Cornell Blogs: The Next Generation

November 20, 2007

A year ago, Chronicle Online posted a story about the Life on the Hill project. In addition to highlighting the new University-sponsored student blogs, the article provided a comprehensive list of all Cornell blogs. Now that a year has passed, let’s revisit these blogs to see how they are doing now.

Student blogging project
Alex Payne ’09
Ben Crovella ’07: inactive
Caroline Dias ’08
Jennifer Lin ’09
Jenna Bromberg ’08
Nikki Gusz ’08

Other student blogs
Charlotte Acharya, Grad: almost exclusively baby pictures
Elliott Back ’06: no more breaking Cornell news
Christian Montoya ’07: inactive, old content gone
Stephen Miller: inactive, old content gone
Erica Mallare ’08: inactive
Shane Murphy, Grad: old content gone, farewell note remains
Claudia Rodriguez ’08: now a wedding blog
Dean Strelau: inactive, old content gone
Center for Jewish Living student residence: inactive
President of Facebook: Cornell-related posts are just follow-ups
AdmitSpit — Polina Minkin ’10 contributes to this nationwide group blog on admissions and academics: inactive

Semi-anonymous freshman blogs
Bungee Jump: inactive
Cornell Days: inactive
Karma Moths: one post in the last two months
Wasting Forty Grand: inactive

General Cornell blogs
Overheard at Cornell: two posts in the last two months
– Livejournal message boards and not exactly blogs to begin with
MetaEzra — a group blog by Matthew Nagowski ’05, Andy Guess ’05 and Marc Zawel ’04: slowly becoming less Cornell-related

Ivy League-wide blogs
IvyGate: pumping out multiple posts on most days
IvyLeak: inactive, old content gone

Although some of these remain active, most aren’t, especially when accounting for the Life on the Hill blogs which are expected to meet a certain quota. According to BusinessWeek, “after 3 months on average, most bloggers realize that writing about their politics, launch haunts, or co-workers isn’t for them”. That makes sense based on what we see above. However, the same post says “we’re still seeing growth in the blogosphere”. It appears the same cannot be said for the Cornell blogosphere.

There have been virtually no new players during the last year. There are three new Life on the Hill blogs: Alex Cain ’10, Matt Hintsa ’10, and Joe McCourt ’10. Cornell Abroad came out with its own version called Voices from Cornell Abroad, a group blog by three students studying overseas. Engineering Admissions has several blogs as well (why they are hosted on Blogger is beyond me).

So far, all of these are Cornell-sponsored endeavors. As far as independent blogs go, the offering are slim. OTR, a network of college-oriented blogs, launched Cornell OTR. Despite high activity last summer, there hasn’t been a post in the last month. There is also CornellNewsWatch, but that is news aggregator rather than a blog. It does provide additional exposure to the few remaining Cornell blogs in an easy-to-digest format, so it deserves a mention for that.

Are these the last days of blogging at Cornell? They very well could be.


Cornell Alumni Magazine Mentions Jeff

October 2, 2007

This blog has reached a new level. It finally received coverage in a printed publication. And not just any publication, but Cornell Alumni Magazine (you may find the full story on page 33 of the September/October 2007 issue). The article by Michael Morisy ’07 mentions:

The creator of a fake Facebook profile purporting to represent former President Jeffrey Lehman ’77 writes a widely read blog where he comments on the intersections of social networking and higher education, often with a Cornell twist.

Cornell Alumni Magazine happens to be the most widely circulated Cornell-related publication out there, at least based on data easily found online. Thus, I think it is fair to say that I am now officially Cornell’s version of Fake Steve Jobs (covered by NY Times, BusinessWeek, Reuters, CNBC, etc.). Note to publishers: unlike Steve, I have not signed a book deal yet.

Admissions Offices Open Up Through Blogs

March 21, 2007

Last August, Cornell launched the Life on the Hill project to allow prospective students get a feel for campus life. While this initiative faced criticism from independent bloggers, it was an interesting move nonetheless.

It turns out colleges have been exploring other ways of using blogs to attract applicants. Admissions offices, traditionally shrouded in mystery, are beginning to open up. Yale Daily News sums it up:

In recent years, the increasingly intense college search process has given rise to online forums in which college-bound seniors swap advice, statistics, and stories in order to increase their chances of acceptance to top-tier schools. Now, some colleges are bringing information to the students in the form of behind-the-scenes blogs and message boards that offer a revealing look at what goes on inside America’s most selective admissions offices.

Yale does not have an admissions blog and has no plans for one. A quick search reveals that neither does any other Ivy League school. The only exception is Cornell’s College of Engineering.

Here is a small sample of schools jumping on the admissions blog bandwagon:
Bryn Mawr –
Case Western –
Chicago –
Connecticut College –
Cornell (Engineering) –
Johns Hopkins –
Olin College –
Oregon State –
SUNY Stony Brook –

It’s certainly refreshing to see schools make a legitimate attempt to connect with the potential future students during the stressful application process. I can only hope that more colleges follow their example.

Blogging About Blogging About Nothing

January 30, 2007

The Cornell blogosphere is on fire again! Latest topic of interest is Tara Tavernia’s “Blogging About Nothing” piece in The Cornell Daily Sun. A small section sums up her point:

The problem is that the interesting stories are mixed with the blogger’s commentary, which is my main complaint about blogs. Very few bloggers are experts on the field about which they are writing (I mean, really, can you be a pop culture expert?). Yet, everyone wants to give their two cents on every topic.

