Polyratings.com, a popular Web site on which Cal Poly students have rated their professors since 1999, might shut down in the near future if its chief engineer cannot find someone to take his place, the Mustang Daily has learned.
J. Paul Reed, who has been running the site since the spring of 2001, said Monday that he no longer has the time to maintain the site.
“I’ve actually considered shutting the site down because it doesn’t have anybody who’s actively managing it,” Reed said. “But I’m torn, because it does provide a good service.”
Reed, who graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in computer science in 2003, worked to re-write the site in the summer of 2004 with one of its co-creators, Forrest Lanning. But Reed, who now works as an engineer for Mozilla Corporation, said he has not been in recent contact with Lanning about the site’s future because Lanning has been traveling abroad.
Lanning and Doug Dahms co-created Polyratings over winter break of 1998 before the site launched Jan. 9, 1999.
“I’m sort of unsure what to do with Polyratings because it doesn’t have an owner right now,” Reed said. “I don’t want to make any huge decisions without talking to (Lanning and Dahms).”
As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Polyratings featured 25,499 evaluations of 1,282 professors.
Reed said his biggest problem is finding time to approve the 216 new professors whom users have submitted via a form on the site.
“Polyratings 2 has been around for three or four years now,” Reed said. “It hasn’t really changed.”
Additionally, Reed said some professors remain in the professor list who have actually died since the site was last updated.
“There are some professors in there that have died and they haven’t been cleaned up,” Reed said. “That’s not optimal.”
Reed said that about 80 percent of the four to six content edit requests he receives per school quarter are warranted, but he has not had the time to fulfill them.
“I don’t think it’s fair to professors to have nobody watching it,” he said.
Despite the site being outdated, student reaction Tuesday to the possibility of Polyratings being shut down was of surprise and discontent.
“I use the site whenever I’m trying to register or crash classes,” English sophomore Suzi Wakatsuki said. “Overall it gives a good overview.”
Architecture sophomore David Bydalek echoed those sentiments.
“It kind of gives you information about teaching styles. I use it every quarter,” he said.
Reed has found it difficult to shape the site around the current student body in recent years because he is seldom on campus anymore.
“You see professor rating engines but they’re nationwide and a lot of times they’re not very in tune with the local campus,” Reed said. “I really think you need someone who has a local context for things. That’s what I think Polyratings is lacking most right now – I haven’t been part of the campus community for three years now, so I don’t have a good pulse on what’s going on.”
Reed said whomever takes over, possibly a group of students, might need to spend only a half-hour per week throughout an entire quarter approving professors. However, Reed said a few-months training program would be in order and he would prefer the person taking over to be either a freshman or sophomore so they could continue to work on the site for at least two years.
“I would not recommend they take on this project if they’re working on senior projects,” Reed said.
The likeliest candidate to take over would be a computer science student, Reed speculated, but he said he would easily take a student from another major with more time and interest.
“If somebody takes it over, I want it to be reasonable in terms of content,” he said.
Those interested in the position are advised to use the “contact us” link in the upper right corner of the site.
“I would seriously consider shutting it down if nobody came around,” Reed said.