Even the most venerable entities are not immune to economic adversity.

From American Express to Wynn Resorts, drastic action has been taken to ensure survival. The financial firestorm has scorched America’s oldest educational institution: Harvard Universityharvard-logoIn a bold move designed to ensure its fiscal survival, Harvard University today announced that it is selling it’s campus and going entirely online.

Billionaire businessman and 1965 Harvard Business School alumnus Robert K. Kraft purchased the 308 acre campus for an undisclosed sum. Kraft will develop the land into a massive commercial and residential complex in the heart of Cambridge, MA named “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards.”

“This was the most economically viable option;  we will save millions of dollars in toilet paper alone!” said Harvard President Dr. Drew G. Faust.

The school has experience with online learning through its Extension School and development of edX, but will develop a proprietary instructional platform for this new venture: Fully Online Optimized Learning System (FOOLS). In addition to robust learning tools, FOOLS will integrate several interactive features, including a virtual classroom environment similar to Second Life.

“We will miss our beautiful campus, but I am sure it will be equally as invigorating sending instant messages to each other,” Faust added. “L-O-L as they say!”

The change comes at a time of unusual fiscal concern at the historic campus. The university’s $36.9 billion endowment recently suffered losses of at least 22% (estimated at $8 billion) and projections anticipate a further decline. Insiders fear the loss could be even higher once real estate and private equity declines are considered.

AOL founder Steve Case has volunteered to produce thousands of CD-ROMs containing the systems operating system. Nobody expects to use them for anything but improvised coasters, yet Case insists.

Internet raconteur Philip J. “Pud” Kaplan will ease the transition by creating a “deadpool” game in which students can bet which classmate will fail next. Likewise, Facebook founder and former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg will personally design an application to virtually recreate the social scene at the university.

Loic Le Meur and Gary Vaynerchuk will provide a continuous supply of French wine and cheese to the developers, faculty, staff and students during the transition. Social media expert Chris Brogan has also been hired to provide strategic vision while Loren Feldman will produce daily video updates of the technical development using puppets. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble will document the historic transition on Twitter.

“These people are all dopes,” Feldman groaned when informed of the news. “They should have asked me for my opinion since it is always the right one!”

To address any potential psychological concerns Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura will be on call to offer counseling services to those in need.

“The school is getting real,” said Dr. Phil. “Far too often people wait until it is too late to do what’s right.”  Not to be outdone, Dr. Laura is quoted as saying “without dormitories those stupid co-eds won’t be shacking up like unpaid whores!”

With regard to the development of the campus, Robert Kraft — who developed Patriot Place adjacent to Gillette Stadium where his New England Patriots play —  is no stranger to tackling big tasks and succeeding. The 67 year-old Kraft, with an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion, was named the 244th richest American by Forbes magazine.

“As an alumnus I am proud to be a part of this project. Today we are all Crimsons!” Kraft exclaimed.

Preliminary plans call for a residential area divided into four football-themed sections: First Down, Second Down, Third Down, Fourth Down, with an exclusive area for custom homes named Tom Brady Estates.

Also included will be a robust retail area with an array of retail stores. The initial list of national tenants includes HootersVictoria’s Secret, TGI Fridays, Subway, and Jiffy Lube. Patrons with small children can leave their children at “The Antonio Cromartie Daycare Center for Children with Forgettable Names” for a flat fee of $31.

In recognition of the land’s educational roots, a New England Tractor Trailer School (NETTTS) campus, “The Ted Kennedy Memorial School for Underwater Driving,” and a Greer Childers Body Flex Academy — along with several other instructional outletes — will open on the former site of the ivy league school.

With a nod to sustainability the entire development will recycle and reuse its waste at  the Eric Mangini Waste Processing Center. The facility will be heated by the hot air from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT (delivered directly via an underground pipeline).

With safety as a top concern, all 308 acres will be secured by a state of the art security and video monitoring system. Patriots head coach  Bill Belichick was personally involved with the design of the video camera network.

“It’s beyond anything I could have imagined,” commented Belichick. “The video system alone is worth the investment!”

Look for the first phase of  “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards” to open next summer!

PS: April Fools!

Since the beginning of the year an interesting online etiquette issue has arisen on Twitter: the use of automatic direct messages (private messages for those unfamiliar with the popular micro-blogging service).

Tweetdeck in action while using Twitter -- From 365 Days: 63/365 (February 1, 2009) by doctoriousBasically, a person on Twitter signs up for a third party service — SocialToo and Tweetlater are the top two that come to mind. These services automatically send a scripted message to people who follow them.

Once activated, these service send out messages created by the user ranging from the banal (“thanks for following me”) to badgering (“click my junk”).

The general consensus is that using automatic direct messages is bad form. Since social media is all about being, well, social, using an automated script to say the same thing to everyone  is disingenuous at best and downright rude at best — especially if all you are doing is promoting a product or service.

Twitter heavyweights Chris Brogan and Loic Lemeur have expressed concern about this issue. Even The Busy Brain discouraged the practice (and you better listen to your brain, no matter how busy it is!).

Long story short: don’t auto DM.

I’ve received several dozen automatic direct messages. For the most part I’ve found them to be bothersome, but also humorous. I deleted most of them and almost immediately unfollowed the person sending the message.

I wasn’t terribly bothered by the posts, but their use communicated to me that the person I elected to follow was not willing to make the personal investment in social media I feel must occur. In some cases, where there was a less “salesy” pitch it was clear the person was sending out the auto messages in a misguided effort to be polite.

If nothing else, the sheer “infomercial” nature of some of them made me wonder how truly effective any of them could possibly be.  My three favorite automatic direct messages (of those I saved) include:

“You totally ROCK. Since you’re following me I’ll be sure to check out your profile. What made you follow me?”

“Thanks Mathew for following. Here’s your gift. Get 1 Million Double-Opted In, Daily Verified Leads For F*R*E*E !!Come get it before they close this free offer ! [Link to website]

“Thanks for following me doctorious. Need a FREE Twitter Background/Theme? [link to website] We also do custom themes.”

Fortunately, a “hero” arose in the midst of this madness: the Twitter account “@optmeout.” However, the relief offered by this account only turnzs off automatic direct messages from people using “Tweetlater.” But something is better than nothing, right? Here is how the process works:

  1. Go to @optmeout on Twitter and Follow it.
  2. Receive a DM from @optmeout indicating it has followed you back.
  3. Send a DM back to @optmeout.
  4. Unfollow @optmeout.
  5. Rejoice!

After completing this process I realized there must be many “awesomely bad” auto DMs out there. Therefore, I invite you to post in the comments box below as many automatic direct messages you received or of which you have become aware. My goal is to amass a centralized list of automatic direct messages.

In closing, embracing the spirit if the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, I hereby say to you: Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled Auto DM’s yearning to breathe free!