History of the AIS IS Faculty Directory

Beginning in the fall of 1994, with the ISWorld leadership of Blake Ives, creative ways of using the new World Wide Web's capabilities for the benefits of the IS academic profession were sought. Since Jan was working on the 1995 printed edition of the directory, it was natural for us to be interested in improving the data contents and data process. Dave had already been teaching telecommunications and networking for many years and, in the previous year, included small assignments building static pages on the World Wide Web and the Mosaic browser.

In October 1994, these MISRC people developed an online directory proposal and presented it to Blake. Various possibilities were discussed and others interested in an online directory participated. Via e-mail, we formed a Directory Advisory Board with initial members including Dave, Jan, and Gordon Davis. In addition, Niels Bjørn-Andersen, who was responsible for the European Directory, and Roger Clarke and Guy Gable, who had created the Asia-Pacific Directory, were invited to participate. Dennis Viehland, founder of Infosys Junction, which included a faculty mail-list, was also a charter member, as was Derek Smith, who brought in his own South African directory.

The Directory Advisory Board met at the ICIS'94 Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada, to discuss the project and to work out ways of coordinating separate directories. We agreed that directories were and would remain separate and the responsibility of those who originated and maintained them. We also agreed that a single online version, if it could be developed, would be the most effective and efficient beginning. We also connected with McGraw-Hill, sponsor of the printed directory, from which we received initial indications of support.

At Minnesota, we found $10,000 in Information and Decision Sciences Department funding to get started, and put several MIS students to work on data analysis, database conversion planning, and Web Server/Database connectivity design and programming. We ordered a then state-of-the-art Pentium P60 with a 512MB hard drive, and installed NT 3.50. We made many false starts, and had nothing running as of March 1995, largely because CGI programming had to be done in C++, and we had insufficient experience and expertise.

At about that time, a start-up company founded by University of Minnesota Alumni J.J. and Jeremy Allaire released a beta copy of a new software product: Cold Fusion. It provided the database connectivity we needed via templates rather than programs and used ODBC for full database connectivity flexibility. We tested the beta copy, found few bugs, and wrote the initial version of the Faculty Directory that Spring. We also decided on a flat-file database in the initial version because that was the format of Jan's USA-Canada data, and because it greatly simplified query processing (at the expense of updating, but we didn't worry about that at the time). We converted the fully normalized Asia-Pacific database into an equivalent flat file, from files e-mailed from Australia by Guy Gable. The European Directory was maintained in Denmark on a Macintosh; after many attempts at attaining compatibility we converted Niels' data using a spreadsheet version.

On June 1, 1995, at 10:46 GMT, an announcement was sent to the ISWorld mailing list that the directory was now available. It has been operating continuously ever since.

The AIS Directory of Management Information Systems Faculty, which began as a printed directory more than 20 years ago, has had a significant impact on our development as a  more or less coherent profession. While many people were involved in the printed directories, Jan DeGross, in particular, made an invaluable contribution with her dedication, perseverance and skill in maintaining the database, collecting and managing updates, and producing the finished copy. In the beginning, Gordon Davis and Gary Dickson had the vision to see the potential for unifying the field that a directory presented and contributed their personal Rol-o-dex files for the initial data collection for the 1983 edition. McGraw-Hill was generous in their support of the printed directory project.  From 1995 to 2008, The AIS Faculty Directory was a cooperative effort under the supervision of Dave Naumann and Jan.

In 2008, the University of Minnesota graciously agreed to donate the Faculty Directory to AIS to merge with the AIS member directory as part of a strategic initiative to integrate the various technology operations.  At the time of the merger, the Faculty Directory database currently contained the individual records of approximately 6,000 IS Academics on six continents.  This is certainly strong evidence of the utility of such a service.  Its provision as part of our professional association will lead to increased use and value.

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