In defense of the fax machine

We’ve all heard the noise.

That noise, while archaic, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.

My friend Eric Stoller wrote a blog post this morning about the irrelevance of the dated fax machine. In his post, Eric suggests faxes are silly and a waste of technology. And they are.

Eric is right.

Unfortunately, not everyone else agrees. The majority of businesses around the country do not agree. We can disagree all we want, but we can’t ignore the reality of the situation.

College students have to fax things all of the time: proof of address, health records, insurance forms, student loan information.

And you know what? Fax machines are hard to find. This is a huge burden on a lot of students. It can stress the hell out of them. When students are told to fax a form immediately or be evicted from their apartment, they don’t know where to start. Why should they? WHO THE HELL HAS A FAX MACHINE?

I would counter and say we, as student affairs professionals, can provide a service. Have a fax machine in your Student Life office. Provide a fax service free of charge. Be helpful.

A fax machine may be outdated, but it’s also an opportunity to serve our students and their needs.


In defense of the fax machine

Help us tell a story

April 15 started out as an interesting day. By noon, I had already talked to The Barefoot Contessa on the phone (no really, it was a weird morning), did a ton of work for our end of the year leadership banquet and had been tracking one of my student leaders as she ran the Boston Marathon. I was thrilled to see her cross the finish line.

Within hours, all of us in the city had been shaken to the core. Things were rearranged and altered.

In the coming days, students, faculty and staff across the city of Boston reacted with a swift and sure hand, despite our general unease and confusion. We reacted with care, compassion and creativity. We reacted in the best way we could to help each other.

Today, three staff members from three Boston-area institutions want to tell this story. I want to share how three Emerson students started a movement called Boston Strong and in turn, started a healing and grieving process none of us expected. My friend Gordon wants to share how Boston University altered and evolved an admissions event by using social media when the city was on lockdown. My friend Amma wants to share how students at her college made their response expectations loud and clear.

The three of us want to present at Austin’s South by Southwest EDU. To do it, we need you to log on to their site and vote for us.

Take a few minutes and register at the SXSW PanelPicker and give us a comment and an upvote.

We want to share this story. It’s a story worth sharing.

Besides, you should just click on this because Robin Thicke wants you to do it.

Listen to Robin Thicke.

Help us tell a story

When Robots Attack

#SATechBOS is an experience.
Literally, its an experience… a free-flowing, fly by the edge of your pants experience where if you’re not thinking fast enough, you’ll be left to fend off robots. Yes, Robots.

Let’s backtrack.
For those not familiar, #SATechBOS is a two-day unconference I was lucky enough to attend last week. Topics are vetted by participants and by the end of two days, teams of participants create a working tech-focused project.  If you don’t move fast enough, cylons invade.

So, after a few un-sessions, topics started to emerge… and soon, a tech-focused project was conceived. Our small group talked about it for no more than 30 minutes. We had an idea and liked it… and suddenly, our facilitator (and visionary behind #SATechBOS) Ed Cabellon buys us a domain.

Wait. What? WE’RE NOT READY. 
“Robots,” Ed said. 

We weren’t ready. It wasn’t perfect. But Ed moved fast to avoid the cyber-fishers that would snatch up our domain. You see, we searched for the domain on google… and that’s where robots hide, plotting their evil doings and stealing our medicine (thanks, Hunter).

Many of us were uneasy. I was certainly leery… but there was a beauty to the speed.

If Ed hasn’t forced us to move on it, we probably wouldn’t have moved on it. It would have been another one of those ideas that never came to fruition. We had a unique thought worth sharing… a unique product worth developing. By moving fast, Ed pushed us to create. He believed that each group had a vision worth sharing with the world. There was no turning back.

If nothing else, here’s my takeaway – too many times we don’t move on beautiful ideas because they’re not completely fleshed out. Force yourself to move even if you’re not ready. Don’t let robots stop your ideas from taking root and turning into something amazing.

In the upcoming days, I’ll be sharing some of the ideas created at #SATechBOS, including our own. I hope you follow along, and if you see one worth getting involved in, I hope you find a way to contribute.

Just be careful of the robots.

When Robots Attack

The unwritten blog

There are many things in life I’m good at:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Rambling
  • Hunting for Unicorns

What I’m not so good at is self-censoring.

