Through The Portals of ManeGate (Web Review: LMU's e-mail service)

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Through The Portals of ManeGate
Web Review: LMU's e-mail service

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I sit staring transfixed, yet with no apparent focus, on the Featured Image of a white stone lion for about two and a half minutes before shaking off my trance and learning the meaning of the Word of the Day-"deride," meaning "to laugh at with contempt"-and scoping out the Netflix Top 100 rentals.

Wait, this is an e-mail program?

The easy answer is yes, but the real deal is that the new service, ManeGate, actually amalgamates almost every service for students into one somewhat easy-to-use "Campus Pipeline." On ManeGate, students can send and receive e-mails from their lion.lmu.edu accounts, as well as brush up on the weekly news from their award-winning Los Angeles Loyolan, submit homework assignments on Blackboard, browse on-campus job listings and do much more.

If it sounds like I'm a fan, I am. Then again, compared to the complete and utter wasteland that LMU passed off as an e-mail program last year, ManeGate is akin to a Royal Palace. Unfortunately, palace construction is not quite complete.

Most of the major problems are being slowly and systematically solved, such as fixing the load of hyperlinks leading to error messages. Blackboard is finally working after a brief time of darkness. There are some issues, though, that there are no visible plans to implement, but that there should be.

Let's begin with the e-mail system, which is at the core of ManeGate's purpose. As mentioned, e-mail this year is absolutely wonderful compared to last year, with import/export abilities for the address book, auto reply and auto forwarding (which makes it easy to maintain one's LMU e-mail account from an outside e-mail, like Gmail), address blocking capabilities (for when that teacher is nagging you about a paper that is two weeks late) and even POP access to check other e-mail accounts from ManeGate.

The downside is that the problem with spam--and it's quite a problem--has not been solved, or even attempted to be solved. ManeGate, like its predecessor, has no pre-installed spam filter, so one can still correspond with all of one's friends offering "Free Penis Enlargements" or "100% Guaranteed Hair Removal." Sure, there is a feature allowing the user to create one's own filters, making ManeGate automatically organize all of one's party invites or e-mails from mom into one folder. One could conceivably put in place enough filters to block out a good deal of spam, but we're students and we don't have time for that sort of thing.

Aside from the e-mail service, a few other small changes would help save students time and create more of an online community. While being able to search for library books and articles on ManeGate is a nice feature, being able to save searches would make it an even better feature. The new personal calendar also might help students get organized, especially with customizable e-mail reminders when events are about to take place. Students, however, don't spend all their time in front of the computer, so why not add an option to send a text message reminder as well? After all, The Facebook does it.

One last feature that, while a luxury, would be a nice addition to the online LMU community is some sort of easy-to-use Web development tool that would allow those students who are not as tech-savvy to be able to actually utilize their 50 megabytes of free webspace alotted to them by LMU to create their own personal Web site. As of now, there are instructions on ManeGate about how to FTP into one's personal site and create something--such as the ever-popular blog--but I'd bet that most students don't know what that means, much less how to do it.

With all its ups and downs, the main problem with ManeGate is its image. Since most students stopped using their LMU e-mail accounts last year because the e-mail program was so bad, ManeGate has received the brunt of the carry-over hostility. According to a great many students, the consensus seems to be that ManeGate is simply a fancier-looking version of the same e-mail program-last year's service with a cocktail dress and high heels. And while ManeGate is, according to some, "hot," it is also feature-packed and very useful. And, as the bugs get ironed out, it will continue to become a more comprehensive student resource.

Grade: B-
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400324]
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