Op-Ed: BLSConnect, The Metamorphosis
It’s campaign season, the time of year for personal reinvention.
On Monday morning, 6:56 a.m. EST, the IT Team announced the launch of a remodeled BLSConnect. As is often the case with such declarations, the tone of the missive flitted between modesty and self-approval. The IT Team, after all, was eager to demonstrate its mettle, especially after months of dickey servers and log-in problems.
In the e-mail, fancy tech features were trotted out like show dogs. The new Connect would boast “improved search and navigation functionality.” There would be more links, an innovative calendar. And because the revamped interface was modeled according to student “feedback,” a refined navigational dashboard would now guide meandering users compass-like where its predecessor had merely spun about.
But, alas, the inaugural ticker tape was deployed too early. When students awoke from their fitful dreams, they found the good old BLSConnect “welcome screen” transformed into a hideous error message. User names and passwords were rendered useless. Pretty soon the IT Team had sent out another e-mail, this one an apology. Apparently, it conceded, people were experiencing “log-in problems.” Many people.
How well does this auger for the new BLSConnect? Surely in its race to win over the student body, the IT Team had wished to start anew, to put behind them not only the widely reviled original Connect, but the persistent sentiment around campus that the Team itself couldn’t handle user demand. Premiering the new system simply to have it crash, like a maiden cruise liner listing toward the jetty, could only undermine the IT Department’s credibility.
Yet politics, whether national or campus-wide, are all about comebacks. By Tuesday, the Team had sent out another e-mail. They had seemingly corrected the problem, whatever it had been. Students could now log in and explore the new Connect. Gone were the clunky interface, the crowded menu bar, the dizzyingly unintuitive navigation options. Missing, too, was the Public Interest tab, apparently a relic from a more compassionate time. In their place, users found softer edges, sharper connections. And like a luminous Arkansas presidential nominee having weathered a scandal, the Connect site emerged reborn.
Inaugurations are odd. They’re celebrations of the untested. The newly elected politician is met with jubilation and good cheer, despite having pronounced nothing but promises. So too the announcement of a new tech product; it’s only a vague assurance of improved performance. The real test begins once the ticker tape is swept from the public square.
Maybe it’s simply my American affection for the underdog, but the IT Team, one of BLS’s most recognized and publicly discussed departments, has all the makings of a great politician. They disappoint, they fail, they flounder. Sometimes we wish them ill. But they always apologize, dust themselves off, and try to win us back.