Those who know me well understand I don’t have a poker face, I can’t not say something and I can’t not respond when something is really bothering me. These things combined makes having an active and positive presence on social media a difficult thing.

How many times have you opened up Twitter, let loose some anger and then deleted the tweet before hitting send? There’s something beautifully cathartic about putting it out in space and then deleting it before you have the chance to hit send. It’s the modern day “write your anger on paper, crumple it up and throw it away.”

As I was prepping to leave work last night, I had the chance to read the result of a assessment from a program I was affiliated with… a few comments in the assessment were so inflammatory, so outrageous I immediately jumped to my blog and wrote a scathing post. There were 500+ words of pure fury. It’s now sitting in my drafts, never to see the light of day.

Because at the end of the day, publishing a flame isn’t helpful. The constant spur of the moment Facebook updates and Tweets designed to incite feelings of anger accomplish no good. They don’t move the issue further or help make a situation better. Instead, nasty, aggressive statuses only allow you to wallow in that anger… and make the situation even worse.

It was a moment for me. A chance to reflect, check myself, move forward and find some positive things from the situation. It’s our responsibility to model positive behavior on social media, even when we’re in the thick of negative feelings and emotions.

And you can bet there’s going to be an Educational Session about this… we’re looking at you NACA National Convention 2014.

The unwritten blog

On the topic of goodbyes

There are a lot of goodbyes happening right now… undergrads graduating and moving on, grad students getting their first jobs, friends moving on to the next stage in their lives.

At dinner last night with two recently graduated students, we talked about moving on and saying goodbye. What struck me  was the nonchalance we now have when we say goodbye.

I’ve had 17 different addresses in my life. That’s one address for every two years of my life. Most of these were accompanied by a big move and the need to say goodbye. It was never easy but I learned to let go and move on… to say goodbye.

Before email and social media, we were reliant upon letter writing as the primary means of staying in touch. As the world’s worst letter writer, that meant I had to learn how to say goodbye. That’s not the case anymore.

Social media keeps us clued in these days. It’s not that people say goodbye and move away, it’s that people and their relationships with us move to a digital space. Feelings, news and statuses are still shared. A connection is still easily kept, just in another way.

And I wonder if we’re not worse off because of it. Maybe its because I emotionally compartmentalize my life, but I feel more able to cut my strings and move on. I am equipped and able to say goodbye to people, experiences and institutions. My ability to let go and move forward is something I consider to be a strength.

I’ll give you this: My relationships with former colleagues and students remains strong because of social media and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. 

A book that has always stayed with me is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This quote sums it up for me:

If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?
– Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  Richard Bach
To those of you we’re saying goodbye to, I’ll see you in the middle of Here and Now.
On the topic of goodbyes

Going off of the grid

On Valentines Day 2012, something strange hit me. No, not a loose arrow from cupid’s quiver, rather a weird desire to go off of the grid.

Inspired by a friend who had done the same a few week’s prior, I gave my cell phone up for 48 hours. Short of jailing my cell phone, I put my cell phone in my boss’ hand and told her not to give it back for 48 hours.


Hence began my first real experiment with going off of the grid.

Without constant work emails, facebook and twitter, I was able to spend a nice night cooking Valentine’s Day dinner with #MyEric and focus on the life around me. I instinctively reached for my phone more than once, but found no major withdraw symptoms. I learned I wasn’t nearly as technology dependent as I thought I was prior to going off of the grid. Truth be told, this was more stressful for my boss than it was for me.

So here we go again. Tomorrow, I board a boat and head off to the great wilds of Canada, essentially going off of the grid until noon on Sunday.

No texts, no email, no tweets, no facebooking, no friends bitching about the Red Wedding on last night’s Game of Thrones.

Two takeaways here:
1. A vacation is rarely a total vacation because we’re still on the grid. There are still glimpses of work emails, students tweeting, Facebook events, etc. Going completely off the grid turns your vacation into a real retreat.

2. In Higher Ed, we spend too long worrying about our absence and what it means to our campus. We have to get over ourselves. Truth be told, our absence rarely means anything. Students will still learn. Classes will still be taught. The world will continue to turn, even if I’m not tweeting about it.

Going off of the grid