NOTE Plans To Protect VAX Features
By by RACHEL ZINN, Staff Writer
A student group called NOTE (Naturally On The Edge) is working to keep plans alive after VAX is disabled by the College.

The administration announced earlier this year that VAX may be replaced with a new system as early as next fall. The new system would not include VAX "plans," personal messages that other users can view quickly. Developing a web-based plan program is a top priority for NOTE, a group founded last year by Baker Franke '02 and Seth Fitzsimmons '02 and dedicated to improving the College's technology.

"The plan culture is thriving, so we want to keep it around," Franke said. Alex Hochron '02, one of 12 NOTE members, will coordinate efforts to design the new system.

Hochron said the program will probably use a point-and-click format on an Internet web browser to incorporate many VAX commands, including "snitch," which allows users to see who has viewed their plan, and "cookie," which randomly displays a notable quote.

"We are hoping to make some of these VAX features more accessible," Hochron said. Users may be able to post pictures as well as text on the new plans, said Co-Director of Systems, Networking and Communications John Manly.

Plans will differ from the personal website space currently allotted to students.

"The most significant difference between the proposed plan system and creating personal web pages is ease of use," said Fitzsimmons. "Plans are very dynamic and we want our system to accommodate that by making it easy to change personal content."

The system may also include other new features, such as links to humorous websites.

"We know students use VAX as a way to take a quick break from work, so we'll try to provide some other fun things to do," Hochron said.

Manly, who designed the VAX commands, said he has been surprised by how many students on campus use plans.

"There is a whole community that grew up around plans. Clearly, there's a lot of student interest," Manly said.

NOTE aims to complete the project by the time VAX disappears from campus, Hochron said.

The new online student directory that appears on the College's official web page was the first project organized by NOTE. To create the directory, Franke and Fitzsimmons worked with Director of Public Affairs Stacey Schmeidel, several deans and campus police.

Campus administrators and police are still trying to decide how much student information should be displayed on the site, Franke said.

NOTE members work for free, but the Executive Finance Committee gave the group $8,000 last year to cover its expenses. The group used most of the money to buy a web server to host their projects, and some was used to pay for reference materials and publicity, Franke said.

Future NOTE goals include posting room draw online and designing a new online display for the Valentine menu, Franke said.

Franke said he and Fitzsimmons founded NOTE because the Information Technology Department had not made substantial improvements to the College's online services in several years.

"We saw a void within the campus for people like us who wanted to work with technology," said Fitzsimmons.

"They know their technology stuff cold, and they grasp issues like ease of use and policy problems," Manly said.

"Despite the fact that we've begun with web projects, we don't want to limit NOTE to that," said Fitzsimmons. "We'd love it if people came forward and wanted to work with robotics or three-dimensional rendering."

Issue 03, Submitted 2000-09-20 19:31:36