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The beginning of the semester lead to new heights in communication within the Jacobs community. The overwhelming mass of broadcasted emails, mainly caused by uncritical use of the mailing list "jacobs-students", resulted in delivery delays of up to several days. As this doesn't allow for a reasonable dialogue anymore, the mailing list "jacobs-students" will be deactivated for the time being, held emails will be delivered as soon as possible.

Instead, to allow for more efficient and modern communication within the Jacobs community and beyond, an electronic "Jacobs Blackboard" has been created at http://teamwork.jacobs-university.de/display/jacobsbb/Home

Everyone at Jacobs can start a discussion, and discussions and comments can be read in a browser or followed by subscribing to RSS feeds. Events and any other "small talk" at Jacobs can be posted there as well.

This development and possible improvements will be discussed in the next joint meeting of the Academic Council and the Student Government.

Excited about the development,
Torge Schmidt, CTO

Server maintenance 2nd&4th Thursday each month, 07:00-08:00.

IT infos and blog at http://teamwork.jacobs-university.de/display/ircit/.
Regarding IT support see http://teamwork.jacobs-university.de/x/iQ.
For CampusNet support send campus.net@jacobs-university.de.

7 Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Schmidt,

    on behalf of myself I'd like to inquire more details into when the decision to close down the jacobs-student list was taken, and why it was taken without contacting the students? It was an important tool, which was easily controllable through filters and thus didnt necessarily spam the mailboxes.
    I do agree that an RSS Feed might be a possibility as well, but I'd like to voice some criticism concerning that: Firstly, the students list was a list to all students, yet it was not public to everyone, which I consider to be a big minus for RSS in the current form since it is a big loss of privacy for students. Secondly, instead of having one easily manageable email news account we now have a second communication platform, which further complicates things, and I believe it is an unnecessary complication.
    One last point I'd like to comment on is the current technical solution for our mailing lists: If our email server is not able to deal with the current workload, than there are two questions to be asked from my side: Firstly, did traffic jump up so much higher, that it indeed wasn't able to deal with it anymore, unlike last year? Secondly, since the university is following a strategy of expansion, increased demands should not be an unexpected phenomenon, and an update of the system, or an upgrade to a different one rather than shutting it down seems to be the logical solution.

    Best regards and looking forward to reading your answer,
    Salomon Theinert

    1. Dear all,

      thanks for following up!

      on behalf of myself I'd like to inquire more details into when the decision to close down the jacobs-student list was taken, and why it was taken without contacting the students?

      This measure was taken today to get back to normal email service for the Jacobs community, where critical communication like million-euro proposals got stuck in the mail queue due to the heavy email traffic on one single mailing list. Follow-up discussion will happen in the AC with the Student Parliament to work on improvements.

      I do agree that an RSS Feed might be a possibility as well, but I'd like to voice some criticism concerning that: Firstly, the students list was a list to all students, yet it was not public to everyone, which I consider to be a big minus for RSS in the current form since it is a big loss of privacy for students.

      I have trouble seeing that messages to 1200+ people are private in the beginning. It can also been seen as a chance to improve the spirit and communication at our university by crossing group borders which happen to often here (like talking about "The admin" and "The students", usually by members of the other group)

      Secondly, instead of having one easily manageable email news account we now have a second communication platform, which further complicates things, and I believe it is an unnecessary complication.

      Actually, I think it is a helpful development, as email can now be used again for what it is suitable best: quick and direct asynchronous communication between small peer groups without being flooded with unsolicited information.

      Firstly, did traffic jump up so much higher, that it indeed wasn't able to deal with it anymore, unlike last year?

      Yes. During the last days there was more email going around than during the last 12 months at any time. May this year was close. See here.

      Secondly, since the university is following a strategy of expansion, increased demands should not be an unexpected phenomenon, and an update of the system, or an upgrade to a different one rather than shutting it down seems to be the logical solution.

      Semi-Yes. That's what Project IT Infrastructure Development (PITID) approved was intended for. Unfortunately, due to its complexity, this has taken longer to move forward and the new infrastructure is not available yet.

      Semi-No. Some mechanisms don't scale well, and "real-time email broadcast" (for which email was not intended) is one of them.

      I regret, that the transition was a rather sharp one, and that was not intentional, but necessary.

      On the other hand, introduction of course workspaces this semester should ease the process, as the teamwork system, being in active use at Jacobs University for more than two years now, can be seen as an established communication channel at this university as well.

      1. Dear Dr. Schmidt,

        As I find the shutdown of the jacobs-students mailing list a positive step, your reference to the mail statistics for mercur raise some questions to me. One can clearly see on the monthly graph that something has happened on the second day of week 33. As my calendar shows, week 33 is from Aug. 11 to 18 when spamming rate to jacobs-students was quite low, typical level for the break period. Could you please elaborate on this issue? Do you have any information why there are suddenly so many bounced messages - from almost 0 msgs/min to currently 8.91 msgs/min?

        Hristo

        1. Hello Hristo Stoev,

          I assume, you mean this graph:

          The read line denotes rejected messages. Those messages were rejected instead of put into the delivery queue. In week 33 we improved the mechanism for rejecting unsolicited emails increasing overall performance because handling of incoming spam takes less resources.

  2. Of course one can argue about the arguments brought foreward.
    But the inherent problem is here that a decision has been taken to alter the student communication mechanism without consulting the students. You refer to the use of student communication, course spaces etc., but the mailing list is used for a variety of communicative means beyond this.
    Presenting a definete situation and telling us that the discussion only will take place much later in a time in which we will have to just take this as it is, is not acceptable. This should have been discussed with students properly before taking action, especially as several events and even official procedures (like student government elections get inhibited).

    I sincerely hope the situation changes again at the beginning of the week. Waiting till the next AC - Student Government meeting is clearly not sufficieent, as the student life and communication are directly affected now.

    Jan

  3. Dear Mr. Schmidt,

    thank you for your answer, however I've some follow up questions:

    According to your response, mail traffic was the cause for the rejections and mail queues, however I fail to see that relationship at the moment Click here for more details.

    The list gave students the opportunity to communicate between students, what we have now is a completely open communication platform which doesnt even stay inside the university anymore, and I perceive that as a loss of privacy from a students perspective.

    Emails were still used for assymetric communication, and although I do agree that the RSS feed is useful for maybe announcing sales and so, I am convinced that the Jacobs List is a great tool for communication which served e.g. the purpose of announcing university wide events and taking it away doesn't appear to be the appropriate reaction, from my, the students perspective.

    Thank you for your collaboration and the time you dedicated to answer every question so far,
    Best,
    Salomon Theinert

    1. Hello Salomon Theinert,

      cause for the rejections

      Nope, not rejections, I didn't say that, but no harm done.

      Click here for more details.

      "Home (Page Not Found)" I assume, the permissions are too restrictive. See Groups to use for assigning permissions (smile)

      loss of privacy from a students perspective

      An easy solution would be for someone to setup a Jacobs Students Blackboard similar to jacobsbb, and assign appropriate permissions, the group "CDN-Students" comes to mind.

      Thank you for your collaboration and the time you dedicated to answer every question so far

      Thanks for your positive feedback! We try communicate as open as possible and I honestly regret, that we had to act so quickly, but to ensure uninterrupted business of Jacobs University this step appeared inevitable.