WEB MASTER EVAN MILLER LAUNCHED AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WILLIAMS LORE
(From On Campus, June 2006, Online Version)
By Mark E. Rondeau
Evan Miller '06 says he wasn't particularly interested in participating in campus life when he entered college. But, college is a time of discovery and in his four years at Williams, Evan found himself doing an awful lot to maintain, enhance, and provide opportunities for students to communicate through the Internet. He also took a leadership position in helping fellow students become better writers.
A physics major from Lookout Mountain, Tenn., Evan joined Williams Students Online (WSO) his freshman year. "I was interested in WSO because I was interested in learning how to make Web pages," he said. He began by writing a program that would find and display the current temperature and weather forecast on the WSO main page.
Evan says, "I was interested in computers, and over four years that has meant being responsible for a lot of things that are made or fixed on the Web," he said. "I guess I got to be a bit of a public figure with the logs I kept about us trying to fix servers in the middle of the night. I had a chance to write some entertaining entries for that."
Evan took on ever-larger projects for the site, including a list of campus student organizations. He also rewrote the campus facebook. His senior year he founded Willipedia, the Williams answer to the Web's Wikipedia, a free-content encyclopedia written collaboratively by contributors around the world.
"Initially I started because I found this cool piece of software out there that happened to power the Wikipedia," he said. "So this year I got that organized and started writing some articles. I thought other people could contribute to it, too -- mainly things like students guides to hiking or climbing trees."
With others he organized a governing board for Willipedia, in case there were conflicts over submitted entries. "You need some sort of moral authority to step in there and decide the way it's going to be," he said. "Fortunately there haven't been too many incidents where they've been necessary, although there have been a couple important ones."
At the time of this interview in April, Evan was organizing a group of people to get together occasionally to write articles for the site about the history of Williams. "It seems like a place that's rich with stories, but I don't know many of them," he said.
Evan's other major activity on campus has been with the Writing Workshop, a student-staffed program designed to assist students in any stage of the writing process. The Writing Workshop has about 40 sophomores, juniors, and seniors who meet weekly and hold tutoring sessions Sunday through Thursday. Since writing was one of Evan's interests, when asked, he became a tutor. During his junior year he was chairmen of the Workshop, organizing guest lectures for the tutors and keeping the program running smoothly.
Evan said he has gone from a very direct style in tutoring, with an active red pen listing everything wrong, to a more diplomatic style. "I usually just come up with a few rules that I think the students I'm working with might be missing in the paper, then show them a few examples of these in their papers, and then ask them to read back over their paper to try to make sure they understand the rule."
After graduation, Evan will work for an Amazon.com search subsidiary company in Palo Alto, Calif."My glorified title is Operational Excellence Engineer, which roughly translates to a 'server monkey'," he said, chuckling.
Asked what he might do in life, Evan said, "Writing is my first and oldest interest and I would like to figure out how to make a living doing that. But it seems like a much trickier market than just computer stuff."
Anything to add as his time at Williams comes to an end?
"The one thing that occurs to me is how much I appreciate the dining hall here," he said. "I've thought the food's been great while I've been here and it's been so convenient, and I'm a little bit horrified having to cook for myself and comparing the quality of my macaroni and cheese or my burnt rice to the sorts of things that we get treated to here."
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