Thursday, March 31, 2005

Not as Good as Peanut Brittle

And to prove that I can also write about things not "Ring"-related, here's a column I wrote for Monday's paper, which a certain web editor was tardy in posting online.
Providing a Solution to GOLD's Cracker-Brittle Weaknesses

“Please wait as the system logs you on. You will receive a response momentarily.”

Yes, GOLD. I know. And I know what the response will be.

“All GOLD connections available are currently being used. Please try again in five minutes or at a later time.”

Oh, GOLD — so naive. You and I have both been at UCSB for five years, yet I have long since realized that checking back in five minutes will only get me the same message — the computer equivalent of a busy signal. Instead, I jockey with everybody else at UCSB for a chance to punch in our perm numbers by mindlessly clicking “refresh” on that “access denied” screen.

Don’t get me wrong — that final successful click gives me the thrill of knowing that for a few brief moments I’m the envy of the 99 other UCSB students who are still clicking “refresh.” But as much as that little victory made my day today — and believe me, it did — I think GOLD could avoid the misery of busy signals with one simple change.

Not too long ago, UCSB mailed a paper copy of each student’s classes home at the beginning of the quarter. This practice ceased in 2001, presumably to avoid the cost of mailing paper goods that would probably get lost beneath a pile of other ignored mail in some messy Isla Vista apartment. I agree that eliminating these mass mailings was in the best interest of students and students’ wallets, but I still think UCSB owes it to its students to give them another way of accessing their class schedules aside from logging onto GOLD.

Since the university already keeps all students’ Umail addresses on file, I think GOLD could easily fire out e-mails to all students with a listing of the classes they’ve signed up for. Mass e-mails — a UCSB specialty — would be a quick and cheap alternative to those printouts. Furthermore, I don’t know that much about computer programming, but I can’t imagine that the work needed to create such a process could possibly weigh too heavily on GOLD’s keepers. Best of all, the Umail server seems much better able to handle student traffic than GOLD, which crumbles like a saltine cracker if more than one student even thinks about logging on.

Granted, not everybody cruising the GOLD information expressway today wanted a peek at his or her schedule. Some logged on to tinker with this quarter’s course load at the last minute. However, I’d wager that the vast majority of students were like me — struck with the last-minute panic of wondering what I signed up for when I registered five weeks ago. Coasting through the end of break — whether it’s summer, winter or spring — isn’t conducive to thinking about school. And tragically, knowing how horrendous GOLD traffic will be can’t shock me out of my brain coma to think ahead.

I feel e-mailing schedules out to students would alleviate the pressure of these frantic first days of the quarter. The throngs of vacation-minded slackers would bog down Umail or whatever e-mail account to which they forward their Umail clutter. GOLD, conversely, might not lend itself to comparisons with saltines or any other baked goods if those who needed its services — last-minute schedule tinkering or anything else I’d be able to find out about if I could log on — could actually use them.

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