ASG Investigation Week: Minga’s Poor Reputation and Hasty Rollout Frustrates Clubs and Students
Minga was promoted as a central hub for all communications at Irvington High School, but since it began rolling out in 2019, it has fallen short of ASG's expectations. Why did Minga struggle?
February 1, 2021
During the summer of 2019, ASG advisor Mr. Willer and then ASG President-elect Nava Babaei were faced with a problem: students and parents were complaining that they couldn’t find information about clubs on campus and were not receiving up-to-date information on school events. To solve this problem, ASG began a search for something that could serve as the central hub of communications for Irvington High School, and settled on the app Minga, which has now become a major piece of ASG’s toolkit in reaching the student body.
But for many students, Minga has merely become another app to download alongside Facebook, Instagram, Remind, 5-Star, and more. Most don’t use it at all. In fact, data provided by ASG indicates that over the past 30 days, only 23% of registered Irvington students have opened the Minga app. An ASG evaluation survey conducted by the Irvington Voice found that 56% of students (135 students) did not use the app at all this school year, with another 23.2% (56 students) using the app for the sole purpose of fulfilling club requirements. How did ASG end up here?
ASG originally envisioned Minga as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram, hoping to address parent concerns about safety on those sites with Minga’s closed platform. In a Minga testimony obtained by the Irvington Voice, Mr. Willer touted Minga as a way to “promote positive online behavior and become an organic place for student culture to flourish instead of [being] a mandatory school announcement app.”
During Minga’s initial rollout, however, the app was primarily used by student groups to track attendance at meetings and events, resulting from a mandate from ASG’s Inter-Club Council (ICC) to use Minga to increase engagement on the app. As more clubs began to use the app, ASG hoped more students would use other Minga features and post more often. ASG even tied Minga to Homecoming Spirit Week, incentivizing students who posted spirit photos with extra points for their class. But Minga never found the long-term success that ASG had found with social media posts on Facebook and Instagram. If you scroll through Minga now, in fact, you’ll find nothing beyond club update posts in the app.
Mr. Willer believes Minga’s inconsistent rollout is one reason why the student body hasn’t been receptive to the app. “We didn’t do a good enough job educating people on what Minga could do from Day 1,” he said, “and now we’re in a situation where we have to overcome people’s negative reactions to Minga that it’s one more app students have to think about on top of School Loop and the others.”
COVID-19 has only thrown more curveballs at ASG to get students on board with Minga, leading to mixed adoption results this year. ASG believes that not having a Maze Day this year has caused students to be unaware of some of the features Minga has to offer, driving students to other apps like Instagram that are more engaging.
“[This year] ASG didn’t have any of our usual booths and couldn’t help students walk through all of [Minga],” said Nosheen Ullah (11), Vice President of ASG. “So I definitely think that caused usage to be less than we liked.”
On the other hand, ASG was able to yield a large number of new sign-ups this year by sending a Minga join code in a mass email to all freshmen.
“I think for the most part, it was more efficient this year,” stated Ethan Chen (12), President of ASG. “Even though we were all switched to distance learning, people did have the join code, and we do have quite a lot of freshmen enrolled in clubs on Minga.”
With the move to learning online, teachers such as performing arts advisor Mr. Ballin had hoped Minga would take off and help build a school community at home. “We do need that kind of school-wide platform for communication,” Mr. Ballin says, and while that hasn’t happened yet this school year, he hopes that a stronger Minga introduction and presence next year will mean higher usage and a better Irvington community.
There is one exception to low Minga usage this year, though: clubs and student groups have continued using the app to publicize virtual activities. ASG themselves have even advertised Minga as an “app just for clubs” in sign-up emails. But lately, even clubs have grown frustrated with the app, noting its poor optimization and inefficient workflows for publicity.
“I’m sure ASG has some reason for implementing it, but personally, the only two uses I see from Minga are for spreading the word about club events and for tracking club meetings,” mentioned a president of a club on campus. “I think there are better ways to do both of those that are currently being done.”
Others find the app difficult to use in general.
“Minga is rather unreliable and hard to navigate,” stated an anonymous sophomore in the evaluation survey conducted by The Irvington Voice. “I honestly believe designating an officer to take attendance at meetings is better than forcing clubs to do it on Minga.”
Alongside Minga, many clubs are also still using social media apps like Facebook and Instagram to promote their events along with Google Forms to perform attendance checks. A recent poll conducted by IHS Math Club on Minga, in fact, found that a majority of students were getting information about Math Club through an email newsletter sent out by the club instead of Minga.
When asked about this poll, IHS Math Club Vice President Ananya Kulshrestha (11) underscored how “a low number of people responded to our poll, which already told us that many people do not use Minga.” As the Minga coordinator for Math Club, Kulshreshta describes the app as just something they do to fulfill requirements, and that “if Minga was not required, our club would likely not use it and instead use our other methods of communication such as email and Facebook.” However, she doesn’t believe Minga is completely useless, saying how “freshmen and new members who are not used to Facebook may utilize Minga.” Club officers such as Kulshreshta hope that in the future, they will have more flexibility with Minga requirements, and that improvements to the app (such as the ability to edit posts) will help improve their publicity workflows.
Minga isn’t ASG’s first attempt at experimenting with ways to streamline school government activities. Irvington High School already uses the app 5-Star to hold school elections and track attendance and engagement at certain events. However, its success also came gradually, and ASG believes that given enough time, Minga will properly integrate into Irvington culture.
“We know that the first one to two years will be the hardest years for something like 5-Star or Minga because it’s not part of the tradition yet,” said Mr. Willer. “But when you get to that magical third or fourth year, now the seniors have been aware of it since freshman year and it feels like it’s always there.”
For now, ASG has decided to continue experimenting with Minga in hopes of replicating the success they had with the 5-Star app in the next few years, but hasn’t ruled out scrapping Minga completely.
“Our contract with Minga is year-to-year, and we reevaluate at the end of the year,” said Mr. Willer. “The main reason why we still are with Minga now is that we have a grant covering most of Minga’s costs right now. But at the end of the year in June, we’ll reevaluate and look at if Minga is helping us reach our goals. We’ll survey students to see what they’re asking for, and keep trying.”