All entries for March 2005

March 31, 2005


After months and months of waiting…I'm finally doing some work to improve galleries. And yes, you will very soon be able to delete and edit galleries! Yay!

What strikes me is how you end up putting these things off for ages (mostly because no one was really shouting about it), but then you get around to doing it and it takes a matter of about 2/3 hours. Doh.

I'm surprised more people haven't been moaning about it really, there are 10,000's of images in Warwick Blogs now, and not very good facilities for organising them. Along with these changes, there should be more little tweaks and possibly some bigger gallery features coming soon.

At last!

P.S. I promise I have actually been doing other stuff, not just lazing around :)

March 29, 2005

Quantities of University web pages


I was just wondering how much content there is publically viewable and searchable by Google there was out there for different Universities. So, taking the top 20 Universities according to the Times, I did the following simple searches.

Times ranking:
Rank. University: search term = number of results

  1. Oxford: = 1,040,000 results
  2. Cambridge: = 1,430,000
  3. Imperial College: = 124,000
  4. LSE: = 316,000
  5. Warwick: = 990,000
  6. UCL: = 611,000
  7. York: = 533,000
  8. Durham: = 532,000
  9. St Andrews: = 175,000
  10. Loughborough: = 199,000
  11. Bath: = 296,000
  12. Bristol: = 457,000
  13. Edinburgh: = 682,000
  14. Nottingham: = 370,000
  15. Royal Holloway: = 91,100
  16. Kings College: = 279,000
  17. Machester: = 559,000
  18. Newcastle: = 526,000
  19. SOAS: = 51,000
  20. Birmingham: = 566,000

Ranking by number of web pages:
Rank. (Times ranking) University: search term = number of results

  1. (2) Cambridge: = 1,430,000 results
  2. (1) Oxford: = 1,040,000
  3. (5) Warwick: = 990,000
  4. (13) Edinburgh: = 682,000
  5. (6) UCL: = 611,000
  6. (20) Birmingham: = 566,000
  7. (17) Machester: = 559,000
  8. (7) York: = 533,000
  9. (18) Newcastle: = 526,000
  10. (8) Durham: = 532,000
  11. (12) Bristol: = 457,000
  12. (14) Nottingham: = 370,000
  13. (4) LSE: = 316,000
  14. (11) Bath: = 296,000
  15. (16) Kings College: = 279,000
  16. (10) Loughborough: = 199,000
  17. (9) St Andrews: = 175,000
  18. (3) Imperial College: = 124,000
  19. (15) Royal Holloway: = 91,100
  20. (19) SOAS: = 51,000

Is there a correlation? Not particularly. However, it is quite a mix. To make this a more accurate study I guess you'd need to take a lot of other factors into account (which I don't have the time to do), however, they make for some interesting numbers.

There seems to be a real gap between the top 3 and everyone else. I'd love to know quite why these numbers are so huge (I personally can't believe these numbers, I think google is lying), but if the ratios are correct, then it is still useful. I know we have SiteBuilder and Warwick Blogs to thank for a huge proportion of our pages, but I know we don't have a million pages.

Blogs in Action 2005

Writing about web page

On Thursday, John, Steve and I went to the Blogs in Action 2005 conference in London. SixApart, organised the conference, I say conference, but it was pretty brief/small. Starting at 6pm and finishing just 2 hours later, followed by wine/snacks, it was over a little too quickly for my liking, but useful none the less.

Not having a photographic memory, I won't recollect everything that everyone said here, I'll leave that up to the great reviews written by a few other people who had their laptops on them at the time. Now, just to embarrass John, I've linked to and quoted a bunch of the reviews of the evening :)

I think the best speaker of the evening was John Dale who has been putting to gether Warwick Blogs for Warwick University (which look like a pretty stunning implementation of the weblog concept inside an academic context). I think the part of his talk that surprised me most was that of everyone I've ever seen trying to market and publicise weblogs they seem to have done it best. They had a whole series of pretty stunning stickers and posters and fridge magnets that they distributed all over the campus. again

There's some stunning stuff in there. As I said the other day, I think it's the best block of publicity that I've ever seen around weblogs – it gets across the concept, the aspiration, the aesthetic. Very very classy.

Robert Andrews

I already knew plenty of bits about the panellists' topics, but the presentation by John Dale, who I've been consulting with over the last couple of months, on Warwick University's weblogs went down especially well with the likes of Tom Coates and Neil McIntosh.

Suw Charman

Final highlight (is three out of five too many for 'highlights'?) was John Dale who gave a fascinating account of implementing blogs at Warwick University, not just for academics but for all students and workers. Creating their own blogging platform gave them a degree of flexibility and integration with existing systems that they could not have had from a commercial solution, and it took them only nine months to go from concept to full launch. The blogs have been very successful, the surprise being that students' blogs aren't all bacchanal debauchery but have included some intensely personal writing and some well reasoned commentary.

Big blog company

Perfect Path

All the panel had very cool, interesting stuff to say, but John Dale blogmeister for Warwick University came over, as others have noted, as the star turn of the evening.