Perhaps that may explain why only very few blogs have a substantial audience. Does this mean the rest of the population should cease all online publishing? Should we also introduce filters to make sure only approved content ever sees the light of day?

Ironically, she is writing about blogs, something she is clearly not an expert on.

But wait. It gets better:

Every publication has a website, and many are now adding the newer variants of online media as well — photo slideshows, forums, blogs and podcasts. I cannot grasp why the media — magazines, newspapers and even television — has to transform itself into such a fast-paced environment. Sure, it’s great to read the news ten minutes after it happened, but inaccuracies are bound to occur with so little time for editing and fact-checking.

I hope she realizes The Cornell Daily Sun is one of those publications (with photos, forums, and blogs).

Christian Montoya adds:

In the end, the funny and ironic thing about Tara’s rant is that it sounds more like a blog entry than a newspaper editorial to me. It’s poorly written both in grammar and structure and full of weak arguments and Tara does nothing to prove to us that she is an expert herself, considering how few blogs she actually reads.

Elliott Back points out:

It’s not fair to claim that making money is an impure motive for writing a blog, unless you want to include all mainstream media as well. The New York Times is plastered with ads.

I stand by my previous claim: bloggers love to blog about blogs.

College Leaders Turn to Blogging

November 22, 2006

If there was ever a relevant story, this has to be it. Small selection:

While some colleges and their presidents have seen their reputations shredded on student blogs, and others have tried to limit what students and faculty members may say online, about a dozen or so presidents, like Dr. McGuire, are vaulting the digital and generational divide and starting their own blogs.

Veterans of campus public relations disasters warn that presidents blog at their peril; “an insane thing to do” is how Raymond Cotton, a lawyer who advises universities and their presidents in contract negotiations, describes it. But these presidents say blogs make their campuses seem cool and open a direct line, more or less, to students, alumni and the public.

There is also a section discussing student blogs, a topic that has recently been receiving a fair amount of attention at Cornell:

Bob Johnson, a consultant to many universities on marketing, said he was mystified that university officials had not generally embraced blogs. Mr. Johnson said student blogs, for example, could be a “hugely effective” recruitment tool, even if they carried the implicit promise — or threat — of uncensored truth, however unflattering.

There you have it.

Cornell Blog Roundup

November 18, 2006

Old media meets new media. Chronicle Online posted a story about the Life on the Hill project that rocked the Cornell blogosphere back in August:

“Life on the Hill,” a pilot project online since late August, is an initiative of the Office of Web Communications, intended to give prospective students and parents a view of how students balance academic, social and recreational life. Six bloggers were chosen from the ranks of tour guides and Cornell Tradition members, out of more than 40 students who applied. Their blogs add to the dozens of others maintained by Cornell students and alumni (see list below).

Surprisingly, the list of blogs is comprehensive and uncensored:

Cornell in the blogosphere

Student blogging project
– Alex Payne ’09:
– Ben Crovella ’07:
– Caroline Dias ’08:
– Jennifer Lin ’09:
– Jenna Bromberg ’08:
– Nikki Gusz ’08:

Other student blogs
– Charlotte Acharya, Grad:
– Elliott Back ’06:
– Christian Montoya ’07: and
– Stephen Miller:
– Erica Mallare ’08:
– Shane Murphy, Grad:
– Claudia Rodriguez ’08:
– Dean Strelau:
– Center for Jewish Living student residence:
– President of Facebook:
– AdmitSpit: — Polina Minkin ’10 contributes to this nationwide group blog on admissions and academics.

Semi-anonymous freshman blogs
– Bungee Jump:
– Cornell Days: — group blog by three freshmen, one of them also blogs at
– Karma Moths:
– Wasting Forty Grand:

General Cornell blogs
– Overheard at Cornell: (inspired by the popular “Overheard in New York” site)
– Livejournal message boards: and
– MetaEzra: — a group blog by Matthew Nagowski ’05 (also blogging at, Andy Guess ’05 (also at and Marc Zawel ’04.

Ivy League-wide blogs
– IvyGate:
– IvyLeak:

Even this one made the cut. Although I am not sure how it got classified under “Other student blogs” while Overheard at Cornell and MetaEzra are “General Cornell blogs.”

Life on the Hill: the Community Responds

August 31, 2006

Bloggers love to blog about blogs. The Cornell blogosphere has been on fire over the launch of Life on the Hill, the Cornell Student Blogging Project.

Elliott Back:

Reading over their last forty entries, the content seems to be about on the same level of insight and quality as the median of Livejournal, Myspace, and Xanga. … The short of it is that the Cornell University Student Blogging Project is just a watered down PR machine written by a gang of unfocused novice bloggers.

Christian Montoya:

This editorial from the Daily Sun sums it all up nicely. If you don’t want to read it, at least read this quote: “… in trying to maintain a positive face for the student body, they’ve chosen a group that does not truly represent the breadth of that body.”

Caroline Dias, one of six Life on the Hill bloggers, responds to my post:

In all seriousness, let me use this entry to point out what I actually want to do with this blog. I intend this blog to be informative to prospective students on what it’s like being at Cornell today. If I get lost in the inane details of my daily life, please call me on it.

Let’s see what prospective students think. Sam Jackson:

This seeming failure to launch brings us back to what I keep saying and trying to stress to some of my institutional readers–authenticity is more important for good PR than anything else.

Much ado about nothing or is Cornell’s blogging initiative really a big deal?