Blitz to be replaced by end of 2010

by Ana Bowens | 4/29/09 1:25am

Correction appended

BlitzMail will be replaced by the end of 2010, the College's Task Force on E-mail and Collaboration Technologies announced at an information session on Tuesday. The College will choose a new system -- either Microsoft Live@edu or Google's Gmail -- by June 13, according to Susan Zaslaw, associate director of administrative computing and a member of the task force.

The task force surveyed faculty and students earlier in the year about their e-mail program preferences and is compiling the results, Zaslaw said. The results will likely be available on May 8, according to Ellen Waite-Franzen, vice president of information technology and the College's chief information officer.

Task force members will submit a recommendation for a new e-mail system by May 31 to senior College administrators, who will make the final decision, Zaslaw said. Task force members plan to implement a pilot version of the new e-mail system by Fall term 2009. Switching the entire campus to the new system will take one to two years, she added.

"It would be too much to have the whole campus change at once, so we would be taking a phased approach," Zaslaw said.

Gmail and Microsoft Live@edu are both free to colleges and universities, so switching to either program will reduce expenditures, given the high cost of maintaining BlitzMail, Waite-Franzen said.

"BlitzMail costs so much, especially in paying for storage space," she said.

Senior programmer David Gelhar, an original developer of BlitzMail and a member of the task force, presented both Gmail and Live@edu at the information session and explained the programs' features.

Users will be able to keep their "@dartmouth.edu" e-mail addresses after the switch regardless of which program is chosen. During the presentation, Gelhar logged into his Gmail account with an address that ended in "@google.dartmouth.org."

Several attendees at the information session praised the Dartmouth Name Directory currently integrated into BlitzMail and asked if the new programs will retain this feature. Zaslaw said the task force will keep the directory if possible.

The task force has not yet determined if it will be possible to maintain BlitzMail's "nickname" capability, which allows users to have multiple e-mail addresses, according to Waite-Franzen.

Both programs have an integrated calendar and instant messaging, and allow users to store a significant number of e-mails, Gelhar said.

Gmail groups e-mails into conversation threads so that users can see all messages associated with an individual e-mail exchange. Students and faculty who participated in the task force's surveys and focus groups in spring 2008 said the conversation threads were highly desirable, Waite-Franzen said.

Live@edu does not have this feature, but includes social networking features.

"You have a profile that you can set up, sort of like a Microsoft version of Facebook," Gelhar said.

Both programs are supported by advertisements. Gmail displays text ads, which will be visible to alumni users. Live@edu includes larger ads, which would also be displayed solely to alumni users, Gelhar said.

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that members of the College's Task Force on E-mail and Collaboration Technologies have not yet determined whether users will be able to keep their "@dartmouth.edu" e-mail addresses after the switch to a new e-mail program. In fact, e-mail addresses will retain the "@dartmouth.edu" regardless of what e-mail program is chosen. In addition, the article stated that Gmail displays text ads to all users. In fact, these advertisements will only be shown to alumni users.