NJIT - PEOPLE. Connect, Communicate and Share.

What is this People site?

This People website (people.njit.edu) is an experimental attempt to harvest, expose, and make actionable the academic interests of NJIT’s faculty members.

The world is more disciplinary than ever before, and this site also allows us to better map the interdisciplinary and collaborative links among NJIT’s faculty members.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why don't I see my photo?

NJIT’s University Web Services (UWS) hired a photographer in fall 2008 to take fresh faculty portraits with a consistent look.  If you were not able to make that session, please come to the photo session on Wed, March 25, 2009.  Read more.

My academic interests are wrong or incomplete?  How can I fix them?

The academic interests are entered onto your Faculty Profile Page that “lives” on your academic department’s website.  Each department chair has assigned (typically) 3-4 staff or faculty members to be website Content Contributors using the Site Studio CMS (aka website editors).  Ask around in your department’s administrative office to see who is a Site Studio Content Contributor for your department.

Those individuals can make edits on your Faculty Profile page for you.  NJIT’s University Web Services can also help.

I'm a staff member; how can I get included here?

For this Phase One launch, only faculty members are included, though that may change in the future.

Does “buckling” include “buckling of composite shells” as a subset or are they separate areas of research?  Does a tag for “esl” automatically map to “English as a second language”?  Do results for “biomechanics” provide a See Also reference to “bone mechanics”?

No, no, and no.

Each faculty member’s Faculty Profile Page is “tagged” with words that describe his or her academic interests.

Those tags are based on the “folksonomy” concept of “bottoms-up” tagging.  This is in contrast to top-down taxonomies, hierarchies, and controlled vocabulary -- such as Library of Congress Subject Headings or Linnaean taxonomy in biology.

Issues of polysemy, synonymy, homonymy, plurals, stems and such are not solved by authority control but are instead left to the “collective action of the market.”

The social bookmarking site Delicious.com does a particularly good job of facilitating this.  They provide many feedback mechanisms that expose already-used terms to users as suggestions.  This “nudge” towards consistent application of tags is amplified with use.

The aggregation of many such small decisions can lead toward overall useful patterns (the “wisdom of the crowd”).  Given large enough systems, Pareto’s Law, the 80/20 Rule, and Power Law Distribution suggest that such useful and predictable patterns are inevitable.

While our NJIT People site does not at this time offer real-time feedback for faculty entering their academic interest tags, faculty can and should find themselves on the People site and see the “academic neighborhoods” in which they appear.  Faculty can then adjust the academic interest tags on their Faculty Profile pages to better align themselves with academic colleagues with whom they share interests.

There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both approaches (bottom-up tagging vs. top-down taxonomy).  The bottoms-up approach suits our needs for this NJIT People site at this time.

What are best practices for tagging?  Should I enter in broad terms or narrow terms?  Many terms or few terms?

We promote the "Goldilocks philosophy" for tagging:  not too broad; not too narrow; but "just right."

  • Too broad:  a faculty member tagged with "civil engineering" would match too many other faculty and it not specific enough to be useful.
  • Too narrow:  a faculty member tagged with "effect upon buildings and other structures due to time, usage and loadings or the outcome of disasters such as earthquakes or explosions" is so narrow that it would not match any other faculty interests.  This example is too far down the "long tail" to be useful.
  • Just right:  a faculty member tagged with terms like "structural engineering, disasters, earthquake engineering, seismic engineering, bridge design" gives a "flavor" of this person's academic interests and has a decent chance to match against other faculty with similar interests.

Can I search this People site by name or keyword?

Not at this time.  We are exploring adding a search box in a Phase Two upgrade of this site.

How else might you improve this People site?

We are also experimenting with adding the ability to filter results by college or academic department.

We are also experimenting with adding tag clouds in a future upgrade.  (What's a tag cloud?)

Lastly, we will likely develop a top-level page to this site that would highlight featured faculty members and "clusters" of research areas.

What else can I do with this People site?

Hack the URL.  We left the URL open so you can play around.  Try to drop different words in the URL tag argument to see what you can find:


If you want to read more: