Open Eye: First Thursday - If you want something more useful than cufflinks

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THERE'S AN old story (sorry) about the Washington bureau chief of Time ringing the White House and saying that his Editor was asking what the President would like for Christmas.

The aide discussed this with his boss who decided that - while he knew the Editor quite well - he should nevertheless ask for something modest, and replied that a pair of cufflinks would be very acceptable.

The next issue of Time appeared with the news that, when asked what they would like for Christmas, the UN Secretary-General wanted an end to famine, the President of the USSR asked for world peace... and the President of the United States wanted a pair of cufflinks.

Recently we asked a number of OU alumni registered on our website what they would like. Then we considered what we could do.

You asked for a message board, and we have set one up on the website (it is found at, by the way). It is called Discussion Area, and has a number of different subject areas as well as a General section.

Some asked for organised Chat times and this can be done, although logic suggests that the people wanting to chat should organise their own times, rather than have them dictated by someone else.

On the other hand, some web users wanted an off-line facility for dealing with messages on the Discussion Area. This has been supplied, and now you can have new messages forwarded to your e-mail address, without even needing to access the website on a regular basis. All you do is click on More in the Discussion Area, choose the sites about which you wish to be kept up to date, and then on the Notify box.

Where Are You Now? is a tricky one. Although most conventional universities run such columns in their alumni magazine because they're based more on campus societies and halls of residence, we had not thought it was so useful to the OU.

Nevertheless, we can run letters in Open Eye, if you are keen to find an old OU compatriot, and alternatively, place notices in the Discussion Area. If your need to trace someone is urgent, you can write care of the Alumni Association at Walton Hall, with your message in an unsealed envelope, and we will try to forward your mail.

Forthcoming Events, local and national, can be found on the Noticeboard, as can news, events and announcements from the Alumni Association and the AOUG.

Information about the OU lives in the news links on the OU main site, which is accessed easily from the Signpost on the Alumni site.

That route also leads to lists of, and information about, OU courses, for all those graduates thinking of returning for more study.

To help find members with common interests, we have created a Networking page. Whether your interest is in work or hobby, you can register your subject and hope that someone will enter a similar heading. Obviously it is advisable to make your choice as wide-ranging as possible. Unfortunately there is no way to speed up a response to this - perhaps only to get more people to use the facility.

It's much the same with Mentoring - another facility that was requested by some members. This site is for people who want assistance either in the work or study area.

You can enter your subject heading whether as a potential mentor or (dreadful word) mentee. Sadly, then all you can do is wait.

Of course, either networking or mentoring could be speeded up by opting to use the Discussion Area.

Stories about individual success or achievement resulting from OU study are welcome as suggestions for stories for Open Eye. There is evidence that our colleagues would like to read them!

For the future, we are planning a list of OU authors and OU publications, which will eventually live on the website. We would be grateful if authors could forward their information to us (there's a message on the Noticeboard).

It has also been suggested that we list useful web-sites recommended by members, and we will do this if people send us the web address plus a short description of the site.

On the social front, we are planning a series of functions to coincide with graduations next year - more about this next month.

We have even found an efficient Internet provider for only a pound a month (see page 8).

No-one has yet asked for cufflinks - but you can buy a very attractive set from the Students' Association at a relatively modest pounds 11.80.