Lou’s List, an interactive browsing site which comprehensively lists University course offerings, has become a staple over the years for University students looking to register for classes.
Physics Prof. Louis Bloomfield, who created the site, said the eponymous name was given by now-retired University Association Dean Gordon Stewart around the time of its introduction.
The idea for the site came about when the Student Information System was implemented in April 2009, Bloomfield said. He quickly realized that SIS had major flaws.
“I started tinkering around immediately after SIS came out because it’s just not user-friendly,” Bloomfield said. “It’s essentially an archaic interaction model. You can talk to people in computer science classes about it — they use it as an example of what not [to] do now.”
Lou’s List presents publicly accessible information in an easily viewable and browsable manner while updating hourly. Lou’s List causes some concerns for the University due to the additional potential traffic the program might be adding to SIS, Bloomfield said.
“It has to do with the concerns that my program is overloading SIS,” he said. “Whether or not that’s true — I try to stay away from that territory.”
Though the site has received support from some administrators, Bloomfield said the University avoids discussing the list.
“There’s been two administrators who said that [Lou’s List] was great and they couldn’t do their jobs without it, but generally the University just dismisses it,” he said. “They’re silent about it — just silent.”
Bloomfield said he disagrees with the notion that his program causes poor outcomes for the administration. If anything, the site diverts traffic off of SIS, he said.
“I can’t imagine it having any negative consequences for the University,” he said. “I know my traffic continues to go up. So, for example, during pre-registration — the one that just went by — I had as many as 400 people interacting with my list at once.”
During the last registration session, Lou’s List had a peak of 22,364 sessions on Nov. 11, with an average of 12 minutes per session. On Nov. 10 there were 10,471 unique users, suggesting that more than half of the University student body could be using the program that day.
One of those students, third-year College student Ellen Farnum, said Lou’s List has been helpful for signing up for classes.
“No one knows how to use [SIS],” Farnum said said. “Lou’s List makes it much easier — I use it for signing up every single semester.”
Farnum, who works in the Clemons Library reserves, said it provides a helpful service for her and her co-workers.
“We have to contact professors,” she said. “Last spring, we used Lou’s List to figure out what they’re teaching next spring and say, ‘Hey, do you want books on reserve?’”
The program needs ongoing maintenance, requiring Bloomfield to take some time before each new semester to get things underway again, he said.
“Probably every week I spend an hour or two modifying something,” Bloomfield said. “Every time a new semester pops up, I have to prepare the tables and do the initial mining and get it launched and underway.”
Bloomfield’s continued affinity for working with Lou’s List transcends his own personal interest, he said.
“It’s more of a personal mission,” Bloomfield said. “More and more as the years go by, I do things, well, partly because they’re the right thing to do. And because they give me satisfaction, maybe even joy.”
The University communications department did not respond to requests for comment.