Monday, August 30, 2004

Another year, another cravat

It's the start of the academic year. Aside from the annual confusions with student network registrations, this can only mean one thing. I put on one of these things as part of my annual tradition. I don't think I've ever been required to wear a tie or jacket while working at the college. So I've gotten in the habit of wearing one on the first day of classes as a way of marking the passage of time. It's the little things that show we care, after all.

As this is an anniversary of a sort, it is a fine time for reflection and anticipation. Academic years are well-defined units of time, punctuated by long breaks. When a year ends, we sweep a lot of unfinished business under the rug. As the new year begins, we launch into new initiatives. The big interruptions that happen along the way only really hurt if we're in session. When you add all of this up, years tend to take on themes in my memory.

Last year, the theme was network security and stability. We started the year with Blaster32, and ended it with Sasser. In between, we suffered through connection-hungry P2P applications and an angry, exhausted student reaction to the steps taken to counteract the various infiltrations. Caught trying to fight on two fronts—the technical battle with worms and buffer overruns, and a campaign of ideas to convince students to adopt better practices with their personal computers (or else!)—the I.T. staff struggled to keep its spirits up. Why, your humble servant had to set aside a lot of forward-directed work to churn out an endless stream of announcements and presentations on such uplifting topics as data backups. I got off easy compared to the trench fighters in networking, systems administration, and the help desk.

After a summer spent primping and priming the network, the faculty and administration looked to us expectantly for reassurance that the problems of last year wouldn't resurface. We know things should be much better. But nobody is foolish enough to promise a trouble-free network, just as you'll not hear any member of the national security community promise that there will never be another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. That sort of thing just isn't done. It invites trouble.

Nevertheless, let's raise a cup of cheer, hoping that 2004-05 will be more productive. On Friday, I picked up an assignment to head up the College's ad hoc committee on content management strategies for our web site. With increased interest in our portal environment and murmurs of faculty wanting to get involved in blogging and other forms of online communication, maybe this will be the Year of Vastly Successful Web Publishing Initiatives.

It doesn't hurt to dream.


Blogger Megan said...

I think I've seen you wearing that tie (well, a tie, anyway) each of the four first days of the academic year that I've been here. For some reason, that makes me happy.

Year of Vastly Successful Web Publishing InitiativesI'll second that dream.

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