You are seated at home enjoying a movie or getting warm by the fireplace. Your phone rings. Almost by reflex, you pick it up and hit a button. Ah, it’s your friend from class. He’s remembered me after three months, you think to yourself, must be something important. You sit up and take in the contents of the text. “Sasa, my dear! Nimeona kwa 3rd Eye ati tunafungua next week.”

Pause.

Maybe you are not reading it right. You read it again. Yes, you read right. Your holiday is over. It can’t be. After all, the 3rd Eye is not a credible source of information. Very fast, you call someone else and they tell you the same thing. No, you will not believe anything that is not from a credible source. The next best thing is Google. Google has answers to everything, right?

Very quickly, you open your opera mini browser (or maybe run out of the house to the nearest cyber café) and enter Google. “Moi University opening dates” you type and wait for a few seconds, depending on Safaricom’s mood that day. You hold your breath. The results page appears before your eyes. The first result on the page reads, “Moi University Press Club, The 3rd Eye – Media/News/Publishing…”

This could change in an instant if they wanted it to.

Seriously, are you kidding me? You want to scream. To make matters worse, the Google result to the university’s official website comes in fourth position, alongside other personal blogs. (Oh yes, this very blog features in the results too.) Mind you, the result is on 2011/2012 academic year opening dates. Looks like you will have to trust the 3rd eye, huh? Well, it has happened to me for the longest time too. I feel you.

Now, do a little experiment. Just for the fun of it, Google “University of Nairobi opening dates”. Voila! The first two results are the university’s official website and all the rest are quite reputable sites like Wikipedia.

Why the difference? As an information science student who is online half the day, I will offer my two cents on this. I will not go into technical details, lest you get bored. (But just in case you want to learn more, it revolves around the magic acronym SEO, Search Engine Optimization.)

  1. The university website is in all manner of ways below par. You would expect that a site of its calibre would give information about students, for students and, to some extent, by students. But instead what does it do? It’s all about staff, staff and more staff. Enter the site and click on the links that look like they may have information on students, all you will see is either empty pages or pages that were updated years ago. A good example is the MUSO page.
  2. The university’s social media platforms are as underutilized as it gets. Do you even know it has both Facebook and twitter pages? Search and see for yourself. The problem is, just like the website, the accounts are updated like once a month or so. Ask whoever administrates the pages a question by tweeting or writing them an inbox and you will never get a reply. One of the reasons why major corporations like Safaricom and Kenya Power are thriving in the online world today is because they embraced social media and the efficiency of assisting clients through interactions on the platforms.
  3. Students are not involved in any way in putting up content in that website. If they were, we probably would not have a world rank of 8,079 on Webometrics. I will not even mince words. If this trend continues, the rank will keep dropping every year. Oh, and by the way, Webometrics only ranks based on web presence and impact. The rank has nothing to do with operations offline. (Imagine the heights the institution would go if it uploaded the research papers that are published in print!) You can now rest easy, we are not that bad. Ever tried contacting the ICT department? I have and trust me you will never get a reply. So much for having contacts put up on the site.
  4. Needless to mention the homepage is filled with links and a slider. No content that will help you at first glance. In the online world, content is king. If you focus on aesthetics of a page and forget about useful content, your efforts are null and void. To top this up, you are treated to a mixture of dead links and promising icons of non-existent student mail (Or maybe I did not get the memo when people were signing up for email addresses).

I will stop there for now, hoping someone is listening. There are so many students who would be glad to help improve this institution but are not given the opportunity. That is why most just want to complete their studies and vamoose. We love this place for what it offers. We complain because we know it could do better. We can help. In the information age, information is everything. And by the way, Moi University is not alone on the dead links, other sites have that too. To err is human.

In the meantime, don’t bother running to Google for the latest news from the official source. You know where you will get it loud and clear. Forgive us when we err, we are learning too.

(Originally published in the 3rd Eye, a Moi University Press Club publication.)

Written by Shiku Ngigi

Mum and dad’s daughter. Shouting big sister. Learning to listen. Jesus freak. Recovering tomboy. Mouse potato. Bass addict. Waking up the writer in her.

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