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I’d like to see MIT vastly improve its people directory. Our current directory system (ie. http://web.mit.edu/bin/cgicso?query=theplaz) is based on vastly outdated technology. As collaboration only grows more important, I’d like to see MIT invest in a robust people directory.
The current directory has a number of limitations. For example, it only lists my primary major, making no mention of my second major. Preferably, I’d like to be able to post my cell phone number to only be visible to the MIT community. However, to the best of my knowledge, the system currently only allows one to not list information or to make it world public. The system does not allow one to post a profile photo. On the administrative side, it does not support making reporting relationships visible, nor does it list all of the DLC which one might be involved in.
One of the greatest assets of MIT are its people and one of the most valuable aspects of an MIT degree are the people that one meets along the way. I’d like to see more automated connections made with Institute data. For example, I should be able to query all of the Course 6 students in my year or the students in a particular class. In addition, the system could build up a memory. For example, when I look up a student, it should let me know all of the classes I was in with them.
In addition, this data should be available even after graduation. Connections are an important benefit of MIT, and the value of those last long after graduation. I think this project should be of considerable interest to the alumni office.
Stellar provides a smidgen of this functionality, but it is severely limited through poor design choices. One must opt-in individually to each individual class to be listed as in a class. This is such a burden, that fewer than 10% of students remember to do so in any particular class; despite my assumption that most students would welcome being listed.
In all this, it is important to maintain robust privacy protections. However, these protections should be opt-out, and not opt-in. As seen with the Stellar people list feature and in almost every opt-in/opt-out scenario, many people just go along with the default, even if they would prefer to change their status. FERPA actually allows opt-out, so we should not restrict ourselves unnecessarily.
I think the people directory should be a strong candidate for Institute investment to draw the Institute closer together and enhance connections between divisions