The 20th Century Strikes Again

When I checked my mail at home today I found a two inch thick book that was a gift from my alma mater. The book is an alumni directory. And yes, my undergrad is small enough that all of the alumni can fit in a single book.

When I realized what this was, I was struck by the absurdity of it. I can’t imagine how much money the school spent to compile it, to print it, and to mail it to everyone. Despite the fact that I just received it, I have no doubt that it is out of date and it will simply continue to grow more out of date as time passes, simply because people move and change jobs.

On top of that, is the fact that it is flat data, when there is no reason that it should be. Why should I have to thumb through a book to find someone’s information. It would be much easier for me if I could search for it. Speaking of searching, if I want to find a woman that I graduated with, I either have to know her married name or I have to the year she graduated and read each name until I find hers (because of course the graduating year information is organized by last name with the maiden name in parentheses).

Why isn’t this information in an alumni section on the website rather than in some dead tree version in my kitchen? Why do I have to wade through pages of names instead of simply searching for names in a database? Why can’t I pull up a list of all of the alumni who live in my city, my state, or within 10 miles of me? Why can’t I pull up a list of alumni who are doctors, or lawyers, or plumbers? Why can’t I find alumni who also attended my law school?

This could be a really cool feature. As it stands, however, it is practically worthless. I would love to see a useful Web 2.0 version this directory. Instead, what I got was the same thing that could have been handed to the first incoming class in 1954.