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Social-media tools gather alumni together

Daily conversations in virtual gathering places–that pretty much describes the burgeoning world of social media. Just as alumni meet up in their home cities, on campus, and when they travel, many are now reaching out by using social-media tools as well. In February, the MIT Alumni Association launched the Slice of MIT blog and established or expanded spaces on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn–and alumni have responded enthusiastically.

The Slice of MIT blog jumped from a daily average of 41 viewers in February to 700 in May. In just four months, that amounted to some 50,000 views of stories about MIT culture, research, alumni news, and campus life. What’s popular? A post written by senior Christina Bognet about a mouse in her dorm went viral, netting more than 3,000 views. “Could You Have Gotten into MIT in 1869?”–a reproduction of MIT’s first qualifying exams–comes in second. Viewers also relished posts about a humor contest between MIT and Harvard (MIT won), the test flight of a flying car initially developed by students, and a video interview with hack-removal specialists as they disassembled a lunar landing module on the Great Dome. Every Saturday, you can catch a fresh offering by photojournalist Owen Franken ‘68.

The LinkedIn group was founded by graduate student Joel Campos-Alvis, and the Alumni Association took over management–and the task of verifying the MIT affiliation of people who asked to join–when new requests began to approach 100 a week. As group members, more than 7,500 alumni can engage in discussions such as “What do you think of the government raising automobile efficiency requirements while taking over the U.S. automobile companies?” Posted jobs have included positions in business development, cybersecurity, and even theme-park management in Abu Dhabi.

The MIT Alumni Facebook page, which attracted more than 2,000 fans in its first four months, invites people to comment and vote on wall posts. News of a new Smoot plaque on the Mass. Ave. bridge received the thumbs-up from 22 fans. Posts revealed that the first Canadian to live in space for six months was Bob Thirsk, SM ‘78, MBA ‘98, and that the architectural firm of William Rawn, MArch ‘79, had been named No. 1 in the United States. Facebook is also a great place to catch announcements of campus events such as the 2.007 robot contest Webcast.

The MIT_Alumni Twitter page is an alert system that offers 140-character news bits. Tweets have offered readers a link to the Technology Day webcast just before it began, suggested an interesting article in the New York Times by Professor Sherry Turkle on teens and texting, and noted senior Jiaqi Jean Cui’s pending appearance on Jeopardy.

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