For the first time, the contact information for Institute offices and programs in the MIT Directories' "blue pages" is available on line via two web search pages.
The first web page lets users search by typing in a keyword or use an alphabetical index. The second page, which uses keywords only, also lets users search for individuals, personal home pages or specific text published on the MIT site. Both pages provide instructions for updating Directory information.
While the blue pages will continue to be a part of the printed MIT Directories, there are some advantages to the web interface:
- Online searching can speed up finding an entry.
- ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Users can enter acronyms (for example, IS, OSP, LCS) in the keyword field.
- ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½URLs displayed in online entries are live&emdash;users can go to the sites with a single mouse click.
- ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Updates are incorporated regularly, rather than once a year.
Each office has a public and a full listing in the online blue pages. These public listings, approved by each office, are accessible to all web browsers. The full listing of directory information as published in the printed Directories is restricted to the MIT community for privacy reasons. To access full listings, community members should conduct searches using the alphabetical index.
Five years ago, the Communications Office began a collaboration with the Personnel Department and Information Systems (IS) to provide electronic access to office and program information. At that time, the blue pages at the back of the directories were actually gray, and TechInfo was the information technology available.
More recently, IS formalized this effort as a discovery project. The project team reviewed customer requirements, especially the needs of MIT's telephone operators. On average, these operators handle 3,500 calls a day. Two-thirds of these calls relate to MIT's offices, programs, centers, labs and departments.
The team's challenge was to create a database that could support both online access and downloading of the information once a year in a clean print format. The team also addressed issues of maintenance and quality control, appropriate technology and privacy. The Communications Office was deemed the appropriate gatekeeper and the web became the technology of choice.
The blue pages for the 1998-99 MIT Directories are already online. The Communications Office encourages members of the MIT community to try the new web search options and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The printed 1998-99 MIT Directories will be distributed by the end of this month (see accompanying story).
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 21, 1998.