Entropy and the Web

Websites want to be chaotic. They don’t like order, hierarchy, or staying on brand. Your efforts to tame it or control it are largely futile. The best you can do is point it in the right direction and then keep on eye on it. Turn your head for just a minute and suffer the consequences: broken links, inconsistent messages, oddball layouts, one time exceptions, and so on.

We usually clammer for more people, more money and more tools as salvation. They’re not. Those things will solve today’s problems, but new ones will arrive tomorrow. No set of widgets, plug-ins or third party add-ons will stop the inevitable. No workflow, processes or project manager from heaven stands a chance. Can you think of any CMS so good that it doesn’t let anything through the cracks? I can’t. Can we supersize it to an EMS and lick the problem? That’ll probably make it worse.

I bring all this up because after two days of great information and conversations at the AMA Higher Ed Symposium, It’s clear that higher ed is lurching forward in fits and starts to leverage all the wondrous new tools and services appearing daily on the Web. But in all the excitement and drama lies the everyday needs of everyone’s website. You’ve gotta remember to take care of the small, non-glamorous details that keep your site alive and well. Don’t lose sight of the daily grind because entropy is always there with you.

Is there hope? Well… just about the only thing any of us can muster in defense is vigilance. Stay attentive, be nimble and don’t let small problems fester into big ones. Keep the daily grunt work moving along efficiently, but also keep an eye on what’s coming up ahead. If the new thing on the horizon goes unchecked until it’s too late to deal with effectively, you lose. It’ll turn your hard work and good intentions into chaos and doubt. Don’t let it get to that.

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