Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

November 23, 1994

Expanding PittInfo provides wide range of information

Want to know the time of the next shuttle bus to Squirrel Hill or the date of a certain economics seminar? Maybe you need to refresh your memory on how to requisition supplies from the stockroom or would like to check the latest job listings? The place to find the answers to those questions and thousands of others about the University is PittInfo, the computer service brimming with information about Pitt published by units of the University.

With a link to World Wide Web and Internet Gopher, PittInfo also can provide information on practically any subject imaginable from around the world. "Every time we show the service to anyone in classes or at demonstrations, the reaction is really positive," said Robin Ruefle, manager of Computing and Information Services' (CIS) User Information Group. "They're very excited that they have a place to go to get this type of information in almost a 24-hour setting, as long as you have a computer to access it." PittInfo actually has been available to members of the University community with computer access since October 1993. However, it has been only over the past couple of months, following a concerted effort by the Networked Information Services Group (NISG), a collaboration of CIS and the University Library System (ULS), that the service has started to realize its potential.

"We were feeling our way along, trying to figure out what it was that we wanted to put in it and what it was that people wanted in it and how difficult it would be to do those things," said Bill Fithen, NISG manager, about the evolution of PittInfo.

Fithen's NISG is mainly responsible for finding the proper technologies and putting them together for PittInfo, while Ruefle's User Information Group mainly provides assistance on use of the service.

Now that most of the bugs have been worked out of PittInfo and some decisions have been made about its contents, the information in it is growing on nearly a daily basis. And both Fithen and Ruefle would like to see more people at the University take advantage of what the service has to offer.

Information in PittInfo includes newsletters, announcements, policies, procedures, faculty directories, graduate school bulletins, special seminars, available grants, schedules of events, academic calendars, students events, campus maps, parking information, shuttle bus routes and degree programs. And that is just the beginning.

Fithen estimated that 20 – 30 departments and units throughout the University currently are utilizing the service to some degree. Two departments that have been making heavy use of PittInfo are Parking and Transportation and Sports Information. Fithen said that Parking and Transportation has installed maps of bus routes, the location of parking lots, the waiting list for parking permits, the policy for rental cars and other information related to its areas of concern.

"One of the things we are working on now is a parking lot tour that will allow people to look at each of the parking lots," said Fithen. "There will be a map that you can click on for each of the parking lots. You will actually be able to get a picture of the lot, see where it is located, apply for permits for parking in that particular lot and look at where you are on the list of permits." Sports Information, according to Fithen, is very interested in the high-end capabilities of the service. He said one item that NISG has been experimenting with for Sports Information is a short video of a touchdown run by Tony Dorsett that can be called up on a computer.

Although NISG has not yet attempted to produce any information using sound, Fithen said that PittInfo has the capability to produce sound documents for any department that might be interested in using sound.

Other departments and units that have been utilizing the service include Learning Research and Development Center, Human Resources, economics, English, Budget and Administration, which has published all of the University policies and procedures on PittInfo, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, women's studies, the University Times and University Relations.

Getting University Relations to utilize the service was "a very important achievement," according to Fithen, because it is a huge source of information about the University because of its brochures other publications.

Fithen pointed out that the service itself is only going to be as good as what departments and units within the University provide for it. "We can build all the systems, but if the departments aren't going to give us the information to put into it or put it in themselves, then it is not going to be a good system," Ruefle added. (See story on page 7 for information on publishing in PittInfo.) Using PittInfo to publish newsletters, events, programs and other information means small departments with small budgets can get as much exposure, at least electronically, for their activities and programs as large departments with large budgets.

"It's kind of an equalizer because everybody has equal access electronically," Fithen noted.

According to Ruefle, CIS also has begun working to connect Pitt's regional campuses to PittInfo. Bradford has been connected and Johnstown is working on a plan that will divide information on its version of PittInfo into two groups. One group would contain internal information mainly of interest to the University community, such as faculty and committee meeting schedules, while the other group would contain information of interest to the larger community, such as lists of new courses and special events.

"We are currently not distinguishing between those two in the University as a whole, but we probably will, at some point, restructure the whole service along those lines," Fithen said.

Publishing information electronically on PittInfo will save the University money by cutting down on the cost of printing and circulating documents. Fithen could not estimate how much money might be saved by publishing information electronically on PittInfo, but he said the University certainly will "get more bang for its buck." It will be able to reach more people for the same amount of money or less.

"Cost effectiveness is tremendously improved because you've got much more ability to reach people," Fithen said. "I don't know if we are actually going to see a net decrease in dollars spent, but we will seem a tremendous improvement in the efficiency of the use of those dollars." In addition, publishing on PittInfo also improves the accuracy and timeliness of information because it can be frequently updated, according to Fithen. Departments and units currently can expect a 24-hour turn around on adding, removing or changing documents on PittInfo.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 7

Leave a Reply