Information, Technology & Consulting

Closets Within Closets: A Virtual Tsunami of Stuff

 

Susan Lee, Director of Web Services

Comparing a website to a house is barely an abstraction. When building websites we use words such as blueprint, architecture, structure, and making paths to describe the process of creation and use. Similar to our homes, websites create spaces and places where we hang out with people we know, play with new friends, study with classmates, and store the things that make life so interesting. Like our homes, over time websites too can suffer from TMS syndrome—Too Much Stuff! Taking a tour through the big house, www.dartmouth.edu, reveals this truth. It is comprised of over 2,200 rooms (websites) and inside these rooms are more rooms, and these have closets within closets brimming with stuff.

Taking stock of a content inventory this large can overwhelm even the most seasoned information architects, but in the end everything will find a purpose, be properly organized, or be archived. Here’s a general breakdown of the multitude of websites Dartmouth hosts:

  • 19 library sites
  • 24 athletics sites
  • 49 graduate school or related sites
  • 68 academic department or academic-related sites
  • 128 center, program, or project sites
  • 160 student organizations and activities sites
  • 165 administrative, service, and utility sites
  • 195 courses and labs sites—some dating back to the late 1990s
  • 100s of faculty, student and staff personal sites
  • … and a bounty of miscellaneous

Even in a virtual home, the accumulation of too much stuff has costs and consequences. A good example is the frustration of conducting a simple search only to bring up documents from a course offered in 1999 or information on an internship opportunity—that expired three years ago. The tens of thousands of html pages, PDFs, and other documents on our public sites are continually crawled, indexed, and listed by the search engine. When a project, event, or course is complete, the associated website often persists, either due to neglect or a conscious decision to maintain a living site archive. This past year Web Services began working with our 200 website clients in a massive community house-cleaning project in which we remove old content, prioritize, and re-organize information as we migrate websites into the new content management system. Dragging all that stuff out onto the front lawn to take a closer look and decide what to keep and what to discard is part of the work Web Services will be doing with you when we start your website migration. Whether we work with you on your department site or you have other sites that you manage, we hope you’ll join in and look through your closets as well. If you have an old site that no longer serves a purpose, send a note to the Computing Services help and request its removal. We’ll all feel lighter.

Revised from a previously published post.

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