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ISSUE 117 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/7/2004

Revamped website offers forums, media information

By Jean Mullins
Contributing Writer


Friday, May 7, 2004

St. Olaf students have a new Internet resource for everything pertaining to St. Olaf. The revised website, 55057.com, sponsored by the Student Government Assoc-iation (SGA), has links to everything from SquirrelMail to CNN.com.

The website is a renovation of the website formerly run by Dave Marotz '01. He "passed the torch" to SGA this year, according to SGA webmaster Eric Palmer 04.

"The website was a good opportunity to create a webpage that pertained to St. Olaf," SGA Vice President Seth Heringer 05 said.

The website formerly featured links to Carleton College and was a resource for students at both colleges. However, in revamping the website, SGA made the website a solely St. Olaf-based venture.

"Were not anti-Carleton," Heringer said. Carleton was an absent partner in the website, explained Heringer, and when SGA took over the website, they decided to make it a "complement to the SGA homepage."

One of the most popular parts of the website is the forum, said Heringer and Palmer. It provides students with the opportunity to respond to issues pertaining to the school, as well as classified ads where students can peddle their old furniture and more to other Oles. Students can also use the forum to make suggestions for SGA and their website. Other forum topics include SGA executive stipends, classes and world politics.

"It is a means of communication among students," Palmer said.

Forums are popular all over the Internet, Palmer said, and the forums seemed natural for the website.

Heringer said that students have been very eager to participate in the forums, citing website statistics showing that 175 people posted messages in the first 15 days.

And while some debates on the forum have been more heated than others, Heringer has found that most students have been very responsible with their comments.

However, there is some editing or censoring that needs to take place, and Heringer said that the webmaster will be going in and doing that manually.

The website also features links to numerous major news sources, including CNN.com, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the New York Times online, as well as many local news sources such as the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, the Northfield News and the Manitou Messenger.

There are links to e-mail, such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and SquirrelMail. Entertainment links include local movie theaters such as Lakeville and the Mall of America, as well as a link to Yahoo Movies and AOL MovieFone for lists and blurbs on new theater releases.

There is even a link to the DVD database of the Pause.

"55057.com is a website designed specifically for students with everything students need," Heringer said.

The website has seen a good response from students so far, but Heringer said SGA hopes that they will build a base following this year, and then have a big public relations push at the beginning of next school year.

Right now they are averaging about 750 hits per day, a lot of which stem simply from people having the website as their homepage.

"There is no good reason why you wouldnt want to have it as your homepage," Heringer said.

SGA is still trying to get more people interested.

"Ive heard of it, but I havent visited it yet," Ben Eickhoff '07 said.

Some students do not see the point of a website that doesnt offer much more than the St. Olaf homepage already does.

In one forum on suggestions for 55057.com, Nathan Hopkins '07 wrote, "There is not that much here that cannot be accessed from stolaf.edu; plus that site is prettier, easier to navigate and more informative. The forums are the only thing I find the least bit interesting."

Heringer explained that a lot of the tools on 55057.com do come from the St. Olaf website, but that it has other things  such as the forums  which are unique to 55057.com. It also has links to other things that students might be interested in, such as the news links and the link to the Google search engine.

Many students are excited about the website. Hopkins himself is quick to point out that he still uses the website regularly and is excited by the forums as a means of communication among students.

Others agree with Hopkins statement.

"[The website] gives an opportunity to connect with other students and share ideas," Annika Blomberg '07 said.

Still, some students want improvements on the website.

"I think they should have more pictures on the homepage," Chelsea Reigle 06 said. "But, I think its great how you can get to everything on one page."

As part of their current public relations push, Blomberg won a DVD player in a giveaway the website offered for anyone who registered on 55057.com with their St. Olaf username and posts a message on the forum. The next giveaway?

"Were going to give away a box of two-ply toilet paper," Heringer said. "Were here for the students; we understand their needs."





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