Connected - Internet News and Discussion

Complete Tosh

It was a speaker from an academic institution who was, by common consent, the star of the show. John Dale came to show off Warwick University's blog setup – a home-made blogging system which looked as if it had been assembled with great thought and wonderful attention to detail.
Tom and I – along with quite a few in the audience, it seemed – were drooling over the advertising they'd come up with to encourage students, a notoriously apathetic crowd, to use them. The tactic was just simple messages, but delivered with real style, that got across exactly what a personal blog should be doing (that's an example above).

Johnnie Moore

Alistair Shrimpton had found some interesting speakers, especially John Dale of Warwick University, talking about WarwickBlogs, a project to get everyone there blogging together.

Highlight was most definitely John Dale talking about the very ambitious and very successful project to make blogs available to all Warwick University staff and students at Warwick blogs….Plus all the design work seemed to be very user-focused.

Broadband and Me

John Dale of Warwick University however was the star turn with not only an interesting story of how Warwick have set up their own blogging software and services but also how it is being used


Suffice to say there were some fascinating ideas in the presentations, particularly for me in that of John Dale of Warwick University's warwickblogs. warwickblogs is a community blog network (currently with 3105 blogs!) for the university's students, faculty and staff


…but John Dale from Warwick University tuned out to be the evening’s surprise star instead. I say “surprise” because the description…

John Dale manages development for IT services at the University of Warwick. More than 2,500 students and staff have signed up for the university’s blog service, making it one of the largest academic blogging operations. John believes that blogging will open new opportunities for students and staff.

…made it sound like an ideal opportunity for a loo break. It was, in fact, a very interesting presentation on the evolution of Warwick’s blogging community and John turned out to be a charming and irreverent presenter. It always helps when you start out smart and bring the funny.

He and his team have created warwickblogs, a facility for university students and staff to get their own blogs simply and easily. It has been a huge success, and his combination of clever advertising, great webpage design and homegrown coding is possibly the best implementation of blogging I've seen so far.

As for what I got from it. I particularly enjoyed Tom Coates' talk, reminding us that a blog is essentially a personal thing and that writing about a specific thing is never going to be as sustainable as just writing about what you happen to love at the time. Important for us too was the talk from David Carr with reference to blogging/commenting and the law. Scary stuff.

What also blew me away was the fact the SixApart now have 85 employees of which half are "engineers". I spoke to Loic Le Meur from SixApart afterwards about what the hell he was going with so many programmers. In reality, they have not got 40 people developing TypePad, most of them are actually doing installations of TypePad for other companies and maintaining their own infrastructure that hosts millions of blogs. Phew.

The other most important aspect for me was just getting confirmation that we're not mad and we are actually doing a good thing here :)

A lot of people also mentioned how great Warwick Blogs looked and how great our advertising was…so kudos to Hannah!

March 24, 2005

Resurrect Your Old PC for Music—with Linux

Writing about web page

I've not read the whole article yet, but this is basically exactly what I want to try out with my old PC I've got sitting idle at home.

If you've been wanting a home music server and have a spare PC, this could well be the way to go.

March 23, 2005

Exception logging with log4j

When trying to diagnose a problem with some software earlier today, I discovered this little annoyance.
try {
do some stuff
} catch(Exception ex) {

This will only log a brief message and not the whole stacktrace (at least in my case of an NPE, giving you no information as to where the exception was occuring.


try {
do some stuff
} catch(Exception ex) {
logger.error("Failed to do some stuff",ex);
This will dump out the whole stack trace. How odd.

Westwood officially better than main campus!

In the second installment of the biennial Westwood vs Main Campus IT Services Charity Football Match, Westwood had their revenge.

It was a 6 – 3 thriller that saw Westwood come from 3 – 1 down to get 5 in a row to win in style. Yay for us!

Bring on 2007 :)

March 22, 2005

Using Expression Language in your own custom taglibs

I've written a couple of taglibs before to do simple things, but never realised how easy it was to use EL in your own tags.
public void setTarget(final String target) throws JspTagException {
try {
_target = (String) ExpressionEvaluatorManager.evaluate("target", target, String.class, pageContext);
} catch (JspException e) {
throw new JspTagException("Error:" + e.toString());
<mytag:dostuff target="${requestedUrl}" />
Simple as that. Using "" from the "standard.jar" jstl library, you can pass in EL expressions, such as "${mytarget}" and the ExpressionEvaluatorManager will look into the pageContext and turn that into real values just as any of the standard JSTL tags would do. Easy.

E–Lab's new development direction?

Writing about web page

John Dale and Chris May were at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference last week and have been writing about their experiences here.

If you have a read through, you might get some pointers as to the direction that web development might be headed.

Some key points:

  • Richer web interfaces, more DHTML or more Flash
  • Lots of web services and the loose integration between lots of small/simple services to create more interesting services
  • Community and social software is the next big thing (Flickr, 43 Things and

March 21, 2005

Maggie's free!

We've had Maggie for 6 weeks now and she's really settled in well. We finally trusted her enough to let her off the lead in the last couple of weeks, and on Sunday she had a good half an hour off the lead. She took her time coming back to us occasionally, but she was pretty good. She's really part of the family now.

Is it really March?

Taken March 18th 2005:

Yes, that says 19oC

Bring on the summer.

P.S. I love finally having a 1MP camera phone

March 2005

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