaged in a disinterested search for truth. Requiring that course websites adhere to content guidelines for other services — which often place restrictions on what can be said beyond what is legally required by other sites — also undermines this basic assumption.

At the same time, the only other available non-restrictive option is to pay for hosting. This may not be a problem for some faculty members, but undergraduate and graduate students are already paying more for their education than at any time in the University’s recent history. Asking graduate students to pay out of pocket in order to construct course websites places an additional burden on people who are living on practically nothing in one of the country’s ten most expensive towns. Asking undergraduates to pay out of pocket to disseminate information that they need to disseminate has similar problems.

You also mention that you “understand the Collaborate project […] is developing a new service” to support needs related to course-related publishing, but their website says nothing about this effort, and it seems not to be working yet. What are we supposed to do in the time between when U-Web’s services and and whenever this project goes live?

In short, I disagree fundamentally that other services are equivalent in all meaningful ways to U-Web, even if technical equivalents exist elsewhere. I am disappointed that you have made this decision on our behalf without bothering to solicit input from us, and I think that the evaluation “we’ve decided other alternatives are better for you people” is patronizing, and suggests that the Instructional Computing department has lost sight of the fact that their job is to support educational objectives, not merely to make purely technical decisions. I also think that this decision illustrates perfectly what happens when a group of pompous technocrats makes technical decisions about services based solely on technical criteria and without considering the broader implications of those decisions or communicating with actual users of those services.

Finally, I also intend to publish this email on my blog under the title “An Open Letter to UCSB’s Instructional Computing Department About the U-Web Service’s Retirement.”

Thank you for your time.



Patrick Mooney, M.A.
PhD Candidate in English
University of California, Santa Barbara
http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/

And their respose:

Subject: [UCSB Support Desk Collaboration] Re: Re: U-Web Service End-of-Life - February 2013
From: Alan Moses <notifications-support@ucsbcollabsupport.zendesk.com>
Date: 01/14/2013 05:08 PM
To: Patrick Mooney < { my school email address } >
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## In replies all text above this line is added to the ticket ##

Ticket #9495: Re: U-Web Service End-of-Life - February 2013

Your request (#9495) has been updated.

Alan Moses, Jan 14 17:08 (PST):

Hi Patrick -

Regarding hosting for instructional materials, there are several campus solutions in place. The primary and recommended solution is to use GauchoSpace, which has the advantage of integrating enrollment status to control access as appropriate. Other solutions include departmental hosting, and if that is not available, in the College of Letters and Science the LSIT hosting service can provide a site for a course or project. I would encourage you to use one of these well established and supported services for your instructional materials.

Your concerns about using the alternate solutions in the note from the U-Web Service Management team for instructional materials are well founded; but your assumptions are misplaced. The U-Web retirement note did not provide alternatives for publishing instructional materials, because that was never an intended use for U-Web. Students have used it primarily for personal web publishing, for which the suggested services and many others are entirely appropriate. The other use for U-Web was for students to have a location to complete assignments that required web publishing. That is what the note meant by “course related web publishing” - the student side, not the instructor side. That need will eventually be met by a service that instructors can request for their classes as needed. For the time being, we will be meeting those requests on an ad hoc basis.

Take care -

-Alan

================================
Alan Moses
Assistant Dean for Academic Technology
College of Letters and Science
UC Santa Barbara
(805) 893-5343
moses@LSIT.ucsb.edu


Filed under University of California austerity college critique education humanities incompetence software technical support technology frustration bureaucracy Alan Moses UC Santa Barbara

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We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (via globalcitizen17)

(via cleverbeast)

Filed under privilege America politics wealth money economics capitalism corporatism Martin Luther King Jr. consequences austerity critique political posters quotes

2 notes &

'But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,' said Helen slowly. 'I don't like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good — it is always that sloppy 'somehow' — will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Basts of today are in pain.'
E.M. Forster, Howards End, ch. 23.

Filed under critique quotes E.M. Forster literature British writers modernist writers modernism politics ethics oppression privilege austerity economics desperation social Darwinism capitalism wealth corporatism money ownership false explanation hypocrisy self-indulgence labor corruption poverty piety socialism

69,246 notes &

awesome-everyday:

ladyatheist:

dumbthingswhitepplsay:

municipal-cake:

slaytanica:

If more company leaders followed this example of selflessness instead of being so fucking greedy the economy wouldn’t be so shitty. I mean really, just how much money do you really need to have.

This dude is fucking awesome. \m/

is there an article on this or something?

It’s true. He actually cut his pay down to $90,000 not $100,000.

The story is about 3 years old, but is still poignant.

But he points to corporate culture as the long-term solution. Like the AIG bonuses, Nishimatsu says, “shocked” him. “It’s like they’re from another planet,” he says.

A lesson of this recession, he hopes, will be that corporations don’t solely pursue profit and instead focus on the long-term financial health of the company and employ people and help society. Together with shared sacrifice, he believes, the global economy will recover - but only if everyone from the CEO to the entry-level employee works together.

Yeah, there’s a typo in the image text. I didn’t design it.

(via ohmychaaa)

Filed under Japan Japan Airlines Wall Street austerity bureaucracy capitalism economics labor money ownership