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Get in your professional sandbox and learn that being a digital leader is all about experimenting

Yik Yak may at times be a hot mess. However, like every single communication tool in the history of humankind, Yik Yak is what we make of it. Yaks represent us. Posts on the anonymous geolocation mobile-based app run the gamut of good, bad, and ugly.

When higher education administrators (usually in partnership with campus IT pros) "ban" Yik Yak by blocking wireless access to the app on campus networks, they are sending two distinct messages: We do not fully understand how connectivity works and we do not understand how Yik Yak works. Too harsh? Perhaps.

However, when bad things are posted on Yik Yak, blocking wi-fi access to the app does little to nothing in terms of curbing disturbing content. Yik Yak is a mobile-based app. People connect to Yik Yak via wi-fi networks or via cellular networks. You don't need wi-fi to access the app. "Blocking" it via a wi-fi disconnect is not effective nor is it doing anything to generate community and/or educate folks.

Also, Yik Yak is geolocation focused. Yaks are posted within a 1.5 mile to 10 mile radius (depending on Yak volume, the geo-based radius can expand to a massive 10 mile ring). People can post yaks on Yik Yak who are not even part of a campus community. Unless they post something that constitutes a crime (and law enforcement is brought in), their yaks are anonymous.

Now, please understand that some people post nasty things on Yik Yak. For example, at Clemson University, there have been a plethora of ugly things posted on Yik Yak. Fortunately, horrible things on Yik Yak can be downvoted into oblivion. Ideally, good stuff gets upvotes and rises to the top of the "yak mountain."

Banning or blocking Yik Yak is akin to getting rid of cellphones, email, snail mail, and any other type of communications platform. The tool is not the issue. It's the stuff that resides inside of the minds of those who are posting threats and/or racist/sexist/homophobic yaks. Abolishing a tool, even one that is predicated on anonymity, does very little to combat the actual issue at hand. And, how does higher education change the world? Not by banning or blocking, but by teaching and educating. Let's keep Yik Yak around and see how our communities unite to fight hate speech. Plus, if folks make threats, they aren't really anonymous which makes it a whole lot easier for law enforcement officials to track them down.

This is connected to my last post on digital leadership, but I think that higher education admins need to be much better at experimenting with the latest social media tools in order to be better at using them for engagement and teaching/learning. While I don't always like what I see on Yik Yak, I do know that the app is us and we make it what it is...good, bad, and ugly.


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