In the second part of our big Interview, Rob talks papers, Ents, and boards with Dave Ryan
Now, DCU has a system where one paper is news and current affairs [The College View] and then they have a magazine [Flux] is the entertainment magazine. Are you amalgamating those two different ideas into one paper?
Yeah, we are.
And are you planning on competing with the high-profile interviews they have [DCU’s magazine Flux has boasted interviews with the likes of Kasabian, Snow Patrol, Nerina Pallot, and, eh, pornstar Jesse Jane in the last year alone]?
We have a few people who are very interested in doing interviews.We’ll probably be recording some of the interviews too, video-taping them. And they’ll be up on the site. We’ll be interviewing everybody we get the chance to, especially the big names. We have a few big names coming this year.
Excellent…..Now, there was a lot of trouble last year as regards promoting gigs in the SU. Very few gigs were well attended there last year. Are you hoping to use [The Print and the website] to promote better?
We hope that the SU and the things that it produces will be ubiquitous, and that gives us a much better opportunity to promote events. These are all events that people want to see. The problem wasn’t that they were no good, the problem has been that knowledge of the events doesn’t get out there as well as it could have. We’ve got better events this year, we hope, we have to see how things turn out. It’s early days yet, but it’s shaping up very nicely….and we think that between the website, the paper, and a few other things we have in mind, that getting the message out and getting people interested will probably be easier than ever.
There was talk of an association between the Leinster Leader and the SU……
No comment….It’s off….that’s news.
OK….In terms of comparison: now, I know you won’t want to compare yourselves to the last administration, because it would be unfair on them…
[Both start laughing]
Woah, wait, didn’t mean it that way, you know what I mean….. Anyway, Aengus seems far more accessable than previous presidents. He’s already looking for feedback [from students] far more than I’ve ever encountered in my three or four years in the college. Will this be a crucial facet of his term as President?
Absolutely. I mean, the problem with Union faces in the past is that it seems like an exclusive society….very distant…and I understand that part of that is geography, where we are so far from everything [where we are] on North Campus. Part of it too is that what it’s produced hasn’t always been on the same wavelength as what students are looking for. Not a lot of that is the Union’s fault, it’s always been very hard to get people interested in things like The Print, or to keep that interest going. A lot of people write things for the first issue, and then it kind of just drifts away….It’s like gym membership: people go the first few times before they decide it’s boring and annoying.
[With The Print etc.] I want to really reward contributions this year, and create a sense of public ownership of it. It’s not my paper, it’s the paper that Maynooth built, essentially….I have great faith in people to do amazing things.
Aengus went on boards.ie and asked the student body as a whole who they would like to see play Maynooth this year. It’s one thing to ask the people, but do you really feel you can deliver on the hype that this thread has created within itself that this is going to be a remarkable improvement, that [the difference] is going to be like night and day? Can you live up to it?
Ha-ha…Night and Day Entertainment is a fantastic concept…..Em, i dunno….we’ll get the best we can get, that’s the best answer I can give, I’ve got a few concrete things, but I can’t tell you what, and a few things up in the air because it’s early days yet. But there is no one we aren’t looking at, we’re going to try every suggestion, barring the likes of Michael Jackson and Prince…
Well yeah, because Michael Jackson’s dead…..
Although, what an AMAZING night that would be in the SU, let me tell ye….
[Laughs] Yeah, but you wouldn’t have believed the things people asked for……..but I’m always in favour of raising the bar. Seriously, ask more of me.
Getting back to your specific role of VP Comms & Dev, I read somewhere, could have been us for all I know, that you saw boards as an important outlet for the union….
Yes, that was in my manifesto. By the start of the academic year, we hope for the SU to be fully registered as a member on boards, and people can ask us questions. We won’t be a mod of the forum or anything.
You talked at Hustings about a message board for the Union, whatever way it would exist, be it a buy & sell, or a board for information, or an interactive forum….
Oh yeah, I’ve just had so much to do. I’ll probably just do that today
Yeah, or tomorrow, because it’s pretty late.
What will it consist of?
I’ll put up a temporary one for now, just to deal with buying and selling student stuff like books, laptops, drugs, cars, that kind of thing……
Drugs, cars, women…..
Yeah, yeah, that kind of thing. Then we’ll just scrap that, and when the new one is ready, you’ll hopefully use your student name and number to log in.
[NERD TALK WARNING]Will you use the standard phpBB format, or something else?
Yeah, we will, that’s the standard installation.
When this board is eventually up and running, what are your plans for moderation?
People will have to use their real names. No hiding behind an anonymous username, the standard protocol applies, kind of like boards. For instance, there will be no swearing, because that’s not what this board is for. It’s for planning and organising, for buying and selling stuff, for discussing modules and notes. It’s a place for students to discuss without having to be in person. There’ll be a forum as well for general chat and discussion. It WON’T be Mikado. I don’t know if you remember that, but basically, if you can imagine 4chan in phpBB….
[with a feeling of terror] Oh, I see.
[Both laugh]…but Mikado died a death, because it became a really introverted society, there was only like 5 or 6 people it. So our forum will be more like boards.ie
Will the Clubs and Societies have their own areas?
Yes, but they have to request it. I’m not going to put up one for every single club and society and end up with 20 forums nobody ever uses. If you request it, I will make it for you.
The other promise I recall you having is putting the printer chip in everyone’s student cards. How’s that going?
It’s really complicated. Discussion about that starts in late September, early October, and that’s when we’ll start being able to give input into it. So, I honestly won’t be able to tell you much until then. But we’re still optimistic for it, we’re still pushing for it. There are a lot of obstacles, one of which is Human Resources, but it’s still something we are pushing for. It’s something that’s annoyed me for years….
How is progress with Google apps?
You haven’t seen it on boards yet?
Take a look.
It’s going well I take it…..
I got banned for calling some guy a troll……There are a number of obstacles as regards Google apps, but I don’t see any of them as being too big to overcome. The college has made a transition they’re very happy with. I know they’ve saved huge amounts of money. For some it hasn’t been the easiest transition, but we got there in the end.
The main arguments are first, that it isn’t necessary. I’d argue against that for a few reasons. You could argue that the internal webmail isn’t necessary at all. I also think we have an obligation to students [to introduce these concepts] for computer skills. Most employers now expect a certain level of IT literacy. We make people do the ECDL course, but its main syllabus mentions nothing about the Internet. Everything is done over the Internet, so they should be familiar with it.
Yeah, they do expect it. It’s right up there with being able to read….
Yeah, exactly. I think we owe it to students to basically educate them in modern email clients.
The third reason I have is that it offers so many more services. I mean, you could say something isn’t necessary, but it is better. We don’t need a student newspaper, but it’s way better than not having one. It also solves more problems. Students get caught out every year when their essays are on the wrong version of Microsoft Word, and people lose marks on essays. Because of that, we are pushing for Open Office on all computers, and Google docs, which is part of the deal. In five years, so much of what we do will be ‘cloud’ based, that it is important that we start educating students now before they are left behind later. I think it’s part of our obligation to students.
Yes, it is vital that the Union and your position specifically, are aware of the dynamic shift toward cloud computing [Ed’s note- a technology that eliminates the need for individual hard drives on computers, storing all documents etc on remotely accessible ‘cloud’ servers]. I mean, The Economist did a huge cover story on it a few months ago, and that it is the future of technology is very important.
Yeah, I read three or four articles on these a day, because I am a massive nerd, and these things may not be necessary now, but to provide for your future, these things are way more vital than people think.
I’ve noticed that the SU Facebook page has improved?
Well, I’m getting far more updates…
[laughing] Well, that’s because everyone in the office has an iPhone now.
Well it’s good that it’s more frequent, even with the odd joke update…
I’ll be honest, every joke update has been me.
Oh I know, I had thought as much.
Haha, yeah there was one I had where I was on a bus, and just posted “In some kip of a town”, then thought “Ooh, delete.”
We are going to have to change the Facebook group, because a profile will only hold 5000 members, and we’re repidly approaching that, so I have to go and manually invite 4000-odd people to the new group.
Fun for you. Bet you wish all the graduates would just quit the page and save the trouble.
That would be amazing. If you could, please do.
And finally, what’s your favourite small kitchen appliance?
[thoughtful pause] Kettle.
That concluded our interview with Rob. Many thanks to him once again for his time. The Observer will return tomorrow with a look at next week’s “snubbing” event
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